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Title: State of the Union Addresses
Author: Polk, James K. (James Knox)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "State of the Union Addresses" ***

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State of the Union Addresses of James Polk

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Dates of addresses by James Polk in this eBook:

  December 2, 1845
  December 8, 1846
  December 7, 1847
  December 5, 1848


State of the Union Address
James Polk
December 2, 1845

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

It is to me a source of unaffected satisfaction to meet the representatives
of the States and the people in Congress assembled, as it will be to
receive the aid of their combined wisdom in the administration of public
affairs. In performing for the first time the duty imposed on me by the
Constitution of giving to you information of the state of the Union and
recommending to your consideration such measures as in my judgment are
necessary and expedient, I am happy that I can congratulate you on the
continued prosperity of our country. Under the blessings of Divine
Providence and the benign influence of our free institutions, it stands
before the world a spectacle of national happiness.

With our unexampled advancement in all the elements of national greatness,
the affection of the people is confirmed for the Union of the States and
for the doctrines of popular liberty which lie at the foundation of our

It becomes us in humility to make our devout acknowledgments to the Supreme
Ruler of the Universe for the inestimable civil and religious blessings
with which we are favored.

In calling the attention of Congress to our relations with foreign powers,
I am gratified to be able to state that though with some of them there have
existed since your last session serious causes of irritation and
misunderstanding, yet no actual hostilities have taken place. Adopting the
maxim in the conduct of our foreign affairs "to ask nothing that is not
right and submit to nothing that is wrong," it has been my anxious desire
to preserve peace with all nations, but at the same time to be prepared to
resist aggression and maintain all our just rights.

In pursuance of the joint resolution of Congress "for annexing Texas to the
United States," my predecessor, on the 3d day of March, 1845, elected to
submit the first and second sections of that resolution to the Republic of
Texas as an overture on the part of the United States for her admission as
a State into our Union. This election I approved, and accordingly the
charge d'affaires of the United States in Texas, under instructions of the
10th of March, 1845, presented these sections of the resolution for the
acceptance of that Republic. The executive government, the Congress, and
the people of Texas in convention have successively complied with all the
terms and conditions of the joint resolution. A constitution for the
government of the State of Texas, formed by a convention of deputies, is
herewith laid before Congress. It is well known, also, that the people of
Texas at the polls have accepted the terms of annexation and ratified the
constitution. I communicate to Congress the correspondence between the
Secretary of State and our charge d'affaires in Texas, and also the
correspondence of the latter with the authorities of Texas, together with
the official documents transmitted by him to his own Government. The terms
of annexation which were offered by the United States having been accepted
by Texas, the public faith of both parties is solemnly pledged to the
compact of their union. Nothing remains to consummate the event but the
passage of an act by Congress to admit the State of Texas into the Union
upon an equal footing with the original States. Strong reasons exist why
this should be done at an early period of the session. It will be observed
that by the constitution of Texas the existing government is only continued
temporarily till Congress can act, and that the third Monday of the present
month is the day appointed for holding the first general election. On that
day a governor, a lieutenant-governor, and both branches of the legislature
will be chosen by the people. The President of Texas is required,
immediately after the receipt of official information that the new State
has been admitted into our Union by Congress, to convene the legislature,
and upon its meeting the existing government will be superseded and the
State government organized. Questions deeply interesting to Texas, in
common with the other States, the extension of our revenue laws and
judicial system over her people and territory, as well as measures of a
local character, will claim the early attention of Congress, and therefore
upon every principle of republican government she ought to be represented
in that body without unnecessary delay. I can not too earnestly recommend
prompt action on this important subject. As soon as the act to admit Texas
as a State shall be passed the union of the two Republics will be
consummated by their own voluntary consent.

This accession to our territory has been a bloodless achievement. No arm of
force has been raised to produce the result. The sword has had no part in
the victory. We have not sought to extend our territorial possessions by
conquest, or our republican institutions over a reluctant people. It was
the deliberate homage of each people to the great principle of our
federative union. If we consider the extent of territory involved in the
annexation, its prospective influence on America, the means by which it has
been accomplished, springing purely from the choice of the people
themselves to share the blessings of our union, the history of the world
may be challenged to furnish a parallel. The jurisdiction of the United
States, which at the formation of the Federal Constitution was bounded by
the St. Marys on the Atlantic, has passed the capes of Florida and been
peacefully extended to the Del Norte. In contemplating the grandeur of this
event it is not to be forgotten that the result was achieved in despite of
the diplomatic interference of European monarchies. Even France, the
country which had been our ancient ally, the country which has a common
interest with us in maintaining the freedom of the seas, the country which,
by the cession of Louisiana, first opened to us access to the Gulf of
Mexico, the country with which we have been every year drawing more and
more closely the bonds of successful commerce, most unexpectedly, and to
our unfeigned regret, took part in an effort to prevent annexation and to
impose on Texas, as a condition of the recognition of her independence by
Mexico, that she would never join herself to the United States. We may
rejoice that the tranquil and pervading influence of the American principle
of self-government was sufficient to defeat the purposes of British and
French interference, and that the almost unanimous voice of the people of
Texas has given to that interference a peaceful and effective rebuke. From
this example European Governments may learn how vain diplomatic arts and
intrigues must ever prove upon this continent against that system of
self-government which seems natural to our soil, and which will ever resist
foreign interference.

Toward Texas I do not doubt that a liberal and generous spirit will actuate
Congress in all that concerns her interests and prosperity, and that she
will never have cause to regret that she has united her "lone star" to our
glorious constellation.

I regret to inform you that our relations with Mexico since your last
session have not been of the amicable character which it is our desire to
cultivate with all foreign nations. On the 6th day of March last the
Mexican envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to the United
States made a formal protest in the name of his Government against the
joint resolution passed by Congress "for the annexation of Texas to the
United States," which he chose to regard as a violation of the rights of
Mexico, and in consequence of it he demanded his passports. He was informed
that the Government of the United States did not consider this joint
resolution as a violation of any of the rights of Mexico, or that it
afforded any just cause of offense to his Government; that the Republic of
Texas was an independent power, owing no allegiance to Mexico and
constituting no part of her territory or rightful sovereignty and
jurisdiction. He was also assured that it was the sincere desire of this
Government to maintain with that of Mexico relations of peace and good
understanding. That functionary, however, notwithstanding these
representations and assurances, abruptly terminated his mission and shortly
afterwards left the country. Our envoy extraordinary and minister
plenipotentiary to Mexico was refused all official intercourse with that
Government, and, after remaining several months, by the permission of his
own Government he returned to the United States. Thus, by the acts of
Mexico, all diplomatic intercourse between the two countries was

Since that time Mexico has until recently occupied an attitude of hostility
toward the United States--has been marshaling and organizing armies,
issuing proclamations, and avowing the intention to make war on the United
States, either by an open declaration or by invading Texas. Both the
Congress and convention of the people of Texas invited this Government to
send an army into that territory to protect and defend them against the
menaced attack. The moment the terms of annexation offered by the United
States were accepted by Texas the latter became so far a part of our own
country as to make it our duty to afford such protection and defense. I
therefore deemed it proper, as a precautionary measure, to order a strong
squadron to the coasts of Mexico and to concentrate an efficient military
force on the western frontier of Texas. Our Army was ordered to take
position in the country between the Nueces and the Del Norte, and to repel
any invasion of the Texan territory which might be attempted by the Mexican
forces. Our squadron in the Gulf was ordered to cooperate with the Army.
But though our Army and Navy were placed in a position to defend our own
and the rights of Texas, they were ordered to commit no act of hostility
against Mexico unless she declared war or was herself the aggressor by
striking the first blow. The result has been that Mexico has made no
aggressive movement, and our military and naval commanders have executed
their orders with such discretion that the peace of the two Republics has
not been disturbed. Texas had declared her independence and maintained it
by her arms for more than nine years. She has had an organized government
in successful operation during that period. Her separate existence as an
independent state had been recognized by the United States and the
principal powers of Europe. Treaties of commerce and navigation had been
concluded with her by different nations, and it had become manifest to the
whole world that any further attempt on the part of Mexico to conquer her
or overthrow her Government would be vain. Even Mexico herself had become
satisfied of this fact, and whilst the question of annexation was pending
before the people of Texas during the past summer the Government of Mexico,
by a formal act, agreed to recognize the independence of Texas on condition
that she would not annex herself to any other power. The agreement to
acknowledge the independence of Texas, whether with or without this
condition, is conclusive against Mexico. The independence of Texas is a
fact conceded by Mexico herself, and she had no right or authority to
prescribe restrictions as to the form of government which Texas might
afterwards choose to assume. But though Mexico can not complain of the
United States on account of the annexation of Texas, it is to be regretted
that serious causes of misunderstanding between the two countries continue
to exist, growing out of unredressed injuries inflicted by the Mexican
authorities and people on the persons and property of citizens of the
United States through a long series of years. Mexico has admitted these
injuries, but has neglected and refused to repair them. Such was the
character of the wrongs and such the insults repeatedly offered to American
citizens and the American flag by Mexico, in palpable violation of the laws
of nations and the treaty between the two countries of the 5th of April,
1831, that they have been repeatedly brought to the notice of Congress by
my predecessors. As early as the 6th of February, 1837, the President of
the United States declared in a message to Congress that--

The length of time since some of the injuries have been committed, the
repeated and unavailing applications for redress, the wanton character of
some of the outrages upon the property and persons of our citizens, upon
the officers and flag of the United States, independent of recent insults
to this Government and people by the late extraordinary Mexican minister,
would justify in the eyes of all nations immediate war.

He did not, however, recommend an immediate resort to this extreme measure,
which, he declared, "should not be used by just and generous nations,
confiding in their strength for injuries committed, if it can be honorably
avoided," but, in a spirit of forbearance, proposed that another demand be
made on Mexico for that redress which had been so long and unjustly
withheld. In these views committees of the two Houses of Congress, in
reports made to their respective bodies, concurred. Since these proceedings
more than eight years have elapsed, during which, in addition to the wrongs
then complained of, others of an aggravated character have been committed
on the persons and property of our citizens. A special agent was sent to
Mexico in the summer of 1838 with full authority to make another and final
demand for redress. The demand was made; the Mexican Government promised to
repair the wrongs of which we complained, and after much delay a treaty of
indemnity with that view was concluded between the two powers on the 11th
of April, 1839, and was duly ratified by both Governments. By this treaty a
joint commission was created to adjudicate and decide on the claims of
American citizens on the Government of Mexico. The commission was organized
at Washington on the 25th day of August, 1840. Their time was limited to
eighteen months, at the expiration of which they had adjudicated and
decided claims amounting to $2,026,139.68 in favor of citizens of the
United States against the Mexican Government, leaving a large amount of
claims undecided. Of the latter the American commissioners had decided in
favor of our citizens claims amounting to $928,627.88, which were left
unacted on by the umpire authorized by the treaty. Still further claims,
amounting to between three and four millions of dollars, were submitted to
the board too late to be considered, and were left undisposed of. The sum
of $2,026,139.68, decided by the board, was a liquidated and ascertained
debt due by Mexico to the claimants, and there was no justifiable reason
for delaying its payment according to the terms of the treaty. It was not,
however, paid. Mexico applied for further indulgence, and, in that spirit
of liberality and forbearance which has ever marked the policy of the
United States toward that Republic, the request was granted, and on the
30th of January, 1843, a new treaty was concluded. By this treaty it was
provided that the interest due on the awards in favor of claimants under
the convention of the 11th of April, 1839, should be paid out the 30th of
April, 1843, and that--

The principal of the said awards and the interest accruing thereon shall be
paid in five years, in equal installments every three months, the said term
of five years to commence on the 30th day of April, 1843, aforesaid.

The interest due on the 30th day of April, 1843, and the three first of the
twenty installments have been paid. Seventeen of these installments, remain
unpaid, seven of which are now due.

The claims which were left undecided by the joint commission, amounting to
more than $3,000,000, together with other claims for spoliations on the
property of our citizens, were subsequently presented to the Mexican
Government for payment, and were so far recognized that a treaty providing
for their examination and settlement by a joint commission was concluded
and signed at Mexico on the 20th day of November, 1843. This treaty was
ratified by the United States with certain amendments to which no just
exception could have been taken, but it has not yet received the
ratification of the Mexican Government. In the meantime our citizens, who
suffered great losses--and some of whom have been reduced from affluence to
bankruptcy--are without remedy unless their rights be enforced by their
Government. Such a continued and unprovoked series of wrongs could never
have been tolerated by the United States had they been committed by one of
the principal nations of Europe. Mexico was, however, a neighboring sister
republic, which, following our example, had achieved her independence, and
for whose success and prosperity all our sympathies were early enlisted.
The United States were the first to recognize her independence and to
receive her into the family of nations, and have ever been desirous of
cultivating with her a good understanding. We have therefore borne the
repeated wrongs she has committed with great patience, in the hope that a
returning sense of justice would ultimately guide her councils and that we
might, if possible, honorably avoid any hostile collision with her. Without
the previous authority of Congress the Executive possessed no power to
adopt or enforce adequate remedies for the injuries we had suffered, or to
do more than to be prepared to repel the threatened aggression on the part
of Mexico. After our Army and Navy had remained on the frontier and coasts
of Mexico for many weeks without any hostile movement on her part, though
her menaces were continued, I deemed it important to put an end, if
possible, to this state of things. With this view I caused steps to be
taken in the month of September last to ascertain distinctly and in an
authentic form what the designs of the Mexican Government were--whether it
was their intention to declare war, or invade Texas, or whether they were
disposed to adjust and settle in an amicable manner the pending differences
between the two countries. On the 9th of November an official answer was
received that the Mexican Government consented to renew the diplomatic
relations which had been suspended in March last, and for that purpose were
willing to accredit a minister from the United States. With a sincere
desire to preserve peace and restore relations of good understanding
between the two Republics, I waived all ceremony as to the manner of
renewing diplomatic intercourse between them, and, assuming the initiative,
on the 10th of November a distinguished citizen of Louisiana was appointed
envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Mexico, clothed with
full powers to adjust and definitively settle all pending differences
between the two countries, including those of boundary between Mexico and
the State of Texas. The minister appointed has set out on his mission and
is probably by this time near the Mexican capital. He has been instructed
to bring the negotiation with which he is charged to a conclusion at the
earliest practicable period, which it is expected will be in time to enable
me to communicate the result to Congress during the present session. Until
that result is known I forbear to recommend to Congress such ulterior
measures of redress for the wrongs and injuries we have so long borne as it
would have been proper to make had no such negotiation been instituted.

Congress appropriated at the last session the sum of $275,000 for the
payment of the April and July installments of the Mexican indemnities for
the year 1844:

Provided it shall be ascertained to the satisfaction of the American
Government that said installments have been paid by the Mexican Government
to the agent appointed by the United States to receive the same in such
manner as to discharge all claim on the Mexican Government, and said agent
to be delinquent in remitting the money to the United States.

The unsettled state of our relations with Mexico has involved this subject
in much mystery. The first information in an authentic form from the agent
of the United States, appointed under the Administration of my predecessor,
was received at the State Department on the 9th of November last. This is
contained in a letter, dated the 17th of October, addressed by him to one
of our citizens then in Mexico with a view of having it communicated to
that Department. From this it appears that the agent on the 20th of
September, 1844, gave a receipt to the treasury of Mexico for the amount of
the April and July installments of the indemnity. In the same
communication, however, he asserts that he had not received a single dollar
in cash, but that he holds such securities as warranted him at the time in
giving the receipt, and entertains no doubt but that he will eventually
obtain the money. As these installments appear never to have been actually
paid by the Government of Mexico to the agent, and as that Government has
not, therefore, been released so as to discharge the claim, I do not feel
myself warranted in directing payment to be made to the claimants out of
the Treasury without further legislation. Their case is undoubtedly one of
much hardship, and it remains for Congress to decide whether any, and what,
relief ought to be granted to them. Our minister to Mexico has been
instructed to ascertain the facts of the case from the Mexican Government
in an authentic and official form and report the result with as little
delay as possible.

My attention was early directed to the negotiation which on the 4th of
March last I found pending at Washington between the United States and
Great Britain on the subject of the Oregon Territory. Three several
attempts had been previously made to settle the questions in dispute
between the two countries by negotiation upon the principle of compromise,
but each had proved unsuccessful. These negotiations took place at London
in the years 1818, 1824, and 1826--the two first under the Administration
of Mr. Monroe and the last under that of Mr. Adams. The negotiation of
1818, having failed to accomplish its object, resulted in the convention of
the 20th of October of that year.

By the third article of that convention it was--

Agreed that any country that may be claimed by either party on the
northwest coast of America westward of the Stony Mountains shall, together
with its harbors, bays, and creeks, and the navigation of all rivers within
the same, be free and open for the term of ten years from the date of the
signature of the present convention to the vessels, citizens, and subjects
of the two powers; it being well understood that this agreement is not to
be construed to the prejudice of any claim which either of the two high
contracting parties may have to any part of the said country, nor shall it
be taken to affect the claims of any other power or state to any part of
the said country, the only object of the high contracting parties in that
respect being to prevent disputes and differences amongst themselves.

The negotiation of 1824 was productive of no result, and the convention of
1818 was left unchanged.

The negotiation of 1826, having also failed to effect an adjustment by
compromise, resulted in the convention of August 6, 1827, by which it was
agreed to continue in force for an indefinite period the provisions of the
third article of the convention of the 20th of October, 1818; and it was
further provided that--

It shall be competent, however, to either of the contracting parties, in
case either should think fit, at any time after the 20th of October, 1828,
on giving due notice of twelve months to the other contracting party, to
annul and abrogate this convention; and it shall in such case be
accordingly entirely annulled and abrogated after the expiration of the
said term of notice.

In these attempts to adjust the controversy the parallel of the forty-ninth
degree of north latitude had been offered by the United States to Great
Britain, and in those of 1818 and 1826, with a further concession of the
free navigation of the Columbia River south of that latitude. The parallel
of the forty-ninth degree from the Rocky Mountains to its intersection with
the northeasternmost branch of the Columbia, and thence down the channel of
that river to the sea, had been offered by Great Britain, with an addition
of a small detached territory north of the Columbia. Each of these
propositions had been rejected by the parties respectively. In October,
1843, the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United
States in London was authorized to make a similar offer to those made in
1818 and 1826. Thus stood the question when the negotiation was shortly
afterwards transferred to Washington, and on the 23d of August, 1844, was
formally opened under the direction of my immediate predecessor. Like all
the previous negotiations, it was based upon principles of "compromise,"
and the avowed purpose of the parties was "to treat of the respective
claims of the two countries to the Oregon Territory with the view to
establish a permanent boundary between them westward of the Rocky Mountains
to the Pacific Ocean."

Accordingly, on the 26th of August, 1844, the British plenipotentiary
offered to divide the Oregon Territory by the forty-ninth parallel of north
latitude from the Rocky Mountains to the point of its intersection with the
northeasternmost branch of the Columbia River, and thence down that river
to the sea, leaving the free navigation of the river to be enjoyed in
common by both parties, the country south of this line to belong to the
United States and that north of it to Great Britain. At the same time he
proposed in addition to yield to the United States a detached territory
north of the Columbia extending along the Pacific and the Straits of Fuca
from Bulfinchs Harbor, inclusive, to Hoods Canal, and to make free to the
United States any port or ports south of latitude 49° which they might
desire, either on the mainland or on Quadra and Vancouvers Island. With the
exception of the free ports, this was the same offer which had been made by
the British and rejected by the American Government in the negotiation of
1826. This proposition was properly rejected by the American
plenipotentiary on the day it was submitted. This was the only proposition
of compromise offered by the British plenipotentiary. The proposition on
the part of Great Britain having been rejected, the British plenipotentiary
requested that a proposal should be made by the United States for "an
equitable adjustment of the question." When I came into office I found this
to be the state of the negotiation. Though entertaining the settled
conviction that the British pretensions of title could not be maintained to
any portion of the Oregon Territory upon any principle of public law
recognized by nations, yet in deference to what had been done by my
predecessors, and especially in consideration that propositions of
compromise had been thrice made by two preceding Administrations to adjust
the question on the parallel of 49°, and in two of them yielding to
Great Britain the free navigation of the Columbia, and that the pending
negotiation had been commenced on the basis of compromise, I deemed it to
be my duty not abruptly to break it off. In consideration, too, that under
the conventions of 1818 and 1827 the citizens and subjects of the two
powers held a joint occupancy of the country, I was induced to make another
effort to settle this long-pending controversy in the spirit of moderation
which had given birth to the renewed discussion. A proposition was
accordingly made, which was rejected by the British plenipotentiary, who,
without submitting any other proposition, suffered the negotiation on his
part to drop, expressing his trust that the United States would offer what
he saw fit to call "some further proposal for the settlement of the Oregon
question more consistent with fairness and equity and with the reasonable
expectations of the British Government." The proposition thus offered and
rejected repeated the offer of the parallel of 49° of north latitude,
which had been made by two preceding Administrations, but without proposing
to surrender to Great Britain, as they had done, the free navigation of the
Columbia River. The right of any foreign power to the free navigation of
any of our rivers through the heart of our country was one which I was
unwilling to concede. It also embraced a provision to make free to Great
Britain any port or ports on the cap of Quadra and Vancouvers Island south
of this parallel. Had this been a new question, coming under discussion for
the first time, this proposition would not have been made. The
extraordinary and wholly inadmissible demands of the British Government and
the rejection of the proposition made in deference alone to what had been
done by my predecessors and the implied obligation which their acts seemed
to impose afford satisfactory evidence that no compromise which the United
States ought to accept can be effected. With this conviction the
proposition of compromise which had been made and rejected was by my
direction subsequently withdrawn and our title to the whole Oregon
Territory asserted, and, as is believed, maintained by irrefragable facts
and arguments.

The civilized world will see in these proceedings a spirit of liberal
concession on the part of the United States, and this Government will be
relieved from all responsibility which may follow the failure to settle the

All attempts at compromise having failed, it becomes the duty of Congress
to consider what measures it may be proper to adopt for the security and
protection of our citizens now inhabiting or who may hereafter inhabit
Oregon, and for the maintenance of our just title to that Territory. In
adopting measures for this purpose care should be taken that nothing be
done to violate the stipulations of the convention of 1827, which is still
in force. The faith of treaties, in their letter and spirit, has ever been,
and, I trust, will ever be, scrupulously observed by the United States.
Under that convention a year's notice is required to be given by either
party to the other before the joint occupancy shall terminate and before
either can rightfully assert or exercise exclusive jurisdiction over any
portion of the territory. This notice it would, in my judgment, be proper
to give, and I recommend that provision be made by law for giving it
accordingly, and terminating in this manner the convention of the 6th of
August, 1827.

It will become proper for Congress to determine what legislation they can
in the meantime adopt without violating this convention. Beyond all
question the protection of our laws and our jurisdiction, civil and
criminal, ought to be immediately extended over our citizens in Oregon.
They have had just cause to complain of our long neglect in this
particular, and have in consequence been compelled for their own security
and protection to establish a provisional government for themselves. Strong
in their allegiance and ardent in their attachment to the United States,
they have been thus cast upon their own resources. They are anxious that
our laws should be extended over them, and I recommend that this be done by
Congress with as little delay as possible in the full extent to which the
British Parliament have proceeded in regard to British subjects in that
Territory by their act of July 2, 1821, "for regulating the fur trade and
establishing a criminal and civil jurisdiction within certain parts of
North America." By this act Great Britain extended her laws and
jurisdiction, civil and criminal, over her subjects engaged in the fur
trade in that Territory. By it the courts of the Province of Upper Canada
were empowered to take cognizance of causes civil and criminal. Justices of
the peace and other judicial officers were authorized to be appointed in
Oregon with power to execute all process issuing from the courts of that
Province, and to "sit and hold courts of record for the trial of criminal
offenses and misdemeanors" not made the subject of capital punishment, and
also of civil cases where the cause of action shall not "exceed in value
the amount or sum of lbs. 200."

Subsequent to the date of this act of Parliament a grant was made from the
"British Crown" to the Hudsons Bay Company of the exclusive trade with the
Indian tribes in the Oregon Territory, subject to a reservation that it
shall not operate to the exclusion "of the subjects of any foreign states
who, under or by force of any convention for the time being between us and
such foreign states, respectively, may be entitled to and shall be engaged
in the said trade." It is much to be regretted that while under this act
British subjects have enjoyed the protection of British laws and British
judicial tribunals throughout the whole of Oregon, American citizens in the
same Territory have enjoyed no such protection from their Government. At
the same time, the result illustrates the character of our people and their
institutions. In spite of this neglect they have multiplied, and their
number is rapidly increasing in that Territory. They have made no appeal to
arms, but have peacefully fortified themselves in their new homes by the
adoption of republican institutions for themselves, furnishing another
example of the truth that self-government is inherent in the American
breast and must prevail. It is due to them that they should be embraced and
protected by our laws. It is deemed important that our laws regulating
trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes east of the Rocky Mountains
should be extended to such tribes as dwell beyond them. The increasing
emigration to Oregon and the care and protection which is due from the
Government to its citizens in that distant region make it our duty, as it
is our interest, to cultivate amicable relations with the Indian tribes of
that Territory. For this purpose I recommend that provision be made for
establishing an Indian agency and such subagencies as may be deemed
necessary beyond the Rocky Mountains.

For the protection of emigrants whilst on their way to Oregon against the
attacks of the Indian tribes occupying the country through which they pass,
I recommend that a suitable number of stockades and blockhouse forts be
erected along the usual route between our frontier settlements on the
Missouri and the Rocky Mountains, and that an adequate force of mounted
riflemen be raised to guard and protect them on their journey. The
immediate adoption of these recommendations by Congress will not violate
the provisions of the existing treaty. It will be doing nothing more for
American citizens than British laws have long since done for British
subjects in the same territory.

It requires several months to perform the voyage by sea from the Atlantic
States to Oregon, and although we have a large number of whale ships in the
Pacific, but few of them afford an opportunity of interchanging
intelligence without great delay between our settlements in that distant
region and the United States. An overland mail is believed to be entirely
practicable, and the importance of establishing such a mail at least once a
month is submitted to the favorable consideration of Congress.

It is submitted to the wisdom of Congress to determine whether at their
present session, and until after the expiration of the year's notice, any
other measures may be adopted consistently with the convention of 1827 for
the security of our rights and the government and protection of our
citizens in Oregon. That it will ultimately be wise and proper to make
liberal grants of land to the patriotic pioneers who amidst privations and
dangers lead the way through savage tribes inhabiting the vast wilderness
intervening between our frontier settlements and Oregon, and who cultivate
and are ever ready to defend the soil, I am fully satisfied. To doubt
whether they will obtain such grants as soon as the convention between the
United States and Great Britain shall have ceased to exist would be to
doubt the justice of Congress; but, pending the year's notice, it is worthy
of consideration whether a stipulation to this effect may be made
consistently with the spirit of that convention.

The recommendations which I have made as to the best manner of securing our
rights in Oregon are submitted to Congress with great deference. Should
they in their wisdom devise any other mode better calculated to accomplish
the same object, it shall meet with my hearty concurrence.

At the end of the year's notice, should Congress think it proper to make
provision for giving that notice, we shall have reached a period when the
national rights in Oregon must either be abandoned or firmly maintained.
That they can not be abandoned without a sacrifice of both national honor
and interest is too clear to admit of doubt.

Oregon is a part of the North American continent, to which, it is
confidently affirmed, the title of the United States is the best now in
existence. For the grounds on which that title rests I refer you to the
correspondence of the late and present Secretary of State with the British
plenipotentiary during the negotiation. The British proposition of
compromise, which would make the Columbia the line south of 49°, with a
trifling addition of detached territory to the United States north of that
river, and would leave on the British side two-thirds of the whole Oregon
Territory, including the free navigation of the Columbia and all the
valuable harbors on the Pacific, can never for a moment be entertained by
the United States without an abandonment of their just and dear territorial
rights, their own self-respect, and the national honor. For the information
of Congress, I communicate herewith the correspondence which took place
between the two Governments during the late negotiation.

The rapid extension of our settlements over our territories heretofore
unoccupied, the addition of new States to our Confederacy, the expansion of
free principles, and our rising greatness as a nation are attracting the
attention of the powers of Europe, and lately the doctrine has been
broached in some of them of a "balance of power" on this continent to check
our advancement. The United States, sincerely desirous of preserving
relations of good understanding with all nations, can not in silence permit
any European interference on the North American continent, and should any
such interference be attempted will be ready to resist it at any and all

It is well known to the American people and to all nations that this
Government has never interfered with the relations subsisting between other
governments. We have never made ourselves parties to their wars or their
alliances; we have not sought their territories by conquest; we have not
mingled with parties in their domestic struggles; and believing our own
form of government to be the best, we have never attempted to propagate it
by intrigues, by diplomacy, or by force. We may claim on this continent a
like exemption from European interference. The nations of America are
equally sovereign and independent with those of Europe. They possess the
same rights, independent of all foreign interposition, to make war, to
conclude peace, and to regulate their internal affairs. The people of the
United States can not, therefore, view with indifference attempts of
European powers to interfere with the independent action of the nations on
this continent. The American system of government is entirely different
from that of Europe. Jealousy among the different sovereigns of Europe,
lest any one of them might become too powerful for the rest, has caused
them anxiously to desire the establishment of what they term the "balance
of power." It can not be permitted to have any application on the North
American continent, and especially to the United States. We must ever
maintain the principle that the people of this continent alone have the
right to decide their own destiny. Should any portion of them, constituting
an independent state, propose to unite themselves with our Confederacy,
this will be a question for them and us to determine without any foreign
interposition. We can never consent that European powers shall interfere to
prevent such a union because it might disturb the "balance of power" which
they may desire to maintain upon this continent. Near a quarter of a
century ago the principle was distinctly announced to the world, in the
annual message of one of my predecessors, that--

The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they
have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects
for colonization by any European powers.

This principle will apply with greatly increased force should any European
power attempt to establish any new colony in North America. In the existing
circumstances of the world the present is deemed a proper occasion to
reiterate and reaffirm the principle avowed by Mr. Monroe and to state my
cordial concurrence in its wisdom and sound policy. The reassertion of this
principle, especially in reference to North America, is at this day but the
promulgation of a policy which no European power should cherish the
disposition to resist. Existing rights of every European nation should be
respected, but it is due alike to our safety and our interests that the
efficient protection of our laws should be extended over our whole
territorial limits, and that it should be distinctly announced to the world
as our settled policy that no future European colony or dominion shall with
our consent be planted or established on any part of the North American

A question has recently arisen under the tenth article of the subsisting
treaty between the United States and Prussia. By this article the consuls
of the two countries have the right to sit as judges and arbitrators "in
such differences as may arise between the captains and crews of the vessels
belonging to the nation whose interests are committed to their charge
without the interference of the local authorities, unless the conduct of
the crews or of the captain should disturb the order or tranquillity of the
country, or the said consuls should require their assistance to cause their
decisions to be carried into effect or supported."

The Prussian consul at New Bedford in June, 1844, applied to Mr. Justice
Story to carry into effect a decision made by him between the captain and
crew of the Prussian ship Borussia, but the request was refused on the
ground that without previous legislation by Congress the judiciary did not
possess the power to give effect to this article of the treaty. The
Prussian Government, through their minister here, have complained of this
violation of the treaty, and have asked the Government of the United States
to adopt the necessary measures to prevent similar violations hereafter.
Good faith to Prussia, as well as to other nations with whom we have
similar treaty stipulations, requires that these should be faithfully
observed. I have deemed it proper, therefore, to lay the subject before
Congress and to recommend such legislation as may be necessary to give
effect to these treaty obligations.

By virtue of an arrangement made between the Spanish Government and that of
the United States in December, 1831, American vessels, since the 29th of
April, 1832, have been admitted to entry in the ports of Spain, including
those of the Balearic and Canary islands, on payment of the same tonnage
duty of 5 cents per ton, as though they had been Spanish vessels; and this
whether our vessels arrive in Spain directly from the United States or
indirectly from any other country. When Congress, by the act of 13th July,
1832, gave effect to this arrangement between the two Governments, they
confined the reduction of tonnage duty merely to Spanish vessels "coming
from a port in Spain," leaving the former discriminating duty to remain
against such vessels coming from a port in any other country. It is
manifestly unjust that whilst American vessels arriving in the ports of
Spain from other countries pay no more duty than Spanish vessels, Spanish
vessels arriving in the ports of the United States from other countries
should be subjected to heavy discriminating tonnage duties. This is neither
equality nor reciprocity, and is in violation of the arrangement concluded
in December, 1831, between the two countries. The Spanish Government have
made repeated and earnest remonstrances against this inequality, and the
favorable attention of Congress has been several times invoked to the
subject by my predecessors. I recommend, as an act of justice to Spain,
that this inequality be removed by Congress and that the discriminating
duties which have been levied under the act of the 13th of July, 1832, on
Spanish vessels coming to the United States from any other foreign country
be refunded. This recommendation does not embrace Spanish vessels arriving
in the United States from Cuba and Porto Rico, which will still remain
subject to the provisions of the act of June 30, 1834, concerning tonnage
duty on such vessels. By the act of the 14th of July, 1832, coffee was
exempted from duty altogether. This exemption was universal, without
reference to the country where it was produced or the national character of
the vessel in which it was imported. By the tariff act of the 30th of
August, 1842, this exemption from duty was restricted to coffee imported in
American vessels from the place of its production, whilst coffee imported
under all other circumstances was subjected to a duty of 20 per cent ad
valorem. Under this act and our existing treaty with the King of the
Netherlands Java coffee imported from the European ports of that Kingdom
into the United States, whether in Dutch or American vessels, now pays this
rate of duty. The Government of the Netherlands complains that such a
discriminating duty should have been imposed on coffee the production of
one of its colonies, and which is chiefly brought from Java to the ports of
that Kingdom and exported from thence to foreign countries. Our trade with
the Netherlands is highly beneficial to both countries and our relations
with them have ever been of the most friendly character. Under all the
circumstances of the case, I recommend that this discrimination should be
abolished and that the coffee of Java imported from the Netherlands be
placed upon the same footing with that imported directly from Brazil and
other countries where it is produced.

Under the eighth section of the tariff act of the 30th of August, 1842, a
duty of 15 cents per gallon was imposed on port wine in casks, while on the
red wines of several other countries, when imported in casks, a duty of
only 6 cents per gallon was imposed. This discrimination, so far as
regarded the port wine of Portugal, was deemed a violation of our treaty
with that power, which provides that--

No higher or other duties shall be imposed on the importation into the
United States of America of any article the growth, produce, or manufacture
of the Kingdom and possessions of Portugal than such as are or shall be
payable on the like article being the growth, produce, or manufacture of
any other foreign country.

Accordingly, to give effect to the treaty as well as to the intention of
Congress, expressed in a proviso to the tariff act itself, that nothing
therein contained should be so construed as to interfere with subsisting
treaties with foreign nations, a Treasury circular was issued on the 16th
of July, 1844, which, among other things, declared the duty on the port
wine of Portugal, in casks, under the existing laws and treaty to be 6
cents per gallon, and directed that the excess of duties which had been
collected on such wine should be refunded. By virtue of another clause in
the same section of the act it is provided that all imitations of port or
any other wines "shall be subject to the duty provided for the genuine
article." Imitations of port wine, the production of France, are imported
to some extent into the United States, and the Government of that country
now claims that under a correct construction of the act these imitations
ought not to pay a higher duty than that imposed upon the original port
wine of Portugal. It appears to me to be unequal and unjust that French
imitations of port wine should be subjected to a duty of 15 cents, while
the more valuable article from Portugal should pay a duty of 6 cents only
per gallon. I therefore recommend to Congress such legislation as may be
necessary to correct the inequality.

The late President, in his annual message of December last, recommended an
appropriation to satisfy the claims of the Texan Government against the
United States, which had been previously adjusted so far as the powers of
the Executive extend. These claims arose out of the act of disarming a body
of Texan troops under the command of Major Snively by an officer in the
service of the United States, acting under the orders of our Government,
and the forcible entry into the custom-house at Bryarlys Landing, on Red
River, by certain citizens of the United States and taking away therefrom
the goods seized by the collector of the customs as forfeited under the
laws of Texas. This was a liquidated debt ascertained to be due to Texas
when an independent state. Her acceptance of the terms of annexation
proposed by the United States does not discharge or invalidate the claim. I
recommend that provision be made for its payment.

The commissioner appointed to China during the special session of the
Senate in March last shortly afterwards set out on his mission in the
United States ship Columbus. On arriving at Rio de Janeiro on his passage
the state of his health had become so critical that by the advice of his
medical attendants he returned to the United States early in the month of
October last. Commodore Biddle, commanding the East India Squadron,
proceeded on his voyage in the Columbus, and was charged by the
commissioner with the duty of exchanging with the proper authorities the
ratifications of the treaty lately concluded with the Emperor of China.
Since the return of the commissioner to the United States his health has
been much improved, and he entertains the confident belief that he will
soon be able to proceed on his mission.

Unfortunately, differences continue to exist among some of the nations of
South America which, following our example, have established their
independence, while in others internal dissensions prevail. It is natural
that our sympathies should be warmly enlisted for their welfare; that we
should desire that all controversies between them should be amicably
adjusted and their Governments administered in a manner to protect the
rights and promote the prosperity of their people. It is contrary, however,
to our settled policy to interfere in their controversies, whether external
or internal.

I have thus adverted to all the subjects connected with our foreign
relations to which I deem it necessary to call your attention. Our policy
is not only peace with all, but good will toward all the powers of the
earth. While we are just to all, we require that all shall be just to us.
Excepting the differences with Mexico and Great Britain, our relations with
all civilized nations are of the most satisfactory character. It is hoped
that in this enlightened age these differences may be amicably adjusted.

The Secretary of the Treasury in his annual report to Congress will
communicate a full statement of the condition of our finances. The imports
for the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last were of the value of
$117,254,564, of which the amount exported was $15,346,830, leaving a
balance of $101,907,734 for domestic consumption. The exports for the same
year were of the value of $114,646,606, of which the amount of domestic
articles was $99,299,776. The receipts into the Treasury during the same
year were $29,769,133.56, of which there were derived from customs
$27,528,122.70, from sales of public lands $2,077,022.30, and from
incidental and miscellaneous sources $163,998.56. The expenditures for the
same period were $29,968,206.98, of which $8,588,157.62 were applied to the
payment of the public debt. The balance in the Treasury on the 1st of July
last was $7,658,306.22. The amount of the public debt remaining unpaid on
the 1st of October last was $17,075,445.52. Further payments of the public
debt would have been made, in anticipation of the period of its
reimbursement under the authority conferred upon the Secretary of the
Treasury by the acts of July 21, 1841, and of April 15, 1842, and March 3,
1843, had not the unsettled state of our relations with Mexico menaced
hostile collision with that power. In view of such a contingency it was
deemed prudent to retain in the Treasury an amount unusually large for
ordinary purposes.

A few years ago our whole national debt growing out of the Revolution and
the War of 1812 with Great Britain was extinguished, and we presented to
the world the rare and noble spectacle of a great and growing people who
had fully discharged every obligation. Since that time the existing debt
has been contracted, and, small as it is in comparison with the similar
burdens of most other nations, it should be extinguished at the earliest
practicable period. Should the state of the country permit, and especially
if our foreign relations interpose no obstacle, it is contemplated to apply
all the moneys in the Treasury as they accrue, beyond what is required for
the appropriations by Congress, to its liquidation. I cherish the hope of
soon being able to congratulate the country on its recovering once more the
lofty position which it so recently occupied. Our country, which exhibits
to the world the benefits of self-government, in developing all the sources
of national prosperity owes to mankind the permanent example of a nation
free from the blighting influence of a public debt.

The attention of Congress is invited to the importance of making suitable
modifications and reductions of the rates of duty imposed by our present
tariff laws. The object of imposing duties on imports should be to raise
revenue to pay the necessary expenses of Government. Congress may
undoubtedly, in the exercise of a sound discretion, discriminate in
arranging the rates of duty on different articles, but the discriminations
should be within the revenue standard and be made with the view to raise
money for the support of Government.

It becomes important to understand distinctly what is meant by a revenue
standard the maximum of which should not be exceeded in the rates of duty
imposed. It is conceded, and experience proves, that duties may be laid so
high as to diminish or prohibit altogether the importation of any given
article, and thereby lessen or destroy the revenue which at lower rates
would be derived from its importation. Such duties exceed the revenue rates
and are not imposed to raise money for the support of Government. If
Congress levy a duty for revenue of 1 per cent on a given article, it will
produce a given amount of money to the Treasury and will incidentally and
necessarily afford protection or advantage to the amount of 1 per cent to
the home manufacturer of a similar or like article over the importer. If
the duty be raised to 10 per cent, it will produce a greater amount of
money and afford greater protection. If it be still raised to 20, 25, or 30
per cent, and if as it is raised the revenue derived from it is found to be
increased, the protection or advantage will also be increased; but if it be
raised to 31 per cent, and it is found that the revenue produced at that
rate is less than at 30 per cent, it ceases to be a revenue duty. The
precise point in the ascending scale of duties at which it is ascertained
from experience that the revenue is greatest is the maximum rate of duty
which can be laid for the bona fide purpose of collecting money for the
support of Government. To raise the duties higher than that point, and
thereby diminish the amount collected, is to levy them for protection
merely, and not for revenue. As long, then, as Congress may gradually
increase the rate of duty on a given article, and the revenue is increased
by such increase of duty, they are within the revenue standard. When they
go beyond that point, and as they increase the duties, the revenue is
diminished or destroyed; the act ceases to have for its object the raising
of money to support Government, but is for protection merely. It does not
follow that Congress should levy the highest duty on all articles of import
which they will bear within the revenue standard, for such rates would
probably produce a much larger amount than the economical administration of
the Government would require. Nor does it follow that the duties on all
articles should be at the same or a horizontal rate. Some articles will
bear a much higher revenue duty than others. Below the maximum of the
revenue standard Congress may and ought to discriminate in the rates
imposed, taking care so to adjust them on different articles as to produce
in the aggregate the amount which, when added to the proceeds of the sales
of public lands, may be needed to pay the economical expenses of the

In levying a tariff of duties Congress exercise the taxing power, and for
purposes of revenue may select the objects of taxation. They may exempt
certain articles altogether and permit their importation free of duty. On
others they may impose low duties. In these classes should be embraced such
articles of necessity as are in general use, and especially such as are
consumed by the laborer and poor as well as by the wealthy citizen. Care
should be taken that all the great interests of the country, including
manufactures, agriculture, commerce, navigation, and the mechanic arts,
should, as far as may be practicable, derive equal advantages from the
incidental protection which a just system of revenue duties may afford.
Taxation, direct or indirect, is a burden, and it should be so imposed as
to operate as equally as may be on all classes in the proportion of their
ability to bear it. To make the taxing power an actual benefit to one class
necessarily increases the burden of the others beyond their proportion, and
would be manifestly unjust. The terms "protection to domestic industry" are
of popular import, but they should apply under a just system to all the
various branches of industry in our country. The farmer or planter who
toils yearly in his fields is engaged in "domestic industry," and is as
much entitled to have his labor "protected" as the manufacturer, the man of
commerce, the navigator, or the mechanic, who are engaged also in "domestic
industry" in their different pursuits. The joint labors of all these
classes constitute the aggregate of the "domestic industry" of the nation,
and they are equally entitled to the nation's "protection." No one of them
can justly claim to be the exclusive recipient of "protection," which can
only be afforded by increasing burdens on the "domestic industry" of the

If these views be correct, it remains to inquire how far the tariff act of
1842 is consistent with them. That many of the provisions of that act are
in violation of the cardinal principles here laid down all must concede.
The rates of duty imposed by it on some articles are prohibitory and on
others so high as greatly to diminish importations and to produce a less
amount of revenue than would be derived from lower rates. They operate as
"protection merely" to one branch of "domestic industry" by taxing other

By the introduction of minimums, or assumed and false values, and by the
imposition of specific duties the injustice and inequality of the act of
1842 in its practical operations on different classes and pursuits are seen
and felt. Many of the oppressive duties imposed by it under the operation
of these principles range from 1 per cent to more than 200 per cent. They
are prohibitory on some articles and partially so on others, and bear most
heavily on articles of common necessity and but lightly on articles of
luxury. It is so framed that much the greatest burden which it imposes is
thrown on labor and the poorer classes, who are least able to bear it,
while it protects capital and exempts the rich from paying their just
proportion of the taxation required for the support of Government. While it
protects the capital of the wealthy manufacturer and increases his profits,
it does not benefit the operatives or laborers in his employment, whose
wages have not been increased by it. Articles of prime necessity or of
coarse quality and low price, used by the masses of the people, are in many
instances subjected by it to heavy taxes, while articles of finer quality
and higher price, or of luxury, which can be used only by the opulent, are
lightly taxed. It imposes heavy and unjust burdens on the farmer, the
planter, the commercial man, and those of all other pursuits except the
capitalist who has made his investments in manufactures. All the great
interests of the country are not as nearly as may be practicable equally
protected by it.

The Government in theory knows no distinction of persons or classes, and
should not bestow upon some favors and privileges which all others may not
enjoy. It was the purpose of its illustrious founders to base the
institutions which they reared upon the great and unchanging principles of
justice and equity, conscious that if administered in the spirit in which
they were conceived they would be felt only by the benefits which they
diffused, and would secure for themselves a defense in the hearts of the
people more powerful than standing armies and all the means and appliances
invented to sustain governments founded in injustice and oppression.

The well-known fact that the tariff act of 1842 was passed by a majority of
one vote in the Senate and two in the House of Representatives, and that
some of those who felt themselves constrained, under the peculiar
circumstances existing at the time, to vote in its favor, proclaimed its
defects and expressed their determination to aid in its modification on the
first opportunity, affords strong and conclusive evidence that it was not
intended to be permanent, and of the expediency and necessity of its
thorough revision.

In recommending to Congress a reduction of the present rates of duty and a
revision and modification of the act of 1842, I am far from entertaining
opinions unfriendly to the manufacturers. On the contrary, I desire to see
them prosperous as far as they can be so without imposing unequal burdens
on other interests. The advantage under any system of indirect taxation,
even within the revenue standard, must be in favor of the manufacturing
interest, and of this no other interest will complain.

I recommend to Congress the abolition of the minimum principle, or assumed,
arbitrary, and false values, and of specific duties, and the substitution
in their place of ad valorem duties as the fairest and most equitable
indirect tax which can be imposed. By the ad valorem principle all articles
are taxed according to their cost or value, and those which are of inferior
quality or of small cost bear only the just proportion of the tax with
those which are of superior quality or greater cost. The articles consumed
by all are taxed at the same rate. A system of ad valorem revenue duties,
with proper discriminations and proper guards against frauds in collecting
them, it is not doubted will afford ample incidental advantages to the
manufacturers and enable them to derive as great profits as can be derived
from any other regular business. It is believed that such a system strictly
within the revenue standard will place the manufacturing interests on a
stable footing and inure to their permanent advantage, while it will as
nearly as may be practicable extend to all the great interests of the
country the incidental protection which can be afforded by our revenue
laws. Such a system, when once firmly established, would be permanent, and
not be subject to the constant complaints, agitations, and changes which
must ever occur when duties are not laid for revenue, but for the
"protection merely" of a favored interest.

In the deliberations of Congress on this subject it is hoped that a spirit
of mutual concession and compromise between conflicting interests may
prevail, and that the result of their labors may be crowned with the
happiest consequences.

By the Constitution of the United States it is provided that "no money
shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made
by law." A public treasury was undoubtedly contemplated and intended to be
created, in which the public money should be kept from the period of
collection until needed for public uses. In the collection and disbursement
of the public money no agencies have ever been employed by law except such
as were appointed by the Government, directly responsible to it and under
its control. The safe-keeping of the public money should be confided to a
public treasury created by law and under like responsibility and control.
It is not to be imagined that the framers of the Constitution could have
intended that a treasury should be created as a place of deposit and
safe-keeping of the public money which was irresponsible to the Government.
The first Congress under the Constitution, by the act of the 2d of
September, 1789, "to establish the Treasury Department," provided for the
appointment of a Treasurer, and made it his duty "to receive and keep the
moneys of the United States" and "at all times to submit to the Secretary
of the Treasury and the Comptroller, or either of them, the inspection of
the moneys in his hands."

That banks, national or State, could not have been intended to be used as a
substitute for the Treasury spoken of in the Constitution as keepers of the
public money is manifest from the fact that at that time there was no
national bank, and but three or four State banks, of limited Capital,
existed in the country. Their employment as depositories was at first
resorted to to a limited extent, but with no avowed intention of continuing
them permanently in place of the Treasury of the Constitution. When they
were afterwards from time to time employed, it was from motives of supposed
convenience. Our experience has shown that when banking corporations have
been the keepers of the public money, and been thereby made in effect the
Treasury, the Government can have no guaranty that it can command the use
of its own money for public purposes. The late Bank of the United States
proved to be faithless. The State banks which were afterwards employed were
faithless. But a few years ago, with millions of public money in their
keeping, the Government was brought almost to bankruptcy and the public
credit seriously impaired because of their inability or indisposition to
pay on demand to the public creditors in the only currency recognized by
the Constitution. Their failure occurred in a period of peace, and great
inconvenience and loss were suffered by the public from it. Had the country
been involved in a foreign war, that inconvenience and loss would have been
much greater, and might have resulted in extreme public calamity. The
public money should not be mingled with the private funds of banks or
individuals or be used for private purposes. When it is placed in banks for
safe-keeping, it is in effect loaned to them without interest, and is
loaned by them upon interest to the borrowers from them. The public money
is converted into banking capital, and is used and loaned out for the
private profit of bank stockholders, and when called for, as was the case
in 1837, it may be in the pockets of the borrowers from the banks instead
of being in the public Treasury contemplated by the Constitution. The
framers of the Constitution could never have intended that the money paid
into the Treasury should be thus converted to private use and placed beyond
the control of the Government.

Banks which hold the public money are often tempted by a desire of gain to
extend their loans, increase their circulation, and thus stimulate, if not
produce, a spirit of speculation and extravagance which sooner or later
must result in ruin to thousands. If the public money be not permitted to
be thus used, but be kept in the Treasure and paid out to the public
creditors in gold and silver, the temptation afforded by its deposit with
banks to an undue expansion of their business would be checked, while the
amount of the constitutional currency left in circulation would be enlarged
by its employment in the public collections and disbursements, and the
banks themselves would in consequence be found in a safer and sounder
condition. At present State banks are employed as depositories, but without
adequate regulation of law whereby the public money can be secured against
the casualties and excesses, revulsions, suspensions, and defalcations to
which from overissues, overtrading, an inordinate desire for gain, or other
causes they are constantly exposed. The Secretary of the Treasury has in
all cases when it was practicable taken collateral security for the amount
which they hold, by the pledge of stocks of the United States or such of
the States as were in good credit. Some of the deposit banks have given
this description of security and others have declined to do so.

Entertaining the opinion that "the separation of the moneys of the
Government from banking institutions is indispensable for the safety of the
funds of the Government and the rights of the people," I recommend to
Congress that provision be made by law for such separation, and that a
constitutional treasury be created for the safe-keeping of the public
money. The constitutional treasury recommended is designed as a secure
depository for the public money, without any power to make loans or
discounts or to issue any paper whatever as a currency or circulation. I
can not doubt that such a treasury as was contemplated by the Constitution
should be independent of all banking corporations. The money of the people
should be kept in the Treasury of the people created by law, and be in the
custody of agents of the people chosen by themselves according to the forms
of the Constitution--agents who are directly responsible to the Government,
who are under adequate bonds and oaths, and who are subject to severe
punishments for any embezzlement, private use, or misapplication of the
public funds, and for any failure in other respects to perform their
duties. To say that the people or their Government are incompetent or not
to be trusted with the custody of their own money in their own Treasury,
provided by themselves, but must rely on the presidents, cashiers, and
stockholders of banking corporations, not appointed by them nor responsible
to them, would be to concede that they are incompetent for

In recommending the establishment of a constitutional treasury in which the
public money shall be kept, I desire that adequate provision be made by law
for its safety and that all Executive discretion or control over it shall
be removed, except such as may be necessary in directing its disbursement
in pursuance of appropriations made by law.

Under our present land system, limiting the minimum price at which the
public lands can be entered to $1.25 per acre, large quantities of lands of
inferior quality remain unsold because they will not command that price.
From the records of the General Land Office it appears that of the public
lands remaining unsold in the several States and Territories in which they
are situated, 39,105,577 acres have been in the market subject to entry
more than twenty years, 49,638,644 acres for more than fifteen years,
73,074,600 acres for more than ten years, and 106,176,961 acres for more
than five years. Much the largest portion of these lands will continue to
be unsalable at the minimum price at which they are permitted to be sold so
long as large territories of lands from which the more valuable portions
have not been selected are annually brought into market by the Government.
With the view to the sale and settlement of these inferior lands, I
recommend that the price be graduated and reduced below the present minimum
rate, confining the sales at the reduced prices to settlers and
cultivators, in limited quantities. If graduated and reduced in price for a
limited term to $1 per acre, and after the expiration of that period for a
second and third term to lower rates, a large portion of these lands would
be purchased, and many worthy citizens who are unable to pay higher rates
could purchase homes for themselves and their families. By adopting the
policy of graduation and reduction of price these inferior lands will be
sold for their real value, while the States in which they lie will be freed
from the inconvenience, if not injustice, to which they are subjected in
consequence of the United States continuing to own large quantities of the
public lands within their borders not liable to taxation for the support of
their local governments.

I recommend the continuance of the policy of granting preemptions in its
most liberal extent to all those who have settled or may hereafter settle
on the public lands, whether surveyed or unsurveyed, to which the Indian
title may have been extinguished at the time of settlement. It has been
found by experience that in consequence of combinations of purchasers and
other causes a very small quantity of the public lands, when sold at public
auction, commands a higher price than the minimum rates established by law.
The settlers on the public lands are, however, but rarely able to secure
their homes and improvements at the public sales at that rate, because
these combinations, by means of the capital they command and their superior
ability to purchase, render it impossible for the settler to compete with
them in the market. By putting down all competition these combinations of
capitalists and speculators are usually enabled to purchase the lands,
including the improvements of the settlers, at the minimum price of the
Government, and either turn them out of their homes or extort from them,
according to their ability to pay, double or quadruple the amount paid for
them to the Government. It is to the enterprise and perseverance of the
hardy pioneers of the West, who penetrate the wilderness with their
families, suffer the dangers, the privations, and hardships attending the
settlement of a new country, and prepare the way for the body of emigrants
who in the course of a few years usually follow them, that we are in a
great degree indebted for the rapid extension and aggrandizement of our

Experience has proved that no portion of our population are more patriotic
than the hardy and brave men of the frontier, or more ready to obey the
call of their country and to defend her rights and her honor whenever and
by whatever enemy assailed. They should be protected from the grasping
speculator and secured, at the minimum price of the public lands, in the
humble homes which they have improved by their labor. With this end in
view, all vexatious or unnecessary restrictions imposed upon them by the
existing preemption laws should be repealed or modified. It is the true
policy of the Government to afford facilities to its citizens to become the
owners of small portions of our vast public domain at low and moderate

The present system of managing the mineral lands of the United States is
believed to be radically defective. More than 1,000,000 acres of the public
lands, supposed to contain lead and other minerals, have been reserved from
sale, and numerous leases upon them have been granted to individuals upon a
stipulated rent. The system of granting leases has proved to be not only
unprofitable to the Government, but unsatisfactory to the citizens who have
gone upon the lands, and must, if continued, lay the foundation of much
future difficulty between the Government and the lessees. According to the
official records, the amount of rents received by the Government for the
years 1841, 1842, 1843, and 1844 was $6,354.74, while the expenses of the
system during the same period, including salaries of superintendents,
agents, clerks, and incidental expenses, were $26,111.11, the income being
less than one-fourth of the expenses. To this pecuniary loss may be added
the injury sustained by the public in consequence of the destruction of
timber and the careless and wasteful manner of working the mines. The
system has given rise to much litigation between the United States and
individual citizens, producing irritation and excitement in the mineral
region, and involving the Government in heavy additional expenditures. It
is believed that similar losses and embarrassments will continue to occur
while the present System of leasing these lands remains unchanged. These
lands are now under the superintendence and care of the War Department,
with the ordinary duties of which they have no proper or natural
connection. I recommend the repeal of the present system, and that these
lands be placed under the superintendence and management of the General
Land Office, as other public lands, and be brought into market and sold
upon such terms as Congress in their wisdom may prescribe, reserving to the
Government an equitable percentage of the gross amount of mineral product,
and that the preemption principle be extended to resident miners and
settlers upon them at the minimum price which may be established by

I refer you to the accompanying report of the Secretary of War for
information respecting the present situation of the Army and its operations
during the past year, the state of our defenses, the condition of the
public works, and our relations with the various Indian tribes within our
limits or upon our borders. I invite your attention to the suggestions
contained in that report in relation to these prominent objects of national
interest. When orders were given during the past summer for concentrating a
military force on the western frontier of Texas, our troops were widely
dispersed and in small detachments, occupying posts remote from each other.
The prompt and expeditious manner in which an army embracing more than half
our peace establishment was drawn together on an emergency so sudden
reflects great credit on the officers who were intrusted with the execution
of these orders, as well as upon the discipline of the Army itself. To be
in strength to protect and defend the people and territory of Texas in the
event Mexico should commence hostilities or invade her territories with a
large army, which she threatened, I authorized the general assigned to the
command of the army of occupation to make requisitions for additional
forces from several of the States nearest the Texan territory, and which
could most expeditiously furnish them, if in his opinion a larger force
than that under his command and the auxiliary aid which under like
circumstances he was authorized to receive from Texas should be required.
The contingency upon which the exercise of this authority depended has not
occurred. The circumstances under which two companies of State artillery
from the city of New Orleans were sent into Texas and mustered into the
service of the United States are fully stated in the report of the
Secretary of War. I recommend to Congress that provision be made for the
payment of these troops, as well as a small number of Texan volunteers whom
the commanding general thought it necessary to receive or muster into our

During the last summer the First Regiment of Dragoons made extensive
excursions through the Indian country on our borders, a part of them
advancing nearly to the possessions of the Hudsons Bay Company in the
north, and a part as far as the South Pass of the Rocky Mountains and the
head waters of the tributary streams of the Colorado of the West. The
exhibition of this military force among the Indian tribes in those distant
regions and the councils held with them by the commanders of the
expeditions, it is believed, will have a salutary influence in restraining
them from hostilities among themselves and maintaining friendly relations
between them and the United States. An interesting account of one of these
excursions accompanies the report of the Secretary of War. Under the
directions of the War Department Brevet Captain Fremont, of the Corps of
Topographical Engineers, has been employed since 1842 in exploring the
country west of the Mississippi and beyond the Rocky Mountains. Two
expeditions have already been brought to a close, and the reports of that
scientific and enterprising officer have furnished much interesting and
valuable information. He is now engaged in a third expedition, but it is
not expected that this arduous service will be completed in season to
enable me to communicate the result to Congress at the present session.

Our relations with the Indian tribes are of a favorable character. The
policy of removing them to a country designed for their permanent residence
west of the Mississippi, and without the limits of the organized States and
Territories, is better appreciated by them than it was a few years ago,
while education is now attended to and the habits of civilized life are
gaining ground among them.

Serious difficulties of long standing continue to distract the several
parties into which the Cherokees are unhappily divided. The efforts of the
Government to adjust the difficulties between them have heretofore proved
unsuccessful, and there remains no probability that this desirable object
can be accomplished without the aid of further legislation by Congress. I
will at an early period of your session present the subject for your
consideration, accompanied with an exposition of the complaints and claims
of the several parties into which the nation is divided, with a view to the
adoption of such measures by Congress as may enable the Executive to do
justice to them, respectively, and to put an end, if possible, to the
dissensions which have long prevailed and still prevail among them.

I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Navy for the present
condition of that branch of the national defense and for grave suggestions
having for their object the increase of its efficiency and a greater
economy in its management. During the past year the officers and men have
performed their duty in a satisfactory manner. The orders which have been
given have been executed with promptness and fidelity. A larger force than
has often formed one squadron under our flag was readily concentrated in
the Gulf of Mexico, and apparently without unusual effort. It is especially
to be observed that notwithstanding the union of so considerable a force,
no act was committed that even the jealousy of an irritated power could
construe as an act of aggression, and that the commander of the squadron
and his officers, in strict conformity with their instructions, holding
themselves ever ready for the most active duty, have achieved the still
purer glory of contributing to the preservation of peace. It is believed
that at all our foreign stations the honor of our flag has been maintained
and that generally our ships of war have been distinguished for their good
discipline and order. I am happy to add that the display of maritime force
which was required by the events of the summer has been made wholly within
the usual appropriations for the service of the year, so that no additional
appropriations are required.

The commerce of the United States, and with it the navigating interests,
have steadily and rapidly increased since the organization of our
Government, until, it is believed, we are now second to but one power in
the world, and at no distant day we shall probably be inferior to none.
Exposed as they must be, it has been a wise policy to afford to these
important interests protection with our ships of war distributed in the
great highways of trade throughout the world. For more than thirty years
appropriations have been made and annually expended for the gradual
increase of our naval forces. In peace our Navy performs the important duty
of protecting our commerce, and in the event of war will be, as it has
been, a most efficient means of defense.

The successful use of steam navigation on the ocean has been followed by
the introduction of war steamers in great and increasing numbers into the
navies of the principal maritime powers of the world. A due regard to our
own safety and to an efficient protection to our large and increasing
commerce demands a corresponding increase on our part. No country has
greater facilities for the construction of vessels of this description than
ours, or can promise itself greater advantages from their employment. They
are admirably adapted to the protection of our commerce, to the rapid
transmission of intelligence, and to the coast defense. In pursuance of the
wise policy of a gradual increase of our Navy, large supplies of live-oak
timber and other materials for shipbuilding have been collected and are now
under shelter and in a state of good preservation, while iron steamers can
be built with great facility in various parts of the Union. The use of iron
as a material, especially in the construction of steamers which can enter
with safety many of the harbors along our coast now inaccessible to vessels
of greater draft, and the practicability of constructing them in the
interior, strongly recommend that liberal appropriations should be made for
this important object. Whatever may have been our policy in the earlier
stages of the Government, when the nation was in its infancy, our shipping
interests and commerce comparatively small, our resources limited, our
population sparse and scarcely extending beyond the limits of the original
thirteen States, that policy must be essentially different now that we have
grown from three to more than twenty millions of people, that our commerce,
carried in our own ships, is found in every sea, and that our territorial
boundaries and settlements have been so greatly expanded. Neither our
commerce nor our long line of coast on the ocean and on the Lakes can be
successfully defended against foreign aggression by means of fortifications
alone. These are essential at important commercial and military points, but
our chief reliance for this object must be on a well-organized, efficient
navy. The benefits resulting from such a navy are not confined to the
Atlantic States. The productions of the interior which seek a market abroad
are directly dependent on the safety and freedom of our commerce. The
occupation of the Balize below New Orleans by a hostile force would
embarrass, if not stagnate, the whole export trade of the Mississippi and
affect the value of the agricultural products of the entire valley of that
mighty river and its tributaries.

It has never been our policy to maintain large standing armies in time of
peace. They are contrary to the genius of our free institutions, would
impose heavy burdens on the people and be dangerous to public liberty. Our
reliance for protection and defense on the land must be mainly on our
citizen soldiers, who will be ever ready, as they ever have been ready in
times past, to rush with alacrity, at the call of their country, to her
defense. This description of force, however, can not defend our coast,
harbors, and inland seas, nor protect our commerce on the ocean or the
Lakes. These must be protected by our Navy.

Considering an increased naval force, and especially of steam vessels,
corresponding with our growth and importance as a nation, and proportioned
to the increased and increasing naval power of other nations, of vast
importance as regards our safety, and the great and growing interests to be
protected by it, I recommend the subject to the favorable consideration of

The report of the Postmaster-General herewith communicated contains a
detailed statement of the operations of his Department during the pass
year. It will be seen that the income from postages will fall short of the
expenditures for the year between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000. This
deficiency has been caused by the reduction of the rates of postage, which
was made by the act of the 3d of March last. No principle has been more
generally acquiesced in by the people than that this Department should
sustain itself by limiting its expenditures to its income. Congress has
never sought to make it a source of revenue for general purposes except for
a short period during the last war with Great Britain, nor should it ever
become a charge on the general Treasury. If Congress shall adhere to this
principle, as I think they ought, it will be necessary either to curtail
the present mail service so as to reduce the expenditures, or so to modify
the act of the 3d of March last as to improve its revenues. The extension
of the mail service and the additional facilities which will be demanded by
the rapid extension and increase of population on our western frontier will
not admit of such curtailment as will materially reduce the present
expenditures. In the adjustment of the tariff of postages the interests of
the people demand that the lowest rates be adopted which will produce the
necessary revenue to meet the expenditures of the Department. I invite the
attention of Congress to the suggestions of the Postmaster-General on this
subject, under the belief that such a modification of the late law may be
made as will yield sufficient revenue without further calls on the
Treasury, and with very little change in the present rates of postage.
Proper measures have been taken in pursuance of the act of the 3d of March
last for the establishment of lines of mail steamers between this and
foreign countries. The importance of this service commends itself strongly
to favorable consideration.

With the growth of our country the public business which devolves on the
heads of the several Executive Departments has greatly increased. In some
respects the distribution of duties among them seems to be incongruous, and
many of these might be transferred from one to another with advantage to
the public interests. A more auspicious time for the consideration of this
subject by Congress, with a view to system in the organization of the
several Departments and a more appropriate division of the public business,
will not probably occur.

The most important duties of the State Department relate to our foreign
affairs. By the great enlargement of the family of nations, the increase of
our commerce, and the corresponding extension of our consular system the
business of this Department has been greatly increased. In its present
organization many duties of a domestic nature and consisting of details are
devolved on the Secretary of State, which do not appropriately belong to
the foreign department of the Government and may properly be transferred to
some other Department. One of these grows out of the present state of the
law concerning the Patent Office, which a few years since was a subordinate
clerkship, but has become a distinct bureau of great importance. With an
excellent internal organization, it is still connected with the State
Department. In the transaction of its business questions of much importance
to inventors and to the community frequently arise, which by existing laws
are referred for decision to a board of which the Secretary of State is a
member. These questions are legal, and the connection which now exists
between the State Department and the Patent Office may with great propriety
and advantage be transferred to the Attorney-General.

In his last annual message to Congress Mr. Madison invited attention to a
proper provision for the Attorney-General as "an important improvement in
the executive establishment." This recommendation was repeated by some of
his successors. The official duties of the Attorney-General have been much
increased within a few years, and his office has become one of great
importance. His duties may be still further increased with advantage to the
public interests. As an executive officer his residence and constant
attention at the seat of Government are required. Legal questions involving
important principles and large amounts of public money are constantly
referred to him by the President and Executive Departments for his
examination and decision. The public business under his official management
before the judiciary has been so augmented by the extension of our
territory and the acts of Congress authorizing suits against the United
States for large bodies of valuable public lands as greatly to increase his
labors and responsibilities. I therefore recommend that the
Attorney-General be placed on the same footing with the heads of the other
Executive Departments, with such subordinate officers provided by law for
his Department as may be required to discharge the additional duties which
have been or may be devolved upon him.

Congress possess the power of exclusive legislation over the District of
Columbia, and I commend the interests of its inhabitants to your favorable
consideration. The people of this District have no legislative body of
their own, and must confide their local as well as their general interests
to representatives in whose election they have no voice and over whose
official conduct they have no control. Each member of the National
Legislature should consider himself as their immediate representative, and
should be the more ready to give attention to their interests and wants
because he is not responsible to them. I recommend that a liberal and
generous spirit may characterize your measures in relation to them. I shall
be ever disposed to show a proper regard for their wishes and, within
constitutional limits, shall at all times cheerfully cooperate with you for
the advancement of their welfare.

I trust it may not be deemed inappropriate to the occasion for me to dwell
for a moment on the memory of the most eminent citizen of our country who
during the summer that is gone by has descended to the tomb. The enjoyment
of contemplating, at the advanced age of near fourscore years, the happy
condition of his country cheered the last hours of Andrew Jackson, who
departed this life in the tranquil hope of a blessed immortality. His death
was happy, as his life had been eminently useful. He had an unfaltering
confidence in the virtue and capacity of the people and in the permanence
of that free Government which he had largely contributed to establish and
defend. His great deeds had secured to him the affections of his
fellow-citizens, and it was his happiness to witness the growth and glory
of his country, which he loved so well. He departed amidst the benedictions
of millions of free-men. The nation paid its tribute to his memory at his
tomb. Coming generations will learn from his example the love of country
and the rights of man. In his language on a similar occasion to the
present, "I now commend you, fellow-citizens, to the guidance of Almighty
God, with a full reliance on His merciful providence for the maintenance of
our free institutions, and with an earnest supplication that whatever
errors it may be my lot to commit in discharging the arduous duties which
have devolved on me will find a remedy in the harmony and wisdom of your



State of the Union Address
James Polk
December 8, 1846

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

In resuming your labors in the service of the people it is a subject of
congratulation that there has been no period in our past history when all
the elements of national prosperity have been so fully developed. Since
your last session no afflicting dispensation has visited our country.
General good health has prevailed, abundance has crowned the toil of the
husbandman, and labor in all its branches is receiving an ample reward,
while education, science, and the arts are rapidly enlarging the means of
social happiness. The progress of our country in her career of greatness,
not only in the vast extension of our territorial limits and the rapid
increase of our population, but in resources and wealth and in the happy
condition of our people, is without an example in the history of nations.

As the wisdom, strength, and beneficence of our free institutions are
unfolded, every day adds fresh motives to contentment and fresh incentives
to patriotism.

Our devout and sincere acknowledgments are due to the gracious Giver of All
Good for the numberless blessings which our beloved country enjoys.

It is a source of high satisfaction to know that the relations of the
United States with all other nations, with a single exception, are of the
most amicable character. Sincerely attached to the policy of peace early
adopted and steadily pursued by this Government, I have anxiously desired
to cultivate and cherish friendship and commerce with every foreign power.
The spirit and habits of the American people are favorable to the
maintenance of such international harmony. In adhering to this wise policy,
a preliminary and paramount duty obviously consists in the protection of
our national interests from encroachment or sacrifice and our national
honor from reproach. These must be maintained at any hazard. They admit of
no compromise or neglect, and must be scrupulously and constantly guarded.
In their vigilant vindication collision and conflict with foreign powers
may sometimes become unavoidable. Such has been our scrupulous adherence to
the dictates of justice in all our foreign intercourse that, though
steadily and rapidly advancing in prosperity and power, we have given no
just cause of complaint to any nation and have enjoyed the blessings of
peace for more than thirty years. From a policy so sacred to humanity and
so salutary in its effects upon our political system we should never be
induced voluntarily to depart.

The existing war with Mexico was neither desired nor provoked by the United
States. On the contrary, all honorable means were resorted to to avert it.
After years of endurance of aggravated and unredressed wrongs on our part,
Mexico, in violation of solemn treaty stipulations and of every principle
of justice recognized by civilized nations, commenced hostilities, and thus
by her own act forced the war upon us. Long before the advance of our Army
to the left bank of the Rio Grande we had ample cause of war against
Mexico, and had the United States resorted to this extremity we might have
appealed to the whole civilized world for the justice of our cause. I deem
it to be my duty to present to you on the present occasion a condensed
review of the injuries we had sustained, of the causes which led to the
war, and of its progress since its commencement. This is rendered the more
necessary because of the misapprehensions which have to some extent
prevailed as to its origin and true character. The war has been represented
as unjust and unnecessary and as one of aggression on our part upon a weak
and injured enemy. Such erroneous views, though entertained by but few,
have been widely and extensively circulated, not only at home, but have
been spread throughout Mexico and the whole world. A more effectual means
could not have been devised to encourage the enemy and protract the war
than to advocate and adhere to their cause, and thus give them "aid and
comfort." It is a source of national pride and exultation that the great
body of our people have thrown no such obstacles in the way of the
Government in prosecuting the war successfully, but have shown themselves
to be eminently patriotic and ready to vindicate their country's honor and
interests at any sacrifice. The alacrity and promptness with which our
volunteer forces rushed to the field on their country's call prove not only
their patriotism, but their deep conviction that our cause is just.

The wrongs which we have suffered from Mexico almost ever since she became
an independent power and the patient endurance with which we have borne
them are without a parallel in the history of modern civilized nations.
There is reason to believe that if these wrongs had been resented and
resisted in the first instance the present war might have been avoided. One
outrage, however, permitted to pass with impunity almost necessarily
encouraged the perpetration of another, until at last Mexico seemed to
attribute to weakness and indecision on our part a forbearance which was
the offspring of magnanimity and of a sincere desire to preserve friendly
relations with a sister republic.

Scarcely had Mexico achieved her independence, which the United States were
the first among the nations to acknowledge, when she commenced the system
of insult and spoliation which she has ever since pursued. Our citizens
engaged in lawful commerce were imprisoned, their vessels seized, and our
flag insulted in her ports. If money was wanted, the lawless seizure and
confiscation of our merchant vessels and their cargoes was a ready
resource, and if to accomplish their purposes it became necessary to
imprison the owners, captains, and crews, it was done. Rulers superseded
rulers in Mexico in rapid succession, but still there was no change in this
system of depredation. The Government of the United States made repeated
reclamations on behalf of its citizens, but these were answered by the
perpetration of new outrages. Promises of redress made by Mexico in the
most solemn forms were postponed or evaded. The files and records of the
Department of State contain conclusive proofs of numerous lawless acts
perpetrated upon the property and persons of our citizens by Mexico, and of
wanton insults to our national flag. The interposition of our Government to
obtain redress was again and again invoked under circumstances which no
nation ought to disregard. It was hoped that these outrages would cease and
that Mexico would be restrained by the laws which regulate the conduct of
civilized nations in their intercourse with each other after the treaty of
amity, commerce, and navigation of the 5th of April, 1831, was concluded
between the two Republics; but this hope soon proved to be vain. The course
of seizure and confiscation of the property of our citizens, the violation
of their persons, and the insults to our flag pursued by Mexico previous to
that time were scarcely suspended for even a brief period, although the
treaty so clearly defines the rights and duties of the respective parties
that it is impossible to misunderstand or mistake them. In less than seven
years after the conclusion of that treaty our grievances had become so
intolerable that in the opinion of President Jackson they should no longer
be endured. In his message to Congress in February, 1837, he presented them
to the consideration of that body, and declared that--

The length of time since some of the injuries have been committed, the
repeated and unavailing applications for redress, the wanton character of
some of the outrages upon the property and persons of our citizens, upon
the officers and flag of the United States, independent of recent insults
to this Government and people by the late extraordinary Mexican minister,
would justify in the eyes of all nations immediate war.

In a spirit of kindness and forbearance, however, he recommended reprisals
as a milder mode of redress. He declared that war should not be used as a
remedy "by just and generous nations, confiding in their strength for
injuries committed, if it can be honorably avoided," and added:

It has occurred to me that, considering the present embarrassed condition
of that country, we should act with both wisdom and moderation by giving to
Mexico one more opportunity to atone for the past before we take redress
into our Own hands. To avoid all misconception on the part of Mexico, as
well as to protect our own national character from reproach, this
opportunity should be given with the avowed design and full preparation to
take immediate satisfaction if it should not be obtained on a repetition of
the demand for it. To this end I recommend that an act be passed
authorizing reprisals, and the use of the naval force of the United States
by the Executive against Mexico to enforce them, in the event of a refusal
by the Mexican Government to come to an amicable adjustment of the matters
in controversy between us upon another demand thereof made from on board
out of our vessels of war on the coast of Mexico.

Committees of both Houses of Congress, to which this message of the
President was referred, fully sustained his views of the character of the
wrongs which we had suffered from Mexico, and recommended that another
demand for redress should be made before authorizing war or reprisals. The
Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate, in their report, say:

After such a demand, should prompt justice be refused by the Mexican
Government, we may appeal to all nations, not only for the equity and
moderation with which we shall have acted toward a sister republic, but for
the necessity which will then compel us to seek redress for our wrongs,
either by actual war or by reprisals. The subject will then be presented
before Congress, at the commencement of the next session, in a clear and
distinct form, and the committee can not doubt but that such measures will
be immediately adopted as may be necessary to vindicate the honor of the
country and insure ample reparation to our injured fellow-citizens.

The Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives made a
similar recommendation. In their report they say that--

They fully concur with the President that ample cause exists for taking
redress into our own hands, and believe that we should be justified in the
opinion of other nations for taking such a step. But they are willing to
try the experiment of another demand, made in the most solemn form, upon
the justice of the Mexican Government before any further proceedings are

No difference of opinion upon the subject is believed to have existed in
Congress at that time; the executive and legislative departments concurred;
and yet such has been our forbearance and desire to preserve peace with
Mexico that the wrongs of which we then complained, and which gave rise to
these solemn proceedings, not only remain unredressed to this day, but
additional causes of complaint of an aggravated character have ever since
been accumulating. Shortly after these proceedings a special messenger was
dispatched to Mexico to make a final demand for redress, and on the 20th of
July, 1837, the demand was made. The reply of the Mexican Government bears
date on the 29th of the same month, and contains assurances of the "anxious
wish" of the Mexican Government "not to delay the moment of that final and
equitable adjustment which is to terminate the existing difficulties
between the two Governments;" that "nothing should be left undone which may
contribute to the most speedy and equitable determination of the subjects
which have so seriously engaged the attention of the American Government;"
that the "Mexican Government would adopt as the only guides for its conduct
the plainest principles of public right, the sacred obligations imposed by
international law, and the religious faith of treaties," and that "whatever
reason and justice may dictate respecting each case will be done." The
assurance was further given that the decision of the Mexican Government
upon each cause of complaint for which redress had been demanded should be
communicated to the Government of the United States by the Mexican minister
at Washington.

These solemn assurances in answer to our demand for redress were
disregarded. By making them, however, Mexico obtained further delay.
President Van Buren, in his annual message to Congress of the 5th of
December, 1837, states that "although the larger number" of our demands for
redress, "and many of them aggravated cases of personal wrongs, have been
now for years before the Mexican Government, and some of the causes of
national complaint, and those of the most offensive character, admitted of
immediate, simple, and satisfactory replies, it is only within a few days
past that any specific communication in answer to our last demand, made
five months ago, has been received from the Mexican minister;" and that
"for not one of our public complaints has satisfaction been given or
offered, that but one of the cases of personal wrong has been favorably
considered, and that but four cases of both descriptions out of all those
formally presented and earnestly pressed have as yet been decided upon by
the Mexican Government." President Van Buren, believing that it would be
vain to make any further attempt to obtain redress by the ordinary means
within the power of the Executive, communicated this opinion to Congress in
the message referred to, in which he said:

On a careful and deliberate examination of their contents of the
correspondence with the Mexican Government, and considering the spirit
manifested by the Mexican Government, it has become my painful duty to
return the subject as it now stands to Congress, to whom it belongs to
decide upon the time, the mode, and the measure of redress.

Had the United States at that time adopted compulsory measures and taken
redress into their own hands, all our difficulties with Mexico would
probably have been long since adjusted and the existing war have been
averted. Magnanimity and moderation on our part only had the effect to
complicate these difficulties and render an amicable settlement of them the
more embarrassing. That such measures of redress under similar provocations
committed by any of the powerful nations of Europe would have been promptly
resorted to by the United States can not be doubted. The national honor and
the preservation of the national character throughout the world, as well as
our own self-respect and the protection due to our own citizens, would have
rendered such a resort indispensable. The history of no civilized nation in
modern times has presented within so brief a period so many wanton attacks
upon the honor of its flag and upon the property and persons of its
citizens as had at that time been borne by the United States from the
Mexican authorities and people. But Mexico was a sister republic on the
North American continent, occupying a territory contiguous to our own, and
was in a feeble and distracted condition, and these considerations, it is
presumed, induced Congress to forbear still longer.

Instead of taking redress into our own hands, a new negotiation was entered
upon with fair promises on the part of Mexico, but with the real purpose,
as the event has proved, of indefinitely postponing the reparation which we
demanded, and which was so justly due. This negotiation, after more than a
year's delay, resulted in the convention of the 11th of April, 1839, "for
the adjustment of claims of citizens of the United States of America upon
the Government of the Mexican Republic." The joint board of commissioners
created by this convention to examine and decide upon these claims was not
organized until the month of August, 1840, and under the terms of the
convention they were to terminate their duties within eighteen months from
that time. Four of the eighteen months were consumed in preliminary
discussions on frivolous and dilatory points raised by the Mexican
commissioners, and it was not until the month of December, 1840, that they
commenced the examination of the claims of our citizens upon Mexico.
Fourteen months only remained to examine and decide upon these numerous and
complicated cases. In the month of February, 1842, the term of the
commission expired, leaving many claims undisposed of for want of time. The
claims which were allowed by the board and by the umpire authorized by the
convention to decide in case of disagreement between the Mexican and
American commissioners amounted to $2,026,139.68. There were pending before
the umpire when the commission expired additional claims, which had been
examined and awarded by the American commissioners and had not been allowed
by the Mexican commissioners, amounting to $928,627.88, upon which he did
not decide, alleging that his authority had ceased with the termination of
the joint commission. Besides these claims, there were others of American
citizens amounting to $3,336,837.05, which had been submitted to the board,
and upon which they had not time to decide before their final adjournment.

The sum of $2,026,139.68, which had been awarded to the claimants, was a
liquidated and ascertained debt due by Mexico, about which there could be
no dispute, and which she was bound to pay according to the terms of the
convention. Soon after the final awards for this amount had been made the
Mexican Government asked for a postponement of the time of making payment,
alleging that it would be inconvenient to make the payment at the time
stipulated. In the spirit of forbearing kindness toward a sister republic,
which Mexico has so long abused, the United States promptly complied with
her request. A second convention was accordingly concluded between the two
Governments on the 30th of January, 1843, which upon its face declares that
"this new arrangement is entered into for the accommodation of Mexico." By
the terms of this convention all the interest due on the awards which had
been made in favor of the claimants under the convention of the 11th of
April, 1839, was to be paid to them on the 30th of April, 1843, and "the
principal of the said awards and the interest accruing thereon" was
stipulated to "be paid in five years, in equal installments every three
months." Notwithstanding this new convention was entered into at the
request of Mexico and for the purpose of relieving her from embarrassment,
the claimants have only received the interest due on the 30th of April,
1843, and three of the twenty installments. Although the payment of the sum
thus liquidated and confessedly due by Mexico to our citizens as indemnity
for acknowledged acts of outrage and wrong was secured by treaty, the
obligations of which are ever held sacred by all just nations, yet Mexico
has violated this solemn engagement by failing and refusing to make the
payment. The two installments due in April and July, 1844, under the
peculiar circumstances connected with them, have been assumed by the United
States and discharged to the claimants, but they are still due by Mexico.
But this is not all of which we have just cause of complaint. To provide a
remedy for the claimants whose cases were not decided by the joint
commission under the convention of April 11, 1839, it was expressly
stipulated by the sixth article of the convention of the 30th of January,
1843, that--

A new convention shall be entered into for the settlement of all claims of
the Government and citizens of the United States against the Republic of
Mexico which were not finally decided by the late commission which met in
the city of Washington, and of all claims of the Government and citizens of
Mexico against the United States.

In conformity with this stipulation, a third convention was concluded and
signed at the city of Mexico on the 20th of November, 1843, by the
plenipotentiaries of the two Governments, by which provision was made for
ascertaining and paying these claims. In January, 1844, this convention was
ratified by the Senate of the United States with two amendments, which were
manifestly reasonable in their character. Upon a reference of the
amendments proposed to the Government of Mexico, the same evasions,
difficulties, and delays were interposed which have so long marked the
policy of that Government toward the United States. It has not even yet
decided whether it would or would not accede to them, although the subject
has been repeatedly pressed upon its consideration. Mexico has thus
violated a second time the faith of treaties by failing or refusing to
carry into effect the sixth article of the convention of January, 1843.

Such is the history of the wrongs which we have suffered and patiently
endured from Mexico through a long series of years. So far from affording
reasonable satisfaction for the injuries and insults we had borne, a great
aggravation of them consists in the fact that while the United States,
anxious to preserve a good understanding with Mexico, have been constantly
but vainly employed in seeking redress for past wrongs, new outrages were
constantly occurring, which have continued to increase our causes of
complaint and to swell the amount of our demands. While the citizens of the
United States were conducting a lawful commerce with Mexico under the
guaranty of a treaty of "amity, commerce, and navigation," many of them
have suffered all the injuries which would have resulted from open war.
This treaty, instead of affording protection to our citizens, has been the
means of inviting them into the ports of Mexico that they might be, as they
have been in numerous instances, plundered of their property and deprived
of their personal liberty if they dared insist on their rights. Had the
unlawful seizures of American property and the violation of the personal
liberty of our citizens, to say nothing of the insults to our flag, which
have occurred in the ports of Mexico taken place on the high seas, they
would themselves long since have constituted a state of actual war between
the two countries. In so long suffering Mexico to violate her most solemn
treaty obligations, plunder our citizens of their property, and imprison
their persons without affording them any redress we have failed to perform
one of the first and highest duties which every government owes to its
citizens, and the consequence has been that many of them have been reduced
from a state of affluence to bankruptcy. The proud name of American
citizen, which ought to protect all who bear it from insult and injury
throughout the world, has afforded no such protection to our citizens in
Mexico. We had ample cause of war against Mexico long before the breaking
out of hostilities; but even then we forbore to take redress into our own
hands until Mexico herself became the aggressor by invading our soil in
hostile array and shedding the blood of our citizens.

Such are the grave causes of complaint on the part of the United States
against Mexico--causes which existed long before the annexation of Texas to
the American Union; and yet, animated by the love of peace and a
magnanimous moderation, we did not adopt those measures of redress which
under such circumstances are the justified resort of injured nations.

The annexation of Texas to the United States constituted no just cause of
offense to Mexico. The pretext that it did so is wholly inconsistent and
irreconcilable with well-authenticated facts connected with the revolution
by which Texas became independent of Mexico. That this may be the more
manifest, it may be proper to advert to the causes and to the history of
the principal events of that revolution.

Texas constituted a portion of the ancient Province of Louisiana, ceded to
the United States by France in the year 1803. In the year 1819 the United
States, by the Florida treaty, ceded to Spain all that part of Louisiana
within the present limits of Texas, and Mexico, by the revolution which
separated her from Spain and rendered her an independent nation, succeeded
to the rights of the mother country over this territory. In the year 1824
Mexico established a federal constitution, under which the Mexican Republic
was composed of a number of sovereign States confederated together in a
federal union similar to our own. Each of these States had its own
executive, legislature, and judiciary, and for all except federal purposes
was as independent of the General Government and that of the other States
as is Pennsylvania or Virginia under our Constitution. Texas and Coahuila
united and formed one of these Mexican States. The State constitution which
they adopted, and which was approved by the Mexican Confederacy, asserted
that they were "free and independent of the other Mexican United States and
of every other power and dominion whatsoever," and proclaimed the great
principle of human liberty that "the sovereignty of the state resides
originally and essentially in the general mass of the individuals who
compose it." To the Government under this constitution, as well as to that
under the federal constitution, the people of Texas owed allegiance.

Emigrants from foreign countries, including the United States, were invited
by the colonization laws of the State and of the Federal Government to
settle in Texas. Advantageous terms were offered to induce them to leave
their own country and become Mexican citizens. This invitation was accepted
by many of our citizens in the full faith that in their new home they would
be governed by laws enacted by representatives elected by themselves, and
that their lives, liberty, and property would be protected by
constitutional guaranties similar to those which existed in the Republic
they had left. Under a Government thus organized they continued until the
year 1835, when a military revolution broke out in the City of Mexico which
entirely subverted the federal and State constitutions and placed a
military dictator at the head of the Government. By a sweeping decree of a
Congress subservient to the will of the Dictator the several State
constitutions were abolished and the States themselves converted into mere
departments of the central Government. The people of Texas were unwilling
to submit to this usurpation. Resistance to such tyranny became a high
duty. Texas was fully absolved from all allegiance to the central
Government of Mexico from the moment that Government had abolished her
State constitution and in its place substituted an arbitrary and despotic
central government. Such were the principal causes of the Texan revolution.
The people of Texas at once determined upon resistance and flew to arms. In
the midst of these important and exciting events, however, they did not
omit to place their liberties upon a secure and permanent foundation. They
elected members to a convention, who in the month of March, 1836, issued a
formal declaration that their "political connection with the Mexican nation
has forever ended, and that the people of Texas do now constitute a free,
sovereign, and independent Republic, and are fully invested with all the
rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations." They
also adopted for their government a liberal republican constitution. About
the same time Santa Anna, then the Dictator of Mexico, invaded Texas with a
numerous army for the purpose of subduing her people and enforcing
obedience to his arbitrary and despotic Government. On the 21st of April,
1836, he was met by the Texan citizen soldiers, and on that day was
achieved by them the memorable victory of San Jacinto, by which they
conquered their independence. Considering the numbers engaged on the
respective sides, history does not record a more brilliant achievement.
Santa Anna himself was among the captives.

In the month of May, 1836, Santa Anna acknowledged by a treaty with the
Texan authorities in the most solemn form "the full, entire, and perfect
independence of the Republic of Texas." It is true he was then a prisoner
of war, but it is equally true that he had failed to reconquer Texas, and
had met with signal defeat; that his authority had not been revoked, and
that by virtue of this treaty he obtained his personal release. By it
hostilities were suspended, and the army which had invaded Texas under his
command returned in pursuance of this arrangement unmolested to Mexico.

From the day that the battle of San Jacinto was fought until the present
hour Mexico has never possessed the power to reconquer Texas. In the
language of the Secretary of State of the United States in a dispatch to
our minister in Mexico under date of the 8th of July, 1842--

Mexico may have chosen to consider, and may still choose to consider, Texas
as having been at all times since 1835, and as still continuing, a
rebellious province; but the world has been obliged to take a very
different view of the matter. From the time of the battle of San Jacinto,
in April, 1836, to the present moment, Texas has exhibited the same
external signs of national independence as Mexico herself, and with quite
as much stability of government. Practically free and independent,
acknowledged as a political sovereignty by the principal powers of the
world, no hostile foot finding rest within her territory for six or seven
years, and Mexico herself refraining for all that period from any further
attempt to reestablish her own authority over that territory, it can not
but be surprising to find Mr. De Bocanegra the secretary of foreign affairs
of Mexico complaining that for that whole period citizens of the United
States or its Government have been favoring the rebels of Texas and
supplying them with vessels, ammunition, and money, as if the war for the
reduction of the Province of Texas had been constantly prosecuted by
Mexico, and her success prevented by these influences from abroad.

In the same dispatch the Secretary of State affirms that--

Since 1837 the United States have regarded Texas as an independent
sovereignty as much as Mexico, and that trade and commerce with citizens of
a government at war with Mexico can not on that account be regarded as an
intercourse by which assistance and succor are given to Mexican rebels. The
whole current of Mr. De Bocanegra's remarks runs in the same direction, as
if the independence of Texas had not been acknowledged. It has been
acknowledged; it was acknowledged in 1837 against the remonstrance and
protest of Mexico, and most of the acts of any importance of which Mr. De
Bocanegra complains flow necessarily from that recognition. He speaks of
Texas as still being "an integral part of the territory of the Mexican
Republic," but he can not but understand that the United States do not so
regard it. The real complaint of Mexico, therefore, is in substance neither
more nor less than a complaint against the recognition of Texan
independence. It may be thought rather late to repeat that complaint, and
not quite just to confine it to the United States to the exemption of
England, France, and Belgium, unless the United States, having been the
first to acknowledge the independence of Mexico herself, are to be blamed
for setting an example for the recognition of that of Texas.

And he added that--

The Constitution, public treaties, and the laws oblige the President to
regard Texas as an independent state, and its territory as no part of the
territory of Mexico.

Texas had been an independent state, with an organized government, defying
the power of Mexico to overthrow or reconquer her, for more than ten years
before Mexico commenced the present war against the United States. Texas
had given such evidence to the world of her ability to maintain her
separate existence as an independent nation that she had been formally
recognized as such not only by the United States, but by several of the
principal powers of Europe. These powers had entered into treaties of
amity, commerce, and navigation with her. They had received and accredited
her ministers and other diplomatic agents at their respective courts, and
they had commissioned ministers and diplomatic agents on their part to the
Government of Texas. If Mexico, notwithstanding all this and her utter
inability to subdue or reconquer Texas, still stubbornly refused to
recognize her as an independent nation, she was none the less so on that
account. Mexico herself had been recognized as an independent nation by the
United States and by other powers many years before Spain, of which before
her revolution she had been a colony, would agree to recognize her as such;
and yet Mexico was at that time in the estimation of the civilized world,
and in fact, none the less an independent power because Spain still claimed
her as a colony. If Spain had continued until the present period to assert
that Mexico was one of her colonies in rebellion against her, this would
not have made her so or changed the fact of her independent existence.
Texas at the period of her annexation to the United States bore the same
relation to Mexico that Mexico had borne to Spain for many years before
Spain acknowledged her independence, with this important difference, that
before the annexation of Texas to the United States was consummated Mexico
herself, by a formal act of her Government, had acknowledged the
independence of Texas as a nation. It is true that in the act of
recognition she prescribed a condition which she had no power or authority
to impose--that Texas should not annex herself to any other power--but this
could not detract in any degree from the recognition which Mexico then made
of her actual independence. Upon this plain statement of facts, it is
absurd for Mexico to allege as a pretext for commencing hostilities against
the United States that Texas is still a part of her territory.

But there are those who, conceding all this to be true, assume the ground
that the true western boundary of Texas is the Nueces instead of the Rio
Grande, and that therefore in marching our Army to the east bank of the
latter river we passed the Texan line and invaded the territory of Mexico.
A simple statement of facts known to exist will conclusively refute such an
assumption. Texas, as ceded to the United States by France in 1803, has
been always claimed as extending west to the Rio Grande or Rio Bravo. This
fact is established by the authority of our most eminent statesmen at a
period when the question was as well, if not better, understood than it is
at present. During Mr. Jefferson's Administration Messrs. Monroe and
Pinckney, who had been sent on a special mission to Madrid, charged among
other things with the adjustment of boundary between the two countries, in
a note addressed to the Spanish minister of foreign affairs under date of
the 28th of January, 1805, assert that the boundaries of Louisiana, as
ceded to the United States by France, "are the river Perdido on the east
and the river Bravo on the west," and they add that "the facts and
principles which justify this conclusion are so satisfactory to our
Government as to convince it that the United States have not a better right
to the island of New Orleans under the cession referred to than they have
to the whole district of territory which is above described." Down to the
conclusion of the Florida treaty, in February, 1819, by which this
territory was ceded to Spain, the United States asserted and maintained
their territorial rights to this extent. In the month of June, 1818, during
Mr. Monroe's Administration, information having been received that a number
of foreign adventurers had landed at Galveston with the avowed purpose of
forming a settlement in that vicinity, a special messenger was dispatched
by the Government of the United States with instructions from the Secretary
of State to warn them to desist, should they be found there, "or any other
place north of the Rio Bravo, and within the territory claimed by the
United States." He was instructed, should they be found in the country
north of that river, to make known to them "the surprise with which the
President has seen possession thus taken, without authority from the United
States, of a place within their territorial limits, and upon which no
lawful settlement can be made without their sanction." He was instructed to
call upon them to "avow under what national authority they profess to act,"
and to give them due warning "that the place is within the United States,
who will suffer no permanent settlement to be made there under any
authority other than their own." As late as the 8th of July, 1842, the
Secretary of State of the United States, in a note addressed to our
minister in Mexico, maintains that by the Florida treaty of 1819 the
territory as far west as the Rio Grande was confirmed to Spain. In that
note he states that--

By the treaty of the 22d of February, 1819, between the United States and
Spain, the Sabine was adopted as the line of boundary between the two
powers. Up to that period no considerable colonization had been effected in
Texas; but the territory between the Sabine and the Rio Grande being
confirmed to Spain by the treaty, applications were made to that power for
grants of land, and such grants or permissions of settlement were in fact
made by the Spanish authorities in favor of citizens of the United States
proposing to emigrate to Texas in numerous families before the declaration
of independence by Mexico.

The Texas which was ceded to Spain by the Florida treaty of 1819 embraced
all the country now claimed by the State of Texas between the Nueces and
the Rio Grande. The Republic of Texas always claimed this river as her
western boundary, and in her treaty made with Santa Anna in May, 1836, he
recognized it as such. By the constitution which Texas adopted in March,
1836, senatorial and representative districts were organized extending west
of the Nueces. The Congress of Texas on the 19th of December, 1836, passed
"An act to define the boundaries of the Republic of Texas," in which they
declared the Rio Grande from its mouth to its source to be their boundary,
and by the said act they extended their "civil and political jurisdiction"
over the country up to that boundary. During a period of more than nine
years which intervened between the adoption of her constitution and her
annexation as one of the States of our Union Texas asserted and exercised
many acts of sovereignty and jurisdiction over the territory and
inhabitants west of the Nueces. She organized and defined the limits of
counties extending to the Rio Grande; she established courts of justice and
extended her judicial system over the territory; she established a
custom-house and collected duties, and also post-offices and post-roads, in
it; she established a land office and issued numerous grants for land
within its limits; a senator and a representative residing in it were
elected to the Congress of the Republic and served as such before the act
of annexation took place. In both the Congress and convention of Texas
which gave their assent to the terms of annexation to the United States
proposed by our Congress were representatives residing west of the Nueces,
who took part in the act of annexation itself. This was the Texas which by
the act of our Congress of the 29th of December, 1845, was admitted as one
of the States of our Union. That the Congress of the United States
understood the State of Texas which they admitted into the Union to extend
beyond the Nueces is apparent from the fact that on the 31st of December,
1845, only two days after the act of admission, they passed a law "to
establish a collection district in the State of Texas," by which they
created a port of delivery at Corpus Christi, situated west of the Nueces,
and being the same point at which the Texas custom-house under the laws of
that Republic had been located, and directed that a surveyor to collect the
revenue should be appointed for that port by the President, by and with the
advice and consent of the Senate. A surveyor was accordingly nominated, and
confirmed by the Senate, and has been ever since in the performance of his
duties. All these acts of the Republic of Texas and of our Congress
preceded the orders for the advance of our Army to the east bank of the Rio
Grande. Subsequently Congress passed an act "establishing certain post
routes" extending west of the Nueces. The country west of that river now
constitutes a part of one of the Congressional districts of Texas and is
represented in the House of Representatives. The Senators from that State
were chosen by a legislature in which the country west of that river was
represented. In view of all these facts it is difficult to conceive upon
what ground it can be maintained that in occupying the country west of the
Nueces with our Army, with a view solely to its security and defense, we
invaded the territory of Mexico. But it would have been still more
difficult to justify the Executive, whose duty it is to see that the laws
be faithfully executed, if in the face of all these proceedings, both of
the Congress of Texas and of the United States, he had assumed the
responsibility of yielding up the territory west of the Nueces to Mexico or
of refusing to protect and defend this territory and its inhabitants,
including Corpus Christi as well as the remainder of Texas, against the
threatened Mexican invasion.

But Mexico herself has never placed the war which she has waged upon the
ground that our Army occupied the intermediate territory between the Nueces
and the Rio Grande. Her refuted pretension that Texas was not in fact an
independent state, but a rebellious province, was obstinately persevered
in, and her avowed purpose in commencing a war with the United States was
to reconquer Texas and to restore Mexican authority over the whole
territory--not to the Nueces only, but to the Sabine. In view of the
proclaimed menaces of Mexico to this effect, I deemed it my duty, as a
measure of precaution and defense, to order our Army to occupy a position
on our frontier as a military post, from which our troops could best resist
and repel any attempted invasion which Mexico might make. Our Army had
occupied a position at Corpus Christi, west of the Nueces, as early as
August, 1845, without complaint from any quarter. Had the Nueces been
regarded as the true western boundary of Texas, that boundary had been
passed by our Army many months before it advanced to the eastern bank of
the Rio Grande. In my annual message of December last I informed Congress
that upon the invitation of both the Congress and convention of Texas I had
deemed it proper to order a strong squadron to the coasts of Mexico and to
concentrate an efficient military force on the western frontier of Texas to
protect and defend the inhabitants against the menaced invasion of Mexico.
In that message I informed Congress that the moment the terms of annexation
offered by the United States were accepted by Texas the latter became so
far a part of our own country as to make it our duty to afford such
protection and defense, and that for that purpose our squadron had been
ordered to the Gulf and our Army to take a "position between the Nueces and
the Del Norte" or Rio Grande and to "repel any invasion of the Texan
territory which might be attempted by the Mexican forces."

It was deemed proper to issue this order, because soon after the President
of Texas, in April, 1845, had issued his proclamation convening the
Congress of that Republic for the purpose of submitting to that body the
terms of annexation proposed by the United States the Government of Mexico
made serious threats of invading the Texan territory. These threats became
more imposing as it became more apparent in the progress of the question
that the people of Texas would decide in favor of accepting the terms of
annexation, and finally they had assumed such a formidable character as
induced both the Congress and convention of Texas to request that a
military force should be sent by the United States into her territory for
the purpose of protecting and defending her against the threatened
invasion. It would have been a violation of good faith toward the people of
Texas to have refused to afford the aid which they desired against a
threatened invasion to which they had been exposed by their free
determination to annex themselves to our Union in compliance with the
overture made to them by the joint resolution of our Congress. Accordingly,
a portion of the Army was ordered to advance into Texas. Corpus Christi was
the position selected by General Taylor. He encamped at that place in
August, 1845, and the Army remained in that position until the 11th of
March, 1846, when it moved westward, and on the 28th of that month reached
the east bank of the Rio Grande opposite to Matamoras. This movement was
made in pursuance of orders from the War Department, issued on the 13th of
January, 1846. Before these orders were issued the dispatch of our minister
in Mexico transmitting the decision of the council of government of Mexico
advising that he should not be received, and also the dispatch of our
consul residing in the City of Mexico, the former bearing date on the 17th
and the latter on the 18th of December, 1845, copies of both of which
accompanied my message to Congress of the 11th of May last, were received
at the Department of State. These communications rendered it highly
probable, if not absolutely certain, that our minister would not be
received by the Government of General Herrera. It was also well known that
but little hope could be entertained of a different result from General
Paredes in case the revolutionary movement which he was prosecuting should
prove successful, as was highly probable. The partisans of Paredes, as our
minister in the dispatch referred to states, breathed the fiercest
hostility against the United States, denounced the proposed negotiation as
treason, and openly called upon the troops and the people to put down the
Government of Herrera by force. The reconquest of Texas and war with the
United States were openly threatened. These were the circumstances existing
when it was deemed proper to order the Army under the command of General
Taylor to advance to the western frontier of Texas and occupy a position on
or near the Rio Grande.

The apprehensions of a contemplated Mexican invasion have been since fully
justified by the event. The determination of Mexico to rush into
hostilities with the United States was afterwards manifested from the whole
tenor of the note of the Mexican minister of foreign affairs to our
minister bearing date on the 12th of March, 1846. Paredes had then
revolutionized the Government, and his minister, after referring to the
resolution for the annexation of Texas which had been adopted by our
Congress in March, 1845, proceeds to declare that--

A fact such as this, or, to speak with greater exactness, so notable an act
of usurpation, created an imperious necessity that Mexico, for her own
honor, should repel it with proper firmness and dignity. The supreme
Government had beforehand declared that it would look upon such an act as a
casus belli, and as a consequence of this declaration negotiation was by
its very nature at an end, and war was the only recourse of the Mexican

It appears also that on the 4th of April following General Paredes, through
his minister of war, issued orders to the Mexican general in command on the
Texan frontier to "attack" our Army "by every means which war permits." To
this General Paredes had been pledged to the army and people of Mexico
during the military revolution which had brought him into power. On the
18th of April, 1846, General Paredes addressed a letter to the commander on
that frontier in which he stated to him: "At the present date I suppose
you, at the head of that valiant army, either fighting already or preparing
for the operations of a campaign;" and, "Supposing you already on the
theater of operations and with all the forces assembled, it is
indispensable that hostilities be commenced, yourself taking the initiative
against the enemy."

The movement of our Army to the Rio Grande was made by the commanding
general under positive orders to abstain from all aggressive acts toward
Mexico or Mexican citizens, and to regard the relations between the two
countries as peaceful unless Mexico should declare war or commit acts of
hostility indicative of a state of war, and these orders he faithfully
executed. Whilst occupying his position on the east bank of the Rio Grande,
within the limits of Texas, then recently admitted as one of the States of
our Union, the commanding general of the Mexican forces, who, in pursuance
of the orders of his Government, had collected a large army on the opposite
shore of the Rio Grande, crossed the river, invaded our territory, and
commenced hostilities by attacking our forces. Thus, after all the injuries
which we had received and borne from Mexico, and after she had insultingly
rejected a minister sent to her on a mission of peace, and whom she had
solemnly agreed to receive, she consummated her long course of outrage
against our country by commencing an offensive war and shedding the blood
of our citizens on our own soil.

The United States never attempted to acquire Texas by conquest. On the
contrary, at an early period after the people of Texas had achieved their
independence they sought to be annexed to the United States. At a general
election in September, 1836, they decided with great unanimity in favor of
"annexation," and in November following the Congress of the Republic
authorized the appointment of a minister to bear their request to this
Government. This Government, however, having remained neutral between Texas
and Mexico during the war between them, and considering it due to the honor
of our country and our fair fame among the nations of the earth that we
should not at this early period consent to annexation, nor until it should
be manifest to the whole world that the reconquest of Texas by Mexico was
impossible, refused to accede to the overtures made by Texas. On the 12th
of April, 1844, after more than seven years had elapsed since Texas had
established her independence, a treaty was concluded for the annexation of
that Republic to the United States, which was rejected by the Senate.
Finally, on the 1st of March, 1845, Congress passed a joint resolution for
annexing her to the United States upon certain preliminary conditions to
which her assent was required. The solemnities which characterized the
deliberations and conduct of the Government and people of Texas on the
deeply interesting questions presented by these resolutions are known to
the world. The Congress, the Executive, and the people of Texas, in a
convention elected for that purpose, accepted with great unanimity the
proposed terms of annexation, and thus consummated on her part the great
act of restoring to our Federal Union a vast territory which had been ceded
to Spain by the Florida treaty more than a quarter of a century before.

After the joint resolution for the annexation of Texas to the United States
had been passed by our Congress the Mexican minister at Washington
addressed a note to the Secretary of State, bearing date on the 6th of
March, 1845, protesting against it as "an act of aggression the most unjust
which can be found recorded in the annals of modern history, namely, that
of despoiling a friendly nation like Mexico of a considerable portion of
her territory," and protesting against the resolution of annexation as
being an act "whereby the Province of Texas, an integral portion of the
Mexican territory, is agreed and admitted into the American Union;" and he
announced that as a consequence his mission to the United States had
terminated, and demanded his passports, which were granted. It was upon the
absurd pretext, made by Mexico (herself indebted for her independence to a
successful revolution), that the Republic of Texas still continued to be,
notwithstanding all that had passed, a Province of Mexico that this step
was taken by the Mexican minister.

Every honorable effort has been used by me to avoid the war which followed,
but all have proved vain. All our attempts to preserve peace have been met
by insult and resistance on the part of Mexico. My efforts to this end
commenced in the note of the Secretary of State of the 10th of March, 1845,
in answer to that of the Mexican minister. Whilst declining to reopen a
discussion which had already been exhausted, and proving again what was
known to the whole world, that Texas had long since achieved her
independence, the Secretary of State expressed the regret of this
Government that Mexico should have taken offense at the resolution of
annexation passed by Congress, and gave assurance that our "most strenuous
efforts shall be devoted to the amicable adjustment of every cause of
complaint between the two Governments and to the cultivation of the kindest
and most friendly relations between the sister Republics." That I have
acted in the spirit of this assurance will appear from the events which
have since occurred. Notwithstanding Mexico had abruptly terminated all
diplomatic intercourse with the United States, and ought, therefore, to
have been the first to ask for its resumption, yet, waiving all ceremony, I
embraced the earliest favorable opportunity "to ascertain from the Mexican
Government whether they would receive an envoy from the United States
intrusted with full power to adjust all the questions in dispute between
the two Governments." In September, 1845, I believed the propitious moment
for such an overture had arrived. Texas, by the enthusiastic and almost
unanimous will of her people, had pronounced in favor of annexation. Mexico
herself had agreed to acknowledge the independence of Texas, subject to a
condition, it is true, which she had no right to impose and no power to
enforce. The last lingering hope of Mexico, if she still could have
retained any, that Texas would ever again become one of her Provinces, must
have been abandoned.

The consul of the United States at the City of Mexico was therefore
instructed by the Secretary of State on the 15th of September, 1845, to
make the inquiry of the Mexican Government. The inquiry was made, and on
the 15th of October, 1845, the minister of foreign affairs of the Mexican
Government, in a note addressed to our consul, gave a favorable response,
requesting at the same time that our naval force might be withdrawn from
Vera Cruz while negotiations should be pending. Upon the receipt of this
note our naval force was promptly withdrawn from Vera Cruz. A minister was
immediately appointed, and departed to Mexico. Everything bore a promising
aspect for a speedy and peaceful adjustment of all our difficulties. At the
date of my annual message to Congress in December last no doubt was
entertained but that he would be received by the Mexican Government, and
the hope was cherished that all cause of misunderstanding between the two
countries would be speedily removed. In the confident hope that such would
be the result of his mission, I informed Congress that I forbore at that
time to "recommend such ulterior measures of redress for the wrongs and
injuries we had so long borne as it would have been proper to make had no
such negotiation been instituted." To my surprise and regret the Mexican
Government, though solemnly pledged to do so, upon the arrival of our
minister in Mexico refused to receive and accredit him. When he reached
Vera Cruz, on the 30th of November, 1845, he found that the aspect of
affairs had undergone an unhappy change. The Government of General Herrera,
who was at that time President of the Republic, was tottering to its fall.
General Paredes, a military leader, had manifested his determination to
overthrow the Government of Herrera by a military revolution, and one of
the principal means which he employed to effect his purpose and render the
Government of Herrera odious to the army and people of Mexico was by loudly
condemning its determination to receive a minister of peace from the United
States, alleging that it was the intention of Herrera, by a treaty with the
United States, to dismember the territory of Mexico by ceding away the
department of Texas. The Government of Herrera is believed to have been
well disposed to a pacific adjustment of existing difficulties, but
probably alarmed for its own security, and in order to ward off the danger
of the revolution led by Paredes, violated its solemn agreement and refused
to receive or accredit our minister; and this although informed that he had
been invested with full power to adjust all questions in dispute between
the two Governments. Among the frivolous pretexts for this refusal, the
principal one was that our minister had not gone upon a special mission
confined to the question of Texas alone, leaving all the outrages upon our
flag and our citizens unredressed. The Mexican Government well knew that
both our national honor and the protection due to our citizens imperatively
required that the two questions of boundary and indemnity should be treated
of together, as naturally and inseparably blended, and they ought to have
seen that this course was best calculated to enable the United States to
extend to them the most liberal justice. On the 30th of December, 1845,
General Herrera resigned the Presidency and yielded up the Government to
General Paredes without a struggle. Thus a revolution was accomplished
solely by the army commanded by Paredes, and the supreme power in Mexico
passed into the hands of a military usurper who was known to be bitterly
hostile to the United States.

Although the prospect of a pacific adjustment with the new Government was
unpromising from the known hostility of its head to the United States, yet,
determined that nothing should be left undone on our part to restore
friendly relations between the two countries, our minister was instructed
to present his credentials to the new Government and ask to be accredited
by it in the diplomatic character in which he had been commissioned. These
instructions he executed by his note of the 1st of March, 1846, addressed
to the Mexican minister of foreign affairs, but his request was insultingly
refused by that minister in his answer of the 12th of the same month. No
alternative remained for our minister but to demand his passports and
return to the United States.

Thus was the extraordinary spectacle presented to the civilized world of a
Government, in violation of its own express agreement, having twice
rejected a minister of peace invested with full powers to adjust all the
existing differences between the two countries in a manner just and
honorable to both. I am not aware that modern history presents a parallel
case in which in time of peace one nation has refused even to hear
propositions from another for terminating existing difficulties between
them. Scarcely a hope of adjusting our difficulties, even at a remote day,
or of preserving peace with Mexico, could be cherished while Paredes
remained at the head of the Government. He had acquired the supreme power
by a military revolution and upon the most solemn pledges to wage war
against the United States and to reconquer Texas, which he claimed as a
revolted province of Mexico. He had denounced as guilty of treason all
those Mexicans who considered Texas as no longer constituting a part of the
territory of Mexico and who were friendly to the cause of peace. The
duration of the war which he waged against the United States was
indefinite, because the end which he proposed of the reconquest of Texas
was hopeless. Besides, there was good reason to believe from all his
conduct that it was his intention to convert the Republic of Mexico into a
monarchy and to call a foreign European prince to the throne. Preparatory
to this end, he had during his short rule destroyed the liberty of the
press, tolerating that portion of it only which openly advocated the
establishment of a monarchy. The better to secure the success of his
ultimate designs, he had by an arbitrary decree convoked a Congress, not to
be elected by the free voice of the people, but to be chosen in a manner to
make them subservient to his will and to give him absolute control over
their deliberations.

Under all these circumstances it was believed that any revolution in Mexico
founded upon opposition to the ambitious projects of Paredes would tend to
promote the cause of peace as well as prevent any attempted European
interference in the affairs of the North American continent, both objects
of deep interest to the United States. Any such foreign interference, if
attempted, must have been resisted by the United States. My views upon that
subject were fully communicated to Congress in my last annual message. In
any event, it was certain that no change whatever in the Government of
Mexico which would deprive Paredes of power could be for the worse so far
as the United States were concerned, while it was highly probable that any
change must be for the better. This was the state of affairs existing when
Congress, on the 13th of May last, recognized the existence of the war
which had been commenced by the Government of Paredes; and it became an
object of much importance, with a view to a speedy settlement of our
difficulties and the restoration of an honorable peace, that Paredes should
not retain power in Mexico.

Before that time there were symptoms of a revolution in Mexico, favored, as
it was understood to be, by the more liberal party, and especially by those
who were opposed to foreign interference and to the monarchical form of
government. Santa Anna was then in exile in Havana, having been expelled
from power and banished from his country by a revolution which occurred in
December, 1844; but it was known that he had still a considerable party in
his favor in Mexico. It was also equally well known that no vigilance which
could be exerted by our squadron would in all probability have prevented
him from effecting a landing somewhere on the extensive Gulf coast of
Mexico if he desired to return to his country. He had openly professed an
entire change of policy, had expressed his regret that he had subverted the
federal constitution of 1824, and avowed that he was now in favor of its
restoration. He had publicly declared his hostility, in strongest terms, to
the establishment of a monarchy and to European interference in the affairs
of his country. Information to this effect had been received, from sources
believed to be reliable, at the date of the recognition of the existence of
the war by Congress, and was afterwards fully confirmed by the receipt of
the dispatch of our consul in the City of Mexico, with the accompanying
documents, which are herewith transmitted. Besides, it was reasonable to
suppose that he must see the ruinous consequences to Mexico of a war with
the United States, and that it would be his interest to favor peace.

It was under these circumstances and upon these considerations that it was
deemed expedient not to obstruct his return to Mexico should he attempt to
do so. Our object was the restoration of peace, and, with that view, no
reason was perceived why we should take part with Paredes and aid him by
means of our blockade in preventing the return of his rival to Mexico. On
the contrary, it was believed that the intestine divisions which ordinary
sagacity could not but anticipate as the fruit of Santa Anna's return to
Mexico, and his contest with Paredes, might strongly tend to produce a
disposition with both parties to restore and preserve peace with the United
States. Paredes was a soldier by profession and a monarchist in principle.
He had but recently before been successful in a military revolution, by
which he had obtained power. He was the sworn enemy of the United States,
with which he had involved his country in the existing war. Santa Anna had
been expelled from power by the army, was known to be in open hostility to
Paredes, and publicly pledged against foreign intervention and the
restoration of monarchy in Mexico. In view of these facts and circumstances
it was that when orders were issued to the commander of our naval forces in
the Gulf, on the 13th day of May last, the same day on which the existence
of the war was recognized by Congress, to place the coasts of Mexico under
blockade, he was directed not to obstruct the passage of Santa Anna to
Mexico should he attempt to return.

A revolution took place in Mexico in the early part of August following, by
which the power of Paredes was overthrown, and he has since been banished
from the country, and is now in exile. Shortly afterwards Santa Anna
returned. It remains to be seen whether his return may not yet prove to be
favorable to a pacific adjustment of the existing difficulties, it being
manifestly his interest not to persevere in the prosecution of a war
commenced by Paredes to accomplish a purpose so absurd as the reconquest of
Texas to the Sabine. Had Paredes remained in power, it is morally certain
that any pacific adjustment would have been hopeless.

Upon the commencement of hostilities by Mexico against the United States
the indignant spirit of the nation was at once aroused. Congress promptly
responded to the expectations of the country, and by the act of the 13th of
May last recognized the fact that war existed, by the act of Mexico,
between the United States and that Republic, and granted the means
necessary for its vigorous prosecution. Being involved in a war thus
commenced by Mexico, and for the justice of which on our part we may
confidently appeal to the whole world, I resolved to prosecute it with the
utmost vigor. Accordingly the ports of Mexico on the Gulf and on the
Pacific have been placed under blockade and her territory invaded at
several important points. The reports from the Departments of War and of
the Navy will inform you more in detail of the measures adopted in the
emergency in which our country was placed and of the gratifying results
which have been accomplished.

The various columns of the Army have performed their duty under great
disadvantages with the most distinguished skill and courage. The victories
of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma and of Monterey, won against greatly
superior numbers and against most decided advantages in other respects on
the part of the enemy, were brilliant in their execution, and entitle our
brave officers and soldiers to the grateful thanks of their country. The
nation deplores the loss of the brave officers and men who have gallantly
fallen while vindicating and defending their country's rights and honor.

It is a subject of pride and satisfaction that our volunteer citizen
soldiers, who so promptly responded to their country's call, with an
experience of the discipline of a camp of only a few weeks, have borne
their part in the hard-fought battle of Monterey with a constancy and
courage equal to that of veteran troops and worthy of the highest
admiration. The privations of long marches through the enemy's country and
through a wilderness have been borne without a murmur. By rapid movements
the Province of New Mexico, with Santa Fe, its capital, has been captured
without bloodshed. The Navy has cooperated with the Army and rendered
important services; if not so brilliant, it is because the enemy had no
force to meet them on their own element and because of the defenses which
nature has interposed in the difficulties of the navigation on the Mexican
coast. Our squadron in the Pacific, with the cooperation of a gallant
officer of the Army and a small force hastily collected in that distant
country, has acquired bloodless possession of the Californias, and the
American flag has been raised at every important point in that Province.

I congratulate you on the success which has thus attended our military and
naval operations. In less than seven months after Mexico commenced
hostilities, at a time selected by herself, we have taken possession of
many of her principal ports, driven back and pursued her invading army, and
acquired military possession of the Mexican Provinces of New Mexico, New
Leon, Coahuila, Tamaulipas, and the Californias, a territory larger in
extent than that embraced in the original thirteen States of the Union,
inhabited by a considerable population, and much of it more than 1,000
miles from the points at which we had to collect our forces and commence
our movements. By the blockade the import and export trade of the enemy has
been cut off. Well may the American people be proud of the energy and
gallantry of our regular and volunteer officers and soldiers. The events of
these few months afford a gratifying proof that our country can under any
emergency confidently rely for the maintenance of her honor and the defense
of her rights on an effective force, ready at all times voluntarily to
relinquish the comforts of home for the perils and privations of the camp.
And though such a force may be for the time expensive, it is in the end
economical, as the ability to command it removes the necessity of employing
a large standing army in time of peace, and proves that our people love
their institutions and are ever ready to defend and protect them.

While the war was in a course of vigorous and successful prosecution, being
still anxious to arrest its evils, and considering that after the brilliant
victories of our arms on the 8th and 9th of May last the national honor
could not be compromitted by it, another overture was made to Mexico, by my
direction, on the 27th of July last to terminate hostilities by a peace
just and honorable to both countries. On the 31st of August following the
Mexican Government declined to accept this friendly overture, but referred
it to the decision of a Mexican Congress to be assembled in the early part
of the present month. I communicate to you herewith a copy of the letter of
the Secretary of State proposing to reopen negotiations, of the answer of
the Mexican Government, and of the reply thereto of the Secretary of

The war will continue to be prosecuted with vigor as the best means of
securing peace. It is hoped that the decision of the Mexican Congress, to
which our last overture has been referred, may result in a speedy and
honorable peace. With our experience, however, of the unreasonable course
of the Mexican authorities, it is the part of wisdom not to relax in the
energy of our military operations until the result is made known. In this
view it is deemed important to hold military possession of all the
Provinces which have been taken until a definitive treaty of peace shall
have been concluded and ratified by the two countries.

The war has not been waged with a view to conquest, but, having been
commenced by Mexico, it has been carried into the enemy's country and will
be vigorously prosecuted there with a view to obtain an honorable peace,
and thereby secure ample indemnity for the expenses of the war, as well as
to our much-injured citizens, who hold large pecuniary demands against

By the laws of nations a conquered country is subject to be governed by the
conqueror during his military possession and until there is either a treaty
of peace or he shall voluntarily withdraw from it. The old civil government
being necessarily superseded, it is the right and duty of the conqueror to
secure his conquest and to provide for the maintenance of civil order and
the rights of the inhabitants. This right has been exercised and this duty
performed by our military and naval commanders by the establishment of
temporary governments in some of the conquered Provinces of Mexico,
assimilating them as far as practicable to the free institutions of our own
country. In the Provinces of New Mexico and of the Californias little, if
any, further resistance is apprehended from the inhabitants to the
temporary governments which have thus, from the necessity of the case and
according to the laws of war, been established. It may be proper to provide
for the security of these important conquests by making an adequate
appropriation for the purpose of erecting fortifications and defraying the
expenses necessarily incident to the maintenance of our possession and
authority over them.

Near the close of your last session, for reasons communicated to Congress,
I deemed it important as a measure for securing a speedy peace with Mexico,
that a sum of money should be appropriated and placed in the power of the
Executive, similar to that which had been made upon two former occasions
during the Administration of President Jefferson.

On the 26th of February, 1803, an appropriation of $2,000.000 was made and
placed at the disposal of the President. Its object is well known. It was
at that time in contemplation to acquire Louisiana from France, and it was
intended to be applied as a part of the consideration which might be paid
for that territory. On the 13th of February, 1806, the same sum was in like
manner appropriated, with a view to the purchase of the Floridas from
Spain. These appropriations were made to facilitate negotiations and as a
means to enable the President to accomplish the important objects in view.
Though it did not become necessary for the President to use these
appropriations, yet a state of things might have arisen in which it would
have been highly important for him to do so, and the wisdom of making them
can not be doubted. It is believed that the measure recommended at your
last session met with the approbation of decided majorities in both Houses
of Congress. Indeed, in different forms, a bill making an appropriation of
$2,000,000 passed each House, and it is much to be regretted that it did
not become a law. The reasons which induced me to recommend the measure at
that time still exist, and I again submit the subject for your
consideration and suggest the importance of early action upon it. Should
the appropriation be made and be not needed, it will remain in the
Treasury; should it be deemed proper to apply it in whole or in part, it
will be accounted for as other public expenditures.

Immediately after Congress had recognized the existence of the war with
Mexico my attention was directed to the danger that privateers might be
fitted out in the ports of Cuba and Porto Rico to prey upon the commerce of
the United States, and I invited the special attention of the Spanish
Government to the fourteenth article of our treaty with that power of the
27th of October, 1795, under which the citizens and subjects of either
nation who shall take commissions or letters of marque to act as privateers
against the other "shall be punished as pirates."

It affords me pleasure to inform you that I have received assurances from
the Spanish Government that this article of the treaty shall be faithfully
observed on its part. Orders for this purpose were immediately transmitted
from that Government to the authorities of Cuba and Porto Rico to exert
their utmost vigilance in preventing any attempts to fit out privateers in
those islands against the United States. From the good faith of Spain I am
fully satisfied that this treaty will be executed in its spirit as well as
its letter, whilst the United States will on their part faithfully perform
all the obligations which it imposes on them.

Information has been recently received at the Department of State that the
Mexican Government has sent to Havana blank commissions to privateers and
blank certificates of naturalization signed by General Salas, the present
head of the Mexican Government. There is also reason to apprehend that
similar documents have been transmitted to other parts of the world. Copies
of these papers, in translation, are herewith transmitted.

As the preliminaries required by the practice of civilized nations for
commissioning privateers and regulating their conduct appear not to have
been observed, and as these commissions are in blank, to be filled up with
the names of citizens and subjects of all nations who may be willing to
purchase them, the whole proceeding can only be construed as an invitation
to all the freebooters upon earth who are willing to pay for the privilege
to cruise against American commerce. It will be for our courts of justice
to decide whether under such circumstances these Mexican letters of marque
and reprisal shall protect those who accept them, and commit robberies upon
the high seas under their authority, from the pains and penalties of

If the certificates of naturalization thus granted be intended by Mexico to
shield Spanish subjects from the guilt and punishment of pirates under our
treaty with Spain, they will certainly prove unavailing. Such a subterfuge
would be but a weak device to defeat the provisions of a solemn treaty.

I recommend that Congress should immediately provide by law for the trial
and punishment as pirates of Spanish subjects who, escaping the vigilance
of their Government, shall be found guilty of privateering against the
United States. I do not apprehend serious danger from these privateers. Our
Navy will be constantly on the alert to protect our commerce. Besides, in
case prizes should be made of American vessels, the utmost vigilance will
be exerted by our blockading squadron to prevent the captors from taking
them into Mexican ports, and it is not apprehended that any nation will
violate its neutrality by suffering such prizes to be condemned and sold
within its jurisdiction.

I recommend that Congress should immediately provide by law for granting
letters of marque and reprisal against vessels under the Mexican flag. It
is true that there are but few, if any, commercial vessels of Mexico upon
the high seas, and it is therefore not probable that many American
privateers would be fitted out in case a law should pass authorizing this
mode of warfare. It is, notwithstanding, certain that such privateers may
render good service to the commercial interests of the country by
recapturing our merchant ships should any be taken by armed vessels under
the Mexican flag, as well as by capturing these vessels themselves. Every
means within our power should be rendered available for the protection of
our commerce.

The annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury will exhibit a detailed
statement of the condition of the finances. The imports for the fiscal year
ending on the 30th of June last were of the value of $121,691,797, of which
the amount exported was $11,346,623, leaving the amount retained in the
country for domestic consumption $110,345,174. The value of the exports for
the same period was $113,488,516, of which $102,141,893 consisted of
domestic productions and $11,346,623 of foreign articles.

The receipts into the Treasury for the same year were $29,499,247.06, of
which there was derived from customs $26,712,667.87, from the sales of
public lands $2,694,452.48, and from incidental and miscellaneous sources
$92,126.71. The expenditures for the same period were $28,031,114.20, and
the balance in the Treasury on the 1st day of July last was $9,126,439.

The amount of the public debt, including Treasury notes, on the 1st of the
present month was $24,256,494.60, of which the sum of $17,788,799.62 was
outstanding on the 4th of March, 1845, leaving the amount incurred since
that time $6,467,694.98.

In order to prosecute the war with Mexico with vigor and energy, as the
best means of bringing it to a speedy and honorable termination, a further
loan will be necessary to meet the expenditures for the present and the
next fiscal year. If the war should be continued until the 30th of June,
1848, being the end of the next fiscal year, it is estimated that an
additional loan of $23,000,000 will be required. This estimate is made upon
the assumption that it will be necessary to retain constantly in the
Treasury $4,000,000 to guard against contingencies. If such surplus were
not required to be retained, then a loan of $19,000,000 would be
sufficient. If, however, Congress should at the present session impose a
revenue duty on the principal articles now embraced in the free list, it is
estimated that an additional annual revenue of about two millions and a
half, amounting, it is estimated, on the 30th of June, 1848, to $4,000,000,
would be derived from that source, and the loan required would be reduced
by that amount. It is estimated also that should Congress graduate and
reduce the price of such of the public lands as have been long in the
market the additional revenue derived from that source would be annually,
for several years to come, between half a million and a million dollars;
and the loan required may be reduced by that amount also. Should these
measures be adopted, the loan required would not probably exceed
$18,000,000 or $19,000,000, leaving in the Treasury a constant surplus of
$4,000,000. The loan proposed, it is estimated, will be sufficient to cover
the necessary expenditures both for the war and for all other purposes up
to the 30th of June, 1848, and an amount of this loan not exceeding
one-half may be required during the present fiscal year, and the greater
part of the remainder during the first half of the fiscal year succeeding.

In order that timely notice may be given and proper measures taken to
effect the loan, or such portion of it as may be required, it is important
that the authority of Congress to make it be given at an early period of
your present session. It is suggested that the loan should be contracted
for a period of twenty years, with authority to purchase the stock and pay
it off at an earlier period at its market value out of any surplus which
may at any time be in the Treasury applicable to that purpose. After the
establishment of peace with Mexico, it is supposed that a considerable
surplus will exist, and that the debt may be extinguished in a much shorter
period than that for which it may be contracted. The period of twenty
years, as that for which the proposed loan may be contracted, in preference
to a shorter period, is suggested, because all experience, both at home and
abroad, has shown that loans are effected upon much better terms upon long
time than when they are reimbursable at short dates.

Necessary as this measure is to sustain the honor and the interests of the
country engaged in a foreign war, it is not doubted but that Congress will
promptly authorize it.

The balance in the Treasury on the 1st July last exceeded $9,000,000,
notwithstanding considerable expenditures had been made for the war during
the months of May and June preceding. But for the war the whole public debt
could and would have been extinguished within a short period; and it was a
part of my settled policy to do so, and thus relieve the people from its
burden and place the Government in a position which would enable it to
reduce the public expenditures to that economical standard which is most
consistent with the general welfare and the pure and wholesome progress of
our institutions.

Among our just causes of complaint against Mexico arising out of her
refusal to treat for peace, as well before as since the war so unjustly
commenced on her part, are the extraordinary expenditures in which we have
been involved. Justice to our own people will make it proper that Mexico
should be held responsible for these expenditures.

Economy in the public expenditures is at all times a high duty which all
public functionaries of the Government owe to the people. This duty becomes
the more imperative in a period of war, when large and extraordinary
expenditures become unavoidable. During the existence of the war with
Mexico all our resources should be husbanded, and no appropriations made
except such as are absolutely necessary for its vigorous prosecution and
the due administration of the Government. Objects of appropriation which in
peace may be deemed useful or proper, but which are not indispensable for
the public service, may when the country is engaged in a foreign war be
well postponed to a future period. By the observance of this policy at your
present session large amounts may be saved to the Treasury and be applied
to objects of pressing and urgent necessity, and thus the creation of a
corresponding amount of public debt may be avoided.

It is not meant to recommend that the ordinary and necessary appropriations
for the support of Government should be withheld; but it is well known that
at every session of Congress appropriations are proposed for numerous
objects which may or may not be made without materially affecting the
public interests, and these it is recommended should not be granted.

The act passed at your last session "reducing the duties on imports" not
having gone into operation until the 1st of the present month, there has
not been time for its practical effect upon the revenue and the business of
the country to be developed. It is not doubted, however, that the just
policy which it adopts will add largely to our foreign trade and promote
the general prosperity. Although it can not be certainly foreseen what
amount of revenue it will yield, it is estimated that it will exceed that
produced by the act of 1842, which it superseded. The leading principles
established by it are to levy the taxes with a view to raise revenue and to
impose them upon the articles imported according to their actual value.

The act of 1842, by the excessive rates of duty which it imposed on many
articles, either totally excluded them from importation or greatly reduced
the amount imported, and thus diminished instead of producing revenue. By
it the taxes were imposed not for the legitimate purpose of raising
revenue, but to afford advantages to favored classes at the expense of a
large majority of their fellow-citizens. Those employed in agriculture,
mechanical pursuits, commerce, and navigation were compelled to contribute
from their substance to swell the profits and overgrown wealth of the
comparatively few who had invested their capital in manufactures. The taxes
were not levied in proportion to the value of the articles upon which they
were imposed, but, widely departing from this just rule, the lighter taxes
were in many cases levied upon articles of luxury and high price and the
heavier taxes on those of necessity and low price, consumed by the great
mass of the people. It was a system the inevitable effect of which was to
relieve favored classes and the wealthy few from contributing their just
proportion for the support of Government, and to lay the burden on the
labor of the many engaged in other pursuits than manufactures.

A system so unequal and unjust has been superseded by the existing law,
which imposes duties not for the benefit or injury of classes or pursuits,
but distributes and, as far as practicable, equalizes the public burdens
among all classes and occupations. The favored classes who under the
unequal and unjust system which has been repealed have heretofore realized
large profits, and many of them amassed large fortunes at the expense of
the many who have been made tributary to them, will have no reason to
complain if they shall be required to bear their just proportion of the
taxes necessary for the support of Government. So far from it, it will be
perceived by an examination of the existing law that discriminations in the
rates of duty imposed within the revenue principle have been retained in
their favor. The incidental aid against foreign competition which they
still enjoy gives them an advantage which no other pursuits possess, but of
this none others will complain, because the duties levied are necessary for
revenue. These revenue duties, including freights and charges, which the
importer must pay before he can come in competition with the home
manufacturer in our markets, amount on nearly all our leading branches of
manufacture to more than one-third of the value of the imported article,
and in some cases to almost one-half its value. With such advantages it is
not doubted that our domestic manufacturers will continue to prosper,
realizing in well-conducted establishments even greater profits than can be
derived from any other regular business. Indeed, so far from requiring the
protection of even incidental revenue duties, our manufacturers in several
leading branches are extending their business, giving evidence of great
ingenuity and skill and of their ability to compete, with increased
prospect of success, for the open market of the world. Domestic
manufactures to the value of several millions of dollars, which can not
find a market at home, are annually exported to foreign countries. With
such rates of duty as those established by the existing law the system will
probably be permanent, and capitalists who are made or shall hereafter make
their investments in manufactures will know upon what to rely. The country
will be satisfied with these rates, because the advantages which the
manufacturers still enjoy result necessarily from the collection of revenue
for the support of Government. High protective duties, from their unjust
operation upon the masses of the people, can not fail to give rise to
extensive dissatisfaction and complaint and to constant efforts to change
or repeal them, rendering all investments in manufactures uncertain and
precarious. Lower and more permanent rates of duty, at the same time that
they will yield to the manufacturer fair and remunerating profits, will
secure him against the danger of frequent changes in the system, which can
not fail to ruinously affect his interests.

Simultaneously with the relaxation of the restrictive policy by the United
States, Great Britain, from whose example we derived the system, has
relaxed hers. She has modified her corn laws and reduced many other duties
to moderate revenue rates. After ages of experience the statesmen of that
country have been constrained by a stern necessity and by a public opinion
having its deep foundation in the sufferings and wants of impoverished
millions to abandon a system the effect of which was to build up immense
fortunes in the hands of the few and to reduce the laboring millions to
pauperism and misery. Nearly in the same ratio that labor was depressed
capital was increased and concentrated by the British protective policy.

The evils of the system in Great Britain were at length rendered
intolerable, and it has been abandoned, but not without a severe struggle
on the part of the protected and favored classes to retain the unjust
advantages which they have so long enjoyed. It was to be expected that a
similar struggle would be made by the same classes in the United States
whenever an attempt was made to modify or abolish the same unjust system
here. The protective policy had been in operation in the United States for
a much shorter period, and its pernicious effects were not, therefore, so
clearly perceived and felt. Enough, however, was known of these effects to
induce its repeal.

It would be strange if in the face of the example of Great Britain, our
principal foreign customer, and of the evils of a system rendered manifest
in that country by long and painful experience, and in the face of the
immense advantages which under a more liberal commercial policy we are
already deriving, and must continue to derive, by supplying her starving
population with food, the United States should restore a policy which she
has been compelled to abandon, and thus diminish her ability to purchase
from us the food and other articles which she so much needs and we so much
desire to sell. By the simultaneous abandonment of the protective policy by
Great Britain and the United States new and important markets have already
been opened for our agricultural and other products, commerce and
navigation have received a new impulse, labor and trade have been released
from the artificial trammels which have so long fettered them, and to a
great extent reciprocity in the exchange of commodities has been introduced
at the same time by both countries, and greatly for the benefit of both.
Great Britain has been forced by the pressure of circumstances at home to
abandon a policy which has been upheld for ages, and to open her markets
for our immense surplus of breadstuffs, and it is confidently believed that
other powers of Europe will ultimately see the wisdom, if they be not
compelled by the pauperism and sufferings of their crowded population, to
pursue a similar policy.

Our farmers are more deeply interested in maintaining the just and liberal
policy of the existing law than any other class of our citizens. They
constitute a large majority of our population, and it is well known that
when they prosper all other pursuits prosper also. They have heretofore not
only received none of the bounties or favors of Government, but by the
unequal operations of the protective policy have been made by the burdens
of taxation which it imposed to contribute to the bounties which have
enriched others.

When a foreign as well as a home market is opened to them, they must
receive, as they are now receiving, increased prices for their products.
They will find a readier sale, and at better prices, for their wheat,
flour, rice, Indian corn, beef, pork, lard, butter, cheese, and other
articles which they produce. The home market alone is inadequate to enable
them to dispose of the immense surplus of food and other articles which
they are capable of producing, even at the most reduced prices, for the
manifest reason that they can not be consumed in the country. The United
States can from their immense surplus supply not only the home demand, but
the deficiencies of food required by the whole world.

That the reduced production of some of the chief articles of food in Great
Britain and other parts of Europe may have contributed to increase the
demand for our breadstuffs and provisions is not doubted, but that the
great and efficient cause of this increased demand and of increased prices
consists in the removal of artificial restrictions heretofore imposed is
deemed to be equally certain. That our exports of food, already increased
and increasing beyond former example under the more liberal policy which
has been adopted, will be still vastly enlarged unless they be checked or
prevented by a restoration of the protective policy can not be doubted.
That our commercial and navigating interests will be enlarged in a
corresponding ratio with the increase of our trade is equally certain,
while our manufacturing interests will still be the favored interests of
the country and receive the incidental protection afforded them by revenue
duties; and more than this they can not justly demand.

In my annual message of December last a tariff of revenue duties based upon
the principles of the existing law was recommended, and I have seen no
reason to change the opinions then expressed. In view of the probable
beneficial effects of that law, I recommend that the policy established by
it be maintained. It has but just commenced to operate, and to abandon or
modify it without giving it a fair trial would be inexpedient and unwise.
Should defects in any of its details be ascertained by actual experience to
exist, these may be hereafter corrected; but until such defects shall
become manifest the act should be fairly tested.

It is submitted for your consideration whether it may not be proper, as a
war measure, to impose revenue duties on some of the articles now embraced
in the free list. Should it be deemed proper to impose such duties with a
view to raise revenue to meet the expenses of the war with Mexico or to
avoid to that extent the creation of a public debt, they may be repealed
when the emergency which gave rise to them shall cease to exist, and
constitute no part of the permanent policy of the country.

The act of the 6th of August last, "to provide for the better organization
of the Treasury and for the collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and
disbursement of the public revenue," has been carried into execution as
rapidly as the delay necessarily arising out of the appointment of new
officers, taking and approving their bonds, and preparing and securing
proper places for the safe-keeping of the public money would permit. It is
not proposed to depart in any respect from the principles or policy on
which this great measure is rounded. There are, however, defects in the
details of the measure, developed by its practical operation, which are
fully set forth in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, to which
the attention of Congress is invited. These defects would impair to some
extent the successful operation of the law at all times, but are especially
embarrassing when the country is engaged in a war, when the expenditures
are greatly increased, when loans are to be effected and the disbursements
are to be made at points many hundred miles distant, in some cases, from
any depository, and a large portion of them in a foreign country. The
modifications suggested in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury are
recommended to your favorable consideration.

In connection with this subject I invite your attention to the importance
of establishing a branch of the Mint of the United States at New York.
Two-thirds of the revenue derived from customs being collected at that
point, the demand for specie to pay the duties will be large, and a branch
mint where foreign coin and bullion could be immediately converted into
American coin would greatly facilitate the transaction of the public
business, enlarge the circulation of gold and silver, and be at the same
time a safe depository of the public money.

The importance of graduating and reducing the price of such of the public
lands as have been long offered in the market at the minimum rate
authorized by existing laws, and remain unsold, induces me again to
recommend the subject to your favorable consideration. Many millions of
acres of these lands have been offered in the market for more than thirty
years and larger quantities for more than ten or twenty years, and, being
of an inferior quality, they must remain unsalable for an indefinite period
unless the price at which they may be purchased shall be reduced. To place
a price upon them above their real value is not only to prevent their sale,
and thereby deprive the Treasury of any income from that source, but is
unjust to the States in which they lie, because it retards their growth and
increase of population, and because they have no power to levy a tax upon
them as upon other lands within their limits, held by other proprietors
than the United States, for the support of their local governments.

The beneficial effects of the graduation principle have been realized by
some of the States owning the lands within their limits in which it has
been adopted. They have been demonstrated also by the United States acting
as the trustee of the Chickasaw tribe of Indians in the sale of their lands
lying within the States of Mississippi and Alabama. The Chickasaw lands,
which would not command in the market the minimum price established by the
laws of the United States for the sale of their lands, were, in pursuance
of the treaty of 1834 with that tribe, subsequently offered for sale at
graduated and reduced rates for limited periods. The result was that large
quantities of these lands were purchased which would otherwise have
remained unsold. The lands were disposed of at their real value, and many
persons of limited means were enabled to purchase small tracts, upon which
they have settled with their families. That similar results would be
produced by the adoption of the graduation policy by the United States in
all the States in which they are the owners of large bodies of lands which
have been long in the market can not be doubted. It can not be a sound
policy to withhold large quantities of the public lands from the use and
occupation of our citizens by fixing upon them prices which experience has
shown they will not command. On the contrary, it is a wise policy to afford
facilities to our citizens to become the owners at low and moderate rates
of freeholds of their own instead of being the tenants and dependents of
others. If it be apprehended that these lands if reduced in price would be
secured in large quantities by speculators or capitalists, the sales may be
restricted in limited quantities to actual settlers or persons purchasing
for purposes of cultivation.

In my last annual message I submitted for the consideration of Congress the
present system of managing the mineral lands of the United States, and
recommended that they should be brought into market and sold upon such
terms and under such restrictions as Congress might prescribe. By the act
of the 11th of July last "the reserved lead mines and contiguous lands in
the States of Illinois and Arkansas and Territories of Wisconsin and Iowa"
were authorized to be sold. The act is confined in its operation to "lead
mines and contiguous lands." A large portion of the public lands,
containing copper and other ores, is represented to be very valuable, and I
recommend that provision be made authorizing the sale of these lands upon
such terms and conditions as from their supposed value may in the judgment
of Congress be deemed advisable, having due regard to the interests of such
of our citizens as may be located upon them.

It will be important during your present session to establish a Territorial
government and to extend the jurisdiction and laws of the United States
over the Territory of Oregon. Our laws regulating trade and intercourse
with the Indian tribes east of the Rocky Mountains should be extended to
the Pacific Ocean; and for the purpose of executing them and preserving
friendly relations with the Indian tribes within our limits, an additional
number of Indian agencies will be required, and should be authorized by
law. The establishment of custom-houses and of post-offices and post-roads
and provision for the transportation of the mail on such routes as the
public convenience will suggest require legislative authority. It will be
proper also to establish a surveyor-general's office in that Territory and
to make the necessary provision for surveying the public lands and bringing
them into market. As our citizens who now reside in that distant region
have been subjected to many hardships, privations, and sacrifices in their
emigration, and by their improvements have enhanced the value of the public
lands in the neighborhood of their settlements, it is recommended that
liberal grants be made to them of such portions of these lands as they may
occupy, and that similar grants or rights of preemption be made to all who
may emigrate thither within a limited period, prescribed by law.

The report of the Secretary of War contains detailed information relative
to the several branches of the public service connected with that
Department. The operations of the Army have been of a satisfactory and
highly gratifying character. I recommend to your early and favorable
consideration the measures proposed by the Secretary of War for speedily
filling up the rank and file of the Regular Army, for its greater
efficiency in the field, and for raising an additional force to serve
during the war with Mexico.

Embarrassment is likely to arise for want of legal provision authorizing
compensation to be made to the agents employed in the several States and
Territories to pay the Revolutionary and other pensioners the amounts
allowed them by law. Your attention is invited to the recommendations of
the Secretary of War on this subject. These agents incur heavy
responsibilities and perform important duties, and no reason exists why
they should not be placed on the same footing as to compensation with other
disbursing officers.

Our relations with the various Indian tribes continue to be of a pacific
character. The unhappy dissensions which have existed among the Cherokees
for many years past have been healed. Since my last annual message
important treaties have been negotiated with some of the tribes, by which
the Indian title to large tracts of valuable land within the limits of the
States and Territories has been extinguished and arrangements made for
removing them to the country west of the Mississippi. Between 3,000 and
4,000 of different tribes have been removed to the country provided for
them by treaty stipulations, and arrangements have been made for others to

In our intercourse with the several tribes particular attention has been
given to the important subject of education. The number of schools
established among them has been increased, and additional means provided
not only for teaching them the rudiments of education, but of instructing
them in agriculture and the mechanic arts.

I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Navy for a satisfactory
view of the operations of the Department under his charge during the past
year. It is gratifying to perceive that while the war with Mexico has
rendered it necessary to employ an unusual number of our armed vessels on
her coasts, the protection due to our commerce in other quarters of the
world has not proved insufficient. No means will be spared to give
efficiency to the naval service in the prosecution of the war; and I am
happy to know that the officers and men anxiously desire to devote
themselves to the service of their country in any enterprise, however
difficult of execution.

I recommend to your favorable consideration the proposition to add to each
of our foreign squadrons an efficient sea steamer, and, as especially
demanding attention, the establishment at Pensacola of the necessary means
of repairing and refitting the vessels of the Navy employed in the Gulf of

There are other suggestions in the report which deserve and I doubt not
will receive your consideration.

The progress and condition of the mail service for the past year are fully
presented in the report of the Postmaster-General. The revenue for the year
ending on the 30th of June last amounted to $3,487,199, which is
$802,642.45 less than that of the preceding year. The payments for that
Department during the same time amounted to $4,084,297.22. Of this sum
$597,097.80 have been drawn from the Treasury. The disbursements for the
year were $236,434.77 less than those of the preceding year. While the
disbursements have been thus diminished, the mail facilities have been
enlarged by new mail routes of 5,739 miles, an increase of transportation
of 1,764,145 miles, and the establishment of 418 new post-offices.
Contractors, postmasters, and others engaged in this branch of the service
have performed their duties with energy and faithfulness deserving
commendation. For many interesting details connected with the operations of
this establishment you are referred to the report of the
Postmaster-General, and his suggestions for improving its revenues are
recommended to your favorable consideration. I repeat the opinion expressed
in my last annual message that the business of this Department should be so
regulated that the revenues derived from it should be made to equal the
expenditures, and it is believed that this may be done by proper
modifications of the present laws, as suggested in the report of the
Postmaster-General, without changing the present rates of postage.

With full reliance upon the wisdom and patriotism of your deliberations, it
will be my duty, as it will be my anxious desire, to cooperate with you in
every constitutional effort to promote the welfare and maintain the honor
of our common country.



State of the Union Address
James Polk
December 7, 1847

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

The annual meeting of Congress is always an interesting event. The
representatives of the States and of the people come fresh from their
constituents to take counsel together for the common good.

After an existence of near three-fourths of a century as a free and
independent Republic, the problem no longer remains to be solved whether
man is capable of self-government. The success of our admirable system is a
conclusive refutation of the theories of those in other countries who
maintain that a "favored few" are born to rule and that the mass of mankind
must be governed by force. Subject to no arbitrary or hereditary authority,
the people are the only sovereigns recognized by our Constitution.

Numerous emigrants, of every lineage and language, attracted by the civil
and religious freedom we enjoy and by our happy condition, annually crowd
to our shores, and transfer their heart, not less than their allegiance, to
the country whose dominion belongs alone to the people. No country has been
so much favored, or should acknowledge with deeper reverence the
manifestations of the divine protection. An all wise Creator directed and
guarded us in our infant struggle for freedom and has constantly watched
over our surprising progress until we have become one of the great nations
of the earth.

It is in a country thus favored, and under a Government in which the
executive and legislative branches hold their authority for limited periods
alike from the people, and where all are responsible to their respective
constituencies, that it is again my duty to communicate with Congress upon
the state of the Union and the present condition of public affairs.

During the past year the most gratifying proofs are presented that our
country has been blessed with a widespread and universal prosperity. There
has been no period since the Government was founded when all the industrial
pursuits of our people have been more successful or when labor in all
branches of business has received a fairer or better reward. From our
abundance we have been enabled to perform the pleasing duty of furnishing
food for the starving millions of less favored countries.

In the enjoyment of the bounties of Providence at home such as have rarely
fallen to the lot of any people, it is cause of congratulation that our
intercourse with all the powers of the earth except Mexico continues to be
of an amicable character.

It has ever been our cherished policy to cultivate peace and good will with
all nations, and this policy has been steadily pursued by me. No change has
taken place in our relations with Mexico since the adjournment of the last
Congress. The war in which the United States were forced to engage with the
Government of that country still continues.

I deem it unnecessary, after the full exposition of them contained in my
message of the 11th of May, 1846, and in my annual message at the
commencement of the session of Congress in December last, to reiterate the
serious causes of complaint which we had against Mexico before she
commenced hostilities.

It is sufficient on the present occasion to say that the wanton violation
of the rights of person and property of our citizens committed by Mexico,
her repeated acts of bad faith through a long series of years, and her
disregard of solemn treaties stipulating for indemnity to our injured
citizens not only constituted ample cause of war on our part, but were of
such an aggravated character as would have justified us before the whole
world in resorting to this extreme remedy. With an anxious desire to avoid
a rupture between the two countries, we forbore for years to assert our
clear rights by force, and continued to seek redress for the wrongs we had
suffered by amicable negotiation in the hope that Mexico might yield to
pacific counsels and the demands of justice. In this hope we were
disappointed. Our minister of peace sent to Mexico was insultingly
rejected. The Mexican Government refused even to hear the terms of
adjustment which he was authorized to propose, and finally, under wholly
unjustifiable pretexts, involved the two countries in war by invading the
territory of the State of Texas, striking the first blow, and shedding the
blood of our citizens on our own soil.

Though the United States were the aggrieved nation, Mexico commenced the
war, and we were compelled in self-defense to repel the invader and to
vindicate the national honor and interests by prosecuting it with vigor
until we could obtain a just and honorable peace. On learning that
hostilities had been commenced by Mexico I promptly communicated that fact,
accompanied with a succinct statement of our other causes of complaint
against Mexico, to Congress, and that body, by the act of the 13th of May,
1846, declared that "by the act of the Republic of Mexico a state of war
exists between that Government and the United States." This act declaring
"the war to exist by the act of the Republic of Mexico," and making
provision for its prosecution "to a speedy and successful termination," was
passed with great unanimity by Congress, there being but two negative votes
in the Senate and but fourteen in the House of Representatives.

The existence of the war having thus been declared by Congress, it became
my duty under the Constitution and the laws to conduct and prosecute it.
This duty has been performed, and though at every stage of its progress I
have manifested a willingness to terminate it by a just peace, Mexico has
refused to accede to any terms which could be accepted by the United States
consistently with the national honor and interest.

The rapid and brilliant successes of our arms and the vast extent of the
enemy's territory which had been overrun and conquered before the close of
the last session of Congress were fully known to that body. Since that time
the war has been prosecuted with increased energy, and, I am gratified to
state, with a success which commands universal admiration.. History
presents no parallel of so many glorious victories achieved by any nation
within so short a period. Our Army, regulars and volunteers, have covered
themselves with imperishable honors. Whenever and wherever our forces have
encountered the enemy, though he was in vastly superior numbers and often
intrenched in fortified positions of his own selection and of great
strength, he has been defeated. Too much praise can not be bestowed upon
our officers and men, regulars and volunteers, for their gallantry,
discipline, indomitable courage, and perseverance, all seeking the post of
danger and vying with each other in deeds of noble daring.

While every patriot's heart must exult and a just national pride animate
every bosom in beholding the high proofs of courage, consummate military
skill, steady discipline, and humanity to the vanquished enemy exhibited by
our gallant Army, the nation is called to mourn over the loss of many brave
officers and soldiers, who have fallen in defense of their country's honor
and interests. The brave dead met their melancholy fate in a foreign land,
nobly discharging their duty, and with their country's flag waving
triumphantly in the face of the foe. Their patriotic deeds are justly
appreciated, and will long be remembered by their grateful countrymen. The
parental care of the Government they loved and served should be extended to
their surviving families.

Shortly after the adjournment of the last session of Congress the
gratifying intelligence was received of the signal victory of Buena Vista,
and of the fall of the city of Vera Cruz, and with it the strong castle of
San Juan de Ulloa, by which it was defended. Believing that after these and
other successes so honorable to our arms and so disastrous to Mexico the
period was propitious to afford her another opportunity, if she thought
proper to embrace it, to enter into negotiations for peace, a commissioner
was appointed to proceed to the headquarters of our Army with full powers
to enter upon negotiations and to conclude a just and honorable treaty of
peace. He was not directed to make any new overtures of peace, but was the
bearer of a dispatch from the Secretary of State of the United States to
the minister of foreign affairs of Mexico, in reply to one received from
the latter of the 22d of February, 1847, in which the Mexican Government
was informed of his appointment and of his presence at the headquarters of
our Army, and that he was invested with full powers to conclude a
definitive treaty of peace whenever the Mexican Government might signify a
desire to do so. While I was unwilling to subject the United States to
another indignant refusal, I was yet resolved that the evils of the war
should not be protracted a day longer than might be rendered absolutely
necessary by the Mexican Government.

Care was taken to give no instructions to the commissioner which could in
any way interfere with our military operations or relax our energies in the
prosecution of the war. He possessed no authority in any manner to control
these operations. He was authorized to exhibit his instructions to the
general in command of the Army, and in the event of a treaty being
concluded and ratified on the part of Mexico he was directed to give him
notice of that fact. On the happening of such contingency, and on receiving
notice thereof, the general in command was instructed by the Secretary of
War to suspend further active military operations until further orders.
These instructions were given with a view to intermit hostilities until the
treaty thus ratified by Mexico could be transmitted to Washington and
receive the action of the Government of the United States. The commissioner
was also directed on reaching the Army to deliver to the general in command
the dispatch which he bore from the Secretary of State to the minister of
foreign affairs of Mexico, and on receiving it the general was instructed
by the Secretary of War to cause it to be transmitted to the commander of
the Mexican forces, with a quest that it might be communicated to his
Government. The commissioner did not reach the headquarters of the Army
until after another brilliant victory had crowned our arms at Cerro Gordo.
The dispatch which he bore from the Secretary of War to the general in
command of the Army was received by that officer, then at Jalapa, on the
7th of May, 1847, together with the dispatch from the Secretary of State to
the minister of foreign affairs of Mexico, having been transmitted to him
from Vera Cruz. The commissioner arrived at the headquarters of the Army a
few days afterwards. His presence with the Army and his diplomatic
character were made known to the Mexican Government from Puebla on the 12th
of June, 1847, by the transmission of the dispatch from the Secretary of
State to the minister of foreign affairs of Mexico.

Many weeks elapsed after its receipt, and no overtures were made nor was
any desire expressed by the Mexican Government to enter into negotiations
for peace.

Our Army pursued its march upon the capital, and as it approached it was
met by formidable resistance. Our forces first encountered the enemy, and
achieved signal victories in the severely contested battles of Contreras
and Churubusco. It was not until after these actions had resulted in
decisive victories and the capital of the enemy was within our power that
the Mexican Government manifested any disposition to enter into
negotiations for peace, and even then, as events have proved, there is too
much reason to believe they were insincere, and that in agreeing to go
through the forms of negotiation the object was to gain time to strengthen
the defenses of their capital and to prepare for fresh resistance.

The general in command of the Army deemed it expedient to suspend
hostilities temporarily by entering into an armistice with a view to the
opening of negotiations. Commissioners were appointed on the part of Mexico
to meet the commissioner on the part of the United States. The result of
the conferences which took place between these functionaries of the two
Governments was a failure to conclude a treaty of peace. The commissioner
of the United States took with him the project of a treaty already
prepared, by the terms of which the indemnity required by the United States
was a cession of territory.

It is well known that the only indemnity which it is in the power of Mexico
to make in satisfaction of the just and long-deferred claims of our
citizens against her and the only means by which she can reimburse the
United States for the expenses of the war is a cession to the United States
of a portion of her territory. Mexico has no money to pay, and no other
means of making the required indemnity. If we refuse this, we can obtain
nothing else. To reject indemnity by refusing to accept a cession of
territory would be to abandon all our just demands, and to wage the war,
bearing all its expenses, without a purpose or definite object.

A state of war abrogates treaties previously existing between the
belligerents and a treaty of peace puts an end to all claims for indemnity
for tortious acts committed under the authority of one government against
the citizens or subjects of another unless they are provided for in its
stipulations. A treaty of peace which would terminate the existing war
without providing for indemnity would enable Mexico, the acknowledged
debtor and herself the aggressor in the war, to relieve herself from her
just liabilities. By such a treaty our citizens who hold just demands
against her would have no remedy either against Mexico or their own
Government. Our duty to these citizens must forever prevent such a peace,
and no treaty which does not provide ample means of discharging these
demands can receive my sanction.

A treaty of peace should settle all existing differences between the two
countries. If an adequate cession of territory should be made by such a
treaty, the United States should release Mexico from all her liabilities
and assume their payment to our own citizens. If instead of this the United
States were to consent to a treaty by which Mexico should again engage to
pay the heavy amount of indebtedness which a just indemnity to our
Government and our citizens would impose on her, it is notorious that she
does not possess the means to meet such an undertaking. From such a treaty
no result could be anticipated but the same irritating disappointments
which have heretofore attended the violations of similar treaty
stipulations on the part of Mexico. Such a treaty would be but a temporary
cessation of hostilities, without the restoration of the friendship and
good understanding which should characterize the future intercourse between
the two countries.

That Congress contemplated the acquisition of territorial indemnity when
that body made provision for the prosecution of the war is obvious.
Congress could not have meant when, in May, 1846, they appropriated
$10,000,000 and authorized the President to employ the militia and naval
and military forces of the United States and to accept the services of
50,000 volunteers to enable him to prosecute the war, and when, at their
last session, and after our Army had invaded Mexico, they made additional
appropriations and authorized the raising of additional troops for the same
purpose, that no indemnity was to be obtained from Mexico at the conclusion
of the war; and yet it was certain that if no Mexican territory was
acquired no indemnity could be obtained. It is further manifest that
Congress contemplated territorial indemnity from the fact that at their
last session an act was passed, upon the Executive recommendation,
appropriating $3,000,000 with that express object. This appropriation was
made "to enable the President to conclude a treaty of peace, limits, and
boundaries with the Republic of Mexico, to be used by him in the event that
said treaty, when signed by the authorized agents of the two Governments
and duly ratified by Mexico, shall call for the expenditure of the same or
any part thereof." The object of asking this appropriation was distinctly
stated in the several messages on the subject which I communicated to
Congress. Similar appropriations made in 1803 and 1806, which were referred
to, were intended to be applied in part consideration for the cession of
Louisiana and the Floridas. In like manner it was anticipated that in
settling the terms of a treaty of "limits and boundaries" with Mexico a
cession of territory estimated to be of greater value than the amount of
our demands against her might be obtained, and that the prompt payment of
this sum in part consideration for the territory ceded, on the conclusion
of a treaty and its ratification on her part, might be an inducement with
her to make such a cession of territory as would be satisfactory to the
United States; and although the failure to conclude such a treaty has
rendered it unnecessary to use any part of the $3,000,000 appropriated by
that act, and the entire sum remains in the Treasury, it is still
applicable to that object should the contingency occur making such
application proper.

The doctrine of no territory is the doctrine of no indemnity, and if
sanctioned would be a public acknowledgment that our country was wrong and
that the war declared by Congress with extraordinary unanimity was unjust
and should be abandoned--an admission unfounded in fact and degrading to
the national character.

The terms of the treaty proposed by the United States were not only just to
Mexico, but, considering the character and amount of our claims, the
unjustifiable and unprovoked commencement of hostilities by her, the
expenses of the war to which we have been subjected, and the success which
had attended our arms, were deemed to be of a most liberal character.

The commissioner of the United States was authorized to agree to the
establishment of the Rio Grande as the boundary from its entrance into the
Gulf to its intersection with the southern boundary of New Mexico, in north
latitude about 32 degree, and to obtain a cession to the United States of
the Provinces of New Mexico and the Californias and the privilege of the
right of way across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The boundary of the Rio
Grande and the cession to the United States of New Mexico and Upper
California constituted an ultimatum which our commissioner was under no
circumstances to yield.

That it might be manifest, not only to Mexico, but to all other nations,
that the United States were not disposed to take advantage of a feeble
power by insisting upon wrestling from her all the other Provinces,
including many of her principal towns and cities, which we had conquered
and held in our military occupation but were willing to conclude a treaty
in a spirit of liberality, our commissioner was authorized to stipulate for
the restoration to Mexico of all our other conquests.

As the territory to be acquired by the boundary proposed might be estimated
to be of greater value than a fair equivalent for our just demands, our
commissioner was authorized to stipulate for the payment of such additional
pecuniary consideration as was deemed reasonable.

The terms of a treaty proposed by the Mexican commissioners were wholly
inadmissible. They negotiated as if Mexico were the victorious, and not the
vanquished, party. They must have known that their ultimatum could never be
accepted. It required the United States to dismember Texas by surrendering
to Mexico that part of the territory of that State lying between the Nueces
and the Rio Grande, included within her limits by her laws when she was an
independent republic, and when she was annexed to the United States and
admitted by Congress as one of the States of our Union. It contained no
provision for the payment by Mexico of the just claims of our citizens. It
required indemnity to Mexican citizens for injuries they may have sustained
by our troops in the prosecution of the war. It demanded the right for
Mexico to levy and collect the Mexican tariff of duties on goods imported
into her ports while in our military occupation during the war, and the
owners of which had paid to officers of the United States the military
contributions which had been levied upon them; and it offered to cede to
the United States, for a pecuniary consideration, that part of Upper
California lying north of latitude 37°. Such were the unreasonable
terms proposed by the Mexican commissioners.

The cession to the United States by Mexico of the Provinces of New Mexico
and the Californias, as proposed by the commissioner of the United States,
it was believed would be more in accordance with the convenience and
interests of both nations than any other cession of territory which it was
probable Mexico could be induced to make.

It is manifest to all who have observed the actual condition of the Mexican
Government for some years past and at present that if these Provinces
should be retained by her she could not long continue to hold and govern
them. Mexico is too feeble a power to govern these Provinces, lying as they
do at a distance of more than 1,000 miles from her capital, and if
attempted to be retained by her they would constitute but for a short time
even nominally a part of her dominions. This would be especially the case
with Upper California.

The sagacity of powerful European nations has long since directed their
attention to the commercial importance of that Province, and there can be
little doubt that the moment the United States shall relinquish their
present occupation of it and their claim to it as indemnity an effort would
be made by some foreign power to possess it, either by conquest or by
purchase. If no foreign government should acquire it in either of these
modes, an independent revolutionary government would probably be
established by the inhabitants and such foreigners as may remain in or
remove to the country as soon as it shall be known that the United States
have abandoned it. Such a government would be too feeble long to maintain
its separate independent existence, and would finally become annexed to or
be a dependent colony of some more powerful state. Should any foreign
government attempt to possess it as a colony, or otherwise to incorporate
it with itself, the principle avowed by President Monroe in 1824, and
reaffirmed in my first annual message, that no foreign power shall with our
consent be permitted to plant or establish any new colony or dominion on
any part of the North American continent must be maintained. In maintaining
this principle and in resisting its invasion by any foreign power we might
be involved in other wars more expensive and more difficult than that in
which we are now engaged. The Provinces of New Mexico and the Californias
are contiguous to the territories of the United States, and if brought
under the government of our laws their resources--mineral, agricultural,
manufacturing, and commercial--would soon be developed.

Upper California is bounded on the north by our Oregon possessions, and if
held by the United States would soon be settled by a hardy, enterprising,
and intelligent portion of our population. The Bay of San Francisco and
other harbors along the Californian coast would afford shelter for our
Navy, for our numerous whale ships, and other merchant vessels employed in
the Pacific Ocean, and would in a short period become the marts of an
extensive and profitable commerce with China and other countries of the

These advantages, in which the whole commercial world would participate,
would at once be secured to the United States by the cession of this
territory; while it is certain that as long as it remains a part of the
Mexican dominions they can be enjoyed neither by Mexico herself nor by any
other nation.

New Mexico is a frontier Province, and has never been of any considerable
value to Mexico. From its locality it is naturally connected with our
Western settlements. The territorial limits of the State of Texas, too, as
defined by her laws before her admission into our Union, embrace all that
portion of New Mexico lying east of the Rio Grande, while Mexico still
claims to hold this territory as a part of her dominions. The adjustment of
this question of boundary is important.

There is another consideration which induced the belief that the Mexican
Government might even desire to place this Province under the protection of
the Government of the United States. Numerous bands of fierce and warlike
savages wander over it and upon its borders. Mexico has been and must
continue to be too feeble to restrain them from committing depredations,
robberies, and murders, not only upon the inhabitants of New Mexico itself,
but upon those of the other northern States of Mexico. It would be a
blessing to all these northern States to have their citizens protected
against them by the power of the United States. At this moment many
Mexicans, principally females and children, are in captivity among them. If
New Mexico were held and governed by the United States, we could
effectually prevent these tribes from committing such outrages, and compel
them to release these captives and restore them to their families and

In proposing to acquire New Mexico and the Californias, it was known that
but an inconsiderable portion of the Mexican people would be transferred
with them, the country embraced within these Provinces being chiefly an
uninhabited region.

These were the leading considerations which induced me to authorize the
terms of peace which were proposed to Mexico. They were rejected, and,
negotiations being at an end, hostilities were renewed. An assault was made
by our gallant Army upon the strongly fortified places near the gates of
the City of Mexico and upon the city itself, and after several days of
severe conflict the Mexican forces, vastly superior in number to our own,
were driven from the city, and it was occupied by our troops.

Immediately after information was received of the unfavorable result of the
negotiations, believing that his continued presence with the Army could be
productive of no good, I determined to recall our commissioner. A dispatch
to this effect was transmitted to him on the 6th of October last. The
Mexican Government will be informed of his recall, and that in the existing
state of things I shall not deem it proper to make any further overtures of
peace, but shall be at all times ready to receive and consider any
proposals which may be made by Mexico.

Since the liberal proposition of the United States was authorized to be
made, in April last, large expenditures have been incurred and the precious
blood of many of our patriotic fellow-citizens has been shed in the
prosecution of the war. This consideration and the obstinate perseverance
of Mexico in protracting the war must influence the terms of peace which it
may be deemed proper hereafter to accept. Our arms having been everywhere
victorious, having subjected to our military occupation a large portion of
the enemy's country, including his capital, and negotiations for peace
having failed, the important questions arise, in what manner the war ought
to be prosecuted and what should be our future policy. I can not doubt that
we should secure and render available the conquests which we have already
made, and that with this view we should hold and occupy by our naval and
military forces all the ports, towns, cities, and Provinces now in our
occupation or which may hereafter fall into our possession; that we should
press forward our military operations and levy such military contributions
on the enemy as may, as far as practicable, defray the future expenses of
the war.

Had the Government of Mexico acceded to the equitable and liberal terms
proposed, that mode of adjustment would have been preferred, Mexico having
declined to do this and failed to offer any other terms which could be
accepted by the United States, the national honor, no less than the public
interests, requires that the war should be prosecuted with increased energy
and power until a just and satisfactory peace can be obtained. In the
meantime, as Mexico refuses all indemnity, we should adopt measures to
indemnify ourselves by appropriating permanently a portion of her
territory. Early after the commencement of the war New Mexico and the
Californias were taken possession of by our forces. Our military and naval
commanders were ordered to conquer and hold them, subject to be disposed of
by a treaty of peace.

These Provinces are now in our undisputed occupation, and have been so for
many months, all resistance on the part of Mexico having ceased within
their limits. I am satisfied that they should never be surrendered to
Mexico. Should Congress concur with me in this opinion, and that they
should be retained by the United States as indemnity, I can perceive no
good reason why the civil jurisdiction and laws of the United States should
not at once be extended over them. To wait for a treaty of peace such as we
are willing to make, by which our relations toward them would not be
changed, can not be good policy; whilst our own interest and that of the
people inhabiting them require that a stable, responsible, and free
government under our authority should as soon as possible be established
over them. Should Congress, therefore, determine to hold these Provinces
permanently, and that they shall hereafter be considered as constituent
parts of our country, the early establishment of Territorial governments
over them will be important for the more perfect protection of persons and
property; and I recommend that such Territorial governments be established.
It will promote peace and tranquillity among the inhabitants, by allaying
all apprehension that they may still entertain of being again subjected to
the jurisdiction of Mexico. I invite the early and favorable consideration
of Congress to this important subject.

Besides New Mexico and the Californias, there are other Mexican Provinces
which have been reduced to our possession by conquest. These other Mexican
Provinces are now governed by our military and naval commanders under the
general authority which is conferred upon a conqueror by the laws of war.
They should continue to be held, as a means of coercing Mexico to accede to
just terms of peace. Civil as well as military officers are required to
conduct such a government. Adequate compensation, to be drawn from
contributions levied on the enemy, should be fixed by law for such officers
as may be thus employed. What further provision may become necessary and
what final disposition it may be proper to make of them must depend on the
future progress of the war and the course which Mexico may think proper
hereafter to pursue.

With the views I entertain I can not favor the policy which has been
suggested, either to withdraw our Army altogether or to retire to a
designated line and simply hold and defend it. To withdraw our Army
altogether from the conquests they have made by deeds of unparalleled
bravery, and at the expense of so much blood and treasure, in a just war on
our part, and one which, by the act of the enemy, we could not honorably
have avoided, would be to degrade the nation in its own estimation and in
that of the world. To retire to a line and simply hold and defend it would
not terminate the war. On the contrary, it would encourage Mexico to
persevere and tend to protract it indefinitely. It is not to be expected
that Mexico, after refusing to establish such a line as a permanent
boundary when our victorious Army are in possession of her capital and in
the heart of her country, would permit us to hold it without resistance.
That she would continue the war, and in the most harassing and annoying
forms, there can be no doubt. A border warfare of the most savage
character, extending over a long line, would be unceasingly waged. It would
require a large army to be kept constantly in the field, stationed at posts
and garrisons along such a line, to protect and defend it. The enemy,
relieved from the pressure of our arms on his coasts and in the populous
parts of the interior, would direct his attention to this line, and,
selecting an isolated post for attack, would concentrate his forces upon
it. This would be a condition of affairs which the Mexicans, pursuing their
favorite system of guerrilla warfare, would probably prefer to any other.
Were we to assume a defensive attitude on such a line, all the advantages
of such a state of war would be on the side of the enemy. We could levy no
contributions upon him, or in any other way make him feel the pressure of
the war, but must remain inactive and await his approach, being in constant
uncertainty at what point on the line or at what time he might make an
assault. He may assemble and organize an overwhelming force in the interior
on his own side of the line, and, concealing his purpose, make a sudden
assault upon some one of our posts so distant from any other as to prevent
the possibility of timely succor or reenforcements, and in this way our
gallant Army would be exposed to the danger of being cut off in detail; or
if by their unequaled bravery and prowess everywhere exhibited during this
war they should repulse the enemy, their numbers stationed at any one post
may be too small to pursue him. If the enemy be repulsed in one attack, he
would have nothing to do but to retreat to his own side of the line, and,
being in no fear of a pursuing army, may reenforce himself at leisure for
another attack on the same or some other post. He may, too, cross the line
between our posts, make rapid incursions into the country which we hold,
murder the inhabitants, commit depredations on them, and then retreat to
the interior before a sufficient force can be concentrated to pursue him.
Such would probably be the harassing character of a mere defensive war on
our part. If our forces when attacked, or threatened with attack, be
permitted to cross the line, drive back the enemy, and conquer him, this
would be again to invade the enemy's country after having lost all the
advantages of the conquests we have already made by having voluntarily
abandoned them. To hold such a line successfully and in security it is far
from being certain that it would not require as large an army as would be
necessary to hold all the conquests we have already made and to continue
the prosecution of the war in the heart of the enemy's country. It is also
far from being certain that the expenses of the war would be diminished by
such a policy. I am persuaded that the best means of vindicating the
national honor and interest and of bringing the war to an honorable close
will be to prosecute it with increased energy and power in the vital parts
of the enemy's country.

In my annual message to Congress of December last I declared that--

The war has not been waged with a view to conquest, but, having been
commenced by Mexico, it has been carried into the enemy's country and will
be vigorously prosecuted there with a view to obtain an honorable peace,
and thereby secure ample indemnity for the expenses of the war, as well as
to our much-injured citizens, who hold large pecuniary demands against

Such, in my judgment, continues to be our true policy; indeed, the only
policy which will probably secure a permanent peace.

It has never been contemplated by me, as an object of the war, to make a
permanent conquest of the Republic of Mexico or to annihilate her separate
existence as an independent nation. On the contrary, it has ever been my
desire that she should maintain her nationality, and under a good
government adapted to her condition be a free, independent, and prosperous
Republic. The United States were the first among the nations to recognize
her independence, and have always desired to be on terms of amity and good
neighborhood with her. This she would not suffer. By her own conduct we
have been compelled to engage in the present war. In its prosecution we
seek not her overthrow as a nation, but in vindicating our national honor
we seek to obtain redress for the wrongs she has done us and indemnity for
our just demands against her. We demand an honorable peace, and that peace
must bring with it indemnity for the past and security for the future.
Hitherto Mexico has refused all accommodation by which such a peace could
be obtained.

Whilst our armies have advanced from victory to victory from the
commencement of the war, it has always been with the olive branch of peace
in their hands, and it has been in the power of Mexico at every step to
arrest hostilities by accepting it.

One great obstacle to the attainment of peace has undoubtedly arisen from
the fact that Mexico has been so long held in subjection by one faction or
military usurper after another, and such has been the condition of
insecurity in which their successive governments have been placed that each
has been deterred from making peace lest for this very cause a rival
faction might expel it from power. Such was the fate of President Herrera's
administration in 1845 for being disposed even to listen to the overtures
of the United States to prevent the war, as is fully confirmed by an
official correspondence which took place in the month of August last
between him and his Government, a copy of which is herewith communicated.
"For this cause alone the revolution which displaced him from power was set
on foot" by General Paredes. Such may be the condition of insecurity of the
present Government.

There can be no doubt that the peaceable and well-disposed inhabitants of
Mexico are convinced that it is the true interest of their country to
conclude an honorable peace with the United States, but the apprehension of
becoming the victims of some military faction or usurper may have prevented
them from manifesting their feelings by any public act. The removal of any
such apprehension would probably cause them to speak their sentiments
freely and to adopt the measures necessary for the restoration of peace.
With a people distracted and divided by contending factions and a
Government subject to constant changes by successive revolutions, the
continued successes of our arms may fail to secure a satisfactory peace. In
such event it may become proper for our commanding generals in the field to
give encouragement and assurances of protection to the friends of peace in
Mexico in the establishment and maintenance of a free republican government
of their own choice, able and willing to conclude a peace which would be
just to them and secure to us the indemnity we demand. This may become the
only mode of obtaining such a peace. Should such be the result, the war
which Mexico has forced upon us would thus be converted into an enduring
blessing to herself. After finding her torn and distracted by factions, and
ruled by military usurpers, we should then leave her with a republican
government in the enjoyment of real independence and domestic peace and
prosperity, performing all her relative duties in the great family of
nations and promoting her own happiness by wise laws and their faithful

If, after affording this encouragement and protection, and after all the
persevering and sincere efforts we have made from the moment Mexico
commenced the war, and prior to that time, to adjust our differences with
her, we shall ultimately fail, then we shall have exhausted all honorable
means in pursuit of peace, and must continue to occupy her country with our
troops, taking the full measure of indemnity into our own hands, and must
enforce the terms which our honor demands.

To act otherwise in the existing state of things in Mexico, and to withdraw
our Army without a peace, would not only leave all the wrongs of which we
complain unredressed, but would be the signal for new and fierce civil
dissensions and new revolutions--all alike hostile to peaceful relations
with the United States. Besides, there is danger, if our troops were
withdrawn before a peace was conducted, that the Mexican people, wearied
with successive revolutions and deprived of protection for their persons
and property, might at length be inclined to yield to foreign influences
and to cast themselves into the arms of some European monarch for
protection from the anarchy and suffering which would ensue. This, for our
own safety and in pursuance of our established policy, we should be
compelled to resist. We could never consent that Mexico should be thus
converted into a monarchy governed by a foreign prince.

Mexico is our near neighbor, and her boundaries are coterminous with our
own through the whole extent across the North American continent, from
ocean to ocean. Both politically and commercially we have the deepest
interest in her regeneration and prosperity. Indeed, it is impossible that,
with any just regard to our own safety, we can ever become indifferent to
her fate.

It may be that the Mexican Government and people have misconstrued or
misunderstood our forbearance and our objects in desiring to conclude an
amicable adjustment of the existing differences between the two countries.
They may have supposed that we would submit to terms degrading to the
nation, or they may have drawn false inferences from the supposed division
of opinion in the United States on the subject of the war, and may have
calculated to gain much by protracting it, and, indeed, that we might
ultimately abandon it altogether without insisting on any indemnity,
territorial or otherwise. Whatever may be the false impressions under which
they have acted, the adoption and prosecution of the energetic policy
proposed must soon undeceive them.

In the future prosecution of the war the enemy must be made to feel its
pressure more than they have heretofore done. At its commencement it was
deemed proper to conduct it in a spirit of forbearance and liberality. With
this end in view, early measures were adopted to conciliate, as far as a
state of war would permit, the mass of the Mexican population; to convince
them that the war was waged, not against the peaceful inhabitants of
Mexico, but against their faithless Government, which had commenced
hostilities; to remove from their minds the false impressions which their
designing and interested rulers had artfully attempted to make, that the
war on our part was one of conquest, that it was a war against their
religion and their churches, which were to be desecrated and overthrown,
and that their rights of person and private property would be violated. To
remove these false impressions, our commanders in the field were directed
scrupulously to respect their religion, their churches, and their church
property, which were in no manner to be violated; they were directed also
to respect the rights of persons and property of all who should not take up
arms against us.

Assurances to this effect were given to the Mexican people by Major General
Taylor in a proclamation issued in pursuance of instructions from the
Secretary of War in the month of June, 1846, and again by Major-General
Scott, who acted upon his own convictions of the propriety of issuing it,
in a proclamation of the 11th of May, 1847. In this spirit of liberality
and conciliation, and with a view to prevent the body of the Mexican
population from taking up arms against us, was the war conducted on our
part. Provisions and other supplies furnished to our Army by Mexican
citizens were paid for at fair and liberal prices, agreed upon by the
parties. After the lapse of a few months it became apparent that these
assurances and this mild treatment had failed to produce the desired effect
upon the Mexican population. While the war had been conducted on our part
according to the most humane and liberal principles observed by civilized
nations, it was waged in a far different spirit on the part of Mexico. Not
appreciating our forbearance, the Mexican people generally became hostile
to the United States, and availed themselves of every opportunity to commit
the most savage excesses upon our troops. Large numbers of the population
took up arms, and, engaging in guerrilla warfare, robbed and murdered in
the most cruel manner individual soldiers or small parties whom accident or
other causes had separated from the main body of our Army; bands of
guerrilleros and robbers infested the roads, harassed our trains, and
whenever it was in their power cut off our supplies.

The Mexicans having thus shown themselves to be wholly incapable of
appreciating our forbearance and liberality, it was deemed proper to change
the manner of conducting the war, by making them feel its pressure
according to the usages observed under similar circumstances by all other
civilized nations.

Accordingly, as early as the 22d of September, 1846, instructions were
given by the Secretary of War to Major-General Taylor to "draw supplies"
for our Army "from the enemy without paying for them, and to require
contributions for its support, if in that way he was satisfied he could get
abundant supplies for his forces." In directing the execution of these
instructions much was necessarily left to the discretion of the commanding
officer, who was best acquainted with the circumstances by which he was
surrounded, the wants of the Army, and the practicability of enforcing the
measure. General Taylor, on the 26th of October, 1846, replied from
Monterey that "it would have been impossible hitherto, and is so now, to
sustain the Army to any extent by forced contributions of money or
supplies." For the reasons assigned by him, he did not adopt the policy of
his instructions, but declared his readiness to do so "should the Army in
its future operations reach a portion of the country which may be made to
supply the troops with advantage." He continued to pay for the articles of
supply which were drawn from the enemy's country.

Similar instructions were issued to Major-General Scott on the 3d of April,
1847, who replied from Jalapa on the 20th of May, 1847, that if it be
expected "that the Army is to support itself by forced contributions levied
upon the country we may ruin and exasperate the inhabitants and starve
ourselves." The same discretion was given to him that had been to General
Taylor in this respect. General Scott, for the reasons assigned by him,
also continued to pay for the articles of supply for the Army which were
drawn from the enemy.

After the Army had reached the heart of the most wealthy portion of Mexico
it was supposed that the obstacles which had before that time prevented it
would not be such as to render impracticable the levy of forced
contributions for its support, and on the 1st of September and again on the
6th of October, 1847, the order was repeated in dispatches addressed by the
Secretary of War to General Scott, and his attention was again called to
the importance of making the enemy bear the burdens of the war by requiring
them to furnish the means of supporting our Army, and he was directed to
adopt this policy unless by doing so there was danger of depriving the Army
of the necessary supplies. Copies of these dispatches were forwarded to
General Taylor for his government.

On the 31st of March last I caused an order to be issued to our military
and naval commanders to levy and collect a military contribution upon all
vessels and merchandise which might enter any of the ports of Mexico in our
military occupation, and to apply such contributions toward defraying the
expenses of the war. By virtue of the right of conquest and the laws of
war, the conqueror, consulting his own safety or convenience, may either
exclude foreign commerce altogether from all such ports or permit it upon
such terms and conditions as he may prescribe. Before the principal ports
of Mexico were blockaded by our Navy the revenue derived from import duties
under the laws of Mexico was paid into the Mexican treasury. After these
ports had fallen into our military possession the blockade was raised and
commerce with them permitted upon prescribed terms and conditions. They
were opened to the trade of all nations upon the payment of duties more
moderate in their amount than those which had been previously levied by
Mexico, and the revenue, which was formerly paid into the Mexican treasury,
was directed to be collected by our military and naval officers and applied
to the use of our Army and Navy. Care was taken that the officers,
soldiers, and sailors of our Army and Navy should be exempted from the
operations of the order, and, as the merchandise imported upon which the
order operated must be consumed by Mexican citizens, the contributions
exacted were in effect the seizure of the public revenues of Mexico and the
application of them to our own use. In directing this measure the object
was to compel the enemy to contribute as far as practicable toward the
expenses of the war.

For the amount of contributions which have been levied in this form I refer
you to the accompanying reports of the Secretary of War and of the
Secretary of the Navy, by which it appears that a sum exceeding half a
million of dollars has been collected. This amount would undoubtedly have
been much larger but for the difficulty of keeping open communications
between the coast and the interior, so as to enable the owners of the
merchandise imported to transport and vend it to the inhabitants of the
country. It is confidently expected that this difficulty will to a great
extent be soon removed by our increased forces which have been sent to the

Measures have recently been adopted by which the internal as well as the
external revenues of Mexico in all places in our military occupation will
be seized and appropriated to the use of our Army and Navy.

The policy of levying upon the enemy contributions in every form
consistently with the laws of nations, which it may be practicable for our
military commanders to adopt, should, in my judgment, be rigidly enforced,
and orders to this effect have accordingly been given. By such a policy, at
the same time that our own Treasury will be relieved from a heavy drain,
the Mexican people will be made to feel the burdens of the war, and,
consulting their own interests, may be induced the more readily to require
their rulers to accede to a just peace.

After the adjournment of the last session of Congress events transpired in
the prosecution of the war which in my judgment required a greater number
of troops in the field than had been anticipated. The strength of the Army
was accordingly increased by "accepting" the services of all the volunteer
forces authorized by the act of the 13th of May, 1846, without putting a
construction on that act the correctness of which was seriously questioned.
The volunteer forces now in the field, with those which had been "accepted"
to "serve for twelve months" and were discharged at the end of their term
of service, exhaust the 50,000 men authorized by that act. Had it been
clear that a proper construction of the act warranted it, the services of
an additional number would have been called for and accepted; but doubts
existing upon this point, the power was not exercised. It is deemed
important that Congress should at an early period of their session confer
the authority to raise an additional regular force to serve during the war
with Mexico and to be discharged upon the conclusion and ratification of a
treaty of peace. I invite the attention of Congress to the views presented
by the Secretary of War in his report upon this subject.

I recommend also that authority be given by law to call for and accept the
services of an additional number of volunteers, to be exercised at such
time and to such extent as the emergencies of the service may require.

In prosecuting the war with Mexico, whilst the utmost care has been taken
to avoid every just cause of complaint on the part of neutral nations, and
none has been given, liberal privileges have been granted to their commerce
in the ports of the enemy in our military occupation. The difficulty with
the Brazilian Government, which at one time threatened to interrupt the
friendly relations between the two countries, will, I trust, be speedily
adjusted. I have received information that an envoy extraordinary and
minister plenipotentiary to the United States will shortly be appointed by
His Imperial Majesty, and it is hoped that he will come instructed and
prepared to adjust all remaining differences between the two Governments in
a manner acceptable and honorable to both. In the meantime, I have every
reason to believe that nothing will occur to interrupt our amicable
relations with Brazil.

It has been my constant effort to maintain and cultivate the most intimate
relations of friendship with all the independent powers of South America,
and this policy has been attended with the happiest results. It is true
that the settlement and payment of many just claims of American citizens
against these nations have been long delayed. The peculiar position in
which they have been placed and the desire on the part of my predecessors
as well as myself to grant them the utmost indulgence have hitherto
prevented these claims from being urged in a manner demanded by strict
justice. The time has arrived when they ought to be finally adjusted and
liquidated, and efforts are now making for that purpose.

It is proper to inform you that the Government of Peru has in good faith
paid the first two installments of the indemnity of $30,000 each, and the
greater portion of the interest due thereon, in execution of the convention
between that Government and the United States the ratifications of which
were exchanged at Lima on the 31st of October, 1846. The Attorney-General
of the United States early in August last completed the adjudication of the
claims under this convention, and made his report thereon in pursuance of
the act of the 8th of August, 1846. The sums to which the claimants are
respectively entitled will be paid on demand at the Treasury.

I invite the early attention of Congress to the present condition of our
citizens in China. Under our treaty with that power American citizens are
withdrawn from the jurisdiction, whether civil or criminal, of the Chinese
Government and placed under that of our public functionaries in that
country. By these alone can our citizens be tried and punished for the
commission of any crime; by these alone can questions be decided between
them involving the rights of persons and property, and by these alone can
contracts be enforced into which they may have entered with the citizens or
subjects of foreign powers. The merchant vessels of the United States lying
in the waters of the five ports of China open to foreign commerce are under
the exclusive jurisdiction of officers of their own Government. Until
Congress shall establish competent tribunals to try and punish crimes and
to exercise jurisdiction in civil cases in China, American citizens there
are subject to no law whatever. Crimes may be committed with impunity and
debts may be contracted without any means to enforce their payment.
Inconveniences have already resulted from the omission of Congress to
legislate upon the subject, and still greater are apprehended. The British
authorities in China have already complained that this Government has not
provided for the punishment of crimes or the enforcement of contracts
against American citizens in that country, whilst their Government has
established tribunals by which an American citizen can recover debts due
from British subjects. Accustomed, as the Chinese are, to summary justice,
they could not be made to comprehend why criminals who are citizens of the
United States should escape with impunity, in violation of treaty
obligations, whilst the punishment of a Chinese who had committed any crime
against an American citizen would be rigorously exacted. Indeed, the
consequences might be fatal to American citizens in China should a flagrant
crime be committed by any one of them upon a Chinese, and should trial and
punishment not follow according to the requisitions of the treaty. This
might disturb, if not destroy, our friendly relations with that Empire, and
cause an interruption of our valuable commerce. Our treaties with the
Sublime Porte, Tripoli, Tunis, Morocco, and Muscat also require the
legislation of Congress to carry them into execution, though the necessity
for immediate action may not be so urgent as in regard to China.

The Secretary of State has submitted an estimate to defray the expense of
opening diplomatic relations with the Papal States. The interesting
political events now in progress in these States, as well as a just regard
to our commercial interests, have, in my opinion, rendered such a measure
highly expedient.

Estimates have also been submitted for the outfits and salaries of charges'
d'affaires to the Republics of Bolivia, Guatemala, and Ecuador. The
manifest importance of cultivating the most friendly relations with all the
independent States upon this continent has induced me to recommend
appropriations necessary for the maintenance of these missions.

I recommend to Congress that an appropriation be made to be paid to the
Spanish Government for the purpose of distribution among the claimants in
the Amistad case. I entertain the conviction that this is due to Spain
under the treaty of the 20th of October, 1795, and, moreover, that from the
earnest manner in which the claim continues to be urged so long as it shall
remain unsettled it will be a source of irritation and discord between the
two countries, which may prove highly prejudicial to the interests of the
United States. Good policy, no less than a faithful compliance with our
treaty obligations, requires that the inconsiderable appropriation demanded
should be made.

A detailed statement of the condition of the finances will be presented in
the annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury. The imports for the
last fiscal year, ending on the 30th of June, 1847, were of the value of
$146,545,638, of which the amount exported was $8,011,158, leaving
$138,534,480 in the country for domestic use. The value of the exports for
the same period was $158,648,622, of which $150,637,464 consisted of
domestic productions and $8,011,158 of foreign articles.

The receipts into the Treasury for the same period amounted to
$26,346,790.37, of which there was derived from customs $23,747,864.66,
from sales of public lands $2,498,335.20, and from incidental and
miscellaneous sources $100,570.51. The last fiscal year, during which this
amount was received, embraced five months under the operation of the tariff
act of 1842 and seven months during which the tariff act of 1846 was in
force. During the five months under the act of 1842 the amount received
from customs was $7,842,306.90, and during the seven months under the act
of 1846 the amount received was $15,905,557.76.

The net revenue from customs during the year ending on the 1st of December,
1846, being the last year under the operation of the tariff act of 1842,
was $22,971,403.10, and the net revenue from customs during the year ending
on the 1st of December, 1847, being the first year under the operations of
the tariff act of 1846, was about $31,500,000, being an increase of revenue
for the first year under the tariff of 1846 of more than $8,500,000 over
that of the last year under the tariff of 1842.

The expenditures during the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last
were $59,451,177.65, of which $3,522,082.37 was on account payment of
principal and interest of the public debt, including Treasury notes
redeemed and not funded. The expenditures exclusive of payment of public
debt were $55,929,095.28.

It is estimated that the receipts into the Treasury for the fiscal year
ending on the 30th of June, 1848, including the balance in the Treasury on
the 1st of July last, will amount to $42,886,545.80, of which $31,000,000,
it is estimated, will be derived from customs, $3,500,000 from the sale of
the public lands, $400,000 from incidental sources, eluding sales made by
the Solicitor of the Treasury, and $6,285,294.55 from loans already
authorized by law, which, together with the balance in the Treasury on the
1st of July last, make the sum estimated.

The expenditures for the same period, if peace with Mexico shall not be
concluded and the Army shall be increased as is proposed, will amount,
including the necessary payments on account of principal and interest of
the public debt and Treasury notes, to $58,615,660.07. On the 1st of the
present month the amount of the public debt actually incurred, including
Treasury notes, was $45,659,659.40. The public debt due on the 4th of
March, 1845, including Treasury notes, was $17,788,799.62, and consequently
the addition made to the public debt since that time is $27,870,859.78.

Of the loan of twenty-three millions authorized by the act of the 28th of
January, 1847, the sum of five millions was paid out to the public
creditors or exchanged at par for specie; the remaining eighteen millions
was offered for specie to the highest bidder not below par, by an
advertisement issued by the Secretary of the Treasury and published from
the 9th of February until the 10th of April, 1847, when it was awarded to
the several highest bidders at premiums varying from one-eighth of per cent
to 2 per cent above par. The premium has been paid into the Treasury and
the sums awarded deposited in specie in the Treasury as fast as it was
required by the wants of the Government.

To meet the expenditures for the remainder of the present and for the next
fiscal year, ending on the 30th of June, 1849, a further loan in aid of the
ordinary revenues of the Government will be necessary. Retaining a
sufficient surplus in the Treasury, the loan required for the remainder of
the present fiscal year will be about $18,500,000. If the duty on tea and
coffee be imposed and the graduation of the price of the public lands shall
be made at an early period of your session, as recommended, the loan for
the present fiscal year may be reduced to $17,000,000. The loan may be
further reduced by whatever amount of expenditures can be saved by military
contributions collected in Mexico. The most vigorous measures for the
augmentation of these contributions have been directed and a very
considerable sum is expected from that source. Its amount can not, however,
be calculated with any certainty. It is recommended that the loan to be
made be authorized upon the same terms and for the same time as that which
was authorized under the provisions of the act of the 28th of January,

Should the war with Mexico be continued until the 30th of June, 1849, it is
estimated that a further loan of $20,500,000 will be required for the
fiscal year ending on that day, in case no duty be imposed on tea and
coffee, and the public lands be not reduced and graduated in price, and no
military contributions shall be collected in Mexico. If the duty on tea and
coffee be imposed and the lands be reduced and graduated in price as
proposed, the loan may be reduced to $17,000,000, and will be subject to be
still further reduced by the amount of the military contributions which may
be collected in Mexico. It is not proposed, however, at present to ask
Congress for authority to negotiate this loan for the next fiscal year, as
it is hoped that the loan asked for the remainder of the present fiscal
year, aided by military contributions which may be collected in Mexico, may
be sufficient. If, contrary to my expectation, there should be a necessity
for it, the fact will be communicated to Congress in time for their action
during the present session. In no event will a sum exceeding $6,000,000 of
this amount be needed before the meeting of the session of Congress in
December, 1848.

The act of the 30th of July, 1846, "reducing the duties on imports," has
been in force since the 1st of December last, and I am gratified to state
that all the beneficial effects which were anticipated from its operation
have been fully realized. The public revenue derived from customs during
the year ending on the 1st of December, 1847, exceeds by more than
$8,000,000 the amount received in the preceding year under the operation of
the act of 1842, which was superseded and repealed by it. Its effects are
visible in the great and almost unexampled prosperity which prevails in
every branch of business.

While the repeal of the prohibitory and restrictive duties of the act of
1842 and the substitution in their place of reasonable revenue rates levied
on articles imported according to their actual value has increased the
revenue and augmented our foreign trade, all the great interests of the
country have been advanced and promoted.

The great and important interests of agriculture, which had been not only
too much neglected, but actually taxed under the protective policy for the
benefit of other interests, have been relieved of the burdens which that
policy imposed on them; and our farmers and planters, under a more just and
liberal commercial policy, are finding new and profitable markets abroad
for their augmented products. Our commerce is rapidly increasing, and is
extending more widely the circle of international exchanges. Great as has
been the increase of our imports during the past year, our exports of
domestic products sold in foreign markets have been still greater.

Our navigating interest is eminently prosperous. The number of vessels
built in the United States has been greater than during any preceding
period of equal length. Large profits have been derived by those who have
constructed as well as by those who have navigated them. Should the ratio
of increase in the number of our merchant vessels be progressive, and be as
great for the future as during the past year, the time is not distant when
our tonnage and commercial marine will be larger than that of any other
nation in the world.

Whilst the interests of agriculture, of commerce, and of navigation have
been enlarged and invigorated, it is highly gratifying to observe that our
manufactures are also in a prosperous condition. None of the ruinous
effects upon this interest which were apprehended by some as the result of
the operation of the revenue system established by the act of 1846 have
been experienced. On the contrary, the number of manufactories and the
amount of capital invested in them is steadily and rapidly increasing,
affording gratifying proofs that American enterprise and skill employed in
this branch of domestic industry, with no other advantages than those
fairly and incidentally accruing from a just System of revenue duties, are
abundantly able to meet successfully all competition from abroad and still
derive fair and remunerating profits. While capital invested in
manufactures is yielding adequate and fair profits under the new system,
the wages of labor, whether employed in manufactures, agriculture,
commerce, or navigation, have been augmented. The toiling millions whose
daily labor furnishes the supply of food and raiment and all the
necessaries and comforts of life are receiving higher wages and more steady
and permanent employment than in any other country or at any previous
period of our own history.

So successful have been all branches of our industry that a foreign war,
which generally diminishes the resources of a nation, has in no essential
degree retarded our onward progress or checked our general prosperity.

With such gratifying evidences of prosperity and of the successful
operation of the revenue act of 1846, every consideration of public policy
recommends that it shall remain unchanged. It is hoped that the system of
impost duties which it established may be regarded as the permanent policy
of the country, and that the great interests affected by it may not again
be subject to be injuriously disturbed, as they have heretofore been by
frequent and sometimes sudden changes.

For the purpose of increasing the revenue, and without changing or
modifying the rates imposed by the act of 1846 on the dutiable articles
embraced by its provisions, I again recommend to your favorable
consideration the expediency of levying a revenue duty on tea and coffee.
The policy which exempted these articles from duty during peace, and when
the revenue to be derived from them was not needed, ceases to exist when
the country is engaged in war and requires the use of all of its available
resources. It is a tax which would be so generally diffused among the
people that it would be felt oppressively by none and be complained of by
none. It is believed that there are not in the list of imported articles
any which are more properly the subject of war duties than tea and coffee.

It is estimated that $3,000,000 would be derived annually by a moderate
duty imposed on these articles.

Should Congress avail itself of this additional source of revenue, not only
would the amount of the public loan rendered necessary by the war with
Mexico be diminished to that extent, but the public credit and the public
confidence in the ability and determination of the Government to meet all
its engagements promptly would be more firmly established, and the reduced
amount of the loan which it may be necessary to negotiate could probably be
obtained at cheaper rates.

Congress is therefore called upon to determine whether it is wiser to
impose the war duties recommended or by omitting to do so increase the
public debt annually $3,000,000 so long as loans shall be required to
prosecute the war, and afterwards provide in some other form to pay the
semiannual interest upon it, and ultimately to extinguish the principal. If
in addition to these duties Congress should graduate and reduce the price
of such of the public lands as experience has proved will not command the
price placed upon them by the Government, an additional annual income to
the Treasury of between half a million and a million of dollars, it is
estimated, would be derived from this source. Should both measures receive
the sanction of Congress, the annual amount of public debt necessary to be
contracted during the continuance of the war would be reduced near
$4,000,000. The duties recommended to be levied on tea and coffee it is
proposed shall be limited in their duration to the end of the war, and
until the public debt rendered necessary to be contracted by it shall be
discharged. The amount of the public debt to be contracted should be
limited to the lowest practicable sum, and should be extinguished as early
after the conclusion of the war as the means of the Treasury will permit.

With this view, it is recommended that as soon as the war shall be over all
the surplus in the Treasury not needed for other indispensable objects
shall constitute a sinking fund and be applied to the purchase of the
funded debt, and that authority be conferred by laws for that purpose. The
act of the 6th of August, 1846, "to establish a warehousing system," has
been in operation more than a year, and has proved to be an important
auxiliary to the tariff act of 1846 in augmenting the revenue and extending
the commerce of the country. Whilst it has tended to enlarge commerce, it
has been beneficial to our manufactures by diminishing forced sales at
auction of foreign goods at low prices to raise the duties to be advanced
on them, and by checking fluctuations in the market. The system, although
sanctioned by the experience of other countries, was entirely new in the
United States, and is susceptible of improvement in some of its provisions.
The Secretary of the Treasury, upon whom was devolved large discretionary
powers in carrying this measure into effect, has collected and is now
collating the practical results of the system in other countries where it
has long been established, and will report at an early period of your
session such further regulations suggested by the investigation as may
render it still more effective and beneficial.

By the act to "provide for the better organization of the Treasury and for
the collection, safe-keeping, and disbursement of the public revenue" all
banks were discontinued as fiscal agents of the Government, and the paper
currency issued by them was no longer permitted to be received in payment
of public dues. The constitutional treasury created by this act went into
operation on the 1st of January last. Under the system established by it
the public moneys have been collected, safely kept, and disbursed by the
direct agency of officers of the Government in gold and silver, and
transfers of large amounts have been made from points of collection to
points of disbursement without loss to the Treasury or injury or
inconvenience to the trade of the country.

While the fiscal operations of the Government have been conducted with
regularity and ease under this system, it has had a salutary effect in
checking and preventing an undue inflation of the paper currency issued by
the banks which exist under State charters. Requiring, as it does, all dues
to the Government to be paid in gold and silver, its effect is to restrain
excessive issues of bank paper by the banks disproportioned to the specie
in their vaults, for the reason that they are at all times liable to be
called on by the holders of their notes for their redemption in order to
obtain specie for the payment of duties and other public dues. The banks,
therefore, must keep their business within prudent limits, and be always in
a condition to meet such calls, or run the hazard of being compelled to
suspend specie payments and be thereby discredited. The amount of specie
imported into the United States during the last fiscal year was
$24,121,289, of which there was retained in the country $22,276,170. Had
the former financial system prevailed and the public moneys been placed on
deposit in the banks, nearly the whole of this amount would have gone into
their vaults, not to be thrown into circulation by them, but to be withheld
from the hands of the people as a currency and made the basis of new and
enormous issues of bank paper. A large proportion of the specie imported
has been paid into the Treasury for public dues, and after having been to a
great extent recoined at the Mint has been paid out to the public creditors
and gone into circulation as a currency among the people. The amount of
gold and silver coin now in circulation in the country is larger than at
any former period.

The financial system established by the constitutional treasury has been
thus far eminently successful in its operations, and I recommend an
adherence to all its essential provisions, and especially to that vital
provision which wholly separates the Government from all connection with
banks and excludes bank paper from all revenue receipts.

In some of its details, not involving its general principles, the system is
defective and will require modification. These defects and such amendments
as are deemed important were set forth in the last annual report of the
Secretary of the Treasury. These amendments are again recommended to the
early and favorable consideration of Congress.

During the past year the coinage at the Mint and its branches has exceeded
$20,000,000. This has consisted chiefly in converting the coins of foreign
countries into American coin.

The largest amount of foreign coin imported has been received at New York,
and if a branch mint were established at that city all the foreign coin
received at that port could at once be converted into our own coin without
the expense, risk, and delay of transporting it to the Mint for that
purpose, and the amount recoined would be much larger.

Experience has proved that foreign coin, and especially foreign gold coin,
will not circulate extensively as a currency among the people. The
important measure of extending our specie circulation, both of gold and
silver, and of diffusing it among the people can only be effected by
converting such foreign coin into American coin. I repeat the
recommendation contained in my last annual message for the establishment of
a branch of the Mint of the United States at the city of New York.

All the public lands which had been surveyed and were ready for market have
been proclaimed for sale during the past year. The quantity offered and to
be offered for sale under proclamations issued since the 1st of January
last amounts to 9,138,531 acres. The prosperity of the Western States and
Territories in which these lands lie will be advanced by their speedy sale.
By withholding them from market their growth and increase of population
would be retarded, while thousands of our enterprising and meritorious
frontier population would be deprived of the opportunity of securing
freeholds for themselves and their families. But in addition to the general
considerations which rendered the early sale of these lands proper, it was
a leading object at this time to derive as large a sum as possible from
this source, and thus diminish by that amount the public loan rendered
necessary by the existence of a foreign war.

It is estimated that not less than 10,000,000 acres of the public lands
will be surveyed and be in a condition to be proclaimed for sale during the
year 1848.

In my last annual message I presented the reasons which in my judgment
rendered it proper to graduate and reduce the price of such of the public
lands as have remained unsold for long periods after they had been offered
for sale at public auction.

Many millions of acres of public lands lying within the limits of several
of the Western States have been offered in the market and been subject to
sale at private entry for more than twenty years and large quantities for
more than thirty years at the lowest price prescribed by the existing laws,
and it has been found that they will not command that price. They must
remain unsold and uncultivated for an indefinite period unless the price
demanded for them by the Government shall be reduced. No satisfactory
reason is perceived why they should be longer held at rates above their
real value. At the present period an additional reason exists for adopting
the measure recommended. When the country is engaged in a foreign war, and
we must necessarily resort to loans, it would seem to be the dictate of
wisdom that we should avail ourselves of all our resources and thus limit
the amount of the public indebtedness to the lowest possible sum.

I recommend that the existing laws on the subject of preemption rights be
amended and modified so as to operate prospectively and to embrace all who
may settle upon the public lands and make improvements upon them, before
they are surveyed as well as afterwards, in all cases where such
settlements may be made after the Indian title shall have been

If the right of preemption be thus extended, it will embrace a large and
meritorious class of our citizens. It will increase the number of small
freeholders upon our borders, who will be enabled thereby to educate their
children and otherwise improve their condition, while they will be found at
all times, as they have ever proved themselves to be in the hour of danger
to their country, among our hardiest and best volunteer soldiers, ever
ready to attend to their services in cases of emergencies and among the
last to leave the field as long as an enemy remains to be encountered. Such
a policy will also impress these patriotic pioneer emigrants with deeper
feelings of gratitude for the parental care of their Government, when they
find their dearest interests secured to them by the permanent laws of the
land and that they are no longer in danger of losing their homes and
hard-earned improvements by being brought into competition with a more
wealthy class of purchasers at the land sales. The attention of Congress
was invited at their last and the preceding session to the importance of
establishing a Territorial government over our possessions in Oregon, and
it is to be regretted that there was no legislation on the subject. Our
citizens who inhabit that distant region of country are still left without
the protection of our laws, or any regularly organized government. Before
the question of limits and boundaries of the Territory of Oregon was
definitely settled, from the necessity of their condition the inhabitants
had established a temporary government of their own. Besides the want of
legal authority for continuing such a government, it is wholly inadequate
to protect them in their rights of person and property, or to secure to
them the enjoyment of the privileges of other citizens, to which they are
entitled under the Constitution of the United States. They should have the
right of suffrage, be represented in a Territorial legislature and by a
Delegate in Congress, and possess all the rights and privileges which
citizens of other portions of the territories of the United States have
heretofore enjoyed or may now enjoy.

Our judicial system, revenue laws, laws regulating trade and intercourse
with the Indian tribes, and the protection of our laws generally should be
extended over them.

In addition to the inhabitants in that Territory who had previously
emigrated to it, large numbers of our citizens have followed them during
the present year, and it is not doubted that during the next and subsequent
years their numbers will be greatly increased.

Congress at its last session established post routes leading to Oregon, and
between different points within that Territory, and authorized the
establishment of post-offices at "Astoria and such other places on the
coasts of the Pacific within the territory of the United States as the
public interests may require." Post-offices have accordingly been
established, deputy postmasters appointed, and provision made for the
transportation of the mails.

The preservation of peace with the Indian tribes residing west of the Rocky
Mountains will render it proper that authority should be given by law for
the appointment of an adequate number of Indian agents to reside among

I recommend that a surveyor-general's office be established in that
Territory, and that the public lands be surveyed and brought into market at
an early period.

I recommend also that grants, upon liberal terms, of limited quantities of
the public lands be made to all citizens of the United States who have
emigrated, or may hereafter within a prescribed period emigrate, to Oregon
and settle upon them. These hardy and adventurous citizens, who have
encountered the dangers and privations of a long and toilsome journey, and
have at length found an abiding place for themselves and their families
upon the utmost verge of our western limits, should be secured in the homes
which they have improved by their labor. I refer you to the accompanying
report of the Secretary of War for a detailed account of the operations of
the various branches of the public service connected with the Department
under his charge. The duties devolving on this Department have been
unusually onerous and responsible during the past year, and have been
discharged with ability and success.

Pacific relations continue to exist with the various Indian tribes, and
most of them manifest a strong friendship for the United States. Some
depredations were committed during the past year upon our trains
transporting supplies for the Army, on the road between the western border
of Missouri and Santa Fe. These depredations, which are supposed to have
been committed by bands from the region of New Mexico, have been arrested
by the presence of a military force ordered out for that purpose. Some
outrages have been perpetrated by a portion of the northwestern bands upon
the weaker and comparatively defenseless neighboring tribes. Prompt
measures were taken to prevent such occurrences in future.

Between 1,000 and 2,000 Indians, belonging to several tribes, have been
removed during the year from the east of the Mississippi to the country
allotted to them west of that river as their permanent home, and
arrangements have been made for others to follow.

Since the treaty of 1846 with the Cherokees the feuds among them appear to
have subsided, and they have become more united and contented than they
have been for many years past. The commissioners appointed in pursuance of
the act of June 27, 1846, to settle claims arising under the treaty of
1835-36 with that tribe have executed their duties, and after a patient
investigation and a full and fair examination of all the cases brought
before them closed their labors in the month of July last. This is the
fourth board of commissioners which has been organized under this treaty.
Ample opportunity has been afforded to all those interested to bring
forward their claims. No doubt is entertained that impartial justice has
been done by the late board, and that all valid claims embraced by the
treaty have been considered and allowed. This result and the final
settlement to be made with this tribe under the treaty of 1846, which will
be completed and laid before you during your session, will adjust all
questions of controversy between them and the United States and produce a
state of relations with them simple, well defined, and satisfactory. Under
the discretionary authority conferred by the act of the 3d of March last
the annuities due to the various tribes have been paid during the present
year to the heads of families instead of to their chiefs or such persons as
they might designate, as required by the law previously existing. This mode
of payment has given general satisfaction to the great body of the Indians.
Justice has been done to them, and they are grateful to the Government for
it. A few chiefs and interested persons may object to this mode of payment,
but it is believed to be the only mode of preventing fraud and imposition
from being practiced upon the great body of common Indians, constituting a
majority of all the tribes. It is gratifying to perceive that a number of
the tribes have recently manifested an increased interest in the
establishment of schools among them, and are making rapid advances in
agriculture, some of them producing a sufficient quantity of food for their
support and in some cases a surplus to dispose of to their neighbors. The
comforts by which those who have received even a very limited education and
have engaged in agriculture are surrounded tend gradually to draw off their
less civilized brethren from the precarious means of subsistence by the
chase to habits of labor and civilization.

The accompanying report of the Secretary of the Navy presents a
satisfactory and gratifying account of the condition and operations of the
naval service during the past year. Our commerce has been pursued with
increased activity and with safety and success in every quarter of the
globe under the protection of our flag, which the Navy has caused to be
respected in the most distant seas.

In the Gulf of Mexico and in the Pacific the officers and men of our
squadrons have displayed distinguished gallantry and performed valuable
services. In the early stages of the war with Mexico her ports on both
coasts were blockaded, and more recently many of them have been captured
and held by the Navy. When acting in cooperation with the land forces, the
naval officers and men have performed gallant and distinguished services on
land as well as on water, and deserve the high commendation of the

While other maritime powers are adding to their navies large numbers of war
steamers, it was a wise policy on our part to make similar additions to our
Navy. The four war steamers authorized by the act of the 3d of March, 1847,
are in course of construction.

In addition to the four war steamers authorized by this act, the Secretary
of the Navy has, in pursuance of its provisions, entered into contracts for
the construction of five steamers to be employed in the transportation of
the United States mail "from New York to New Orleans, touching at
Charleston, Savannah, and Havana, and from Havana to Chagres;" for three
steamers to be employed in like manner from Panama to Oregon, "so as to
connect with the mail from Havana to Chagres across the Isthmus;" and for
five steamers to be employed in like manner from New York to Liverpool.
These steamers will be the property of the contractors, but are to be built
"under the superintendence and direction of a naval constructor in the
employ of the Navy Department, and to be so constructed as to render them
convertible at the least possible expense into war steamers of the first
class." A prescribed number of naval officers, as well as a post-office
agent, are to be on board of them, and authority is reserved to the Navy
Department at all times to "exercise control over said steamships" and "to
have the right to take them for the exclusive use and service of the United
States upon making proper compensation to the contractors therefor."

Whilst these steamships will be employed in transporting the mails of the
United States coastwise and to foreign countries upon an annual
compensation to be paid to the owners, they will be always ready, upon an
emergency requiring it, to be converted into war steamers; and the right
reserved to take them for public use will add greatly to the efficiency and
strength of this description of our naval force. To the steamers thus
authorized under contracts made by the Secretary of the Navy should be
added five other steamers authorized under contracts made in pursuance of
laws by the Postmaster-General, making an addition, in the whole, of
eighteen war steamers subject to be taken for public use. As further
contracts for the transportation of the mail to foreign countries may be
authorized by Congress, this number may be enlarged indefinitely.

The enlightened policy by which a rapid communication with the various
distant parts of the globe is established, by means of American built sea
steamers, would find an ample reward in the increase of our commerce and in
making our country and its resources more favorably known abroad; but the
national advantage is still greater--of having our naval officers made
familiar with steam navigation and of having the privilege of taking the
ships already equipped for immediate service at a moment's notice, and will
be cheaply purchased by the compensation to be paid for the transportation
of the mail in them over and above the postages received.

A just national pride, no less than our commercial interests, would Seem to
favor the policy of augmenting the number of this description of vessels.
They can be built in our country cheaper and in greater numbers than in any
other in the world.

I refer you to the accompanying report of the Postmaster-General for a
detailed and satisfactory account of the condition and operations of that
Department during the past year. It is gratifying to find that within so
short a period after the reduction in the rates of postage, and
notwithstanding the great increase of mail service, the revenue received
for the year will be sufficient to defray all the expenses, and that no
further aid will be required from the Treasury for that purpose.

The first of the American mail steamers authorized by the act of the 3d of
March, 1845, was completed and entered upon the service on the 1st of June
last, and is now on her third voyage to Bremen and other intermediate
ports. The other vessels authorized under the provisions of that act are in
course of construction, and will be put upon the line as soon as completed.
Contracts have also been made for the transportation of the mail in a
steamer from Charleston to Havana.

A reciprocal and satisfactory postal arrangement has been made by the
Postmaster-General with the authorities of Bremen, and no difficulty is
apprehended in making similar arrangements with all other powers with which
we may have communications by mail steamers, except with Great Britain.

On the arrival of the first of the American steamers bound to Bremen at
Southampton, in the month of June last, the British post-office directed
the collection of discriminating postages on all letters and other mailable
matter which she took out to Great Britain or which went into the British
post-office on their way to France and other parts of Europe. The effect of
the order of the British, post-office is to subject all letters and other
matter transported by American steamers to double postage, one postage
having been previously paid on them to the United States, while letters
transported in British steamers are subject to pay but a single postage.
This measure was adopted with the avowed object of protecting the British
line of mail steamers now running between Boston and Liverpool, and if
permitted to Continue must speedily put an end to the transportation of all
letters and other matter by American steamers and give to British steamers
a monopoly of the business. A just and fair reciprocity is all that we
desire, and on this we must insist. By our laws no such discrimination is
made against British steamers bringing letters into our ports, but all
letters arriving in the United States are subject to the same rate of
postage, whether brought in British or American vessels. I refer you to the
report of the Postmaster-General for a full statement of the facts of the
case and of the steps taken by him to correct this inequality. He has
exerted all the power conferred upon him by the existing laws.

The minister of the United States at London has brought the subject to the
attention of the British Government, and is now engaged in negotiations for
the purpose of adjusting reciprocal postal arrangements which shall be
equally just to both countries. Should he fail in concluding such
arrangements, and should Great Britain insist on enforcing the unequal and
unjust measure she has adopted, it will become necessary to confer
additional powers on the Postmaster-General in order to enable him to meet
the emergency and to put our own steamers on an equal footing with British
steamers engaged in transporting the mails between the two countries, and I
recommend that such powers be conferred. In view of the existing state of
our country, I trust it may not be inappropriate, in closing this
communication, to call to mind the words of wisdom and admonition of the
first and most illustrious of my predecessors in his Farewell Address to
his countrymen.

That greatest and best of men, who served his country so long and loved it
so much, foresaw with "serious concern" the danger to our Union of
"characterizing parties by geographical discriminations--Northern and
Southern, Atlantic and Western--whence designing men may endeavor to excite
a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views," and
warned his countrymen against it.

So deep and solemn was his conviction of the importance of the Union and of
preserving harmony between its different parts, that he declared to his
countrymen in that address:

It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense
value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness;
that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to
it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of
your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with
jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion
that it can in any event be abandoned, and indignantly frowning upon the
first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from
the rest or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various

After the lapse of half a century these admonitions of Washington fall upon
us with all the force of truth. It is difficult to estimate the "immense
value" of our glorious Union of confederated States, to which we are so
much indebted for our growth in population and wealth and for all that
constitutes us a great and a happy nation. How unimportant are all our
differences of opinion upon minor questions of public policy compared with
its preservation, and how scrupulously should we avoid all agitating topics
which may tend to distract and divide us into contending parties, separated
by geographical lines, whereby it may be weakened or endangered.

Invoking the blessing of the Almighty Ruler of the Universe upon your
deliberations, it will be my highest duty, no less than my sincere
pleasure, to cooperate with you in all measures which may tend to promote
the honor and enduring welfare of our common country.



State of the Union Address
James Polk
December 5, 1848

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

Under the benignant providence of Almighty God the representatives of the
States and of the people are again brought together to deliberate for the
public good. The gratitude of the nation to the Sovereign Arbiter of All
Human Events should be commensurate with the boundless blessings which we

Peace, plenty, and contentment reign throughout our borders, and our
beloved country presents a sublime moral spectacle to the world.

The troubled and unsettled condition of some of the principal European
powers has had a necessary tendency to check and embarrass trade and to
depress prices throughout all commercial nations, but notwithstanding these
causes, the United States, with their abundant products, have felt their
effects less severely than any other country, and all our great interests
are still prosperous and successful.

In reviewing the great events of the past year and contrasting the agitated
and disturbed state of other countries with our own tranquil and happy
condition, we may congratulate ourselves that we are the most favored
people on the face of the earth. While the people of other countries are
struggling to establish free institutions, under which man may govern
himself, we are in the actual enjoyment of them--a rich inheritance from
our fathers. While enlightened nations of Europe are convulsed and
distracted by civil war or intestine strife, we settle all our political
controversies by the peaceful exercise of the rights of freemen at the
ballot box.

The great republican maxim, so deeply engraven on the hearts of our people,
that the will of the majority, constitutionally expressed, shall prevail,
is our sure safeguard against force and violence. It is a subject of just
pride that our fame and character as a nation continue rapidly to advance
in the estimation of the civilized world.

To our wise and free institutions it is to be attributed that while other
nations have achieved glory at the price of the suffering, distress, and
impoverishment of their people, we have won our honorable position in the
midst of an uninterrupted prosperity and of an increasing individual
comfort and happiness.

I am happy to inform you that our relations with all nations are friendly
and pacific. Advantageous treaties of commerce have been concluded within
the last four years with New Granada, Peru, the Two Sicilies, Belgium,
Hanover, Oldenburg, and Mecklenburg-Schwerin. Pursuing our example, the
restrictive system of Great Britain, our principal foreign customer, has
been relaxed, a more liberal commercial policy has been adopted by other
enlightened nations, and our trade has been greatly enlarged and extended.
Our country stands higher in the respect of the world than at any former
period. To continue to occupy this proud position, it is only necessary to
preserve peace and faithfully adhere to the great and fundamental principle
of our foreign policy of noninterference in the domestic concerns of other
nations. We recognize in all nations the right which we enjoy ourselves, to
change and reform their political institutions according to their own will
and pleasure. Hence we do not look behind existing governments capable of
maintaining their own authority. We recognize all such actual governments,
not only from the dictates of true policy, but from a sacred regard for the
independence of nations. While this is our settled policy, it does not
follow that we can ever be indifferent spectators of the progress of
liberal principles. The Government and people of the United States hailed
with enthusiasm and delight the establishment of the French Republic, as we
now hail the efforts in progress to unite the States of Germany in a
confederation similar in many respects to our own Federal Union. If the
great and enlightened German States, occupying, as they do, a central and
commanding position in Europe, shall succeed in establishing such a
confederated government, securing at the same time to the citizens of each
State local governments adapted to the peculiar condition of each, with
unrestricted trade and intercourse with each other, it will be an important
era in the history of human events. Whilst it will consolidate and
strengthen the power of Germany, it must essentially promote the cause of
peace, commerce, civilization, and constitutional liberty throughout the

With all the Governments on this continent our relations, it is believed,
are now on a more friendly and satisfactory footing than they have ever
been at any former period.

Since the exchange of ratifications of the treaty of peace with Mexico our
intercourse with the Government of that Republic has been of the most
friendly character. The envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of
the United States to Mexico has been received and accredited, and a
diplomatic representative from Mexico of similar rank has been received and
accredited by this Government. The amicable relations between the two
countries, which had been suspended, have been happily restored, and are
destined, I trust, to be long preserved. The two Republics, both situated
on this continent, and with coterminous territories, have every motive of
sympathy and of interest to bind them together in perpetual amity.

This gratifying condition of our foreign relations renders it unnecessary
for me to call your attention more specifically to them.

It has been my constant aim and desire to cultivate peace and commerce with
all nations. Tranquility at home and peaceful relations abroad constitute
the true permanent policy of our country. War, the scourge of nations,
sometimes becomes inevitable, but is always to be avoided when it can be
done consistently with the rights and honor of a nation.

One of the most important results of the war into which we were recently
forced with a neighboring nation is the demonstration it has afforded of
the military strength of our country. Before the late war with Mexico
European and other foreign powers entertained imperfect and erroneous views
of our physical strength as a nation and of our ability to prosecute war,
and especially a war waged out of out own country. They saw that our
standing Army on the peace establishment did not exceed 10,000 men.
Accustomed themselves to maintain in peace large standing armies for the
protection of thrones against their own subjects, as well as against
foreign enemies, they had not conceived that it was possible for a nation
without such an army, well disciplined and of long service, to wage war
successfully. They held in low repute our militia, and were far from
regarding them as an effective force, unless it might be for temporary
defensive operations when invaded on our own soil. The events of the late
war with Mexico have not only undeceived them, but have removed erroneous
impressions which prevailed to some extent even among a portion of our own
countrymen. That war has demonstrated that upon the breaking out of
hostilities not anticipated, and for which no previous preparation had been
made, a volunteer army of citizen soldiers equal to veteran troops, and in
numbers equal to any emergency, can in a short period be brought into the
field. Unlike what would have occurred in any other country, we were under
no necessity of resorting to drafts or conscriptions. On the contrary, such
was the number of volunteers who patriotically tendered their services that
the chief difficulty was in making selections and determining who should be
disappointed and compelled to remain at home. Our citizen soldiers are
unlike those drawn from the population of any other country. They are
composed indiscriminately of all professions and pursuits--of farmers,
lawyers, physicians, merchants, manufacturers, mechanics, and laborers--and
this not only among the officers, but the private soldiers in the ranks.
Our citizen soldiers are unlike those of any other country in other
respects. They are armed, and have been accustomed from their youth up to
handle and use firearms, and a large proportion of them, especially in the
Western and more newly settled States, are expert marksmen. They are men
who have a reputation to maintain at home by their good conduct in the
field. They are intelligent, and there is an individuality of character
which is found in the ranks of no other army. In battle each private man,
as well as every officer, rights not only for his country, but for glory
and distinction among his fellow-citizens when he shall return to civil

The war with Mexico has demonstrated not only the ability of the Government
to organize a numerous army upon a sudden call, but also to provide it with
all the munitions and necessary supplies with dispatch, convenience, and
ease, and to direct its operations with efficiency. The strength of our
institutions has not only been displayed in the valor and skill of our
troops engaged in active service in the field, but in the organization of
those executive branches which were charged with the general direction and
conduct of the war. While too great praise can not be bestowed upon the
officers and men who fought our battles, it would be unjust to withhold
from those officers necessarily stationed at home, who were charged with
the duty of furnishing the Army in proper time and at proper places with
all the munitions of war and other supplies so necessary to make it
efficient, the commendation to which they are entitled. The credit due to
this class of our officers is the greater when it is considered that no
army in ancient or modern times was even better appointed or provided than
our Army in Mexico. Operating in an enemy's country, removed 2,000 miles
from the seat of the Federal Government, its different corps spread over a
vast extent of territory, hundreds and even thousands of miles apart from
each other, nothing short of the untiring vigilance and extraordinary
energy of these officers could have enabled them to provide the Army at all
points and in proper season with all that was required for the most
efficient service.

It is but an act of justice to declare that the officers in charge of the
several executive bureaus, all under the immediate eye and supervision of
the Secretary of War, performed their respective duties with ability,
energy, and efficiency. They have reaped less of the glory of the war, not
having been personally exposed to its perils in battle, than their
companions in arms; but without their forecast, efficient aid, and
cooperation those in the field would not have been provided with the ample
means they possessed of achieving for themselves and their country the
unfading honors which they have won for both.

When all these facts are considered, it may cease to be a matter of so much
amazement abroad how it happened that our noble Army in Mexico, regulars
and volunteers, were victorious upon every battlefield, however fearful the
odds against them.

The war with Mexico has thus fully developed the capacity of republican
governments to prosecute successfully a just and necessary foreign war with
all the vigor usually attributed to more arbitrary forms of government. It
has been usual for writers on public law to impute to republics a want of
that unity, concentration of purpose, and vigor of execution which are
generally admitted to belong to the monarchical and aristocratic forms; and
this feature of popular government has been supposed to display itself more
particularly in the conduct of a war carried on in an enemy's territory.
The war with Great Britain in 1812 was to a great extent confined within
our own limits, and shed but little light on this subject; but the war
which we have just closed by an honorable peace evinces beyond all doubt
that a popular representative government is equal to any emergency which is
likely to arise in the affairs of a nation.

The war with Mexico has developed most strikingly and conspicuously another
feature in our institutions. It is that without cost to the Government or
danger to our liberties we have in the bosom of our society of freemen,
available in a just and necessary war, virtually a standing army of
2,000,000 armed citizen soldiers, such as fought the battles of Mexico. But
our military strength does not consist alone in our capacity for extended
and successful operations on land. The Navy is an important arm of the
national defense. If the services of the Navy were not so brilliant as
those of the Army in the late war with Mexico, it was because they had no
enemy to meet on their own element. While the Army had opportunity of
performing more conspicuous service, the Navy largely participated in the
conduct of the war. Both branches of the service performed their whole duty
to the country. For the able and gallant services of the officers and men
of the Navy, acting independently as well as in cooperation with our
troops, in the conquest of the Californias, the capture of Vera Cruz, and
the seizure and occupation of other important positions on the Gulf and
Pacific coasts, the highest praise is due. Their vigilance, energy, and
skill rendered the most effective service in excluding munitions of war and
other supplies from the enemy, while they secured a safe entrance for
abundant supplies for our own Army. Our extended commerce was nowhere
interrupted, and for this immunity from the evils of war the country is
indebted to the Navy.

High praise is due to the officers of the several executive bureaus,
navy-yards, and stations connected with the service, all under the
immediate direction of the Secretary of the Navy, for the industry,
foresight, and energy with which everything was directed and furnished to
give efficiency to that branch of the service. The same vigilance existed
in directing the operations of the Navy as of the Army. There was concert
of action and of purpose between the heads of the two arms of the service.
By the orders which were from time to time issued, our vessels of war on
the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico were stationed in proper time and in
proper positions to cooperate efficiently with the Army. By this means
their combined power was brought to bear successfully on the enemy.

The great results which have been developed and brought to light by this
war will be of immeasurable importance in the future progress of our
country. They will tend powerfully to preserve us from foreign collisions,
and to enable us to pursue uninterruptedly our cherished policy of "peace
with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

Occupying, as we do, a more commanding position among nations than at any
former period, our duties and our responsibilities to ourselves and to
posterity are correspondingly increased. This will be the more obvious when
we consider the vast additions which have been recently made to our
territorial possessions and their great importance and value.

Within less than four years the annexation of Texas to the Union has been
consummated; all conflicting title to the Oregon Territory south of the
forty-ninth degree of north latitude, being all that was insisted on by any
of my predecessors, has been adjusted, and New Mexico and Upper California
have been acquired by treaty. The area of these several Territories,
according to a report carefully prepared by the Commissioner of the General
Land Office from the most authentic information in his possession, and
which is herewith transmitted, contains 1,193,061 square miles, or
763,559,040 acres; while the area of the remaining twenty-nine States and
the territory not yet organized into States east of the Rocky Mountains
contains 2,059,513 square miles, or 1,318,126,058 acres. These estimates
show that the territories recently acquired, and over which our exclusive
jurisdiction and dominion have been extended, constitute a country more
than half as large as all that which was held by the United States before
their acquisition. If Oregon be excluded from the estimate, there will
still remain within the limits of Texas, New Mexico, and California 851,598
square miles, or 545,012,720 acres, being an addition equal to more than
one-third of all the territory owned by the United States before their
acquisition, and, including Oregon, nearly as great an extent of territory
as the whole of Europe, Russia only excepted. The Mississippi, so lately
the frontier of our country, is now only its center. With the addition of
the late acquisitions, the United States are now estimated to be nearly as
large as the whole of Europe. It is estimated by the Superintendent of the
Coast Survey in the accompanying report that the extent of the seacoast of
Texas on the Gulf of Mexico is upward of 400 miles; of the coast of Upper
California on the Pacific, of 970 miles, and of Oregon, including the
Straits of Fuca, of 650 miles, making the whole extent of seacoast on the
Pacific 1,620 miles and the whole extent on both the Pacific and the Gulf
of Mexico 2,020 miles. The length of the coast on the Atlantic from the
northern limits of the United States around the capes of Florida to the
Sabine, on the eastern boundary of Texas, is estimated to be 3,100 miles;
so that the addition of seacoast, including Oregon, is very nearly
two-thirds as great as all we possessed before, and, excluding Oregon, is
an addition of 1,370 miles, being nearly equal to one-half of the extent of
coast which we possessed before these acquisitions. We have now three great
maritime fronts--on the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the
Pacific--making in the whole an extent of seacoast exceeding 5,000 miles.
This is the extent of the seacoast of the United States, not including
bays, sounds, and small irregularities of the main shore and of the sea
islands. If these be included, the length of the shore line of coast, as
estimated by the Superintendent of the Coast Survey in his report, would be
33,063 miles.

It would be difficult to calculate the value of these immense additions to
our territorial possessions. Texas, lying contiguous to the western
boundary of Louisiana, embracing within its limits a part of the navigable
tributary waters of the Mississippi and an extensive seacoast, could not
long have remained in the hands of a foreign power without endangering the
peace of our southwestern frontier. Her products in the vicinity of the
tributaries of the Mississippi must have sought a market through these
streams, running into and through our territory, and the danger of
irritation and collision of interests between Texas as a foreign state and
ourselves would have been imminent, while the embarrassments in the
commercial intercourse between them must have been constant and
unavoidable. Had Texas fallen into the hands or under the influence and
control of a strong maritime or military foreign power, as she might have
done, these dangers would have been still greater. They have been avoided
by her voluntary and peaceful annexation to the United States. Texas, from
her position, was a natural and almost indispensable part of our
territories. Fortunately, she has been restored to our country, and now
constitutes one of the States of our Confederacy, "upon an equal footing
with the original States." The salubrity of climate, the fertility of soil,
peculiarly adapted to the production of some of our most valuable staple
commodities, and her commercial advantages must soon make her one of our
most populous States.

New Mexico, though situated in the interior and without a seacoast, is
known to contain much fertile land, to abound in rich mines of the precious
metals, and to be capable of sustaining a large population. From its
position it is the intermediate and connecting territory between our
settlements and our possessions in Texas and those on the Pacific Coast.

Upper California, irrespective of the vast mineral wealth recently
developed there, holds at this day, in point of value and importance, to
the rest of the Union the same relation that Louisiana did when that fine
territory was acquired from France forty-five years ago. Extending nearly
ten degrees of latitude along the Pacific, and embracing the only safe and
commodious harbors on that coast for many hundred miles, with a temperate
climate and an extensive interior of fertile lands, it is scarcely possible
to estimate its wealth until it shall be brought under the government of
our laws and its resources fully developed. From its position it must
command the rich commerce of China, of Asia, of the islands of the Pacific,
of western Mexico, of Central America, the South American States, and of
the Russian possessions bordering on that ocean. A great emporium will
doubtless speedily arise on the Californian coast which may be destined to
rival in importance New Orleans itself. The depot of the vast commerce
which must exist on the Pacific will probably be at some point on the Bay
of San Francisco, and will occupy the same relation to the whole western
coast of that ocean as New Orleans does to the valley of the Mississippi
and the Gulf of Mexico. To this depot our numerous whale ships will resort
with their cargoes to trade, refit, and obtain supplies. This of itself
will largely contribute to build up a city, which would soon become the
center of a great and rapidly increasing commerce. Situated on a safe
harbor, sufficiently capacious for all the navies as well as the marine of
the world, and convenient to excellent timber for shipbuilding, owned by
the United States, it must become our great Western naval depot.

It was known that mines of the precious metals existed to a considerable
extent in California at the time of its acquisition. Recent discoveries
render it probable that these mines are more extensive and valuable than
was anticipated. The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory
are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief
were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the
public service who have visited the mineral district and derived the facts
which they detail from personal observation. Reluctant to credit the
reports in general circulation as to the quantity of gold, the officer
commanding our forces in California visited the mineral district in July
last for the purpose of obtaining accurate information on the subject. His
report to the War Department of the result of his examination and the facts
obtained on the spot is herewith laid before Congress. When he visited the
country there were about 4,000 persons engaged in collecting gold. There is
every reason to believe that the number of persons so employed has since
been augmented. The explorations already made warrant the belief that the
supply is very large and that gold is found at various places in an
extensive district of country.

Information received from officers of the Navy and other sources, though
not so full and minute, confirms the accounts of the commander of our
military force in California. It appears also from these reports that mines
of quicksilver are found in the vicinity of the gold region. One of them is
now being worked, and is believed to be among the most productive in the

The effects produced by the discovery of these rich mineral deposits and
the success which has attended the labors of those who have resorted to
them have produced a surprising change in the state of affairs in
California. Labor commands a most exorbitant price, and all other pursuits
but that of searching for the precious metals are abandoned. Nearly the
whole of the male population of the country have gone to the gold
districts. Ships arriving on the coast are deserted by their crews and
their voyages suspended for want of sailors. Our commanding officer there
entertains apprehensions that soldiers can not be kept in the public
service without a large increase of pay. Desertions in his command have
become frequent, and he recommends that those who shall withstand the
strong temptation and remain faithful should be rewarded.

This abundance of gold and the all-engrossing pursuit of it have already
caused in California an unprecedented rise in the price of all the
necessaries of life.

That we may the more speedily and fully avail ourselves of the undeveloped
wealth of these mines, it is deemed of vast importance that a branch of the
Mint of the United States be authorized to be established at your present
session in California. Among other signal advantages which would result
from such an establishment would be that of raising the gold to its par
value in that territory. A branch mint of the United States at the great
commercial depot on the west coast would convert into our own coin not only
the gold derived from our own rich mines, but also the bullion and specie
which our commerce may bring from the whole west coast of Central and South
America. The west coast of America and the adjacent interior embrace the
richest and best mines of Mexico, New Granada, Central America, Chili, and
Peru. The bullion and specie drawn from these countries, and especially
from those of western Mexico and Peru, to an amount in value of many
millions of dollars, are now annually diverted and carried by the ships of
Great Britain to her own ports, to be recoined or used to sustain her
national bank, and thus contribute to increase her ability to command so
much of the commerce of the world. If a branch mint be established at the
great commercial point upon that coast, a vast amount of bullion and specie
would flow thither to be recoined, and pass thence to New Orleans, New
York, and other Atlantic cities. The amount of our constitutional currency
at home would be greatly increased, while its circulation abroad would be
promoted. It is well known to our merchants trading to China and the west
coast of America that great inconvenience and loss are experienced from the
fact that our coins are not current at their par value in those countries.

The powers of Europe, far removed from the west coast of America by the
Atlantic Ocean, which intervenes, and by a tedious and dangerous navigation
around the southern cape of the continent of America, can never
successfully compete with the United States in the rich and extensive
commerce which is opened to us at so much less cost by the acquisition of

The vast importance and commercial advantages of California have heretofore
remained undeveloped by the Government of the country of which it
constituted a part. Now that this fine province is a part of our country,
all the States of the Union, some more immediately and directly than
others, are deeply interested in the speedy development of its wealth and
resources. No section of our country is more interested or will be more
benefited than the commercial, navigating, and manufacturing interests of
the Eastern States. Our planting and farming interests in every part of the
Union will Be greatly benefited by it. As our commerce and navigation are
enlarged and extended, our exports of agricultural products and of
manufactures will be increased, and in the new markets thus opened they can
not fail to command remunerating and profitable prices.

The acquisition of California and New Mexico, the settlement of the Oregon
boundary, and the annexation of Texas, extending to the Rio Grande, are
results which, combined, are of greater consequence and will add more to
the strength and wealth of the nation than any which have preceded them
since the adoption of the Constitution.

But to effect these great results not only California, but New Mexico, must
be brought under the control of regularly organized governments. The
existing condition of California and of that part of New Mexico lying west
of the Rio Grande and without the limits of Texas imperiously demands that
Congress should at its present session organize Territorial governments
over them.

Upon the exchange of ratifications of the treaty of peace with Mexico, on
the 30th of May last, the temporary governments which had been established
over New Mexico and California by our military and naval commanders by
virtue of the rights of war ceased to derive any obligatory force from that
source of authority, and having been ceded to the United States, all
government and control over them under the authority of Mexico had ceased
to exist. Impressed with the necessity of establishing Territorial
governments over them, I recommended the subject to the favorable
consideration of Congress in my message communicating the ratified treaty
of peace, on the 6th of July last, and invoked their action at that
session. Congress adjourned without making any provision for their
government. The inhabitants by the transfer of their country had become
entitled to the benefit of our laws and Constitution, and yet were left
without any regularly organized government. Since that time the very
limited power possessed by the Executive has been exercised to preserve and
protect them from the inevitable consequences of a state of anarchy. The
only government which remained was that established by the military
authority during the war. Regarding this to be a de facto government, and
that by the presumed consent of the inhabitants it might be continued
temporarily, they were advised to conform and submit to it for the short
intervening period before Congress would again assemble and could legislate
on the subject. The views entertained by the Executive on this point are
contained in a communication of the Secretary of State dated the 7th of
October last, which was forwarded for publication to California and New
Mexico, a copy of which is herewith transmitted. The small military force
of the Regular Army which was serving within the limits of the acquired
territories at the close of the war was retained in them, and additional
forces have been ordered there for the protection of the inhabitants and to
preserve and secure the rights and interests of the United States.

No revenue has been or could be collected at the ports in California,
because Congress failed to authorize the establishment of custom-houses or
the appointment of officers for that purpose.

The Secretary of the Treasury, by a circular letter addressed to collectors
of the customs on the 7th day of October last, a copy of which is herewith
transmitted, exercised all the power with which he was invested by law.

In pursuance of the act of the 14th of August last, extending the benefit
of our post-office laws to the people of California, the Postmaster-General
has appointed two agents, who have proceeded, the one to California and the
other to Oregon, with authority to make the necessary arrangements for
carrying its provisions into effect.

The monthly line of mail steamers from Panama to Astoria has been required
to "stop and deliver and take mails at San Diego, Monterey, and San
Francisco." These mail steamers, connected by the Isthmus of Panama with
the line of mail steamers on the Atlantic between New York and Chagres,
will establish a regular mail communication with California.

It is our solemn duty to provide with the least practicable delay for New
Mexico and California regularly organized Territorial governments. The
causes of the failure to do this at the last session of Congress are well
known and deeply to be regretted. With the opening prospects of increased
prosperity and national greatness which the acquisition of these rich and
extensive territorial possessions affords, how irrational it would be to
forego or to reject these advantages by the agitation of a domestic
question which is coeval with the existence of our Government itself, and
to endanger by internal strifes, geographical divisions, and heated
contests for political power, or for any other cause, the harmony of the
glorious Union of our confederated States--that Union which binds us
together as one people, and which for sixty years has been our shield and
protection against every danger. In the eyes of the world and of posterity
how trivial and insignificant will be all our internal divisions and
struggles compared with the preservation of this Union of the States in all
its vigor and with all its countless blessings! No patriot would foment and
excite geographical and sectional divisions. No lover of his country would
deliberately calculate the value of the Union. Future generations would
look in amazement upon the folly of such a course. Other nations at the
present day would look upon it with astonishment, and such of them as
desire to maintain and perpetuate thrones and monarchical or aristocratical
principles will view it with exultation and delight, because in it they
will see the elements of faction, which they hope must ultimately overturn
our system. Ours is the great example of a prosperous and free
self-governed republic, commanding the admiration and the imitation of all
the lovers of freedom throughout the world. How solemn, therefore, is the
duty, how impressive the call upon us and upon all parts of our country, to
cultivate a patriotic spirit of harmony, of good-fellowship, of compromise
and mutual concession, in the administration of the incomparable system of
government formed by our fathers in the midst of almost insuperable
difficulties, and transmitted to us with the injunction that we should
enjoy its blessings and hand it down unimpaired to those who may come after

In view of the high and responsible duties which we owe to ourselves and to
mankind, I trust you may be able at your present session to approach the
adjustment of the only domestic question which seriously threatens, or
probably ever can threaten, to disturb the harmony and successful
operations of our system.

The immensely valuable possessions of New Mexico and California are already
inhabited by a considerable population. Attracted by their great fertility,
their mineral wealth, their commercial advantages, and the salubrity of the
climate, emigrants from the older States in great numbers are already
preparing to seek new homes in these inviting regions. Shall the
dissimilarity of the domestic institutions in the different States prevent
us from providing for them suitable governments? These institutions existed
at the adoption of the Constitution, but the obstacles which they
interposed were overcome by that spirit of compromise which is now invoked.
In a conflict of opinions or of interests, real or imaginary, between
different sections of our country, neither can justly demand all which it
might desire to obtain. Each, in the true spirit of our institutions,
should concede something to the other.

Our gallant forces in the Mexican war, by whose patriotism and unparalleled
deeds of arms we obtained these possessions as an indemnity for our just
demands against Mexico, were composed of citizens who belonged to no one
State or section of our Union. They were men from slaveholding and
nonslaveholding States, from the North and the South, from the East and the
West. They were all companions in arms and fellow-citizens of the same
common country, engaged in the same common cause. When prosecuting that war
they were brethren and friends, and shared alike with each other common
toils, dangers, and sufferings. Now, when their work is ended, when peace
is restored, and they return again to their homes, put off the habiliments
of war, take their places in society, and resume their pursuits in civil
life, surely a spirit of harmony and concession and of equal regard for the
rights of all and of all sections of the Union ought to prevail in
providing governments for the acquired territories--the fruits of their
common service. The whole people of the United States, and of every State,
contributed to defray the expenses of that war, and it would not be just
for any one section to exclude another from all participation in the
acquired territory. This would not be in consonance with the just system of
government which the framers of the Constitution adopted.

The question is believed to be rather abstract than practical whether
slavery ever can or would exist in any portion of the acquired territory
even if it were left to the option of the slaveholding States themselves.
From the nature of the climate and productions in much the larger portion
of it it is certain it could never exist, and in the remainder the
probabilities are it would not. But however this may be, the question,
involving, as it does, a principle of equality of rights of the separate
and several States as equal copartners in the Confederacy, should not be

In organizing governments over these territories no duty imposed on
Congress by the Constitution requires that they should legislate on the
subject of slavery, while their power to do so is not only seriously
questioned, but denied by many of the soundest expounders of that
instrument. Whether Congress shall legislate or not, the people of the
acquired territories, when assembled in convention to form State
constitutions, will possess the sole and exclusive power to determine for
themselves whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their limits. If
Congress shall abstain from interfering with the question, the people of
these territories will be left free to adjust it as they may think proper
when they apply for admission as States into the Union. No enactment of
Congress could restrain the people of any of the sovereign States of the
Union, old or new, North or South, slaveholding or nonslaveholding, from
determining the character of their own domestic institutions as they may
deem wise and proper. Any and all the States possess this right, and
Congress can not deprive them of it. The people of Georgia might if they
chose so alter their constitution as to abolish slavery within its limits,
and the people of Vermont might so alter their constitution as to admit
slavery within its limits. Both States would possess the right, though, as
all know, it is not probable that either would exert it.

It is fortunate for the peace and harmony of the Union that this question
is in its nature temporary and can only continue for the brief period which
will intervene before California and New Mexico may be admitted as States
into the Union. From the tide of population now flowing into them it is
highly probable that this will soon occur.

Considering the several States and the citizens of the several States as
equals and entitled to equal rights under the Constitution, if this were an
original question it might well be insisted on that the principle of
noninterference is the true doctrine and that Congress could not, in the
absence of any express grant of power, interfere with their relative
rights. Upon a great emergency, however, and under menacing dangers to the
Union, the Missouri compromise line in respect to slavery was adopted. The
same line was extended farther west in the acquisition of Texas. After an
acquiescence of nearly thirty years in the principle of compromise
recognized and established by these acts, and to avoid the danger to the
Union which might follow if it were now disregarded, I have heretofore
expressed the opinion that that line of compromise should be extended on
the parallel of 36° 30' from the western boundary of Texas, where it
now terminates, to the Pacific Ocean. This is the middle ground of
compromise, upon which the different sections of the Union may meet, as
they have heretofore met. If this be done, it is confidently believed a
large majority of the people of every section of the country, however
widely their abstract opinions on the subject of slavery may differ, would
cheerfully and patriotically acquiesce in it, and peace and harmony would
again fill our borders.

The restriction north of the line was only yielded to in the case of
Missouri and Texas upon a principle of compromise, made necessary for the
sake of preserving the harmony and possibly the existence of the Union.

It was upon these considerations that at the close of your last session I
gave my sanction to the principle of the Missouri compromise line by
approving and signing the bill to establish "the Territorial government of
Oregon." From a sincere desire to preserve the harmony of the Union, and in
deference for the acts of my predecessors, I felt constrained to yield my
acquiescence to the extent to which they had gone in compromising this
delicate and dangerous question. But if Congress shall now reverse the
decision by which the Missouri compromise was effected, and shall propose
to extend the restriction over the whole territory, south as well as north
of the parallel of 36° 30', it will cease to be a compromise, and must
be regarded as an original question.

If Congress, instead of observing the course of noninterference, leaving
the adoption of their own domestic institutions to the people who may
inhabit these territories, or if, instead of extending the Missouri
compromise line to the Pacific, shall prefer to submit the legal and
constitutional questions which may arise to the decision of the judicial
tribunals, as was proposed in a bill which passed the Senate at your last
session, an adjustment may be effected in this mode. If the whole subject
be referred to the judiciary, all parts of the Union should cheerfully
acquiesce in the final decision of the tribunal created by the Constitution
for the settlement of all questions which may arise under the Constitution,
treaties, and laws of the United States.

Congress is earnestly invoked, for the sake of the Union, its harmony, and
our continued prosperity as a nation, to adjust at its present session
this, the only dangerous question which lies in our path, if not in some
one of the modes suggested, in some other which may be satisfactory.

In anticipation of the establishment of regular governments over the
acquired territories, a joint commission of officers of the Army and Navy
has been ordered to proceed to the coast of California and Oregon for the
purpose of making reconnoissances and a report as to the proper sites for
the erection of fortifications or other defensive works on land and of
suitable situations for naval stations. The information which may be
expected from a scientific and skillful examination of the whole face of
the coast will be eminently useful to Congress when they come to consider
the propriety of making appropriations for these great national objects.
Proper defenses on land will be necessary for the security and protection
of our possessions, and the establishment of navy-yards and a dock for the
repair and construction of vessels will be important alike to our Navy and
commercial marine. Without such establishments every vessel, whether of the
Navy or of the merchant service, requiring repair must at great expense
come round Cape Horn to one of our Atlantic yards for that purpose. With
such establishments vessels, it is believed may be built or repaired as
cheaply in California as upon the Atlantic coast. They would give
employment to many of our enterprising shipbuilders and mechanics and
greatly facilitate and enlarge our commerce in the Pacific.

As it is ascertained that mines of gold, silver, copper, and quicksilver
exist in New Mexico and California, and that nearly all the lands where
they are found belong to the United States, it is deemed important to the
public interest that provision be made for a geological and mineralogical
examination of these regions. Measures should be adopted to preserve the
mineral lands, especially such as contain the precious metals, for the use
of the United States, or, if brought into market, to separate them from the
farming lands and dispose of them in such manner as to secure a large
return of money to the Treasury and at the same time to lead to the
development of their wealth by individual proprietors and purchasers. To do
this it will be necessary to provide for an immediate survey and location
of the lots. If Congress should deem it proper to dispose of the mineral
lands, they should be sold in small quantities and at a fixed minimum

I recommend that surveyors-general's offices be authorized to be
established in New Mexico and California and provision made for surveying
and bringing the public lands into market at the earliest practicable
period. In disposing of these lands, I recommend that the right of
preemption be secured and liberal grants made to the early emigrants who
have settled or may settle upon them.

It will be important to extend our revenue laws over these territories, and
especially over California, at an early period. There is already a
considerable commerce with California, and until ports of entry shall be
established and collectors appointed no revenue can be received.

If these and other necessary and proper measures be adopted for the
development of the wealth and resources of New Mexico and California and
regular Territorial governments be established over them, such will
probably be the rapid enlargement of our commerce and navigation and such
the addition to the national wealth that the present generation may live to
witness the controlling commercial and monetary power of the world
transferred from London and other European emporiums to the city of New

The apprehensions which were entertained by some of our statesmen in the
earlier periods of the Government that our system was incapable of
operating with sufficient energy and success over largely extended
territorial limits, and that if this were attempted it would fall to pieces
by its own weakness, have been dissipated by our experience. By the
division of power between the States and Federal Government the latter is
found to operate with as much energy in the extremes as in the center. It
is as efficient in the remotest of the thirty States which now compose the
Union as it was in the thirteen States which formed our Constitution.
Indeed, it may well be doubted whether if our present population had been
confined within the limits of the original thirteen States the tendencies
to centralization and consolidation would not have been such as to have
encroached upon the essential reserved rights of the States, and thus to
have made the Federal Government a widely different one, practically, from
what it is in theory and was intended to be by its framers. So far from
entertaining apprehensions of the safety of our system by the extension of
our territory, the belief is confidently entertained that each new State
gives strength and an additional guaranty for the preservation of the Union

In pursuance of the provisions of the thirteenth article of the treaty of
peace, friendship, limits, and settlement with the Republic of Mexico, and
of the act of July 29, 1848, claims of our citizens, which had been
"already liquidated and decided, against the Mexican Republic" amounting,
with the interest thereon, to $2,023,832.51 have been liquidated and paid.
There remain to be paid of these claims $74,192.26.

Congress at its last session having made no provision for executing the
fifteenth article of the treaty, by which the United States assume to make
satisfaction for the "unliquidated claims" of our citizens against Mexico
to "an amount not exceeding three and a quarter millions of dollars," the
subject is again recommended to your favorable consideration.

The exchange of ratifications of the treaty with Mexico took place on the
30th of May, 1848. Within one year after that time the commissioner and
surveyor which each Government stipulates to appoint are required to meet
"at the port of San Diego and proceed to run and mark the said boundary in
its whole course to the mouth of the Rio Bravo del Norte." It will be seen
from this provision that the period within which a commissioner and
surveyor of the respective Governments are to meet at San Diego will expire
on the 30th of May, 1849. Congress at the close of its last session made an
appropriation for "the expenses of running and marking the boundary line"
between the two countries, but did not fix the amount of salary which
should be paid to the commissioner and surveyor to be appointed on the part
of the United States. It is desirable that the amount of compensation which
they shall receive should be prescribed by law, and not left, as at
present, to Executive discretion.

Measures were adopted at the earliest practicable period to organize the
"Territorial government of Oregon," as authorized by the act of the 14th of
August last. The governor and marshal of the Territory, accompanied by a
small military escort, left the frontier of Missouri in September last, and
took the southern route, by the way of Santa Fe and the river Gila, to
California, with the intention of proceeding thence in one of our vessels
of war to their destination. The governor was fully advised of the great
importance of his early arrival in the country, and it is confidently
believed he may reach Oregon in the latter part of the present month or
early in the next. The other officers for the Territory have proceeded by

In the month of May last I communicated information to Congress that an
Indian war had broken out in Oregon, and recommended that authority be
given to raise an adequate number of volunteers to proceed without delay to
the assistance of our fellow-citizens in that Territory. The authority to
raise such a force not having been granted by Congress, as soon as their
services could be dispensed with in Mexico orders were issued to the
regiment of mounted riflemen to proceed to Jefferson Barracks, in Missouri,
and to prepare to march to Oregon as soon as the necessary provision could
be made. Shortly before it was ready to march it was arrested by the
provision of the act passed by Congress on the last day of the last
session, which directed that all the noncommissioned officers, musicians,
and privates of that regiment who had been in service in Mexico should,
upon their application, be entitled to be discharged. The effect of this
provision was to disband the rank and file of the regiment, and before
their places could be filled by recruits the season had so far advanced
that it was impracticable for it to proceed until the opening of the next

In the month of October last the accompanying communication was received
from the governor of the temporary government of Oregon, giving information
of the continuance of the Indian disturbances and of the destitution and
defenseless condition of the inhabitants. Orders were immediately
transmitted to the commander of our squadron in the Pacific to dispatch to
their assistance a part of the naval forces on that station, to furnish
them with arms and ammunition, and to continue to give them such aid and
protection as the Navy could afford until the Army could reach the

It is the policy of humanity, and one which has always been pursued by the
United States, to cultivate the good will of the aboriginal tribes of this
continent and to restrain them from making war and indulging in excesses by
mild means rather than by force. That this could have been done with the
tribes in Oregon had that Territory been brought under the government of
our laws at an earlier period, and had other suitable measures been adopted
by Congress, such as now exist in our intercourse with the other Indian
tribes within our limits, can not be doubted. Indeed, the immediate and
only cause of the existing hostility of the Indians of Oregon is
represented to have been the long delay of the United States in making to
them some trifling compensation, in such articles as they wanted, for the
country now occupied by our emigrants, which the Indians claimed and over
which they formerly roamed. This compensation had been promised to them by
the temporary government established in Oregon, but its fulfillment had
been postponed from time to time for nearly two years, whilst those who
made it had been anxiously waiting for Congress to establish a Territorial
government over the country. The Indians became at length distrustful of
their good faith and sought redress by plunder and massacre, which finally
led to the present difficulties. A few thousand dollars in suitable
presents, as a compensation for the country which had been taken possession
of by our citizens, would have satisfied the Indians and have prevented the
war. A small amount properly distributed, it is confidently believed, would
soon restore quiet. In this Indian war our fellow-citizens of Oregon have
been compelled to take the field in their own defense, have performed
valuable military services, and been subjected to expenses which have
fallen heavily upon them. Justice demands that provision should be made by
Congress to compensate them for their services and to refund to them the
necessary expenses which they have incurred.

I repeat the recommendation heretofore made to Congress, that provision be
made for the appointment of a suitable number of Indian agents to reside
among the tribes of Oregon, and that a small sum be appropriated to enable
these agents to cultivate friendly relations with them. If this be done,
the presence of a small military force will be all that is necessary to
keep them in check and preserve peace. I recommend that similar provisions
be made as regards the tribes inhabiting northern Texas, New Mexico,
California, and the extensive region lying between our settlements in
Missouri and these possessions, as the most effective means of preserving
peace upon our borders and within the recently acquired territories.

The Secretary of the Treasury will present in his annual report a highly
satisfactory statement of the condition of the finances.

The imports for the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last were of the
value of $154,977,876, of which the amount exported was $21,128,010,
leaving $133,849,866 in the country for domestic use. The value of the
exports for the same period was $154,032,131, consisting of domestic
productions amounting to $132,904,121 and $21,128,010 of foreign articles.
The receipts into the Treasury for the same period, exclusive of loans,
amounted to $35,436,750.59, of which there was derived from customs
$31,757,070.96, from sales of public lands $3,328,642.56, and from
miscellaneous and incidental sources $351,037.07.

It will be perceived that the revenue from customs for the last fiscal year
exceeded by $757,070.96 the estimate of the Secretary of the Treasury in
his last annual report, and that the aggregate receipts during the same
period from customs, lands, and miscellaneous sources also exceeded the
estimate by the sum of $536,750.59, indicating, however, a very near
approach in the estimate to the actual result.

The expenditures during the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last,
including those for the war and exclusive of payments of principal and
interest for the public debt, were $42,811,970.03.

It is estimated that the receipts into the Treasury for the fiscal year
ending on the 30th of June, 1849, including the balance in the Treasury on
the 1st of July last, will amount to the sum of $57,048,969.90, of which
$32,000,000, it is estimated, will be derived from customs, $3,000,000 from
the sales of the public lands, and $1,200,000 from miscellaneous and
incidental sources, including the premium upon the loan, and the amount
paid and to be paid into the Treasury on account of military contributions
in Mexico, and the sales of arms and vessels and other public property
rendered unnecessary for the use of the Government by the termination of
the war, and $20,695,435.30 from loans already negotiated, including
Treasury notes funded, which, together with the balance in the Treasury on
the 1st of July last, make the sum estimated.

The expenditures for the same period, including the necessary payment on
account of the principal and interest of the public debt, and the principal
and interest of the first installment due to Mexico on the 30th of May
next, and other expenditures growing out of the war to be paid during the
present year, will amount, including the reimbursement of Treasury notes,
to the sum of $54,195,275.06, leaving an estimated balance in the Treasury
on the 1st of July, 1849, of $2,853,694.84.

The Secretary of the Treasury will present, as required by law, the
estimate of the receipts and expenditures for the next fiscal year. The
expenditures as estimated for that year are $33,213,152.73, including
$3,799,102.18 for the interest on the public debt and $3,540,000 for the
principal and interest due to Mexico on the 30th of May, 1850, leaving the
sum of $25,874,050.35, which, it is believed, will be ample for the
ordinary peace expenditures.

The operations of the tariff act of 1846 have been such during the past
year as fully to meet the public expectation and to confirm the opinion
heretofore expressed of the wisdom of the change in our revenue system
which was effected by it. The receipts under it into the Treasury for the
first fiscal year after its enactment exceeded by the sum of $5,044,403.09
the amount collected during the last fiscal year under the tariff act of
1842, ending the 30th of June, 1846. The total revenue realized from the
commencement of its operation, on the 1st of December, 1846, until the
close of the last quarter, on the 30th of September last, being twenty-two
months, was $56,654,563.79, being a much larger sum than was ever before
received from duties during any equal period under the tariff acts of 1824,
1828, 1832, and 1842. Whilst by the repeal of highly protective and
prohibitory duties the revenue has been increased, the taxes on the people
have been diminished. They have been relieved from the heavy amounts with
which they were burthened under former laws in the form of increased prices
or bounties paid to favored classes and pursuits.

The predictions which were made that the tariff act of 1846 would reduce
the amount of revenue below that collected under the act of 1842, and would
prostrate the business and destroy the prosperity of the country, have not
been verified. With an increased and increasing revenue, the finances are
in a highly flourishing condition. Agriculture, commerce, and navigation
are prosperous; the prices of manufactured fabrics and of other products
are much less injuriously affected than was to have been anticipated from
the unprecedented revulsions which during the last and the present year
have overwhelmed the industry and paralyzed the credit and commerce of so
many great and enlightened nations of Europe.

Severe commercial revulsions abroad have always heretofore operated to
depress and often to affect disastrously almost every branch of American
industry. The temporary depression of a portion of our manufacturing
interests is the effect of foreign causes, and is far less severe than has
prevailed on all former similar occasions.

It is believed that, looking to the great aggregate of all our interests,
the whole country was never more prosperous than at the present period, and
never more rapidly advancing in wealth and population. Neither the foreign
war in which we have been involved, nor the loans which have absorbed so
large a portion of our capital, nor the commercial revulsion in Great
Britain in 1847, nor the paralysis of credit and commerce throughout Europe
in 1848, have affected injuriously to any considerable extent any of the
great interests of the country or arrested our onward march to greatness,
wealth, and power.

Had the disturbances in Europe not occurred, our commerce would undoubtedly
have been still more extended, and would have added still more to the
national wealth and public prosperity. But notwithstanding these
disturbances, the operations of the revenue system established by the
tariff act of 1846 have been so generally beneficial to the Government and
the business of the country that no change in its provisions is demanded by
a wise public policy, and none is recommended.

The operations of the constitutional treasury established by the act of the
6th of August, 1846, in the receipt, custody, and disbursement of the
public money have continued to be successful. Under this system the public
finances have been carried through a foreign war, involving the necessity
of loans and extraordinary expenditures and requiring distant transfers and
disbursements, without embarrassment, and no loss has occurred of any of
the public money deposited under its provisions. Whilst it has proved to be
safe and useful to the Government, its effects have been most beneficial
upon the business of the country. It has tended powerfully to secure an
exemption from that inflation and fluctuation of the paper currency so
injurious to domestic industry and rendering so uncertain the rewards of
labor, and, it is believed, has largely contributed to preserve the whole
country from a serious commercial revulsion, such as often occurred under
the bank deposit system. In the year 1847 there was a revulsion in the
business of Great Britain of great extent and intensity, which was followed
by failures in that Kingdom unprecedented in number and amount of losses.
This is believed to be the first instance when such disastrous
bankruptcies, occurring in a country with which we have such extensive
commerce, produced little or no injurious effect upon our trade or
currency. We remained but little affected in our money market, and our
business and industry were still prosperous and progressive.

During the present year nearly the whole continent of Europe has been
convulsed by civil war and revolutions, attended by numerous bankruptcies,
by an unprecedented fall in their public securities, and an almost
universal paralysis of commerce and industry; and yet, although our trade
and the prices of our products must have been somewhat unfavorably affected
by these causes, we have escaped a revulsion, our money market is
comparatively easy, and public and private credit have advanced and

It is confidently believed that we have been saved from their effect by the
salutary operation of the constitutional treasury. It is certain that if
the twenty-four millions of specie imported into the country during the
fiscal year ending on the 30th of June, 1847, had gone into the banks, as
to a great extent it must have done, it would in the absence of this system
have been made the basis of augmented bank paper issues, probably to an
amount not less than $60,000,000 or $70,000,000, producing, as an
inevitable consequence of an inflated currency, extravagant prices for a
time and wild speculation, which must have been followed, on the reflux to
Europe the succeeding year of so much of that specie, by the prostration of
the business of the country, the suspension of the banks, and most
extensive bankruptcies. Occurring, as this would have done, at a period
when the country was engaged in a foreign war, when considerable loans of
specie were required for distant disbursements, and when the banks, the
fiscal agents of the Government and the depositories of its money, were
suspended, the public credit must have sunk, and many millions of dollars,
as was the case during the War of 1812, must have been sacrificed in
discounts upon loans and upon the depreciated paper currency which the
Government would have been compelled to use.

Under the operations of the constitutional treasury not a dollar has been
lost by the depreciation of the currency. The loans required to prosecute
the war with Mexico were negotiated by the Secretary of the Treasury above
par, realizing a large premium to the Government. The restraining effect of
the system upon the tendencies to excessive paper issues by banks has saved
the Government from heavy losses and thousands of our business men from
bankruptcy and ruin. The wisdom of the system has been tested by the
experience of the last two years, and it is the dictate of sound policy
that it should remain undisturbed. The modifications in some of the details
of this measure, involving none of its essential principles, heretofore
recommended, are again presented for your favorable consideration.

In my message of the 6th of July last, transmitting to Congress the
ratified treaty of peace with Mexico, I recommended the adoption of
measures for the speedy payment of the public debt. In reiterating that
recommendation I refer you to the considerations presented in that message
in its support. The public debt, including that authorized to be negotiated
in pursuance of existing laws, and including Treasury notes, amounted at
that time to $65,778,450.41.

Funded stock of the United States amounting to about half a million of
dollars has been purchased, as authorized by law, since that period, and
the public debt has thus been reduced, the details of which will be
presented in the annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury.

The estimates of expenditures for the next fiscal year, submitted by the
Secretary of the Treasury, it is believed will be ample for all necessary
purposes. If the appropriations made by Congress shall not exceed the
amount estimated, the means in the Treasury will be sufficient to defray
all the expenses of the Government, to pay off the next installment of
$3,000,000 to Mexico, which will fall due on the 30th of May next, and
still a considerable surplus will remain, which should be applied to the
further purchase of the public stock and reduction of the debt. Should
enlarged appropriations be made, the necessary consequence will be to
postpone the payment of the debt. Though our debt, as compared with that of
most other nations, is small, it is our true policy, and in harmony with
the genius of our institutions, that we should present to the world the
rare spectacle of a great Republic, possessing vast resources and wealth,
wholly exempt from public indebtedness. This would add still more to our
strength, and give to us a still more commanding position among the nations
of the earth.

The public expenditures should be economical, and be confined to such
necessary objects as are clearly within the powers of Congress. All such as
are not absolutely demanded should be postponed, and the payment of the
public debt at the earliest practicable period should be a cardinal
principle of our public policy.

For the reason assigned in my last annual message, I repeat the
recommendation that a branch of the Mint of the United States be
established at the city of New York. The importance of this measure is
greatly increased by the acquisition of the rich mines of the precious
metals in New Mexico and California, and especially in the latter.

I repeat the recommendation heretofore made in favor of the graduation and
reduction of the price of such of the public lands as have been long
offered in the market and have remained unsold, and in favor of extending
the rights of preemption to actual settlers on the unsurveyed as well as
the surveyed lands.

The condition and operations of the Army and the state of other branches of
the public service under the supervision of the War Department are
satisfactorily presented in the accompanying report of the Secretary of

On the return of peace our forces were withdrawn from Mexico, and the
volunteers and that portion of the Regular Army engaged for the war were
disbanded. Orders have been issued for stationing the forces of our
permanent establishment at various positions in our extended country where
troops may be required. Owing to the remoteness of some of these positions,
the detachments have not yet reached their destination. Notwithstanding the
extension of the limits of our country and the forces required in the new
territories, it is confidently believed that our present military
establishment is sufficient for all exigencies so long as our peaceful
relations remain undisturbed.

Of the amount of military contributions collected in Mexico, the sum of
$769,650 was applied toward the payment of the first installment due under
the treaty with Mexico. The further sum of $346,369.30 has been paid into
the Treasury, and unexpended balances still remain in the hands of
disbursing officers and those who were engaged in the collection of these
moneys. After the proclamation of peace no further disbursements were made
of any unexpended moneys arising from this source. The balances on hand
were directed to be paid into the Treasury, and individual claims on the
fund will remain unadjusted until Congress shall authorize their settlement
and payment. These claims are not considerable in number or amount.

I recommend to your favorable consideration the suggestions of the
Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy in regard to legislation on
this subject.

Our Indian relations are presented in a most favorable view in the report
from the War Department. The wisdom of our policy in regard to the tribes
within our limits is clearly manifested by their improved and rapidly
improving condition.

A most important treaty with the Menomonies has been recently negotiated by
the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in person, by which all their land in
the State of Wisconsin--being about 4,000,000 acres--has been ceded to the
United States. This treaty will be submitted to the Senate for ratification
at an early period of your present session.

Within the last four years eight important treaties have been negotiated
with different Indian tribes, and at a cost of $1,842,000; Indian lands to
the amount of more than 18,500,000 acres have been ceded to the United
States, and provision has been made for settling in the country west of the
Mississippi the tribes which occupied this large extent of the public
domain. The title to all the Indian lands within the several States of our
Union, with the exception of a few small reservations, is now extinguished,
and a vast region opened for settlement and cultivation.

The accompanying report of the Secretary of the Navy gives a satisfactory
exhibit of the operations and condition of that branch of the public

A number of small vessels, suitable for entering the mouths of rivers, were
judiciously purchased during the war, and gave great efficiency to the
squadron in the Gulf of Mexico. On the return of peace, when no longer
valuable for naval purposes, and liable to constant deterioration, they
were sold and the money placed in the Treasury.

The number of men in the naval service authorized by law during the war has
been reduced by discharges below the maximum fixed for the peace
establishment. Adequate squadrons are maintained in the several quarters of
the globe where experience has shown their services may be most usefully
employed, and the naval service was never in a condition of higher
discipline or greater efficiency.

I invite attention to the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy on
the subject of the Marine Corps. The reduction of the Corps at the end of
the war required that four officers of each of the three lower grades
should be dropped from the rolls. A board of officers made the selection,
and those designated were necessarily dismissed, but without any alleged
fault. I concur in opinion with the Secretary that the service would be
improved by reducing the number of landsmen and increasing the marines.
Such a measure would justify an increase of the number of officers to the
extent of the reduction by dismissal, and still the Corps would have fewer
officers than a corresponding number of men in the Army.

The contracts for the transportation of the mail in steamships, convertible
into war steamers, promise to realize all the benefits to our commerce and
to the Navy which were anticipated. The first steamer thus secured to the
Government was launched in January, 1847. There are now seven, and in
another year there will probably be not less than seventeen afloat. While
this great national advantage is secured, our social and commercial
intercourse is increased and promoted with Germany, Great Britain, and
other parts of Europe, with all the countries on the west coast of our
continent, especially with Oregon and California, and between the northern
and southern sections of the United States. Considerable revenue may be
expected from postages, but the connected line from New York to Chagres,
and thence across the Isthmus to Oregon, can not fail to exert a beneficial
influence, not now to be estimated, on the interests of the manufactures,
commerce, navigation, and currency of the United States. As an important
part of the system, I recommend to your favorable consideration the
establishment of the proposed line of steamers between New Orleans and Vera
Cruz. It promises the most happy results in cementing friendship between
the two Republics and extending reciprocal benefits to the trade and
manufactures of both.

The report of the Postmaster-General will make known to you the operations
of that Department for the past year.

It is gratifying to find the revenues of the Department, under the rates of
postage now established by law, so rapidly increasing. The gross amount of
postages during the last fiscal year amounted to $4,371,077, exceeding the
annual average received for the nine years immediately preceding the
passage of the act of the 3d of March, 1845, by the sum of $6,453, and
exceeding the amount received for the year ending the 30th of June, 1847,
by the sum of $425,184.

The expenditures for the year, excluding the sum of $94,672, allowed by
Congress at its last session to individual claimants, and including the sum
of $100,500, paid for the services of the line of steamers between Bremen
and New York, amounted to $4,198,845, which is less than the annual average
for the nine years previous to the act of 1845 by $300,748.

The mail routes on the 30th day of June last were 163,208 miles in extent,
being an increase during the last year of 9,390 miles. The mails were
transported over them during the same time 41,012,579 miles, making an
increase of transportation for the year of 2,124,680 miles, whilst the
expense was less than that of the previous year by $4,235.

The increase in the mail transportation within the last three years has
been 5,378,310 miles, whilst the expenses were reduced $456,738, making an
increase of service at the rate of 15 per cent and a reduction in the
expenses of more than 15 per cent.

During the past year there have been employed, under contracts with the
Post-Office Department, two ocean steamers in conveying the mails monthly
between New York and Bremen, and one, since October last, performing
semimonthly service between Charleston and Havana; and a contract has been
made for the transportation of the Pacific mails across the Isthmus from
Chagres to Panama.

Under the authority given to the Secretary of the Navy, three ocean
steamers have been constructed and sent to the Pacific, and are expected to
enter upon the mail service between Panama and Oregon and the intermediate
ports on the 1st of January next; and a fourth has been engaged by him for
the service between Havana and Chagres, so that a regular monthly mail line
will be kept up after that time between the United States and our
territories on the Pacific.

Notwithstanding this great increase in the mail service, should the revenue
continue to increase the present year as it did in the last, there will be
received near $450,000 more than the expenditures.

These considerations have satisfied the Postmaster-General that, with
certain modifications of the act of 1845, the revenue may be still further
increased and a reduction of postages made to a uniform rate of 5 cents,
without an interference with the principle, which has been constantly and
properly enforced, of making that Department sustain itself.

A well-digested cheap-postage system is the best means of diffusing
intelligence among the people, and is of so much importance in a country so
extensive as that of the United States that I recommend to your favorable
consideration the suggestions of the Postmaster-General for its

Nothing can retard the onward progress of our country and prevent us from
assuming and maintaining the first rank among nations but a disregard of
the experience of the past and a recurrence to an unwise public policy. We
have just closed a foreign war by an honorable peace--a war rendered
necessary and unavoidable in vindication of the national rights and honor.
The present condition of the country is similar in some respects to that
which existed immediately after the close of the war with Great Britain in
1815, and the occasion is deemed to be a proper one to take a retrospect of
the measures of public policy which followed that war. There was at that
period of our history a departure from our earlier policy. The enlargement
of the powers of the Federal Government by construction, which obtained,
was not warranted by any just interpretation of the Constitution. A few
years after the close of that war a series of measures was adopted which,
united and combined, constituted what was termed by their authors and
advocates the "American system."

The introduction of the new policy was for a time favored by the condition
of the country, by the heavy debt which had been contracted during the war,
by the depression of the public credit, by the deranged state of the
finances and the currency, and by the commercial and pecuniary
embarrassment which extensively prevailed. These were not the only causes
which led to its establishment. The events of the war with Great Britain
and the embarrassments which had attended its prosecution had left on the
minds of many of our statesmen the impression that our Government was not
strong enough, and that to wield its resources successfully in great
emergencies, and especially in war, more power should be concentrated in
its hands. This increased power they did not seek to obtain by the
legitimate and prescribed mode--an amendment of the Constitution--but by
construction. They saw Governments in the Old World based upon different
orders of society, and so constituted as to throw the whole power of
nations into the hands of a few, who taxed and controlled the many without
responsibility or restraint. In that arrangement they conceived the
strength of nations in war consisted. There was also something fascinating
in the ease, luxury, and display of the higher orders, who drew their
wealth from the toil of the laboring millions. The authors of the system
drew their ideas of political economy from what they had witnessed in
Europe, and particularly in Great Britain. They had viewed the enormous
wealth concentrated in few hands and had seen the splendor of the overgrown
establishments of an aristocracy which was upheld by the restrictive
policy. They forgot to look down upon the poorer classes of the English
population, upon whose daily and yearly labor the great establishments they
so much admired were sustained and supported. They failed to perceive that
the scantily fed and half-clad operatives were not only in abject poverty,
but were bound in chains of oppressive servitude for the benefit of favored
classes, who were the exclusive objects of the care of the Government.

It was not possible to reconstruct society in the United States upon the
European plan. Here there was a written Constitution, by which orders and
titles were not recognized or tolerated. A system of measures was therefore
devised, calculated, if not intended, to withdraw power gradually and
silently from the States and the mass of the people, and by construction to
approximate our Government to the European models, substituting an
aristocracy of wealth for that of orders and titles.

Without reflecting upon the dissimilarity of our institutions and of the
condition of our people and those of Europe, they conceived the vain idea
of building up in the United States a system similar to that which they
admired abroad. Great Britain had a national bank of large capital, in
whose hands was concentrated the controlling monetary and financial power
of the nation--an institution wielding almost kingly power, and exerting
vast influence upon all the operations of trade and upon the policy of the
Government itself. Great Britain had an enormous public debt, and it had
become a part of her public policy to regard this as a "public blessing."
Great Britain had also a restrictive policy, which placed fetters and
burdens on trade and trammeled the productive industry of the mass of the
nation. By her combined system of policy the landlords and other property
holders were protected and enriched by the enormous taxes which were levied
upon the labor of the country for their advantage. Imitating this foreign
policy, the first step in establishing the new system in the United States
was the creation of a national bank. Not foreseeing the dangerous power and
countless evils which such an institution might entail on the country, nor
perceiving the connection which it was designed to form between the bank
and the other branches of the miscalled "American system," but feeling the
embarrassments of the Treasury and of the business of the country
consequent upon the war, some of our statesmen who had held different and
sounder views were induced to yield their scruples and, indeed, settled
convictions of its unconstitutionality, and to give it their sanction as an
expedient which they vainly hoped might produce relief. It was a most
unfortunate error, as the subsequent history and final catastrophe of that
dangerous and corrupt institution have abundantly proved. The bank, with
its numerous branches ramified into the States, soon brought many of the
active political and commercial men in different sections of the country
into the relation of debtors to it and dependents upon it for pecuniary
favors, thus diffusing throughout the mass of society a great number of
individuals of power and influence to give tone to public opinion and to
act in concert in cases of emergency. The corrupt power of such a political
engine is no longer a matter of speculation, having been displayed in
numerous instances, but most signally in the political struggles of 1832,
1833, and 1834 in opposition to the public will represented by a fearless
and patriotic President.

But the bank was but one branch of the new system. A public debt of more
than $120,000,000 existed, and it is not to be disguised that many of the
authors of the new system did not regard its speedy payment as essential to
the public prosperity, but looked upon its continuance as no national evil.
Whilst the debt existed it furnished aliment to the national bank and
rendered increased taxation necessary to the amount of the interest,
exceeding $7,000,000 annually.

This operated in harmony with the next branch of the new system, which was
a high protective tariff. This was to afford bounties to favored classes
and particular pursuits at the expense of all others. A proposition to tax
the whole people for the purpose of enriching a few was too monstrous to be
openly made. The scheme was therefore veiled under the plausible but
delusive pretext of a measure to protect "home industry," and many of our
people were for a time led to believe that a tax which in the main fell
upon labor was for the benefit of the laborer who paid it. This branch of
the system involved a partnership between the Government and the favored
classes, the former receiving the proceeds of the tax imposed on articles
imported and the latter the increased price of similar articles produced at
home, caused by such tax. It is obvious that the portion to be received by
the favored classes would, as a general rule, be increased in proportion to
the increase of the rates of tax imposed and diminished as those rates were
reduced to the revenue standard required by the wants of the Government.
The rates required to produce a sufficient revenue for the ordinary
expenditures of Government for necessary purposes were not likely to give
to the private partners in this scheme profits sufficient to satisfy their
cupidity, and hence a variety of expedients and pretexts were resorted to
for the purpose of enlarging the expenditures and thereby creating a
necessity for keeping up a high protective tariff. The effect of this
policy was to interpose artificial restrictions upon the natural course of
the business and trade of the country, and to advance the interests of
large capitalists and monopolists at the expense of the great mass of the
people, who were taxed to increase their wealth.

Another branch of this system was a comprehensive scheme of internal
improvements, capable of indefinite enlargement and sufficient to swallow
up as many millions annually as could be exacted from the foreign commerce
of the country. This was a convenient and necessary adjunct of the
protective tariff. It was to be the great absorbent of any surplus which
might at any time accumulate in the Treasury and of the taxes levied on the
people, not for necessary revenue purposes, but for the avowed object of
affording protection to the favored classes.

Auxiliary to the same end, if it was not an essential part of the system
itself, was the scheme, which at a later period obtained, for distributing
the proceeds of the sales of the public lands among the States. Other
expedients were devised to take money out of the Treasury and prevent its
coming in from any other source than the protective tariff. The authors and
supporters of the system were the advocates of the largest expenditures,
whether for necessary or useful purposes or not, because the larger the
expenditures the greater was the pretext for high taxes in the form of
protective duties.

These several measures were sustained by popular names and plausible
arguments, by which thousands were deluded. The bank was represented to be
an indispensable fiscal agent for the Government; was to equalize exchanges
and to regulate and furnish a sound currency, always and everywhere of
uniform value. The protective tariff was to give employment to "American
labor" at advanced prices; was to protect "home industry" and furnish a
steady market for the farmer. Internal improvements were to bring trade
into every neighborhood and enhance the value of every man's property. The
distribution of the land money was to enrich the States, finish their
public works, plant schools throughout their borders, and relieve them from
taxation. But the fact that for every dollar taken out of the Treasury for
these objects a much larger sum was transferred from the pockets of the
people to the favored classes was carefully concealed, as was also the
tendency, if not the ultimate design, of the system to build up an
aristocracy of wealth, to control the masses of society, and monopolize the
political power of the country.

The several branches of this system were so intimately blended together
that in their operation each sustained and strengthened the others. Their
joint operation was to add new burthens of taxation and to encourage a
largely increased and wasteful expenditure of public money. It was the
interest of the bank that the revenue collected and the disbursements made
by the Government should be large, because, being the depository of the
public money, the larger the amount the greater would be the bank profits
by its use. It was the interest of the favored classes, who were enriched
by the protective tariff, to have the rates of that protection as high as
possible, for the higher those rates the greater would be their advantage.
It was the interest of the people of all those sections and localities who
expected to be benefited by expenditures for internal improvements that the
amount collected should be as large as possible, to the end that the sum
disbursed might also be the larger. The States, being the beneficiaries in
the distribution of the land money, had an interest in having the rates of
tax imposed by the protective tariff large enough to yield a sufficient
revenue from that source to meet the wants of the Government without
disturbing or taking from them the land fund; so that each of the branches
constituting the system had a common interest in swelling the public
expenditures. They had a direct interest in maintaining the public debt
unpaid and increasing its amount, because this would produce an annual
increased drain upon the Treasury to the amount of the interest and render
augmented taxes necessary. The operation and necessary effect of the whole
system were to encourage large and extravagant expenditures, and thereby to
increase the public patronage, and maintain a rich and splendid government
at the expense of a taxed and impoverished people.

It is manifest that this scheme of enlarged taxation and expenditures, had
it continued to prevail, must soon have converted the Government of the
Union, intended by its framers to be a plain, cheap, and simple
confederation of States, united together for common protection and charged
with a few specific duties, relating chiefly to our foreign affairs, into a
consolidated empire, depriving the States of their reserved rights and the
people of their just power and control in the administration of their
Government. In this manner the whole form and character of the Government
would be changed, not by an amendment of the Constitution, but by resorting
to an unwarrantable and unauthorized construction of that instrument.

The indirect mode of levying the taxes by a duty on imports prevents the
mass of the people from readily perceiving the amount they pay, and has
enabled the few who are thus enriched, and who seek to wield the political
power of the country, to deceive and delude them. Were the taxes collected
by a direct levy upon the people, as is the case in the States, this could
not occur.

The whole system was resisted from its inception by many of our ablest
statesmen, some of whom doubted its constitutionality and its expediency,
while others believed it was in all its branches a flagrant and dangerous
infraction of the Constitution.

That a national bank, a protective tariff--levied not to raise the revenue
needed, but for protection merely--internal improvements, and the
distribution of the proceeds of the sale of the public lands are measures
without the warrant of the Constitution would, upon the maturest
consideration, seem to be clear. It is remarkable that no one of these
measures, involving such momentous consequences, is authorized by any
express grant of power in the Constitution. No one of them is "incident to,
as being necessary and proper for the execution of, the specific powers"
granted by the Constitution. The authority under which it has been
attempted to justify each of them is derived from inferences and
constructions of the Constitution which its letter and its whole object and
design do not warrant. Is it to be conceived that such immense powers would
have been left by the framers of the Constitution to mere inferences and
doubtful constructions? Had it been intended to confer them on the Federal
Government, it is but reasonable to conclude that it would have been done
by plain and unequivocal grants. This was not done; but the whole structure
of which the "American system" consisted was reared on no other or better
foundation than forced implications and inferences of power, which its
authors assumed might be deduced by construction from the Constitution.

But it has been urged that the national bank, which constituted so
essential a branch of this combined system of measures, was not a new
measure, and that its constitutionality had been previously sanctioned,
because a bank had been chartered in 1791 and had received the official
signature of President Washington. A few facts will show the just weight to
which this precedent should be entitled as bearing upon the question of

Great division of opinion upon the subject existed in Congress. It is well
known that President Washington entertained serious doubts both as to the
constitutionality and expediency of the measure, and while the bill was
before him for his official approval or disapproval so great were these
doubts that he required "the opinion in writing" of the members of his
Cabinet to aid him in arriving at a decision. His Cabinet gave their
opinions and were divided upon the subject, General Hamilton being in favor
of and Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Randolph being opposed to the
constitutionality and expediency of the bank. It is well known also that
President Washington retained the bill from Monday, the 14th, when it was
presented to him, until Friday, the 25th of February, being the last moment
permitted him by the Constitution to deliberate, when he finally yielded to
it his reluctant assent and gave it his signature. It is certain that as
late as the 23d of February, being the ninth day after the bill was
presented to him, he had arrived at no satisfactory conclusion, for on that
day he addressed a note to General Hamilton in which he informs him that
"this bill was presented to me by the joint committee of Congress at 12
o'clock on Monday, the 14th instant," and he requested his opinion "to what
precise period, by legal interpretation of the Constitution, can the
President retain it in his possession before it becomes a law by the lapse
of ten days." If the proper construction was that the day on which the bill
was presented to the President and the day on which his action was had upon
it were both to be counted inclusive, then the time allowed him within
which it would be competent for him to return it to the House in which it
originated with his objections would expire on Thursday, the 24th of
February. General Hamilton on the same day returned an answer, in which he

I give it as my opinion that you have ten days exclusive of that on which
the bill was delivered to you and Sundays; hence, in the present case if it
is returned on Friday it will be in time.

By this construction, which the President adopted, he gained another day
for deliberation, and it was not until the 25th of February that he signed
the bill, thus affording conclusive proof that he had at last obtained his
own consent to sign it not without great and almost insuperable difficulty.
Additional light has been recently shed upon the serious doubts which he
had on the subject, amounting at one time to a conviction that it was his
duty to withhold his approval from the bill. This is found among the
manuscript papers of Mr. Madison, authorized to be purchased for the use of
the Government by an act of the last session of Congress, and now for the
first time accessible to the public. From these papers it appears that
President Washington, while he yet held the bank bill in his hands,
actually requested Mr. Madison, at that time a member of the House of
Representatives, to prepare the draft of a veto message for him. Mr.
Madison, at his request, did prepare the draft of such a message, and sent
it to him on the 21st of February, 1791. A copy of this original draft, in
Mr. Madison's own handwriting, was carefully preserved by him, and is among
the papers lately purchased by Congress. It is preceded by a note, written
on the same sheet, which is also in Mr. Madison's handwriting, and is as

February 21, 1791.--Copy of a paper made out and sent to the President, at
his request, to be ready in case his judgment should finally decide against
the bill for incorporating a national bank, the bill being then before

Among the objections assigned in this paper to the bill, and which were
submitted for the consideration of the President, are the following:

I object to the bill, because it is an essential principle of the
Government that powers not delegated by the Constitution can not be
rightfully exercised; because the power proposed by the bill to be
exercised is not expressly delegated, and because I can not satisfy myself
that it results from any express power by fair and safe rules of

The weight of the precedent of the bank of 1791 and the sanction of the
great name of Washington, which has been so often invoked in its support,
are greatly weakened by the development of these facts.

The experiment of that bank satisfied the country that it ought not to be
continued, and at the end of twenty years Congress refused to recharter it.
It would have been fortunate for the country, and saved thousands from
bankruptcy and ruin, had our public men of 1816 resisted the temporary
pressure of the times upon our financial and pecuniary interests and
refused to charter the second bank. Of this the country became abundantly
satisfied, and at the close of its twenty years' duration, as in the case
of the first bank, it also ceased to exist. Under the repeated blows of
President Jackson it reeled and fell, and a subsequent attempt to charter a
similar institution was arrested by the veto of President Tyler.

Mr. Madison, in yielding his signature to the charter of 1816, did so upon
the ground of the respect due to precedents; and, as he subsequently

The Bank of the United States, though on the original question held to be
unconstitutional, received the Executive signature.

It is probable that neither the bank of 1791 nor that of 1816 would have
been chartered but for the embarrassments of the Government in its
finances, the derangement of the currency, and the pecuniary pressure which
existed, the first the consequence of the War of the Revolution and the
second the consequence of the War of 1812. Both were resorted to in the
delusive hope that they would restore public credit and afford relief to
the Government and to the business of the country.

Those of our public men who opposed the whole "American system" at its
commencement and throughout its progress foresaw and predicted that it was
fraught with incalculable mischiefs and must result in serious injury to
the best interests of the country. For a series of years their wise
counsels were unheeded, and the system was established. It was soon
apparent that its practical operation was unequal and unjust upon different
portions of the country and upon the people engaged in different pursuits.
All were equally entitled to the favor and protection of the Government. It
fostered and elevated the money power and enriched the favored few by
taxing labor, and at the expense of the many. Its effect was to "make the
rich richer and the poor poorer." Its tendency was to create distinctions
in society based on wealth and to give to the favored classes undue control
and sway in our Government. It was an organized money power, which resisted
the popular will and sought to shape and control the public policy.

Under the pernicious workings of this combined system of measures the
country witnessed alternate seasons of temporary apparent prosperity, of
sudden and disastrous commercial revulsions, of unprecedented fluctuation
of prices and depression of the great interests of agriculture, navigation,
and commerce, of general pecuniary suffering, and of final bankruptcy of
thousands. After a severe struggle of more than a quarter of a century, the
system was overthrown.

The bank has been succeeded by a practical system of finance, conducted and
controlled solely by the Government. The constitutional currency has been
restored, the public credit maintained unimpaired even in a period of a
foreign war, and the whole country has become satisfied that banks,
national or State, are not necessary as fiscal agents of the Government.
Revenue duties have taken the place of the protective tariff. The
distribution of the money derived from the sale of the public lands has
been abandoned and the corrupting system of internal improvements, it is
hoped, has been effectually checked.

It is not doubted that if this whole train of measures, designed to take
wealth from the many and bestow it upon the few, were to prevail the effect
would be to change the entire character of the Government. One only danger
remains. It is the seductions of that branch of the system which consists
in internal improvements, holding out, as it does, inducements to the
people of particular sections and localities to embark the Government in
them without stopping to calculate the inevitable consequences. This branch
of the system is so intimately combined and linked with the others that as
surely as an effect is produced by an adequate cause, if it be resuscitated
and revived and firmly established it requires no sagacity to foresee that
it will necessarily and speedily draw after it the reestablishment of a
national bank, the revival of a protective tariff, the distribution of the
land money, and not only the postponement to the distant future of the
payment of the present national debt, but its annual increase.

I entertain the solemn conviction that if the internal-improvement branch
of the "American system" be not firmly resisted at this time the whole
series of measures composing it will be speedily reestablished and the
country be thrown back from its present high state of prosperity, which the
existing policy has produced, and be destined again to witness all the
evils, commercial revulsions, depression of prices, and pecuniary
embarrassments through which we have passed during the last twenty-five

To guard against consequences so ruinous is an object of high national
importance, involving, in my judgment, the continued prosperity of the

I have felt it to be an imperative obligation to withhold my constitutional
sanction from two bills which had passed the two Houses of Congress,
involving the principle of the internal improvement branch of the "American
system" and conflicting in their provisions with the views here expressed.

This power, conferred upon the President by the Constitution, I have on
three occasions during my administration of the executive department of the
Government deemed it my duty to exercise, and on this last occasion of
making to Congress an annual communication "of the state of the Union" it
is not deemed inappropriate to review the principles and considerations
which have governed my action. I deem this the more necessary because,
after the lapse of nearly sixty years since the adoption of the
Constitution, the propriety of the exercise of this undoubted
constitutional power by the President has for the first time been drawn
seriously in question by a portion of my fellow-citizens.

The Constitution provides that--

Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the
Senate shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the
United States. If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return
it with his objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who
shall enter the objections at large on their Journal and proceed to
reconsider it.

The preservation of the Constitution from infraction is the President's
highest duty. He is bound to discharge that duty at whatever hazard of
incurring the displeasure of those who may differ with him in opinion. He
is bound to discharge it as well by his obligations to the people who have
clothed him with his exalted trust as by his oath of office, which he may
not disregard. Nor are the obligations of the President in any degree
lessened by the prevalence of views different from his own in one or both
Houses of Congress. It is not alone hasty and inconsiderate legislation
that he is required to check; but if at any time Congress shall, after
apparently full deliberation, resolve on measures which he deems subversive
of the Constitution or of the vital interests of the country, it is his
solemn duty to stand in the breach and resist them. The President is bound
to approve or disapprove every bill which passes Congress and is presented
to him for his signature. The Constitution makes this his duty, and he can
not escape it if he would. He has no election. In deciding upon any bill
presented to him he must exercise his own best judgment. If he can not
approve, the Constitution commands him to return the bill to the House in
which it originated with his objections, and if he fail to do this within
ten days (Sundays excepted) it shall become a law without his signature.
Right or wrong, he may be overruled by a vote of two-thirds of each House,
and in that event the bill becomes a law without his sanction. If his
objections be not thus overruled, the subject is only postponed, and is
referred to the States and the people for their consideration and decision.
The President's power is negative merely, and not affirmative. He can enact
no law. The only effect, therefore, of his withholding his approval of a
bill passed by Congress is to suffer the existing laws to remain unchanged,
and the delay occasioned is only that required to enable the States and the
people to consider and act upon the subject in the election of public
agents who will carry out their wishes and instructions. Any attempt to
coerce the President to yield his sanction to measures which he can not
approve would be a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, palpable
and flagrant, and if successful would break down the independence of the
executive department and make the President, elected by the people and
clothed by the Constitution with power to defend their rights, the mere
instrument of a majority of Congress. A surrender on his part of the powers
with which the Constitution has invested his office would effect a
practical alteration of that instrument without resorting to the prescribed
process of amendment.

With the motives or considerations which may induce Congress to pass any
bill the President can have nothing to do. He must presume them to be as
pure as his own, and look only to the practical effect of their measures
when compared with the Constitution or the public good.

But it has been urged by those who object to the exercise of this undoubted
constitutional power that it assails the representative principle and the
capacity of the people to govern themselves; that there is greater safety
in a numerous representative body than in the single Executive created by
the Constitution, and that the Executive veto is a "one-man power,"
despotic in its character. To expose the fallacy of this objection it is
only necessary to consider the frame and true character of our system. Ours
is not a consolidated empire, but a confederated union. The States before
the adoption of the Constitution were coordinate, co-equal, and separate
independent sovereignties, and by its adoption they did not lose that
character. They clothed the Federal Government with certain powers and
reserved all others, including their own sovereignty, to themselves. They
guarded their own rights as States and the rights of the people by the very
limitations which they incorporated into the Federal Constitution, whereby
the different departments of the General Government were checks upon each
other. That the majority should govern is a general principle controverted
by none, but they must govern according to the Constitution, and not
according to an undefined and unrestrained discretion, whereby they may
oppress the minority.

The people of the United States are not blind to the fact that they may be
temporarily misled, and that their representatives, legislative and
executive, may be mistaken or influenced in their action by improper
motives. They have therefore interposed between themselves and the laws
which may be passed by their public agents various representations, such as
assemblies, senates, and governors in their several States, a House of
Representatives, a Senate, and a President of the United States. The people
can by their own direct agency make no law, nor can the House of
Representatives, immediately elected by them, nor can the Senate, nor can
both together without the concurrence of the President or a vote of
two-thirds of both Houses.

Happily for themselves, the people in framing our admirable system of
government were conscious of the infirmities of their representatives, and
in delegating to them the power of legislation they have fenced them around
with checks to guard against the effects of hasty action, of error, of
combination, and of possible corruption. Error, selfishness, and faction
have often sought to rend asunder this web of checks and subject the
Government to the control of fanatic and sinister influences, but these
efforts have only satisfied the people of the wisdom of the checks which
they have imposed and of the necessity of preserving them unimpaired.

The true theory of our system is not to govern by the acts or decrees of
any one set of representatives. The Constitution interposes checks upon all
branches of the Government, in order to give time for error to be corrected
and delusion to pass away; but if the people settle down into a firm
conviction different from that of their representatives they give effect to
their opinions by changing their public servants. The checks which the
people imposed on their public servants in the adoption of the Constitution
are the best evidence of their capacity for self-government. They know that
the men whom they elect to public stations are of like infirmities and
passions with themselves, and not to be trusted without being restricted by
coordinate authorities and constitutional limitations. Who that has
witnessed the legislation of Congress for the last thirty years will say
that he knows of no instance in which measures not demanded by the public
good have been carried? Who will deny that in the State governments, by
combinations of individuals and sections, in derogation of the general
interest, banks have been chartered, systems of internal improvements
adopted, and debts entailed upon the people repressing their growth and
impairing their energies for years to come?

After so much experience it can not be said that absolute unchecked power
is safe in the hands of any one set of representatives, or that the
capacity of the people for self-government, which is admitted in its
broadest extent, is a conclusive argument to prove the prudence, wisdom,
and integrity of their representatives.

The people, by the Constitution, have commanded the President, as much as
they have commanded the legislative branch of the Government, to execute
their will. They have said to him in the Constitution, which they require
he shall take a solemn oath to support, that if Congress pass any bill
which he can not approve "he shall return it to the House in which it
originated with his objections." In withholding from it his approval and
signature he is executing the will of the people, constitutionally
expressed, as much as the Congress that passed it. No bill is presumed to
be in accordance with the popular will until it shall have passed through
all the branches of the Government required by the Constitution to make it
a law. A bill which passes the House of Representatives may be rejected by
the Senate, and so a bill passed by the Senate may be rejected by the
House. In each case the respective Houses exercise the veto power on the

Congress, and each House of Congress, hold under the Constitution a check
upon the President, and he, by the power of the qualified veto, a check
upon Congress. When the President recommends measures to Congress, he avows
in the most solemn form his opinions, gives his voice in their favor, and
pledges himself in advance to approve them if passed by Congress. If he
acts without due consideration, or has been influenced by improper or
corrupt motives, or if from any other cause Congress, or either House of
Congress, shall differ with him in opinion, they exercise their veto upon
his recommendations and reject them; and there is no appeal from their
decision but to the people at the ballot box. These are proper checks upon
the Executive, wisely interposed by the Constitution. None will be found to
object to them or to wish them removed. It is equally important that the
constitutional checks of the Executive upon the legislative branch should
be preserved.

If it be said that the Representatives in the popular branch of Congress
are chosen directly by the people, it is answered, the people elect the
President. If both Houses represent the States and the people, so does the
President. The President represents in the executive department the whole
people of the United States, as each member of the legislative department
represents portions of them.

The doctrine of restriction upon legislative and executive power, while a
well-settled public opinion is enabled within a reasonable time to
accomplish its ends, has made our country what it is, and has opened to us
a career of glory and happiness to which all other nations have been

In the exercise of the power of the veto the President is responsible not
only to an enlightened public opinion, but to the people of the whole
Union, who elected him, as the representatives in the legislative branches
who differ with him in opinion are responsible to the people of particular
States or districts, who compose their respective constituencies. To deny
to the President the exercise of this power would be to repeal that
provision of the Constitution which confers it upon him. To charge that its
exercise unduly controls the legislative will is to complain of the
Constitution itself.

If the Presidential veto be objected to upon the ground that it checks and
thwarts the popular will, upon the same principle the equality of
representation of the States in the Senate should be stricken out of the
Constitution. The vote of a Senator from Delaware has equal weight in
deciding upon the most important measures with the vote of a Senator from
New York, and yet the one represents a State containing, according to the
existing apportionment of Representatives in the House of Representatives,
but one thirty-fourth part of the population of the other. By the
constitutional composition of the Senate a majority of that body from the
smaller States represent less than one-fourth of the people of the Union.
There are thirty States, and under the existing apportionment of
Representatives there are 230 Members in the House of Representatives.
Sixteen of the smaller States are represented in that House by but 50
Members, and yet the Senators from these States constitute a majority of
the Senate. So that the President may recommend a measure to Congress, and
it may receive the sanction and approval of more than three-fourths of the
House of Representatives and of all the Senators from the large States,
containing more than three-fourths of the whole population of the United
States, and yet the measure may be defeated by the votes of the Senators
from the smaller States. None, it is presumed, can be found ready to change
the organization of the Senate on this account, or to strike that body
practically out of existence by requiring that its action shall be
conformed to the will of the more numerous branch.

Upon the same principle that the veto of the President should be
practically abolished the power of the Vice-President to give the casting
vote upon an equal division of the Senate should be abolished also. The
Vice-President exercises the veto power as effectually by rejecting a bill
by his casting vote as the President does by refusing to approve and sign
it. This power has been exercised by the Vice-President in a few instances,
the most important of which was the rejection of the bill to recharter the
Bank of the United States in 1811. It may happen that a bill may be passed
by a large majority of the House of Representatives, and may be supported
by the Senators from the larger States, and the Vice-President may reject
it by giving his vote with the Senators from the smaller States; and yet
none, it is presumed, are prepared to deny to him the exercise of this
power under the Constitution.

But it is, in point of fact, untrue that an act passed by Congress is
conclusive evidence that it is an emanation of the popular will. A majority
of the whole number elected to each House of Congress constitutes a quorum,
and a majority of that quorum is competent to pass laws. It might happen
that a quorum of the House of Representatives, consisting of a single
member more than half of the whole number elected to that House, might pass
a bill by a majority of a single vote, and in that case a fraction more
than one-fourth of the people of the United States would be represented by
those who voted for it. It might happen that the same bill might be passed
by a majority of one of a quorum of the Senate, composed of Senators from
the fifteen smaller States and a single Senator from a sixteenth State; and
if the Senators voting for it happened to be from the eight of the smallest
of these States, it would be passed by the votes of Senators from States
having but fourteen Representatives in the House of Representatives, and
containing less than one-sixteenth of the whole population of the United
States. This extreme case is stated to illustrate the fact that the mere
passage of a bill by Congress is no conclusive evidence that those who
passed it represent the majority of the people of the United States or
truly reflect their will. If such an extreme case is not likely to happen,
cases that approximate it are of constant occurrence. It is believed that
not a single law has been passed since the adoption of the Constitution
upon which all the members elected to both Houses have been present and
voted. Many of the most important acts which have passed Congress have been
carried by a close vote in thin Houses. Many instances of this might be
given. Indeed, our experience proves that many of the most important acts
of Congress are postponed to the last days, and often the last hours, of a
session, when they are disposed of in haste, and by Houses but little
exceeding the number necessary to form a quorum.

Besides, in most of the States the members of the House of Representatives
are chosen by pluralities, and not by majorities of all the voters in their
respective districts, and it may happen that a majority of that House may
be returned by a less aggregate vote of the people than that received by
the minority.

If the principle insisted on be sound, then the Constitution should be so
changed that no bill shall become a law unless it is voted for by members
representing in each House a majority of the whole people of the United
States. We must remodel our whole system, strike down and abolish not only
the salutary checks lodged in the executive branch, but must strike out and
abolish those lodged in the Senate also, and thus practically invest the
whole power of the Government in a majority of a single assembly--a
majority uncontrolled and absolute, and which may become despotic. To
conform to this doctrine of the right of majorities to rule, independent of
the checks and limitations of the Constitution, we must revolutionize our
whole system; we must destroy the constitutional compact by which the
several States agreed to form a Federal Union and rush into consolidation,
which must end in monarchy or despotism. No one advocates such a
proposition, and yet the doctrine maintained, if carried out, must lead to
this result.

One great object of the Constitution in conferring upon the President a
qualified negative upon the legislation of Congress was to protect
minorities from injustice and oppression by majorities. The equality of
their representation in the Senate and the veto power of the President are
the constitutional guaranties which the smaller States have that their
rights will be respected. Without these guaranties all their interests
would be at the mercy of majorities in Congress representing the larger
States. To the smaller and weaker States, therefore, the preservation of
this power and its exercise upon proper occasions demanding it is of vital
importance. They ratified the Constitution and entered into the Union,
securing to themselves an equal representation with the larger States in
the Senate; and they agreed to be bound by all laws passed by Congress upon
the express condition, and none other, that they should be approved by the
President or passed, his objections to the contrary notwithstanding, by a
vote of two-thirds of both Houses. Upon this condition they have a right to
insist as a part of the compact to which they gave their assent.

A bill might be passed by Congress against the will of the whole people of
a particular State and against the votes of its Senators and all its
Representatives. However prejudicial it might be to the interests of such
State, it would be bound by it if the President shall approve it or it
shall be passed by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses; but it has a right
to demand that the President shall exercise his constitutional power and
arrest it if his judgment is against it. If he surrender this power, or
fail to exercise it in a case where he can not approve, it would make his
formal approval a mere mockery, and would be itself a violation of the
Constitution, and the dissenting State would become bound by a law which
had not been passed according to the sanctions of the Constitution.

The objection to the exercise of the veto power is founded upon an idea
respecting the popular will, which, if carried out, would annihilate State
sovereignty and substitute for the present Federal Government a
consolidation directed by a supposed numerical majority. A revolution of
the Government would be silently effected and the States would be subjected
to laws to which they had never given their constitutional consent.

The Supreme Court of the United States is invested with the power to
declare, and has declared, acts of Congress passed with the concurrence of
the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the approval of the President
to be unconstitutional and void, and yet none, it is presumed, can be found
who will be disposed to strip this highest judicial tribunal under the
Constitution of this acknowledged power--a power necessary alike to its
independence and the rights of individuals.

For the same reason that the Executive veto should, according to the
doctrine maintained, be rendered nugatory, and be practically expunged from
the Constitution, this power of the court should also be rendered nugatory
and be expunged, because it restrains the legislative and Executive will,
and because the exercise of such a power by the court may be regarded as
being in conflict with the capacity of the people to govern themselves.
Indeed, there is more reason for striking this power of the court from the
Constitution than there is that of the qualified veto of the president,
because the decision of the court is final, and can never be reversed even
though both Houses of Congress and the President should be unanimous in
opposition to it, whereas the veto of the President may be overruled by a
vote of two-thirds of both Houses of Congress or by the people at the

It is obvious that to preserve the system established by the Constitution
each of the coordinate branches of the Government--the executive,
legislative, and judicial--must be left in the exercise of its appropriate
powers. If the executive or the judicial branch be deprived of powers
conferred upon either as checks on the legislative, the preponderance of
the latter will become disproportionate and absorbing and the others
impotent for the accomplishment of the great objects for which they were
established. Organized, as they are, by the Constitution, they work
together harmoniously for the public good. If the Executive and the
judiciary shall be deprived of the constitutional powers invested in them,
and of their due proportions, the equilibrium of the system must be
destroyed, and consolidation, with the most pernicious results, must
ensue--a consolidation of unchecked, despotic power, exercised by
majorities of the legislative branch.

The executive, legislative, and judicial each constitutes a separate
coordinate department of the Government, and each is independent of the
others. In the performance of their respective duties under the
Constitution neither can in its legitimate action control the others. They
each act upon their several responsibilities in their respective spheres.
But if the doctrines now maintained be correct, the executive must become
practically subordinate to the legislative, and the judiciary must become
subordinate to both the legislative and the executive; and thus the whole
power of the Government would be merged in a single department. Whenever,
if ever, this shall occur, our glorious system of well-regulated
self-government will crumble into ruins, to be succeeded, first by anarchy,
and finally by monarchy or despotism. I am far from believing that this
doctrine is the sentiment of the American people; and during the short
period which remains in which it will be my duty to administer the
executive department it will be my aim to maintain its independence and
discharge its duties without infringing upon the powers or duties of either
of the other departments of the Government.

The power of the Executive veto was exercised by the first and most
illustrious of my predecessors and by four of his successors who preceded
me in the administration of the Government, and it is believed in no
instance prejudicially to the public interests. It has never been and there
is but little danger that it ever can be abused. No President will ever
desire unnecessarily to place his opinion in opposition to that of
Congress. He must always exercise the power reluctantly, and only in cases
where his convictions make it a matter of stern duty, which he can not
escape. Indeed, there is more danger that the President, from the
repugnance he must always feel to come in collision with Congress, may fail
to exercise it in cases where the preservation of the Constitution from
infraction, or the public good, may demand it than that he will ever
exercise it unnecessarily or wantonly.

During the period I have administered the executive department of the
Government great and important questions of public policy, foreign and
domestic, have arisen, upon which it was my duty to act. It may, indeed, be
truly said that my Administration has fallen upon eventful times. I have
felt most sensibly the weight of the high responsibilities devolved upon
me. With no other object than the public good, the enduring fame, and
permanent prosperity of my country, I have pursued the convictions of my
own best judgment. The impartial arbitrament of enlightened public opinion,
present and future, will determine how far the public policy I have
maintained and the measures I have from time to time recommended may have
tended to advance or retard the public prosperity at home and to elevate or
depress the estimate of our national character abroad.

Invoking the blessings of the Almighty upon your deliberations at your
present important session, my ardent hope is that in a spirit of harmony
and concord you may be guided to wise results, and such as may redound to
the happiness, the honor, and the glory of our beloved country.


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Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.