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´╗┐Title: State of the Union Addresses
Author: Pierce, Franklin
Language: English
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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 Franklin Pierce

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Dates of addresses by Franklin Pierce in this eBook:

  December 5, 1853
  December 4, 1854
  December 31, 1855
  December 2, 1856


State of the Union Address
Franklin Pierce
December 5, 1853

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

The interest with which the people of the Republic anticipate the
assembling of Congress and the fulfillment on that occasion of the duty
imposed upon a new President is one of the best evidences of their capacity
to realize the hopes of the founders of a political system at once complex
and symmetrical. While the different branches of the Government are to a
certain extent independent of each other, the duties of all alike have
direct reference to the source of power. Fortunately, under this system no
man is so high and none so humble in the scale of public station as to
escape from the scrutiny or to be exempt from the responsibility which all
official functions imply.

Upon the justice and intelligence of the masses, in a government thus
organized, is the sole reliance of the confederacy and the only security
for honest and earnest devotion to its interests against the usurpations
and encroachment of power on the one hand and the assaults of personal
ambition on the other.

The interest of which I have spoken is inseparable from an inquiring,
self-governing community, but stimulated, doubtless, at the present time by
the unsettled condition of our relations with several foreign powers, by
the new obligations resulting from a sudden extension of the field of
enterprise, by the spirit with which that field has been entered and the
amazing energy with which its resources for meeting the demands of humanity
have been developed.

Although disease, assuming at one time the characteristics of a widespread
and devastating pestilence, has left its sad traces upon some portions of
our country, we have still the most abundant cause for reverent
thankfulness to God for an accumulation of signal mercies showered upon us
as a nation. It is well that a consciousness of rapid advancement and
increasing strength be habitually associated with an abiding sense of
dependence upon Him who holds in His hands the destiny of men and of

Recognizing the wisdom of the broad principle of absolute religious
toleration proclaimed in our fundamental law, and rejoicing in the benign
influence which it has exerted upon our social and political condition, I
should shrink from a clear duty did I fail to express my deepest conviction
that we can place no secure reliance upon any apparent progress if it be
not sustained by national integrity, resting upon the great truths affirmed
and illustrated by divine revelation. In the midst of our sorrow for the
afflicted and suffering, it has been consoling to see how promptly disaster
made true neighbors of districts and cities separated widely from each
other, and cheering to watch the strength of that common bond of
brotherhood which unites all hearts, in all parts of this Union, when
danger threatens from abroad or calamity impends over us at home.

Our diplomatic relations with foreign powers have undergone no essential
change since the adjournment of the last Congress. With some of them
questions of a disturbing character are still pending, but there are good
reasons to believe that these may all be amicably adjusted. For some years
past Great Britain has so construed the first article of the convention of
the 20th of April, 1818, in regard to the fisheries on the northeastern
coast, as to exclude our citizens from some of the fishing grounds to which
they freely resorted for nearly a quarter of a century subsequent to the
date of that treaty. The United States have never acquiesced in this
construction, but have always claimed for their fishermen all the rights
which they had so long enjoyed without molestation. With a view to remove
all difficulties on the subject, to extend the rights of our fishermen
beyond the limits fixed by the convention of 1818, and to regulate trade
between the United States and the British North American Provinces, a
negotiation has been opened with a fair prospect of a favorable result. To
protect our fishermen in the enjoyment of their rights and prevent
collision between them and British fishermen, I deemed it expedient to
station a naval force in that quarter during the fishing season.

Embarrassing questions have also arisen between the two Governments in
regard to Central America. Great Britain has proposed to settle them by an
amicable arrangement, and our minister at London is instructed to enter
into negotiations on that subject. A commission for adjusting the claims of
our citizens against Great Britain and those of British subjects against
the United States, organized under the convention of the 8th of February
last, is now sitting in London for the transaction of business. It is in
many respects desirable that the boundary line between the United States
and the British Provinces in the northwest, as designated in the convention
of the 15th of June, 1846, and especially that part which separates the
Territory of Washington from the British possessions on the north, should
be traced and marked. I therefore present the subject to your notice.

With France our relations continue on the most friendly footing. The
extensive commerce between the United States and that country might, it is
conceived, be released from some unnecessary restrictions to the mutual
advantage of both parties. With a view to this object, some progress has
been made in negotiating a treaty of commerce and navigation.

Independently of our valuable trade with Spain, we have important political
relations with her growing out of our neighborhood to the islands of Cuba
and Porto Rico. I am happy to announce that since the last Congress no
attempts have been made by unauthorized expeditions within the United
States against either of those colonies. Should any movement be manifested
within our limits, all the means at my command will be vigorously exerted
to repress it. Several annoying occurrences have taken place at Havana, or
in the vicinity of the island of Cuba, between our citizens and the Spanish
authorities. Considering the proximity of that island to our shores, lying,
as it does, in the track of trade between some of our principal cities, and
the suspicious vigilance with which foreign intercourse, particularly that
with the United States, is there guarded, a repetition of such occurrences
may well be apprehended.

As no diplomatic intercourse is allowed between our consul at Havana and
the Captain-General of Cuba, ready explanations can not be made or prompt
redress afforded where injury has resulted. All complaint on the part of
our citizens under the present arrangement must be, in the first place,
presented to this Government and then referred to Spain. Spain again refers
it to her local authorities in Cuba for investigation, and postpones an
answer till she has heard from those authorities. To avoid these irritating
and vexatious delays, a proposition has been made to provide for a direct
appeal for redress to the Captain-General by our consul in behalf of our
injured fellow-citizens. Hitherto the Government of Spain has declined to
enter into any such arrangement. This course on her part is deeply
regretted, for without some arrangement of this kind the good understanding
between the two countries may be exposed to occasional interruption. Our
minister at Madrid is instructed to renew the proposition and to press it
again upon the consideration of Her Catholic Majesty's Government.

For several years Spain has been calling the attention of this Government
to a claim for losses by some of her subjects in the case of the schooner
Amistad. This claim is believed to rest on the obligations imposed by our
existing treaty with that country. Its justice was admitted in our
diplomatic correspondence with the Spanish Government as early as March,
1847, and one of my predecessors, in his annual message of that year,
recommended that provision should be made for its payment. In January last
it was again submitted to Congress by the Executive. It has received a
favorable consideration by committees of both branches, but as yet there
has been no final action upon it. I conceive that good faith requires its
prompt adjustment, and I present it to your early and favorable

Martin Koszta, a Hungarian by birth, came to this country in 1850, and
declared his intention in due form of law to become a citizen of the United
States. After remaining here nearly two years he visited Turkey. While at
Smyrna he was forcibly seized, taken on board an Austrian brig of war then
lying in the harbor of that place, and there confined in irons, with the
avowed design to take him into the dominions of Austria. Our consul at
Smyrna and legation at Constantinople interposed for his release, but their
efforts were ineffectual. While thus in prison Commander Ingraham, with the
United States ship of war St. Louis, arrived at Smyrna, and after inquiring
into the circumstances of the case came to the conclusion that Koszta was
entitled to the protection of this Government, and took energetic and
prompt measures for his release. Under an arrangement between the agents of
the United States and of Austria, he was transferred to the custody of the
French consul-general at Smyrna, there to remain until he should be
disposed of by the mutual agreement of the consuls of the respective
Governments at that place. Pursuant to that agreement, he has been
released, and is now in the United States. The Emperor of Austria has made
the conduct of our officers who took part in this transaction a subject of
grave complaint. Regarding Koszta as still his subject, and claiming a
right to seize him within the limits of the Turkish Empire, he has demanded
of this Government its consent to the surrender of the prisoner, a
disavowal of the acts of its agents, and satisfaction for the alleged
outrage. After a careful consideration of the case I came to the conclusion
that Koszta was seized without legal authority at Smyrna; that he was
wrongfully detained on board of the Austrian brig of war; that at the time
of his seizure he was clothed with the nationality of the United States,
and that the acts of our officers, under the circumstances of the case,
were justifiable, and their conduct has been fully approved by me, and a
compliance with the several demands of the Emperor of Austria has been

For a more full account of this transaction and my views in regard to it I
refer to the correspondence between the charge d'affaires of Austria and
the Secretary of State, which is herewith transmitted. The principles and
policy therein maintained on the part of the United States will, whenever a
proper occasion occurs, be applied and enforced.

The condition of China at this time renders it probable that some important
changes will occur in that vast Empire which will lead to a more
unrestricted intercourse with it. The commissioner to that country who has
been recently appointed is instructed to avail himself of all occasions to
open and extend our commercial relations, not only with the Empire of
China, but with other Asiatic nations.

In 1852 an expedition was sent to Japan, under the command of Commodore
Perry, for the purpose of opening commercial intercourse with that Empire.
Intelligence has been received of his arrival there and of his having made
known to the Emperor of Japan the object of his visit. But it is not yet
ascertained how far the Emperor will be disposed to abandon his restrictive
policy and open that populous country to a commercial intercourse with the
United States.

It has been my earnest desire to maintain friendly intercourse with the
Governments upon this continent and to aid them in preserving good
understanding among themselves. With Mexico a dispute has arisen as to the
true boundary line between our Territory of New Mexico and the Mexican
State of Chihuahua. A former commissioner of the United States, employed in
running that line pursuant to the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, made a
serious mistake in determining the initial point on the Rio Grande; but
inasmuch as his decision was clearly a departure from the directions for
tracing the boundary contained in that treaty, and was not concurred in by
the surveyor appointed on the part of the United States, whose concurrence
was necessary to give validity to that decision, this Government is not
concluded thereby; but that of Mexico takes a different view of the

There are also other questions of considerable magnitude pending between
the two Republics. Our minister in Mexico has ample instructions to adjust
them. Negotiations have been opened, but sufficient progress has not been
made therein to enable me to speak of the probable result. Impressed with
the importance of maintaining amicable relations with that Republic and of
yielding with liberality to all her just claims, it is reasonable to expect
that an arrangement mutually satisfactory to both countries may be
concluded and a lasting friendship between them confirmed and perpetuated.

Congress having provided for a full mission to the States of Central
America, a minister was sent thither in July last. As yet he has had time
to visit only one of these States (Nicaragua), where he was received in the
most friendly manner. It is hoped that his presence and good offices will
have a benign effect in composing the dissensions which prevail among them,
and in establishing still more intimate and friendly relations between them
respectively and between each of them and the United States.

Considering the vast regions of this continent and the number of states
which would be made accessible by the free navigation of the river Amazon,
particular attention has been given to this subject. Brazil, through whose
territories it passes into the ocean, has hitherto persisted in a policy so
restricted in regard to the use of this river as to obstruct and nearly
exclude foreign commercial intercourse with the States which lie upon its
tributaries and upper branches. Our minister to that country is instructed
to obtain a relaxation of that policy and to use his efforts to induce the
Brazilian Government to open to common use, under proper safeguards, this
great natural highway for international trade. Several of the South
American States are deeply interested in this attempt to secure the free
navigation of the Amazon, and it is reasonable to expect their cooperation
in the measure. As the advantages of free commercial intercourse among
nations are better understood, more liberal views are generally entertained
as to the common rights of all to the free use of those means which nature
has provided for international communication. To these more liberal and
enlightened views it is hoped that Brazil will conform her policy and
remove all unnecessary restrictions upon the free use of a river which
traverses so many states and so large a part of the continent. I am happy
to inform you that the Republic of Paraguay and the Argentine Confederation
have yielded to the liberal policy still resisted by Brazil in regard to
the navigable rivers within their respective territories. Treaties
embracing this subject, among others, have been negotiated with these
Governments, which will be submitted to the Senate at the present session.

A new branch of commerce, important to the agricultural interests of the
United States, has within a few years past been opened with Peru.
Notwithstanding the inexhaustible deposits of guano upon the islands of
that country, considerable difficulties are experienced in obtaining the
requisite supply. Measures have been taken to remove these difficulties and
to secure a more abundant importation of the article. Unfortunately, there
has been a serious collision between our citizens who have resorted to the
Chincha Islands for it and the Peruvian authorities stationed there.
Redress for the outrages committed by the latter was promptly demanded by
our minister at Lima. This subject is now under consideration, and there is
reason to believe that Peru is disposed to offer adequate indemnity to the
aggrieved parties. We are thus not only at peace with all foreign
countries, but, in regard to political affairs, are exempt from any cause
of serious disquietude in our domestic relations.

The controversies which have agitated the country heretofore are passing
away with the causes which produced them and the passions which they had
awakened; or, if any trace of them remains, it may be reasonably hoped that
it will only be perceived in the zealous rivalry of all good citizens to
testify their respect for the rights of the States, their devotion to the
Union, and their common determination that each one of the States, its
institutions, its welfare, and its domestic peace, shall be held alike
secure under the sacred aegis of the Constitution. This new league of amity
and of mutual confidence and support into which the people of the Republic
have entered happily affords inducement and opportunity for the adoption of
a more comprehensive and unembarrassed line of policy and action as to the
great material interests of the country, whether regarded in themselves or
in connection with the powers of the civilized world.

The United States have continued gradually and steadily to expand through
acquisitions of territory, which, how much soever some of them may have
been questioned, are now universally seen and admitted to have been wise in
policy, just in character, and a great element in the advancement of our
country, and with it of the human race, in freedom, in prosperity, and in
happiness. The thirteen States have grown to be thirty-one, with relations
reaching to Europe on the one side and on the other to the distant realms
of Asia.

I am deeply sensible of the immense responsibility which the present
magnitude of the Republic and the diversity and multiplicity of its
interests devolves upon me, the alleviation of which so far as relates to
the immediate conduct of the public business, is, first, in my reliance on
the wisdom and patriotism of the two Houses of Congress, and, secondly, in
the directions afforded me by the principles of public polity affirmed by
our fathers of the epoch of 1798, sanctioned by long experience, and
consecrated anew by the overwhelming voice of the people of the United

Recurring to these principles, which constitute the organic basis of union,
we perceive that vast as are the functions and the duties of the Federal
Government, vested in or intrusted to its three great departments--the
legislative, executive, and judicial--yet the substantive power, the
popular force, and the large capacities for social and material development
exist in the respective States, which, all being of themselves
well-constituted republics, as they preceded so they alone are capable of
maintaining and perpetuating the American Union. The Federal Government has
its appropriate line of action in the specific and limited powers conferred
on it by the Constitution, chiefly as to those things in which the States
have a common interest in their relations to one another and to foreign
governments, while the great mass of interests which belong to cultivated
men--the ordinary business of life, the springs of industry, all the
diversified personal and domestic affairs of society--rest securely upon
the general reserved powers of the people of the several States. There is
the effective democracy of the nation, and there the vital essence of its
being and its greatness.

Of the practical consequences which flow from the nature of the Federal
Government, the primary one is the duty of administering with integrity and
fidelity the high trust reposed in it by the Constitution, especially in
the application of the public funds as drawn by taxation from the people
and appropriated to specific objects by Congress.

Happily, I have no occasion to suggest any radical changes in the financial
policy of the Government. Ours is almost, if not absolutely, the solitary
power of Christendom having a surplus revenue drawn immediately from
imposts on commerce, and therefore measured by the spontaneous enterprise
and national prosperity of the country, with such indirect relation to
agriculture, manufactures, and the products of the earth and sea as to
violate no constitutional doctrine and yet vigorously promote the general
welfare. Neither as to the sources of the public treasure nor as to the
manner of keeping and managing it does any grave controversy now prevail,
there being a general acquiescence in the wisdom of the present system.

The report of the Secretary of the Treasury will exhibit in detail the
state of the public finances and the condition of the various branches of
the public service administered by that Department of the Government.

The revenue of the country, levied almost insensibly to the taxpayer, goes
on from year to year, increasing beyond either the interests or the
prospective wants of the Government.

At the close of the fiscal year ending June 30, 1852, there remained in the
Treasury a balance of $14,632,136. The public revenue for the fiscal year
ending June 30, 1853, amounted to $58,931,865 from customs and to
$2,405,708 from public lands and other miscellaneous sources, amounting
together to $61,337,574, while the public expenditures for the same period,
exclusive of payments on account of the public debt, amounted to
$43,554,262, leaving a balance of $32,425,447 of receipts above

This fact of increasing surplus in the Treasury became the subject of
anxious consideration at a very early period of my Administration, and the
path of duty in regard to it seemed to me obvious and clear, namely: First,
to apply the surplus revenue to the discharge of the public debt so far as
it could judiciously be done, and, secondly, to devise means for the
gradual reduction of the revenue to the standard of the public exigencies.

Of these objects the first has been in the course of accomplishment in a
manner and to a degree highly satisfactory. The amount of the public debt
of all classes was on the 4th of March, 1853, $69,190,037, payments on
account of which have been made since that period to the amount of
$12,703,329, leaving unpaid and in continuous course of liquidation the sum
of $56,486,708. These payments, although made at the market price of the
respective classes of stocks, have been effected readily and to the general
advantage of the Treasury, and have at the same time proved of signal
utility in the relief they have incidentally afforded to the money market
and to the industrial and commercial pursuits of the country.

The second of the above-mentioned objects, that of the reduction of the
tariff, is of great importance, and the plan suggested by the Secretary of
the Treasury, which is to reduce the duties on certain articles and to add
to the free list many articles now taxed, and especially such as enter into
manufactures and are not largely, or at all, produced in the country, is
commended to your candid and careful consideration.

You will find in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, also,
abundant proof of the entire adequacy of the present fiscal system to meet
all the requirements of the public service, and that, while properly
administered, it operates to the advantage of the community in ordinary
business relations.

I respectfully ask your attention to sundry suggestions of improvements in
the settlement of accounts, especially as regards the large sums of
outstanding arrears due to the Government, and of other reforms in the
administrative action of his Department which are indicated by the
Secretary; as also to the progress made in the construction of marine
hospitals, custom-houses, and of a new mint in California and assay office
in the city of New York, heretofore provided for by Congress, and also to
the eminently successful progress of the Coast Survey and of the Light
House Board.

Among the objects meriting your attention will be important recommendations
from the Secretaries of War and Navy. I am fully satisfied that the Navy of
the United States is not in a condition of strength and efficiency
commensurate with the magnitude of our commercial and other interests, and
commend to your especial attention the suggestions on this subject made by
the Secretary of the Navy. I respectfully submit that the Army, which under
our system must always be regarded with the highest interest as a nucleus
around which the volunteer forces of the nation gather in the hour of
danger, requires augmentation, or modification, to adapt it to the present
extended limits and frontier relations of the country and the condition of
the Indian tribes in the interior of the continent, the necessity of which
will appear in the communications of the Secretaries of War and the

In the administration of the Post-Office Department for the fiscal year
ending June 30, 1853, the gross expenditure was $7,982,756, and the gross
receipts during the same period $5,942,734, showing that the current
revenue failed to meet the current expenses of the Department by the sum of
$2,042,032. The causes which, under the present postal system and laws, led
inevitably to this result are fully explained by the report of the
Postmaster-General, one great cause being the enormous rates the Department
has been compelled to pay for mail service rendered by railroad companies.

The exhibit in the report of the Postmaster-General of the income and
expenditures by mail steamers will be found peculiarly interesting and of a
character to demand the immediate action of Congress.

Numerous and flagrant frauds upon the Pension Bureau have been brought to
light within the last year, and in some instances merited punishments
inflicted; but, unfortunately, in others guilty parties have escaped, not
through the want of sufficient evidence to warrant a conviction, but in
consequence of the provisions of limitation in the existing laws.

From the nature of these claims, the remoteness of the tribunals to pass
upon them, and the mode in which the proof is of necessity furnished,
temptations to crime have been greatly stimulated by the obvious
difficulties of detection. The defects in the law upon this subject are so
apparent and so fatal to the ends of justice that your early action
relating to it is most desirable.

During the last fiscal year 9,819,411 acres of the public lands have been
surveyed and 10,363,891 acres brought into market. Within the same period
the sales by public purchase and private entry amounted to 1,083,495 acres;
located under military bountys and warrants, 6,142,360 acres; located under
other certificates, 9,427 acres; ceded to the States as swamp lands,
16,684,253 acres; selected for railroad and other objects under acts of
Congress, 1,427,457 acres: total amount of lands disposed of within the
fiscal year, 25,346,992 acres, which is an increase in quantity sold and
located under land warrants and grants of 12,231, 818 acres over the fiscal
year immediately preceding. The quantity of land sold during the second and
third quarters of 1852 was 334,451 acres; the amount received therefor was
$623,687. The quantity sold the second and third quarters of the year 1853
was 1,609,919 acres, and the amount received therefor $2,226,876.

The whole number of land warrants issued under existing laws prior to the
30th of September last was 266,042, of which there were outstanding at that
date 66,947. The quantity of land required to satisfy these outstanding
warrants is 4,778,120 acres. Warrants have been issued to 30th of September
last under the act of 11th February, 1847, calling for 12,879,280 acres,
under acts of September 28, 1850, and March 22, 1852, calling for
12,505,360 acres, making a total of 25,384,640 acres.

It is believed that experience has verified the wisdom and justice of the
present system with regard to the public domain in most essential

You will perceive from the report of the Secretary of the Interior that
opinions which have often been expressed in relation to the operation of
the land system as not being a source of revenue to the Federal Treasury
were erroneous. The net profits from the sale of the public lands to June
30, 1853, amounted to the sum of $53,289,465.

I recommend the extension of the land system over the Territories of Utah
and New Mexico, with such modifications as their peculiarities may

Regarding our public domain as chiefly valuable to provide homes for the
industrious and enterprising, I am not prepared to recommend any essential
change in the land system, except by modifications in favor of the actual
settler and an extension of the preemption principle in certain cases, for
reasons and on grounds which will be fully developed in the reports to be
laid before you.

Congress, representing the proprietors of the territorial domain and
charged especially with power to dispose of territory belonging to the
United States, has for a long course of years, beginning with the
Administration of Mr. Jefferson, exercised the power to construct roads
within the Territories, and there are so many and obvious distinctions
between this exercise of power and that of making roads within the States
that the former has never been considered subject to such objections as
apply to the latter; and such may now be considered the settled
construction of the power of the Federal Government upon the subject.

Numerous applications have been and no doubt will continue to be made for
grants of land in aid of the construction of railways. It is not believed
to be within the intent and meaning of the Constitution that the power to
dispose of the public domain should be used otherwise than might be
expected from a prudent proprietor and therefore that grants of land to aid
in the construction of roads should be restricted to cases where it would
be for the interest of a proprietor under like circumstances thus to
contribute to the construction of these works. For the practical operation
of such grants thus far in advancing the interests of the States in which
the works are located, and at the same time the substantial interests of
all the other States, by enhancing the value and promoting the rapid sale
of the public domain, I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the
Interior. A careful examination, however, will show that this experience is
the result of a just discrimination and will be far from affording
encouragement to a reckless or indiscriminate extension of the principle.

I commend to your favorable consideration the men of genius of our country
who by their inventions and discoveries in science and arts have
contributed largely to the improvements of the age without, in many
instances, securing for themselves anything like an adequate reward. For
many interesting details upon this subject I refer you to the appropriate
reports, and especially urge upon your early attention the apparently
slight, but really important, modifications of existing laws therein

The liberal spirit which has so long marked the action of Congress in
relation to the District of Columbia will, I have no doubt, continue to be

The erection of an asylum for the insane of the District of Columbia and of
the Army and Navy of the United States has been somewhat retarded by the
great demand for materials and labor during the past summer, but full
preparation for the reception of patients before the return of another
winter is anticipated; and there is the best reason to believe, from the
plan and contemplated arrangements which have been devised, with the large
experience furnished within the last few years in relation to the nature
and treatment of the disease, that it will prove an asylum indeed to this
most helpless and afflicted class of sufferers and stand as a noble
monument of wisdom and mercy. Under the acts of Congress of August 31,
1852, and of March 3, 1853, designed to secure for the cities of Washington
and Georgetown an abundant supply of good and wholesome water, it became my
duty to examine the report and plans of the engineer who had charge of the
surveys under the act first named. The best, if not the only, plan
calculated to secure permanently the object sought was that which
contemplates taking the water from the Great Falls of the Potomac, and
consequently I gave to it my approval.

For the progress and present condition of this important work and for its
demands so far as appropriations are concerned I refer you to the report of
the Secretary of War.

The present judicial system of the United States has now been in operation
for so long a period of time and has in its general theory and much of its
details become so familiar to the country and acquired so entirely the
public confidence that if modified in any respect it should only be in
those particulars which may adapt it to the increased extent, population,
and legal business of the United States. In this relation the organization
of the courts is now confessedly inadequate to the duties to be performed
by them, in consequence of which the States of Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa,
Texas, and California, and districts of other States, are in effect
excluded from the full benefits of the general system by the functions of
the circuit court being devolved on the district judges in all those States
or parts of States. The spirit of the Constitution and a due regard to
justice require that all the States of the Union should be placed on the
same footing in regard to the judicial tribunals. I therefore commend to
your consideration this important subject, which in my judgment demands the
speedy action of Congress. I will present to you, if deemed desirable, a
plan which I am prepared to recommend for the enlargement and modification
of the present judicial system.

The act of Congress establishing the Smithsonian Institution provided that
the President of the United States and other persons therein designated
should constitute an "establishment" by that name, and that the members
should hold stated and special meetings for the supervision of the affairs
of the Institution. The organization not having taken place, it seemed to
me proper that it should be effected without delay. This has been done; and
an occasion was thereby presented for inspecting the condition of the
Institution and appreciating its successful progress thus far and its high
promise of great and general usefulness.

I have omitted to ask your favorable consideration for the estimates of
works of a local character in twenty-seven of the thirty-one States,
amounting to $1,754,500, because, independently of the grounds which have
so often been urged against the application of the Federal revenue for
works of this character, inequality, with consequent injustice, is inherent
in the nature of the proposition, and because the plan has proved entirely
inadequate to the accomplishment of the objects sought.

The subject of internal improvements, claiming alike the interest and good
will of all, has, nevertheless, been the basis of much political discussion
and has stood as a deep-graven line of division between statesmen of
eminent ability and patriotism. The rule of strict construction of all
powers delegated by the States to the General Government has arrayed itself
from time to time against the rapid progress of expenditures from the
National Treasury on works of a local character within the States.
Memorable as an epoch in the history of this subject is the message of
President Jackson of the 27th of May, 1830, which met the system of
internal improvements in its comparative infancy; but so rapid had been its
growth that the projected appropriations in that year for works of this
character had risen to the alarming amount of more than $100,000,000

In that message the President admitted the difficulty of bringing back the
operations of the Government to the construction of the Constitution set up
in 1798, and marked it as an admonitory proof of the necessity of guarding
that instrument with sleepless vigilance against the authority of
precedents which had not the sanction of its most plainly defined powers.

Our Government exists under a written compact between sovereign States,
uniting for specific objects and with specific grants to their general
agent. If, then, in the progress of its administration there have been
departures from the terms and intent of the compact, it is and will ever be
proper to refer back to the fixed standard which our fathers left us and to
make a stern effort to conform our action to it. It would seem that the
fact of a principle having been resisted from the first by many of the
wisest and most patriotic men of the Republic, and a policy having provoked
constant strife without arriving at a conclusion which can be regarded as
satisfactory to its most earnest advocates, should suggest the inquiry
whether there may not be a plan likely to be crowned by happier results.
Without perceiving any sound distinction or intending to assert any
principle as opposed to improvements needed for the protection of internal
commerce which does not equally apply to improvements upon the seaboard for
the protection of foreign commerce, I submit to you whether it may not be
safely anticipated that if the policy were once settled against
appropriations by the General Government for local improvements for the
benefit of commerce, localities requiring expenditures would not, by modes
and means clearly legitimate and proper, raise the fund necessary for such
constructions as the safety or other interests of their commerce might

If that can be regarded as a system which in the experience of mere than
thirty years has at no time so commanded the public judgment as to give it
the character of a settled policy; which, though it has produced some works
of conceded importance, has been attended with an expenditure quite
disproportionate to their value and has resulted in squandering large sums
upon objects which have answered no valuable purpose, the interests of all
the States require it to be abandoned unless hopes may be indulged for the
future which find no warrant in the past.

With an anxious desire for the completion of the works which are regarded
by all good citizens with sincere interest, I have deemed it my duty to ask
at your hands a deliberate reconsideration of the question, with a hope
that, animated by a desire to promote the permanent and substantial
interests of the country, your wisdom may prove equal to the task of
devising and maturing a plan which, applied to this subject, may promise
something better than constant strife, the suspension of the powers of
local enterprise, the exciting of vain hopes, and the disappointment of
cherished expectations.

In expending the appropriations made by the last Congress several cases
have arisen in relation to works for the improvement of harbors which
involve questions as to the right of soil and jurisdiction, and have
threatened conflict between the authority of the State and General
Governments. The right to construct a breakwater, jetty, or dam would seem
necessarily to carry with it the power to protect and preserve such
constructions. This can only be effectually done by having jurisdiction
over the soil. But no clause of the Constitution is found on which to rest
the claim of the United States to exercise jurisdiction over the soil of a
State except that conferred by the eighth section of the first article of
the Constitution. It is, then, submitted whether, in all cases where
constructions are to be erected by the General Government, the right of
soil should not first be obtained and legislative provision be made to
cover all such cases. For the progress made in the construction of roads
within the Territories, as provided for in the appropriations of the last
Congress, I refer you to the report of the Secretary of War.

There is one subject of a domestic nature which, from its intrinsic
importance and the many interesting questions of future policy which it
involves, can not fail to receive your early attention. I allude to the
means of communication by which different parts of the wide expanse of our
country are to be placed in closer connection for purposes both of defense
and commercial intercourse, and more especially such as appertain to the
communication of those great divisions of the Union which lie on the
opposite sides of the Rocky Mountains. That the Government has not been
unmindful of this heretofore is apparent from the aid it has afforded
through appropriations for mail facilities and other purposes. But the
general subject will now present itself under aspects more imposing and
more purely national by reason of the surveys ordered by Congress, and now
in the process of completion, for communication by railway across the
continent, and wholly within the limits of the United States.

The power to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and
maintain a navy, and to call forth the militia to execute the laws,
suppress insurrections, and repel invasions was conferred upon Congress as
means to provide for the common defense and to protect a territory and a
population now widespread and vastly multiplied. As incidental to and
indispensable for the exercise of this power, it must sometimes be
necessary to construct military roads and protect harbors of refuge. To
appropriations by Congress for such objects no sound objection can be
raised. Happily for our country, its peaceful policy and rapidly increasing
population impose upon us no urgent necessity for preparation, and leave
but few trackless deserts between assailable points and a patriotic people
ever ready and generally able to protect them. These necessary links the
enterprise and energy of our people are steadily and boldly struggling to
supply. All experience affirms that wherever private enterprise will avail
it is most wise for the General Government to leave to that and individual
watchfulness the location and execution of all means of communication.

The surveys before alluded to were designed to ascertain the most
practicable and economical route for a railroad from the river Mississippi
to the Pacific Ocean. Parties are now in the field making explorations,
where previous examinations had not supplied sufficient data and where
there was the best reason to hope the object sought might be found. The
means and time being both limited, it is not to be expected that all the
accurate knowledge desired will be obtained, but it is hoped that much and
important information will be added to the stock previously possessed, and
that partial, if not full, reports of the surveys ordered will be received
in time for transmission to the two Houses of Congress on or before the
first Monday in February next, as required by the act of appropriation. The
magnitude of the enterprise contemplated has aroused and will doubtless
continue to excite a very general interest throughout the country. In its
political, its commercial, and its military bearings it has varied, great,
and increasing claims to consideration. The heavy expense, the great delay,
and, at times, fatality attending travel by either of the Isthmus routes
have demonstrated the advantage which would result from interterritorial
communication by such safe and rapid means as a railroad would supply.

These difficulties, which have been encountered in a period of peace, would
be magnified and still further increased in time of war. But whilst the
embarrassments already encountered and others under new contingencies to be
anticipated may serve strikingly to exhibit the importance of such a work,
neither these nor all considerations combined can have an appreciable value
when weighed against the obligation strictly to adhere to the Constitution
and faithfully to execute the powers it confers.

Within this limit and to the extent of the interest of the Government
involved it would seem both expedient and proper if an economical and
practicable route shall be found to aid by all constitutional means in the
construction of a road which will unite by speedy transit the populations
of the Pacific and Atlantic States. To guard against misconception, it
should be remarked that although the power to construct or aid in the
construction of a road within the limits of a Territory is not embarrassed
by that question of jurisdiction which would arise within the limits of a
State, it is, nevertheless, held to be of doubtful power and more than
doubtful propriety, even within the limits of a Territory, for the General
Government to undertake to administer the affairs of a railroad, a canal,
or other similar construction, and therefore that its connection with a
work of this character should be incidental rather than primary. I will
only add at present that, fully appreciating the magnitude of the subject
and solicitous that the Atlantic and Pacific shores of the Republic may be
bound together by inseparable ties of common interest, as well as of common
fealty and attachment to the Union, I shall be disposed, so far as my own
action is concerned, to follow the lights of the Constitution as expounded
and illustrated by those whose opinions and expositions constitute the
standard of my political faith in regard to the powers of the Federal
Government. It is, I trust, not necessary to say that no grandeur of
enterprise and no present urgent inducement promising popular favor will
lead me to disregard those lights or to depart from that path which
experience has proved to be safe, and which is now radiant with the glow of
prosperity and legitimate constitutional progress. We can afford to wait,
but we can not afford to overlook the ark of our security.

It is no part of my purpose to give prominence to any subject which may
properly be regarded as set at rest by the deliberate judgment of the
people. But while the present is bright with promise and the future full of
demand and inducement for the exercise of active intelligence, the past can
never be without useful lessons of admonition and instruction. If its
dangers serve not as beacons, they will evidently fail to fulfill the
object of a wise design. When the grave shall have closed over all who are
now endeavoring to meet the obligations of duty, the year 1850 will be
recurred to as a period filled with anxious apprehension. A successful war
had just terminated. Peace brought with it a vast augmentation of
territory. Disturbing questions arose bearing upon the domestic
institutions of one portion of the Confederacy and involving the
constitutional rights of the States. But notwithstanding differences of
opinion and sentiment which then existed in relation to details and
specific provisions, the acquiescence of distinguished citizens, whose
devotion to the Union can never be doubted, has given renewed vigor to our
institutions and restored a sense of repose and security to the public mind
throughout the Confederacy. That this repose is to suffer no shock during
my official term, if I have power to avert it, those who placed me here may
be assured. The wisdom of men who knew what independence cost, who had put
all at stake upon the issue of the Revolutionary struggle, disposed of the
subject to which I refer in the only way consistent with the Union of these
States and with the march of power and prosperity which has made us what we
are. It is a significant fact that from the adoption of the Constitution
until the officers and soldiers of the Revolution had passed to their
graves, or, through the infirmities of age and wounds, had ceased to
participate actively in public affairs, there was not merely a quiet
acquiescence in, but a prompt vindication of, the constitutional rights of
the States. The reserved powers were scrupulously respected. No statesman
put forth the narrow views of casuists to justify interference and
agitation, but the spirit of the compact was regarded as sacred in the eye
of honor and indispensable for the great experiment of civil liberty,
which, environed by inherent difficulties, was yet borne forward in
apparent weakness by a power superior to all obstacles. There is no
condemnation which the voice of freedom will not pronounce upon us should
we prove faithless to this great trust. While men inhabiting different
parts of this vast continent can no more be expected to hold the same
opinions or entertain the same sentiments than every variety of climate or
soil can be expected to furnish the same agricultural products, they can
unite in a common object and sustain common principles essential to the
maintenance of that object. The gallant men of the South and the North
could stand together during the struggle of the Revolution; they could
stand together in the more trying period which succeeded the clangor of
arms. As their united valor was adequate to all the trials of the camp and
dangers of the field, so their united wisdom proved equal to the greater
task of founding upon a deep and broad basis institutions which it has been
our privilege to enjoy and will ever be our most sacred duty to sustain. It
is but the feeble expression of a faith strong and universal to say that
their sons, whose blood mingled so often upon the same field during the War
of 1812 and who have more recently borne in triumph the flag of the country
upon a foreign soil, will never permit alienation of feeling to weaken the
power of their united efforts nor internal dissensions to paralyze the
great arm of freedom, uplifted for the vindication of self-government.

I have thus briefly presented such suggestions as seem to me especially
worthy of your consideration. In providing for the present you can hardly
fail to avail yourselves of the light which the experience of the past
casts upon the future.

The growth of our population has now brought us, in the destined career of
our national history, to a point at which it well behooves us to expand our
vision over the vast prospective.

The successive decennial returns of the census since the adoption of the
Constitution have revealed a law of steady, progressive development, which
may be stated in general terms as a duplication every quarter century.
Carried forward from the point already reached for only a short period of
time, as applicable to the existence of a nation, this law of progress, if
unchecked, will bring us to almost incredible results. A large allowance
for a diminished proportional effect of emigration would not very
materially reduce the estimate, while the increased average duration of
human life known to have already resulted from the scientific and hygienic
improvements of the past fifty years will tend to keep up through the next
fifty, or perhaps hundred, the same ratio of growth which has been thus
revealed in our past progress; and to the influence of these causes may be
added the influx of laboring masses from eastern Asia to the Pacific side
of our possessions, together with the probable accession of the populations
already existing in other parts of our hemisphere, which within the period
in question will feel with yearly increasing force the natural attraction
of so vast, powerful, and prosperous a confederation of self-governing
republics and will seek the privilege of being admitted within its safe and
happy bosom, transferring with themselves, by a peaceful and healthy
process of incorporation, spacious regions of virgin and exuberant soil,
which are destined to swarm with the fast growing and fast-spreading
millions of our race.

These considerations seem fully to justify the presumption that the law of
population above stated will continue to act with undiminished effect
through at least the next half century, and that thousands of persons who
have already arrived at maturity and are now exercising the rights of
freemen will close their eyes on the spectacle of more than 100,000,000 of
population embraced within the majestic proportions of the American Union.
It is not merely as an interesting topic of speculation that I present
these views for your consideration. They have important practical bearings
upon all the political duties we are called upon to perform. Heretofore our
system of government has worked on what may be termed a miniature scale in
comparison with the development which it must thus assume within a future
so near at hand as scarcely to be beyond the present of the existing

It is evident that a confederation so vast and so varied, both in numbers
and in territorial extent, in habits and in interests, could only be kept
in national cohesion by the strictest fidelity to the principles of the
Constitution as understood by those who have adhered to the most restricted
construction of the powers granted by the people and the States.
Interpreted and applied according to those principles, the great compact
adapts itself with healthy ease and freedom to an unlimited extension of
that benign system of federative self-government of which it is our
glorious and, I trust, immortal charter. Let us, then, with redoubled
vigilance, be on our guard against yielding to the temptation of the
exercise of doubtful powers, even under the pressure of the motives of
conceded temporary advantage and apparent temporary expediency. The minimum
of Federal government compatible with the maintenance of national unity and
efficient action in our relations with the rest of the world should afford
the rule and measure of construction of our powers under the general
clauses of the Constitution. A spirit of strict deference to the sovereign
rights and dignity of every State, rather than a disposition to subordinate
the States into a provincial relation to the central authority, should
characterize all our exercise of the respective powers temporarily vested
in us as a sacred trust from the generous confidence of our constituents.

In like manner, as a manifestly indispensable condition of the perpetuation
of the Union and of the realization of that magnificent national future
adverted to, does the duty become yearly stronger and clearer upon us, as
citizens of the several States, to cultivate a fraternal and affectionate
spirit, language, and conduct in regard to other States and in relation to
the varied interests, institutions, and habits of sentiment and opinion
which may respectively characterize them. Mutual forbearance, respect, and
noninterference in our personal action as citizens and an enlarged exercise
of the most liberal principles of comity in the public dealings of State
with State, whether in legislation or in the execution of laws, are the
means to perpetuate that confidence and fraternity the decay of which a
mere political union, on so vast a scale, could not long survive.

In still another point of view is an important practical duty suggested by
this consideration of the magnitude of dimensions to which our political
system, with its corresponding machinery of government, is so rapidly
expanding. With increased vigilance does it require us to cultivate the
cardinal virtues of public frugality and official integrity and purity.
Public affairs ought to be so conducted that a settled conviction shall
pervade the entire Union that nothing short of the highest tone and
standard of public morality marks every part of the administration and
legislation of the General Government. Thus will the federal system,
whatever expansion time and progress may give it, continue more and more
deeply rooted in the love and confidence of the people.

That wise economy which is as far removed from parsimony as from corrupt
and corrupting extravagance; that single regard for the public good which
will frown upon all attempts to approach the Treasury with insidious
projects of private interest cloaked under public pretexts; that sound
fiscal administration which, in the legislative department, guards against
the dangerous temptations incident to overflowing revenue, and, in the
executive, maintains an unsleeping watchfulness against the tendency of all
national expenditure to extravagance, while they are admitted elementary
political duties, may, I trust, be deemed as properly adverted to and urged
in view of the more impressive sense of that necessity which is directly
suggested by the considerations now presented.

Since the adjournment of Congress the Vice-President of the United States
has passed from the scenes of earth, without having entered upon the duties
of the station to which he had been called by the voice of his countrymen.
Having occupied almost continuously for more than thirty years a seat in
one or the other of the two Houses of Congress, and having by his singular
purity and wisdom secured unbounded confidence and universal respect, his
failing health was watched by the nation with painful solicitude. His loss
to the country, under all the circumstances, has been justly regarded as

In compliance with the act of Congress of March 2, 1853, the oath of office
was administered to him on the 24th of that month at Ariadne estate, near
Matanzas, in the island of Cuba; but his strength gradually declined, and
was hardly sufficient to enable him to return to his home in Alabama,
where, on the 18th day of April, in the most calm and peaceful way, his
long and eminently useful career was terminated. Entertaining unlimited
confidence in your intelligent and patriotic devotion to the public
interest, and being conscious of no motives on my part which are not
inseparable from the honor and advancement of my country, I hope it may be
my privilege to deserve and secure not only your cordial cooperation in
great public measures, but also those relations of mutual confidence and
regard which it is always so desirable to cultivate between members of
coordinate branches of the Government.


State of the Union Address
Franklin Pierce
December 4, 1854

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

The past has been an eventful year, and will be hereafter referred to as a
marked epoch in the history of the world. While we have been happily
preserved from the calamities of war, our domestic prosperity has not been
entirely uninterrupted. The crops in portions of the country have been
nearly cut off. Disease has prevailed to a greater extent than usual, and
the sacrifice of human life through casualties by sea and land is without
parallel. But the pestilence has swept by, and restored salubrity invites
the absent to their homes and the return of business to its ordinary
channels. If the earth has rewarded the labor of the husbandman less
bountifully than in preceding seasons, it has left him with abundance for
domestic wants and a large surplus for exportation. In the present,
therefore, as in the past, we find ample grounds for reverent thankfulness
to the God of grace and providence for His protecting care and merciful
dealings with us as a people.

Although our attention has been arrested by painful interest in passing
events, yet our country feels no more than the slight vibrations of the
convulsions which have shaken Europe. As individuals we can not repress
sympathy with human suffering nor regret for the causes which produce it;
as a nation we are reminded that whatever interrupts the peace or checks
the prosperity of any part of Christendom tends more or less to involve our
own. The condition of States is not unlike that of individuals; they are
mutually dependent upon each other. Amicable relations between them and
reciprocal good will are essential for the promotion of whatever is
desirable in their moral, social, and political condition. Hence it has
been my earnest endeavor to maintain peace and friendly intercourse with
all nations.

The wise theory of this Government, so early adopted and steadily pursued,
of avoiding all entangling alliances has hitherto exempted it from many
complications in which it would otherwise have become involved.
Notwithstanding this our clearly defined and well-sustained course of
action and our geographical position, so remote from Europe, increasing
disposition has been manifested by some of its Governments to supervise and
in certain respects to direct our foreign policy. In plans for adjusting
the balance of power among themselves they have assumed to take us into
account, and would constrain us to conform our conduct to their views. One
or another of the powers of Europe has from time to time undertaken to
enforce arbitrary regulations contrary in many respects to established
principles of international law. That law the United States have in their
foreign intercourse uniformly respected and observed, and they can not
recognize any such interpolations therein as the temporary interests of
others may suggest. They do not admit that the sovereigns of one continent
or of a particular community of states can legislate for all others.

Leaving the transatlantic nations to adjust their political system in the
way they may think best for their common welfare, the independent powers of
this continent may well assert the right to be exempt from all annoying
interference on their part. Systematic abstinence from intimate political
connection with distant foreign nations does not conflict with giving the
widest range to our foreign commerce. This distinction, so clearly marked
in history, seems to have been overlooked or disregarded by some leading
foreign states. Our refusal to be brought within and subjected to their
peculiar system has, I fear, created a jealous distrust of our conduct and
induced on their part occasional acts of disturbing effect upon our foreign
relations. Our present attitude and past course give assurances, which
should not be questioned, that our purposes are not aggressive nor
threatening to the safety and welfare of other nations. Our military
establishment in time of peace is adapted to maintain exterior defenses and
to preserve order among the aboriginal tribes within the limits of the
Union. Our naval force is intended only for the protection of our citizens
abroad and of our commerce, diffused, as it is, over all the seas of the
globe. The Government of the United States, being essentially pacific in
policy, stands prepared to repel invasion by the voluntary service of a
patriotic people, and provides no permanent means of foreign aggression.
These considerations should allay all apprehension that we are disposed to
encroach on the rights or endanger the security of other states.

Some European powers have regarded with disquieting concern the territorial
expansion of the United States. This rapid growth has resulted from the
legitimate exercise of sovereign rights belonging alike to all nations, and
by many liberally exercised. Under such circumstances it could hardly have
been expected that those among them which have within a comparatively
recent period subdued and absorbed ancient kingdoms, planted their
standards on every continent, and now possess or claim the control of the
islands of every ocean as their appropriate domain would look with
unfriendly sentiments upon the acquisitions of this country, in every
instance honorably obtained, or would feel themselves justified in imputing
our advancement to a spirit of aggression or to a passion for political
predominance. Our foreign commerce has reached a magnitude and extent
nearly equal to that of the first maritime power of the earth, and
exceeding that of any other. Over this great interest, in which not only
our merchants, but all classes of citizens, at least indirectly, are
concerned, it is the duty of the executive and legislative branches of the
Government to exercise a careful supervision and adopt proper measures for
its protection. The policy which I had in view in regard to this interest
embraces its future as well as its present security. Long experience has
shown that, in general, when the principal powers of Europe are engaged in
war the rights of neutral nations are endangered. This consideration led,
in the progress of the War of our Independence, to the formation of the
celebrated confederacy of armed neutrality, a primary object of which was
to assert the doctrine that free ships make free goods, except in the case
of articles contraband of war--a doctrine which from the very commencement
of our national being has been a cherished idea of the statesmen of this
country. At one period or another every maritime power has by some solemn
treaty stipulation recognized that principle, and it might have been hoped
that it would come to be universally received and respected as a rule of
international law. But the refusal of one power prevented this, and in the
next great war which ensued--that of the French Revolution--it failed to be
respected among the belligerent States of Europe. Notwithstanding this, the
principle is generally admitted to be a sound and salutary one, so much so
that at the commencement of the existing war in Europe Great Britain and
France announced their purpose to observe it for the present; not, however,
as a recognized international fight, but as a mere concession for the time
being. The cooperation, however, of these two powerful maritime nations in
the interest of neutral rights appeared to me to afford an occasion
inviting and justifying on the part of the United States a renewed effort
to make the doctrine in question a principle of international law, by means
of special conventions between the several powers of Europe and America.
Accordingly, a proposition embracing not only the rule that free ships make
free goods, except contraband articles, but also the less contested one
that neutral property other than contraband, though on board enemy's ships,
shall be exempt from confiscation, has been submitted by this Government to
those of Europe and America.

Russia acted promptly in this matter, and a convention was concluded
between that country and the United States providing for the observance of
the principles announced, not only as between themselves, but also as
between them and all other nations which shall enter into like
stipulations. None of the other powers have as yet taken final action on
the subject. I am not aware, however, that any objection to the proposed
stipulations has been made, but, on the contrary, they are acknowledged to
be essential to the security of neutral commerce, and the only apparent
obstacle to their general adoption is in the possibility that it may be
encumbered by inadmissible conditions. The King of the Two Sicilies has
expressed to our minister at Naples his readiness to concur in our
proposition relative to neutral rights and to enter into a convention on
that subject.

The King of Prussia entirely approves of the project of a treaty to the
same effect submitted to him, but proposes an additional article providing
for the renunciation of privateering. Such an article, for most obvious
reasons, is much desired by nations having naval establishments large in
proportion to their foreign commerce. If it were adopted as an
international rule, the commerce of a nation having comparatively a small
naval force would be very much at the mercy of its enemy in case of war
with a power of decided naval superiority. The bare statement of the
condition in which the United States would be placed, after having
surrendered the right to resort to privateers, in the event of war with a
belligerent of naval supremacy will show that this Government could never
listen to such a proposition. The navy of the first maritime power in
Europe is at least ten times as large as that of the United States. The
foreign commerce of the two countries is nearly equal, and about equally
exposed to hostile depredations. In war between that power and the United
States, without resort on our part to our mercantile marine the means of
our enemy to inflict injury upon our commerce would be tenfold greater than
ours to retaliate. We could not extricate our country from this unequal
condition, with such an enemy, unless we at once departed from our present
peaceful policy and became a great naval power. Nor would this country be
better situated in war with one of the secondary naval powers. Though the
naval disparity would be less, the greater extent and more exposed
condition of our widespread commerce would give any of them a like
advantage over us.

The proposition to enter into engagements to forego a resort to privateers
in case this country should be forced into war with a great naval power is
not entitled to more favorable consideration than would be a proposition to
agree not to accept the services of volunteers for operations on land. When
the honor or the rights of our country require it to assume a hostile
attitude, it confidently relies upon the patriotism of its citizens, not
ordinarily devoted to the military profession, to augment the Army and the
Navy so as to make them fully adequate to the emergency which calls them
into action. The proposal to surrender the right to employ privateers is
professedly founded upon the principle that private property of unoffending
noncombatants, though enemies, should be exempt from the ravages of war;
but the proposed surrender goes but little way in carrying out that
principle, which equally requires that such private property should not be
seized or molested by national ships of war. Should the leading powers of
Europe concur in proposing as a rule of international law to exempt private
property upon the ocean from seizure by public armed cruisers as well as by
privateers, the United States will readily meet them upon that broad

Since the adjournment of Congress the ratifications of the treaty between
the United States and Great Britain relative to coast fisheries and to
reciprocal trade with the British North American Provinces have been
exchanged, and some of its anticipated advantages are already enjoyed by
us, although its full execution was to abide certain acts of legislation
not yet fully performed. So soon as it was ratified Great Britain opened to
our commerce the free navigation of the river St. Lawrence and to our
fishermen unmolested access to the shores and bays, from which they had
been previously excluded, on the coasts of her North American Provinces; in
return for which she asked for the introduction free of duty into the ports
of the United States of the fish caught on the same coast by British
fishermen. This being the compensation stipulated in the treaty for
privileges of the highest importance and value to the United States, which
were thus voluntarily yielded before it became effective, the request
seemed to me to be a reasonable one; but it could not be acceded to from
want of authority to suspend our laws imposing duties upon all foreign
fish. In the meantime the Treasury Department issued a regulation for
ascertaining the duties paid or secured by bonds on fish caught on the
coasts of the British Provinces and brought to our markets by British
subjects after the fishing grounds had been made fully accessible to the
citizens of the United States. I recommend to your favorable consideration
a proposition, which will be submitted to you, for authority to refund the
duties and cancel the bonds thus received. The Provinces of Canada and New
Brunswick have also anticipated the full operation of the treaty by
legislative arrangements, respectively, to admit free of duty the products
of the United States mentioned in the free list of the treaty; and an
arrangement similar to that regarding British fish has been made for duties
now chargeable on the products of those Provinces enumerated in the same
free list and introduced therefrom into the United States, a proposition
for refunding which will, in my judgment, be in like manner entitled to
your favorable consideration.

There is difference of opinion between the United States and Great Britain
as to the boundary line of the Territory of Washington adjoining the
British possessions on the Pacific, which has already led to difficulties
on the part of the citizens and local authorities of the two Governments I
recommend that provision he made for a commission, to be joined by one on
the part of Her Britannic Majesty, for the purpose of running and
establishing the line in controversy. Certain stipulations of the third and
fourth articles of the treaty concluded by the United States and Great
Britain in 1846, regarding possessory rights of the Hudsons Bay Company and
property of the Pugets Sound Agricultural Company, have given rise to
serious disputes, and it is important to all concerned that summary means
of settling them amicably should be devised. I have reason to believe that
an arrangement can be made on just terms for the extinguishment of the
rights in question, embracing also the right of the Hudsons Bay Company to
the navigation of the river Columbia; and I therefore suggest to your
consideration the expediency of making a contingent appropriation for that

France was the early and efficient ally of the United States in their
struggle for independence. From that time to the present, with occasional
slight interruptions, cordial relations of friendship have existed between
the Governments and people of the two countries. The kindly sentiments
cherished alike by both nations have led to extensive social and commercial
intercourse, which I trust will not be interrupted or checked by any casual
event of an apparently unsatisfactory character. The French consul at San
Francisco was not long since brought into the United States district court
at that place by compulsory process as a witness in favor of another
foreign consul, in violation, as the French Government conceives, of his
privileges under our consular convention with France. There being nothing
in the transaction which could imply any disrespect to France or its
consul, such explanation has been made as, I hope, will be satisfactory.
Subsequently misunderstanding arose on the subject of the French Government
having, as it appeared, abruptly excluded the American minister to Spain
from passing through France on his way from London to Madrid. But that
Government has unequivocally disavowed any design to deny the right of
transit to the minister of the United States, and after explanations to
this effect he has resumed his journey and actually returned through France
to Spain. I herewith lay before Congress the correspondence on this subject
between our envoy at Paris and the minister of foreign relations of the
French Government.

The position of our affairs with Spain remains as at the close of the last
session. Internal agitation, assuming very nearly the character of
political revolution, has recently convulsed that country. The late
ministers were violently expelled from power, and men of very different
views in relation to its internal affairs have succeeded. Since this change
there has been no propitious opportunity to resume and press on
negotiations for the adjustment of serious questions of difficulty between
the Spanish Government and the United States. There is reason to believe
that our minister will find the present Government more favorably inclined
than the preceding to comply with our just demands and to make suitable
arrangements for restoring harmony and preserving peace between the two

Negotiations are pending with Denmark to discontinue the practice of
levying tolls on our vessels and their cargoes passing through the Sound. I
do not doubt that we can claim exemption therefrom as a matter of right. It
is admitted on all hands that this exaction is sanctioned, not by the
general principles of the law of nations, but only by special conventions
which most of the commercial nations have entered into with Denmark. The
fifth article of our treaty of 1826 with Denmark provides that there shall
not be paid on the vessels of the United States and their cargoes when
passing through the Sound higher duties than those of the most favored
nations. This may be regarded as an implied agreement to submit to the
tolls during the continuance of the treaty, and consequently may embarrass
the assertion of our right to be released therefrom. There are also other
provisions in the treaty which ought to be modified. It was to remain in
force for ten years and until one year after either party should give
notice to the other of intention to terminate it. I deem it expedient that
the contemplated notice should be given to the Government of Denmark.

The naval expedition dispatched about two years since for the purpose of
establishing relations with the Empire of Japan has been ably and
skillfully conducted to a successful termination by the officer to whom it
was intrusted. A treaty opening certain of the ports of that populous
country has been negotiated, and in order to give full effect thereto it
only remains to exchange ratifications and adopt requisite commercial

The treaty lately concluded between the United States and Mexico settled
some of our most embarrassing difficulties with that country, but numerous
claims upon it for wrongs and injuries to our citizens remained unadjusted,
and many new cases have been recently added to the former list of
grievances. Our legation has been earnest in its endeavors to obtain from
the Mexican Government a favorable consideration of these claims, but
hitherto without success. This failure is probably in some measure to be
ascribed to the disturbed condition of that country. It has been my anxious
desire to maintain friendly relations with the Mexican Republic and to
cause its rights and territories to be respected, not only by our citizens,
but by foreigners who have resorted to the United States for the purpose of
organizing hostile expeditions against some of the States of that Republic.
The defenseless condition in which its frontiers have been left has
stimulated lawless adventurers to embark in these enterprises and greatly
increased the difficulty of enforcing our obligations of neutrality.
Regarding it as my solemn duty to fulfill efficiently these obligations not
only toward Mexico, but other foreign nations, I have exerted all the
powers with which I am invested to defeat such proceedings and bring to
punishment those who by taking a part therein violated our laws. The energy
and activity of our civil and military authorities have frustrated the
designs of those who meditated expeditions of this character except in two
instances. One of these, composed of foreigners, was at first countenanced
and aided by the Mexican Government itself, it having been deceived as to
their real object. The other, small in number, eluded the vigilance of the
magistrates at San Francisco and succeeded in reaching the Mexican
territories; but the effective measures taken by this Government compelled
the abandonment of the undertaking.

The commission to establish the new line between the United States and
Mexico, according to the provisions of the treaty of the 30th of December
last, has been organized, and the work is already commenced.

Our treaties with the Argentine Confederation and with the Republics of
Uruguay and Paraguay secure to us the free navigation of the river La Plata
and some of its larger tributaries, but the same success has not attended
our endeavors to open the Amazon. The reasons in favor of the free use of
that river I had occasion to present fully in a former message, and,
considering the cordial relations which have long existed between this
Government and Brazil, it may be expected that pending negotiations will
eventually reach a favorable result.

Convenient means of transit between the several parts of a country are not
only desirable for the objects of commercial and personal communication,
but essential to its existence under one government. Separated, as are the
Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States, by the whole breadth of
the continent, still the inhabitants of each are closely bound together by
community of origin and institutions and by strong attachment to the Union.
Hence the constant and increasing intercourse and vast interchange of
commercial productions between these remote divisions of the Republic. At
the present time the most practicable and only, commodious routes for
communication between them are by the way of the isthmus of Central
America. It is the duty of the Government to secure these avenues against
all danger of interruption.

In relation to Central America, perplexing questions existed between the
United States and Great Britain at the time of the cession of California.
These, as well as questions which subsequently arose concerning
interoceanic communication across the Isthmus, were, as it was supposed,
adjusted by the treaty of April 19, 1850, but, unfortunately, they have
been reopened by serious misunderstanding as to the import of some or its
provisions, a readjustment of which is now under consideration. Our
minister at London has made strenuous efforts to accomplish this desirable
object, but has not yet found it possible to bring the negotiations to a

As incidental to these questions, I deem it proper to notice an occurrence
which happened in Central America near the close of the last session of
Congress. So soon as the necessity was perceived of establishing
interoceanic communications across the Isthmus a company was organized,
under the authority of the State of Nicaragua, but composed for the most
part of citizens of the United States, for the purpose of opening such a
transit way by the river San Juan and Lake Nicaragua, which soon became an
eligible and much used route in the transportation of our citizens and
their property between the Atlantic and Pacific. Meanwhile, and in
anticipation of the completion and importance of this transit way, a number
of adventurers had taken possession of the old Spanish port at the mouth of
the river San Juan in open defiance of the State or States of Central
America, which upon their becoming independent had rightfully succeeded to
the local sovereignty and jurisdiction of Spain. These adventurers
undertook to change the name of the place from San Juan del Norte to
Greytown, and though at first pretending to act as the subjects of the
fictitious sovereign of the Mosquito Indians, they subsequently repudiated
the control of any power whatever, assumed to adopt a distinct political
organization, and declared themselves an independent sovereign state. If at
some time a faint hope was entertained that they might become a stable and
respectable community, that hope soon vanished. They proceeded to assert
unfounded claims to civil jurisdiction over Punta Arenas, a position on the
opposite side of the river San Juan, which was in possession, under a title
wholly independent of them, of citizens of the United States interested in
the Nicaragua Transit Company, and which was indispensably necessary to the
prosperous operation of that route across the Isthmus. The company resisted
their groundless claims, whereupon they proceeded to destroy some of its
buildings and attempted violently to dispossess it.

At a later period they organized a strong force for the purpose of
demolishing the establishment at Punta Arenas, but this mischievous design
was defeated by the interposition of one of our ships of war at that time
in the harbor of San Juan. Subsequently to this, in May last, a body of men
from Greytown crossed over to Punta Arenas, arrogating authority to arrest
on the charge of murder a captain of one of the steamboats of the Transit
Company. Being well aware that the claim to exercise jurisdiction there
would be resisted then, as it had been on previous occasions, they went
prepared to assert it by force of arms. Our minister to Central America
happened to be present on that occasion. Believing that the captain of the
steamboat was innocent (for he witnessed the transaction on which the
charge was founder), and believing also that the intruding party, having no
jurisdiction over the place where they proposed to make the arrest, would
encounter desperate resistance if they persisted in their purpose, he
interposed, effectually, to prevent violence and bloodshed. The American
minister afterwards visited Greytown, and whilst he was there a mob,
including certain of the so-called public functionaries of the place,
surrounded the house in which he was, avowing that they had come to arrest
him by order of some person exercising the chief authority. While parleying
with them he was wounded by a missile from the crowd. A boat dispatched
from the American steamer Northern Light to release him from the perilous
situation in which he was understood to be was fired into by the town guard
and compelled to return. These incidents, together with the known character
of the population of Greytown and their excited state, induced just
apprehensions that the lives and property of our citizens at Punta Arenas
would be in imminent danger after the departure of the steamer, with her
passengers, for New York, unless a guard was left for their protection. For
this purpose, and in order to insure the safety of passengers and property
passing over the route, a temporary force was organized, at considerable
expense to the United States, for which provision was made at the last
session of Congress.

This pretended community, a heterogeneous assemblage gathered from various
countries, and composed for the most part of blacks and persons of mixed
blood, had previously given other indications of mischievous and dangerous
propensities. Early in the same month property was clandestinely abstracted
from the depot of the Transit Company and taken to Greytown. The plunderers
obtained shelter there and their pursuers were driven back by its people,
who not only protected the wrongdoers and shared the plunder, but treated
with rudeness and violence those who sought to recover their property.

Such, in substance, are the facts submitted to my consideration, and proved
by trustworthy evidence. I could not doubt that the case demanded the
interposition of this Government. Justice required that reparation should
be made for so many and such gross wrongs, and that a course of insolence
and plunder, tending directly to the insecurity of the lives of numerous
travelers and of the rich treasure belonging to our citizens passing over
this transit way, should be peremptorily arrested. Whatever it might be in
other respects, the community in question, in power to do mischief, was not
despicable. It was well provided with ordnance, small arms, and ammunition,
and might easily seize on the unarmed boats, freighted with millions of
property, which passed almost daily within its reach. It did not profess to
belong to any regular government, and had, in fact, no recognized
dependence on or connection with anyone to which the United States or their
injured citizens might apply for redress or which could be held responsible
in any way for the outrages committed. Not standing before the world in the
attitude of an organized political society, being neither competent to
exercise the rights nor to discharge the obligations of a government, it
was, in fact, a marauding establishment too dangerous to be disregarded and
too guilty to pass unpunished, and yet incapable of being treated in any
other way than as a piratical resort of outlaws or a camp of savages
depredating on emigrant trains or caravans and the frontier settlements of
civilized states.

Seasonable notice was given to the people of Greytown that this Government
required them to repair the injuries they had done to our citizens and to
make suitable apology for their insult of our minister, and that a ship of
war would be dispatched thither to enforce compliance with these demands.
But the notice passed unheeded. Thereupon a commander of the Navy, in
charge of the sloop of war Cyane, was ordered to repeat the demands and to
insist upon a compliance therewith. Finding that neither the populace nor
those assuming to have authority over them manifested any disposition to
make the required reparation, or even to offer excuse for their conduct, he
warned them by a public proclamation that if they did not give satisfaction
within a time specified he would bombard the town. By this procedure he
afforded them opportunity to provide for their personal safety. To those
also who desired to avoid loss of property in the punishment about to be
inflicted on the offending town he furnished the means of removing their
effects by the boats of his own ship and of a steamer which he procured and
tendered to them for that purpose. At length, perceiving no disposition on
the part of the town to comply with his requisitions, he appealed to the
commander of Her Britannic Majesty's schooner Bermuda, who was seen to have
intercourse and apparently much influence with the leaders among them, to
interpose and persuade them to take some course calculated to save the
necessity of resorting to the extreme measure indicated in his
proclamation; but that officer, instead of acceding to the request, did
nothing more than to protest against the contemplated bombardment. No steps
of any sort were taken by the people to give the satisfaction required. No
individuals, if any there were, who regarded themselves as not responsible
for the misconduct of the community adopted any means to separate
themselves from the fate of the guilty. The several charges on which the
demands for redress were founded had been publicly known to all for some
time, and were again announced to them. They did not deny any of these
charges; they offered no explanation, nothing in extenuation of their
conduct, but contumaciously refused to hold any intercourse with the
commander of the Cyane. By their obstinate silence they seemed rather
desirous to provoke chastisement than to escape it. There is ample reason
to believe that this conduct of wanton defiance on their part is imputable
chiefly to the delusive idea that the American Government would be deterred
from punishing them through fear of displeasing a formidable foreign power,
which they presumed to think looked with complacency upon their aggressive
and insulting deportment toward the United States. The Cyane at length
fired upon the town. Before much injury had been done the fire was twice
suspended in order to afford opportunity for an arrangement, but this was
declined. Most of the buildings of the place, of little value generally,
were in the sequel destroyed, but, owing to the considerate precautions
taken by our naval commander, there was no destruction of life.

When the Cyane was ordered to Central America, it was confidently hoped and
expected that no occasion would arise for "a resort to violence and
destruction of property and loss of life." Instructions to that effect were
given to her commander; and no extreme act would have been requisite had
not the people themselves, by their extraordinary conduct in the affair,
frustrated all the possible mild measures for obtaining satisfaction. A
withdrawal from the place, the object of his visit entirely defeated, would
under the circumstances in which the commander of the Cyane found himself
have been absolute abandonment of all claim of our citizens for
indemnification and submissive acquiescence in national indignity. It would
have encouraged in these lawless men a spirit of insolence and rapine most
dangerous to the lives and property of our citizens at Punta Arenas, and
probably emboldened them to grasp at the treasures and valuable merchandise
continually passing over the Nicaragua route. It certainly would have been
most satisfactory to me if the objects of the Cyane's mission could have
been consummated without any act of public force, but the arrogant
contumacy of the offenders rendered it impossible to avoid the alternative
either to break up their establishment or to leave them impressed with the
idea that they might persevere with impunity in a career of insolence and

This transaction has been the subject of complaint on the part of some
foreign powers, and has been characterized with more of harshness than of
justice. If comparisons were to be instituted, it would not be difficult to
present repeated instances in the history of states standing in the very
front of modern civilization where communities far less offending and more
defenseless than Greytown have been chastised with much greater severity,
and where not cities only have been laid in ruins, but human life has been
recklessly sacrificed and the blood of the innocent made profusely to
mingle with that of the guilty.

Passing from foreign to domestic affairs, your attention is naturally
directed to the financial condition of the country, always a subject of
general interest. For complete and exact information regarding the finances
and the various branches of the public service connected therewith I refer
you to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, from which it will
appear that the amount of revenue during the last fiscal year from all
sources was $73,549,705, and that the public expenditures for the same
period, exclusive of payments on account of the public debt, amounted to
$51, 018,249. During the same period the payments made in redemption of the
public debt, including interest and premium, amounted to $24,336,380. To
the sum total of the receipts of that year is to be added a balance
remaining in the Treasury at the commencement thereof, amounting to
$21,942,892; and at the close of the same year a corresponding balance,
amounting to $20,137,967, of receipts above expenditures also remained in
the Treasury. Although, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury,
the receipts of the current fiscal year are not likely to equal in amount
those of the last, yet they will undoubtedly exceed the amount of
expenditures by at least $15,000,000. I shall therefore continue to direct
that the surplus revenue be applied, so far as it can be judiciously and
economically done, to the reduction of the public debt, the amount of which
at the commencement of the last fiscal year was $67,340,628; of which there
had been paid on the 20th day of November, 1854, the sum of $22,365,172,
leaving a balance of outstanding public debt of only $44,975,456,
redeemable at different periods within fourteen years. There are also
remnants of other Government stocks, most of which are already due, and on
which the interest has ceased, but which have not yet been presented for
payment, amounting to $233,179. This statement exhibits the fact that the
annual income of the Government greatly exceeds the amount of its public
debt, which latter remains unpaid only because the time of payment has not
yet matured, and it can not be discharged at once except at the option of
public creditors, who prefer to retain the securities of the United States;
and the other fact, not less striking, that the annual revenue from all
sources exceeds by many millions of dollars the amount needed for a prudent
and economical administration of the Government.

The estimates presented to Congress from the different Executive
Departments at the last session amounted to $38,406,581 and the
appropriations made to the sum of $58,116,958. Of this excess of
appropriations over estimates, however, more than twenty millions was
applicable to extraordinary objects, having no reference to the usual
annual expenditures. Among these objects was embraced ten millions to meet
the third article of the treaty between the United States and Mexico; so
that, in fact, for objects of ordinary expenditure the appropriations were
limited to considerably less than $40,000,000. I therefore renew my
recommendation for a reduction of the duties on imports. The report of the
Secretary of the Treasury presents a series of tables showing the operation
of the revenue system for several successive years; and as the general
principle of reduction of duties with a view to revenue, and not
protection, may now be regarded as the settled policy of the country, I
trust that little difficulty will be encountered in settling the details of
a measure to that effect.

In connection with this subject I recommend a change in the laws, which
recent experience has shown to be essential to the protection of the
Government. There is no express provision of law requiring the records and
papers of a public character of the several officers of the Government to
be left in their offices for the use of their successors, nor any provision
declaring it felony on their part to make false entries in the books or
return false accounts. In the absence of such express provision by law, the
outgoing officers in many instances have claimed and exercised the right to
take into their own possession important books and papers, on the ground
that these were their private property, and have placed them beyond the
reach of the Government. Conduct of this character, brought in several
instances to the notice of the present Secretary of the Treasury, naturally
awakened his suspicion, and resulted in the disclosure that at four
ports--namely, Oswego, Toledo, Sandusky, and Milwaukee--the Treasury had,
by false entries, been defrauded within the four years next preceding
March, 1853, of the sum of $198,000. The great difficulty with which the
detection of these frauds has been attended, in consequence of the
abstraction of books and papers by the retiring officers, and the facility
with which similar frauds in the public service may be perpetrated render
the necessity of new legal enactments in the respects above referred to
quite obvious. For other material modifications of the revenue laws which
seem to me desirable, I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the
Treasury. That report and the tables which accompany it furnish ample
proofs of the solid foundation on which the financial security of the
country rests and of the salutary influence of the independent-treasury
system upon commerce and all monetary operations.

The experience of the last year furnishes additional reasons, I regret to
say, of a painful character, for the recommendation heretofore made to
provide for increasing the military force employed in the Territory
inhabited by the Indians. The settlers-on the frontier have suffered much
from the incursions of predatory bands, and large parties of emigrants to
our Pacific possessions have been massacred with impunity. The recurrence
of such scenes can only be prevented by teaching these wild tribes the
power of and their responsibility to the United States. From the garrisons
of our frontier posts it is only possible to detach troops in small bodies;
and though these have on all occasions displayed a gallantry and a stern
devotion to duty which on a larger field would have commanded universal
admiration, they have usually suffered severely in these conflicts with
superior numbers, and have sometimes been entirely sacrificed. All the
disposable force of the Army is already employed on this service, and is
known to be wholly inadequate to the protection which should be afforded.
The public mind of the country has been recently shocked by savage
atrocities committed upon defenseless emigrants and border settlements, and
hardly less by the unnecessary destruction of valuable lives where
inadequate detachments of troops have undertaken to furnish the needed aid.
Without increase of the military force these scenes will be repeated, it is
to be feared, on a larger scale and with more disastrous consequences.
Congress, I am sure, will perceive that the plainest duties and
responsibilities of Government are involved in this question, and I doubt
not that prompt action may be confidently anticipated when delay must be
attended by such fearful hazards.

The bill of the last session providing for an increase of the pay of the
rank and file of the Army has had beneficial results, not only in
facilitating enlistments, but in obvious improvement in the class of men
who enter the service. I regret that corresponding consideration was not
bestowed on the officers, who, in view of their character and services and
the expenses to which they are necessarily subject, receive at present what
is, in my judgment, inadequate compensation.

The valuable services constantly rendered by the Army and its inestimable
importance as the nucleus around which the volunteer forces of the nation
can promptly gather in the hour of danger, sufficiently attest the wisdom
of maintaining a military peace establishment; but the theory of our system
and the wise practice under it require that any proposed augmentation in
time of peace be only commensurate with our extended limits and frontier
relations. While scrupulously adhering to this principle, I find in
existing circumstances a necessity for increase of our military force, and
it is believed that four new regiments, two of infantry and two of mounted
men, will be sufficient to meet the present exigency. If it were necessary
carefully to weigh the cost in a case of such urgency, it would be shown
that the additional expense would be comparatively light.

With the increase of the numerical force of the Army should, I think, be
combined certain measures of reform in its organic arrangement and
administration. The present organization is the result of partial
legislation often directed to special objects and interests; and the laws
regulating rank and command, having been adopted many years ago from the
British code, are not always applicable to our service. It is not
surprising, therefore, that the system should be deficient in the symmetry
and simplicity essential to the harmonious working of its several parts,
and require a careful revision.

The present organization, by maintaining large staff corps or departments,
separates many officers from that close connection with troops and those
active duties in the field which are deemed requisite to qualify them for
the varied responsibilities of high command. Were the duties of the Army
staff mainly discharged by officers detached from their regiments, it is
believed that the special service would be equally well performed and the
discipline and instruction of the Army be improved. While due regard to the
security of the rights of officers and to the nice sense of honor which
should be cultivated among them would seem to exact compliance with the
established rule of promotion in ordinary cases, still it can hardly be
doubted that the range of promotion by selection, which is now practically
confined to the grade of general officers, might be somewhat extended with
benefit to the public service. Observance of the rule of seniority
sometimes leads, especially in time of peace, to the promotion of officers
who, after meritorious and even distinguished service, may have been
rendered by age or infirmity incapable of performing active duty, and whose
advancement, therefore, would tend to impair the efficiency of the Army.
Suitable provision for this class of officers, by the creation of a retired
list, would remedy the evil without wounding the just pride of men who by
past services have established a claim to high consideration. In again
commending this measure to the favorable consideration of Congress I would
suggest that the power of placing officers on the retired list be limited
to one year. The practical operation of the measure would thus be tested,
and if after the lapse of years there should be occasion to renew the
provision it can be reproduced with any improvements which experience may
indicate. The present organization of the artillery into regiments is
liable to obvious objections. The service of artillery is that of
batteries, and an organization of batteries into a corps of artillery would
be more consistent with the nature of their duties. A large part of the
troops now called artillery are, and have been, on duty as infantry, the
distinction between the two arms being merely nominal. This nominal
artillery in our service is disproportionate to the whole force and greater
than the wants of the country demand. I therefore commend the
discontinuance of a distinction which has no foundation in either the arms
used or the character of the service expected to be performed.

In connection with the proposition for the increase of the Army, I have
presented these suggestions with regard to certain measures of reform as
the complement of a system which would produce the happiest results from a
given expenditure, and which, I hope, may attract the early attention and
be deemed worthy of the approval of Congress.

The recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy having reference to more
ample provisions for the discipline and general improvement in the
character of seamen and for the reorganization and gradual increase of the
Navy I deem eminently worthy of your favorable consideration. The
principles which have controlled our policy in relation to the permanent
military force by sea and land are sound, consistent with the theory of our
system, and should by no means be disregarded. But, limiting the force to
the objects particularly set forth in the preceding part of this message,
we should not overlook the present magnitude and prospective extension of
our commercial marine, nor fail to give due weight to the fact that besides
the 2,000 miles of Atlantic seaboard we have now a Pacific coast stretching
from Mexico to the British possessions in the north, teeming with wealth
and enterprise and demanding the constant presence of ships of war. The
augmentation of the Navy has not kept pace with the duties properly and
profitably assigned to it in time of peace, and it is inadequate for the
large field of its operations, not merely in the present, but still more in
the progressively increasing exigencies of the commerce of the United
States. I cordially approve of the proposed apprentice system for our
national vessels recommended by the Secretary of the Navy. The occurrence
during the last few months of marine disasters of the most tragic nature,
involving great loss of human life, has produced intense emotions of
sympathy and sorrow throughout the country. It may well be doubted whether
all these calamitous events are wholly attributable to the necessary and
inevitable dangers of the sea. The merchants, mariners, and shipbuilders of
the United States are, it is true, unsurpassed in far-reaching enterprise,
skill, intelligence, and courage by any others in the world. But with the
increasing amount of our commercial tonnage in the aggregate and the larger
size and improved equipment of the ships now constructed a deficiency in
the supply of reliable seamen begins to be very seriously felt. The
inconvenience may perhaps be met in part by due regulation for the
introduction into our merchant ships of indented apprentices, which, while
it would afford useful and eligible occupation to numerous young men, would
have a tendency to raise the character of seamen as a class. And it is
deserving of serious reflection whether it may not be desirable to revise
the existing laws for the maintenance of discipline at sea, upon which the
security of life and property on the ocean must to so great an extent
depend. Although much attention has already been given by Congress to the
proper construction and arrangement of steam vessels and all passenger
ships, still it is believed that the resources of science and mechanical
skill in this direction have not been exhausted. No good reason exists for
the marked distinction which appears upon our statutes between the laws for
protecting life and property at sea and those for protecting them on land.
In most of the States severe penalties are provided to punish conductors of
trains, engineers, and others employed in the transportation of persons by
railway or by steamboats on rivers. Why should not the same principle be
applied to acts of insubordination, cowardice, or other misconduct on the
part of masters and mariners producing injury or death to passengers on the
high seas, beyond the jurisdiction of any of the States, and where such
delinquencies can be reached only by the power of Congress? The whole
subject is earnestly commended to your consideration.

The report of the Postmaster-General, to which you are referred for many
interesting details in relation to this important and rapidly extending
branch of the public service, shows that the expenditure of the year ending
June 30, 1854, including $133,483 of balance due to foreign offices,
amounted to $8,710,907. The gross receipts during the same period amounted
to $6,955,586, exhibiting an expenditure over income of $1,755,321 and a
diminution of deficiency as compared with the last year of $361,756. The
increase of the revenue of the Department for the year ending June 30,
1854, over the preceding year was $970,399. No proportionate increase,
however, can be anticipated for the current year, in consequence of the act
of Congress of June 23, 1854, providing for increased compensation to all
postmasters. From these statements it is apparent that the Post-Office
Department, instead of defraying its expenses according to the design at
the time of its creation, is now, and under existing laws must continue to
be, to no small extent a charge upon the general Treasury. The cost of mail
transportation during the year ending June 30, 1854, exceeds the cost of
the preceding year by $495,074. I again call your attention to the subject
of mail transportation by ocean steamers, and commend the suggestions of
the Postmaster General to your early attention.

During the last fiscal year 11,070,935 acres of the public lands have been
surveyed and 8,190,017 acres brought into market. The number of acres sold
is 7,035,735 and the amount received therefor $9,285,533. The aggregate
amount of lands sold, located under military scrip and land warrants,
selected as swamp lands by States, and by locating under grants for roads
is upward of 23,000,000 acres. The increase of lands sold over the previous
year is about 6,000,000 acres, and the sales during the first two quarters
of the current year present the extraordinary result of five and a half
millions sold, exceeding by nearly 4,000,000 acres the sales of the
corresponding quarters of the last year.

The commendable policy of the Government in relation to setting apart
public domain for those who have served their country in time of war is
illustrated by the fact that since 1790 no less than 30,000,000 acres have
been applied to this object.

The suggestions which I submitted in my annual message of last year in
reference to grants of land in aid of the construction of railways were
less full and explicit than the magnitude of the subject and subsequent
developments would seem to render proper and desirable. Of the soundness of
the principle then asserted with regard to the limitation of the power of
Congress I entertain no doubt, but in its application it is not enough that
the value of lands in a particular locality may be enhanced; that, in fact,
a larger amount of money may probably be received in a given time for
alternate sections than could have been realized for all the sections
without the impulse and influence of the proposed improvements. A prudent
proprietor looks beyond limited sections of his domain, beyond present
results to the ultimate effect which a particular line of policy is likely
to produce upon all his possessions and interests. The Government, which is
trustee in this matter for the people of the States, is bound to take the
same wise and comprehensive view. Prior to and during the last session of
Congress upward of 30,000,000 acres of land were withdrawn from public sale
with a view to applications for grants of this character pending before
Congress. A careful review of the whole subject led me to direct that all
such orders be abrogated and the lands restored to market, and instructions
were immediately given to that effect. The applications at the last session
contemplated the construction of more than 5,000 miles of road and grants
to the amount of nearly 20,000,000 acres of the public domain. Even
admitting the right on the part of Congress to be unquestionable, is it
quite clear that the proposed grants would be productive of good, and not
evil? The different projects are confined for the present to eleven States
of this Union and one Territory. The reasons assigned for the grants show
that it is proposed to put the works speedily in process of construction.
When we reflect that since the commencement of the construction of railways
in the United States, stimulated, as they have been, by the large dividends
realized from the earlier works over the great thoroughfares and between
the most important points of commerce and population, encouraged by State
legislation, and pressed forward by the amazing energy of private
enterprise, only 17,000 miles have been completed in all the States in a
quarter of a century; when we see the crippled condition of many works
commenced and prosecuted upon what were deemed to be sound principles and
safe calculations; when we contemplate the enormous absorption of capital
withdrawn from the ordinary channels of business, the extravagant rates of
interest at this moment paid to continue operations, the bankruptcies, not
merely in money but in character, and the inevitable effect upon finances
generally, can it be doubted that the tendency is to run to excess in this
matter? Is it wise to augment this excess by encouraging hopes of sudden
wealth expected to flow from magnificent schemes dependent upon the action
of Congress? Does the spirit which has produced such results need to be
stimulated or checked? Is it not the better rule to leave all these works
to private enterprise, regulated and, when expedient, aided by the
cooperation of States? If constructed by private capital the stimulant and
the check go together and furnish a salutary restraint against speculative
schemes and extravagance. But it is manifest that with the most effective
guards there is danger of going too fast and too far. We may well pause
before a proposition contemplating a simultaneous movement for the
construction of railroads which in extent will equal, exclusive of the
great Pacific road and all its branches, nearly one-third of the entire
length of such works now completed in the United States, and which can not
cost with equipments less than $150,000,000. The dangers likely to result
from combinations of interests of this character can hardly be
overestimated. But independently of these considerations, where is the
accurate knowledge, the comprehensive intelligence, which shall
discriminate between the relative claims of these twenty eight proposed
roads in eleven States and one Territory? Where will you begin and where
end? If to enable these companies to execute their proposed works it is
necessary that the aid of the General Government be primarily given, the
policy will present a problem so comprehensive in its bearings and so
important to our political and social well-being as to claim in
anticipation the severest analysis. Entertaining these views, I recur with
satisfaction to the experience and action of the last session of Congress
as furnishing assurance that the subject will not fail to elicit a careful
reexamination and rigid scrutiny. It was my intention to present on this
occasion some suggestions regarding internal improvements by the General
Government, which want of time at the close of the last session prevented
my submitting on the return to the House of Representatives with objections
of the bill entitled "An act making appropriations for the repair,
preservation, and completion of certain public works heretofore commenced
under the authority of law;" but the space in this communication already
occupied with other matter of immediate public exigency constrains me to
reserve that subject for a special message, which will be transmitted to
the two Houses of Congress at an early day. The judicial establishment of
the United States requires modification, and certain reforms in the manner
of conducting the legal business of the Government are also much needed;
but as I have addressed you upon both of these subjects at length before, I
have only to call your attention to the suggestions then made.

My former recommendations in relation to suitable provision for various
objects of deep interest to the inhabitants of the District of Columbia are
renewed. Many of these objects partake largely of a national character, and
are important independently of their relation to the prosperity of the only
considerable organized community in the Union entirely unrepresented in

I have thus presented suggestions on such subjects as appear to me to be of
particular interest or importance, and therefore most worthy of
consideration during the short remaining period allotted to the labors of
the present Congress.

Our forefathers of the thirteen united colonies, in acquiring their
independence and in rounding this Republic of the United States of America,
have devolved upon us, their descendants, the greatest and the most noble
trust ever committed to the hands of man, imposing upon all, and especially
such as the public will may have invested for the time being with political
functions, the most sacred obligations. We have to maintain inviolate the
great doctrine of the inherent right of popular self-government; to
reconcile the largest liberty of the individual citizen with complete
security of the public order; to render cheerful obedience to the laws of
the land, to unite in enforcing their execution, and to frown indignantly
on all combinations to resist them; to harmonize a sincere and ardent
devotion to the institutions of religions faith with the most universal
religious toleration; to preserve the rights of all by causing each to
respect those of the other; to carry forward every social improvement to
the uttermost limit of human perfectibility, by the free action of mind
upon mind, not by the obtrusive intervention of misapplied force; to uphold
the integrity and guard the limitations of our organic law; to preserve
sacred from all touch of usurpation, as the very palladium of our political
salvation, the reserved rights and powers of the several States and of the
people; to cherish with loyal fealty and devoted affection this Union, as
the only sure foundation on which the hopes of civil liberty rest; to
administer government with vigilant integrity and rigid economy; to
cultivate peace and friendship with foreign nations, and to demand and
exact equal justice from all, but to do wrong to none; to eschew
intermeddling with the national policy and the domestic repose of other
governments, and to repel it from our own; never to shrink from war when
the rights and the honor of the country call us to arms, but to cultivate
in preference the arts of peace, seek enlargement of the rights of
neutrality, and elevate and liberalize the intercourse of nations; and by
such just and honorable means, and such only, whilst exalting the condition
of the Republic, to assure to it the legitimate influence and the benign
authority of a great example amongst all the powers of Christendom.

Under the solemnity of these convictions the blessing of Almighty God is
earnestly invoked to attend upon your deliberations and upon all the
counsels and acts of the Government, to the end that, with common zeal and
common efforts, we may, in humble submission to the divine will, cooperate
for the promotion of the supreme good of these United States.


State of the Union Address
Franklin Pierce
December 31, 1855

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

The Constitution of the United States provides that Congress shall assemble
annually on the first Monday of December, and it has been usual for the
President to make no communication of a public character to the Senate and
House of Representatives until advised of their readiness to receive it. I
have deferred to this usage until the close of the first month of the
session, but my convictions of duty will not permit me longer to postpone
the discharge of the obligation enjoined by the Constitution upon the
President "to give to the Congress information of the state of the Union
and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge
necessary and expedient." It is matter of congratulation that the Republic
is tranquilly advancing in a career of prosperity and peace.

Whilst relations of amity continue to exist between the United States and
all foreign powers, with some of them grave questions are depending which
may require the consideration of Congress.

Of such questions, the most important is that which has arisen out of the
negotiations with Great Britain in reference to Central America. By the
convention concluded between the two Governments on the 19th of April,
1850, both parties covenanted that "neither will ever" "occupy, or fortify,
or colonize, or assume or exercise any dominion over Nicaragua. Costa Rica,
the Mosquito Coast, or any part of Central America."

It was the undoubted understanding of the United States in making this
treaty that all the present States of the former Republic of Central
America and the entire territory of each would thenceforth enjoy complete
independence, and that both contracting parties engaged equally and to the
same extent, for the present and, for the future, that if either then had
any claim of right in Central America such claim and all occupation or
authority under it were unreservedly relinquished by the stipulations of
the convention, and that no dominion was thereafter to be exercised or
assumed in any part of Central America by Great Britain or the United

This Government consented to restrictions in regard to a region of country
wherein we had specific and peculiar interests only upon the conviction
that the like restrictions were in the same sense obligatory on Great
Britain. But for this understanding of the force and effect of the
convention it would never have been concluded by us.

So clear was this understanding on the part of the United States that in
correspondence contemporaneous with the ratification of the convention it
was distinctly expressed that the mutual covenants of nonoccupation were
not intended to apply to the British establishment at the Balize. This
qualification is to be ascribed to the fact that, in virtue of successive
treaties with previous sovereigns of the country, Great Britain had
obtained a concession of the right to cut mahogany or dyewoods at the
Balize, but with positive exclusion of all domain or sovereignty; and thus
it confirms the natural construction and understood import of the treaty as
to all the rest of the region to which the stipulations applied.

It, however, became apparent at an early day after entering upon the
discharge of my present functions that Great Britain still continued in the
exercise or assertion of large authority in all that part of Central
America commonly called the Mosquito Coast, and covering the entire length
of the State of Nicaragua and a part of Costa Rica; that she regarded the
Balize as her absolute domain and was gradually extending its limits at the
expense of the State of Honduras, and, that she had formally colonized a
considerable insular group known as the Bay Islands, and belonging of right
to that State.

All these acts or pretensions of Great Britain, being contrary to the
rights of the States of Central America and to the manifest tenor of her
stipulations with the United States as understood by this Government, have
been made the subject of negotiation through the American minister in
London. I transmit herewith the instructions to him on the subject and the
correspondence between him and the British secretary for foreign affairs,
by which you will perceive that the two Governments differ widely and
irreconcilably as to the construction of the convention and its effect on
their respective relations to Central America.

Great Britain so construes the convention as to maintain unchanged all her
previous pretensions over the Mosquito Coast and in different parts of
Central America. These pretensions as to the Mosquito Coast are founded on
the assumption of political relation between Great Britain and the remnant
of a tribe of Indians on that coast, entered into at a time when the whole
country was a colonial possession of Spain. It can not be successfully
controverted that by the public law of Europe and America no possible act
of such Indians or their predecessors could confer on Great Britain any
political rights.

Great Britain does not allege the assent of Spain as the origin of her
claims on the Mosquito Coast. She has, on the contrary, by repeated and
successive treaties renounced and relinquished all pretensions of her own
and recognized the full and sovereign rights of Spain in the most
unequivocal terms. Yet these pretensions, so without solid foundation in
the beginning and thus repeatedly abjured, were at a recent period revived
by Great Britain against the Central American States, the legitimate
successors to all the ancient jurisdiction of Spain in that region. They
were first applied only to a defined part of the coast of Nicaragua,
afterwards to the whole of its Atlantic coast, and lastly to a part of the
coast of Costa Rica, and they are now reasserted to this extent
notwithstanding engagements to the United States.

On the eastern coast of Nicaragua and Costa Rica the interference of Great
Britain, though exerted at one time in the form of military occupation of
the port of San Juan del Norte, then in the peaceful possession of the
appropriate authorities of the Central American States, is now presented by
her as the rightful exercise of a protectorship over the Mosquito tribe of

But the establishment at the Balize, now reaching far beyond its treaty
limits into the State of Honduras, and that of the Bay Islands,
appertaining of right to the same State, are as distinctly colonial
governments as those of Jamaica or Canada, and therefore contrary to the
very letter, as well as the spirit, of the convention with the United
States as it was at the time of ratification and now is understood by this

The interpretation which the British Government thus, in assertion and act,
persists in ascribing to the convention entirely changes its character.
While it holds us to all our obligations, it in a great measure releases
Great Britain from those which constituted the consideration of this
Government for entering into the convention. It is impossible, in my
judgment, for the United States to acquiesce in such a construction of the
respective relations of the two Governments to Central America.

To a renewed call by this Government upon Great Britain to abide by and
Carry into effect the stipulations of the convention according to its
obvious import by withdrawing from the possession or colonization of
portions of the Central American States of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa
Rica, the British Government has at length replied, affirming that the
operation of the treaty is prospective only and did not require Great
Britain to abandon or contract any possessions held by her in Central
America at the date of its conclusion.

This reply substitutes a partial issue in the place of the general one
presented by the United States. The British Government passes over the
question of the rights of Great Britain, real or supposed, in Central
America, and assumes that she had such rights at the date of the treaty and
that those rights comprehended the protectorship of the Mosquito Indians,
the extended jurisdiction and limits of the Balize, and the colony of the
Bay Islands, and thereupon proceeds by implication to infer that if the
stipulations of the treaty be merely future in effect Great Britain may
still continue to hold the contested portions of Central America. The
United States can not admit either the inference or the premises. We
steadily deny that at the date of the treaty Great Britain had any
possessions there other than the limited and peculiar establishment at the
Balize, and maintain that if she had any they were surrendered by the

This Government, recognizing the obligations of the treaty, has, of course,
desired to see it executed in good faith by both parties, and in the
discussion, therefore, has not looked to rights which we might assert
independently of the treaty in consideration of our geographical position
and of other circumstances which create for us relations to the Central
American States different from those of any government of Europe. The
British Government, in its last communication, although well knowing the
views of the United States, still declares that it sees no reason why a
conciliatory spirit may not enable the two Governments to overcome all
obstacles to a satisfactory adjustment of the subject.

Assured of the correctness of the construction of the treaty constantly
adhered to by this Government and resolved to insist on the rights of the
United States, yet actuated also by the same desire which is avowed by the
British Government, to remove all causes of serious misunderstanding
between two nations associated by so many ties of interest and kindred, it
has appeared to me proper not to consider an amicable solution of the
controversy hopeless.

There is, however, reason to apprehend that with Great Britain in the
actual occupation of the disputed territories, and the treaty therefore
practically null so far as regards our rights, this international
difficulty can not long remain undetermined without involving in serious
danger the friendly relations which it is the interest as well as the duty
of both countries to cherish and preserve. It will afford me sincere
gratification if future efforts shall result in the success anticipated
heretofore with more confidence than the aspect of the case permits me now
to entertain.

One other subject of discussion between the United States and Great Britain
has grown out of the attempt, which the exigencies of the war in which she
is engaged with Russia induced her to make, to draw recruits from the
United States.

It is the traditional and settled policy of the United States to maintain
impartial neutrality during the wars which from time to time occur among
the great powers of the world. Performing all the duties of neutrality
toward the respective belligerent states, we may reasonably expect them not
to interfere with our lawful enjoyment of its benefits. Notwithstanding the
existence of such hostilities, our citizens retained the individual right
to continue all their accustomed pursuits, by land or by sea, at home or
abroad, subject only to such restrictions in this relation as the laws of
war, the usage of nations, or special treaties may impose; and it is our
sovereign right that our territory and jurisdiction shall not be invaded by
either of the belligerent parties for the transit of their armies, the
operations of their fleets, the levy of troops for their service, the
fitting out of cruisers by or against either, or any other act or incident
of war. And these undeniable rights of neutrality, individual and national,
the United States will under no circumstances surrender.

In pursuance of this policy, the laws of the United States do not forbid
their citizens to sell to either of the belligerent powers articles
contraband of war or take munitions of war or soldiers on board their
private ships for transportation; and although in so doing the individual
citizen exposes his property or person to some of the hazards of war, his
acts do not involve any breach of national neutrality nor of themselves
implicate the Government. Thus, during the progress of the present war in
Europe, our citizens have, without national responsibility therefor, sold
gunpowder and arms to all buyers, regardless of the destination of those
articles. Our merchantmen have been, and still continue to be, largely
employed by Great Britain and by France in transporting troops, provisions,
and munitions of war to the principal seat of military operations and in
bringing home their sick and wounded soldiers; but such use of our
mercantile marine is not interdicted either by the international or by our
municipal law, and therefore does not compromise our neutral relations with
Russia. But our municipal law, in accordance with the law of nations,
peremptorily forbids not only foreigners, but our own citizens, to fit out
within the United States a vessel to commit hostilities against any state
with which the United States are at peace, or to increase the force of any
foreign armed vessel intended for such hostilities against a friendly

Whatever concern may have been felt by either of the belligerent powers
lest private armed cruisers or other vessels in the service of one might be
fitted out in the ports of this country to depredate on the property of the
other, all such fears have proved to be utterly groundless. Our citizens
have been withheld from any such act or purpose by good faith and by
respect for the law.

While the laws of the Union are thus peremptory in their prohibition of the
equipment or armament of belligerent cruisers in our ports, they provide
not less absolutely that no person shall, within the territory or
jurisdiction of the United States, enlist or enter himself, or hire or
retain another person to enlist or enter himself, or to go beyond the
limits or jurisdiction of the United States with intent to be enlisted or
entered, in the service of any foreign state, either as a soldier or as a
marine or seaman on board of any vessel of war, letter of marque, or
privateer. And these enactments are also in strict conformity with the law
of nations, which declares that no state has the right to raise troops for
land or sea service in another state without its consent, and that, whether
forbidden by the municipal law or not, the very attempt to do it without
such consent is an attack on the national sovereignty.

Such being the public rights and the municipal law of the United States, no
solicitude on the subject was entertained by this Government when, a year
since, the British Parliament passed an act to provide for the enlistment
of foreigners in the military service of Great Britain. Nothing on the face
of the act or in its public history indicated that the British Government
proposed to attempt recruitment in the United States, nor did it ever give
intimation of such intention to this Government. It was matter of surprise,
therefore, to find subsequently that the engagement of persons within the
United States to proceed to Halifax, in the British Province of Nova
Scotia, and there enlist in the service of Great Britain, was going on
extensively, with little or no disguise. Ordinary legal steps were
immediately taken to arrest and punish parties concerned, and so put an end
to acts infringing the municipal law and derogatory to our sovereignty.
Meanwhile suitable representations on the subject were addressed to the
British Government.

Thereupon it became known, by the admission of the British Government
itself, that the attempt to draw recruits from this country originated with
it, or at least had its approval and sanction; but it also appeared that
the public agents engaged in it had "stringent instructions" not to violate
the municipal law of the United States.

It is difficult to understand how it should have been supposed that troops
could be raised here by Great Britain without violation of the municipal
law. The unmistakable object of the law was to prevent every such act which
if performed must be either in violation of the law or in studied evasion
of it, and in either alternative the act done would be alike injurious to
the sovereignty of the United States. In the meantime the matter acquired
additional importance by the recruitments in the United States not being
discontinued, and the disclosure of the fact that they were prosecuted upon
a systematic plan devised by official authority; that recruiting rendezvous
had been opened in our principal cities and depots for the reception of
recruits established on our frontier, and the whole business conducted
under the supervision and by the regular cooperation of British officers,
civil and military, some in the North American Provinces and some in the
United States. The complicity of those officers in an undertaking which
could only be accomplished by defying our laws, throwing suspicion over our
attitude of neutrality, and disregarding our territorial rights is
conclusively proved by the evidence elicited on the trial of such of their
agents as have been apprehended and convicted. Some of the officers thus
implicated are of high official position, and many of them beyond our
jurisdiction, so that legal proceedings could not reach the source of the

These considerations, and the fact that the cause of complaint was not a
mere casual occurrence, trot a deliberate design, entered upon with full
knowledge of our laws and national policy and conducted by responsible
public functionaries, impelled me to present the case to the British
Government, in order to secure not only a cessation of the, wrong, but its
reparation. The subject is still under discussion, the result of which will
be communicated to you in due time.

I repeat the recommendation submitted to the last Congress, that provision
be made for the appointment of a commissioner, in connection with Great
Britain, to survey and establish the boundary line which divides the
Territory of Washington from the contiguous British possessions. By reason
of the extent and importance of the country in dispute, there has been
imminent danger of collision between the subjects of Great Britain and the
citizens of the United States, including their respective authorities, in
that quarter. The prospect of a speedy arrangement has contributed hitherto
to induce on both sides forbearance to assert by force what each claims as
a right. Continuance of delay on the part of the two Governments to act in
the matter will increase the dangers and difficulties of the controversy.

Misunderstanding exists as to the extent, character, and value of the
possessory rights of the Hudsons Bay Company and the property of the Pugets
Sound Agricultural Company reserved in our treaty with Great Britain
relative to the Territory of Oregon. I have reason to believe that a
cession of the rights of both companies to the United States, which would
be the readiest means of terminating all questions, can be obtained on
reasonable terms, and with a view to this end I present the subject to the
attention of Congress.

The colony of Newfoundland, having enacted the laws required by the treaty
of the 5th of June, 1854, is now placed on the same footing in respect to
commercial intercourse with the United States as the other British North
American Provinces.

The commission which that treaty contemplated, for determining the rights
of fishery in rivers and mouths of rivers on the coasts of the United
States and the British North American Provinces, has been organized, and
has commenced its labors, to complete which there are needed further
appropriations for the service of another season.

In pursuance of the authority conferred by a resolution of the Senate of
the United States passed on the 3d of March last, notice was given to
Denmark on the 14th day of April of the intention of this Government to
avail itself of the stipulation of the subsisting convention of friendship,
commerce, and navigation between that Kingdom and the United States whereby
either party might after ten years terminate the same at the expiration of
one year from the date of notice for that purpose.

The considerations which led me to call the attention of Congress to that
convention and induced the Senate to adopt the resolution referred to still
continue in full force. The convention contains an article which, although
it does not directly engage the United States to submit to the imposition
of tolls on the vessels and cargoes of Americans passing into or from the
Baltic Sea during the continuance of the treaty, yet may by possibility be
construed as implying such submission. The exaction of those tolls not
being justified by any principle of international law, it became the right
and duty of the United States to relieve themselves from the implication of
engagement on the subject, so as to be perfectly free to act in the
premises in such way as their public interests and honor shall demand.

I remain of the opinion that the United States ought not to submit to the
payment of the Sound dues, not so much because of their amount, which is a
secondary matter, but because it is in effect the recognition of the right
of Denmark to treat one of the great maritime highways of nations as a
close sea, and prevent the navigation of it as a privilege, for which
tribute may be imposed upon those who have occasion to use it.

This Government on a former occasion, not unlike the present, signalized
its determination to maintain the freedom of the seas and of the great
natural channels of navigation. The Barbary States had for a long time
coerced the payment of tribute from all nations whose ships frequented the
Mediterranean. To the last demand of such payment made by them the United
States, although suffering less by their depredations than many other
nations, returned the explicit answer that we preferred war to tribute, and
thus opened the way to the relief of the commerce of the world from an
ignominious tax, so long submitted to by the more powerful nations of

If the manner of payment of the Sound dues differ from that of the tribute
formerly conceded to the Barbary States, still their exaction by Denmark
has no better foundation in right. Each was in its origin nothing but a tax
on a common natural right, extorted by those who were at that time able to
obstruct the free and secure enjoyment of it, but who no longer possess
that power.

Denmark, while resisting our assertion of the freedom of the Baltic Sound
and Belts, has indicated a readiness to make some new arrangement on the
subject, and has invited the governments interested, including the United
States, to be represented in a convention to assemble for the purpose of
receiving and considering a proposition which she intends to submit for the
capitalization of the Sound dues and the distribution of the sum to be paid
as commutation among the governments according to the respective
proportions of their maritime commerce to and from the Baltic. I have
declined, in behalf of the United States, to accept this invitation, for
the most cogent reasons. One is that Denmark does not offer to submit to
the convention the question of her right to levy the Sound dues. The second
is that if the convention were allowed to take cognizance of that
particular question, still it would not be competent to deal with the great
international principle involved, which affects the right in other cases of
navigation and commercial freedom, as well as that of access to the Baltic.
Above all, by the express terms of the proposition it is contemplated that
the consideration of the Sound dues shall be commingled with and made
subordinate to a matter wholly extraneous--the balance of power among the
Governments of Europe.

While, however, rejecting this proposition and insisting on the right of
free transit into and from the Baltic, I have expressed to Denmark a
willingness on the part of the United States to share liberally with other
powers in compensating her for any advantages which commerce shall
hereafter derive from expenditures made by her for the improvement and
safety of the navigation of the Sound or Belts.

I lay before you herewith sundry documents on the subject, in which my
views are more fully disclosed. Should no satisfactory arrangement be soon
concluded, I shall again call your attention to the subject, with
recommendation of such measures as may appear to be required in order to
assert and secure the rights of the United States, so far as they are
affected by the pretensions of Denmark.

I announce with much gratification that since the adjournment of the last
Congress the question then existing between this Government and that of
France respecting the French consul at San Francisco has been
satisfactorily determined, and that the relations of the two Governments
continue to be of the most friendly nature.

A question, also, which has been pending for several years between the
United States and the Kingdom of Greece, growing out of the sequestration
by public authorities of that country of property belonging to the present
American consul at Athens, and which had been the subject of very earnest
discussion heretofore, has recently been settled to the satisfaction of the
party interested and of both Governments.

With Spain peaceful relations are still maintained, and some progress has
been made in securing the redress of wrongs complained of by this
Government. Spain has not only disavowed and disapproved the conduct of the
officers who illegally seized and detained the steamer Black Warrior at
Havana, but has also paid the sum claimed as indemnity for the loss thereby
inflicted on citizens of the United States.

In consequence of a destructive hurricane which visited Cuba in 1844, the
supreme authority of that island issued a decree permitting the importation
for the period of six months of certain building materials and provisions
free of duty, but revoked it when about half the period only had elapsed,
to the injury of citizens of the United States who had proceeded to act on
the faith of that decree. The Spanish Government refused indemnification to
the parties aggrieved until recently, when it was assented to, payment
being promised to be made so soon as the amount due can be ascertained.

Satisfaction claimed for the arrest and search of the steamer El Dorado has
not yet been accorded, but there is reason to believe that it will be; and
that case, with others, continues to be urged on the attention of the
Spanish Government. I do not abandon the hope of concluding with Spain some
general arrangement which, if it do not wholly prevent the recurrence of
difficulties in Cuba, will render them less frequent, and, whenever they
shall occur, facilitate their more speedy settlement.

The interposition of this Government has been invoked by many of its
citizens on account of injuries done to their persons and property for
which the Mexican Republic is responsible. The unhappy situation of that
country for some time past has not allowed its Government to give due
consideration to claims of private reparation, and has appeared to call for
and justify some forbearance in such matters on the part of this
Government. But if the revolutionary movements which have lately occurred
in that Republic end in the organization of a stable government, urgent
appeals to its justice will then be made, and, it may be hoped, with
success, for the redress of all complaints of our citizens.

In regard to the American Republics, which from their proximity and other
considerations have peculiar relations to this Government, while it has
been my constant aim strictly to observe all the obligations of political
friendship and of good neighborhood, obstacles to this have arisen in some
of them from their own insufficient power to cheek lawless irruptions,
which in effect throws most of the task on the United States. Thus it is
that the distracted internal condition of the State of Nicaragua has made
it incumbent on me to appeal to the good faith of our citizens to abstain
from unlawful intervention in its affairs and to adopt preventive measures
to the same end, which on a similar occasion had the best results in
reassuring the peace of the Mexican States of Sonora and Lower California.

Since the last session of Congress a treaty of amity, commerce, and
navigation and for the surrender of fugitive criminals with the Kingdom of
the Two Sicilies; a treaty of friendship, commerce, and navigation with
Nicaragua, and a convention of commercial reciprocity with the Hawaiian
Kingdom have been negotiated. The latter Kingdom and the State of Nicaragua
have also acceded to a declaration recognizing as international rights the
principles contained in the convention between the United States and Russia
of July 22, 1854. These treaties and conventions will be laid before the
Senate for ratification.

The statements made in my last annual message respecting the anticipated
receipts and expenditures of the Treasury have been substantially

It appears from the report of the Secretary of the Treasury that the
receipts during the last fiscal year, ending June 30, 1855, from all
sources were $65,003,930, and that the public expenditures for the same
period, exclusive of payments on account of the public debt, amounted to
$56,365,393. During the same period the payments made in redemption of the
public debt, including interest and premium, amounted to $9,844,528.

The balance in the Treasury at the beginning of the present fiscal year,
July 1, 1855, was $18,931,976; the receipts for the first quarter and the
estimated receipts for the remaining three quarters amount together to
$67,918,734; thus affording in all, as the available resources of the
current fiscal year, the sum of $86,856,710.

If to the actual expenditures of the first quarter of the current fiscal
year be added the probable expenditures for the remaining three quarters,
as estimated by the Secretary of the Treasury, the sum total will be
$71,226,846, thereby leaving an estimated balance in the Treasury on July
1, 1856, of $15,623,863.41.

In the above-estimated expenditures of the present fiscal year are included
$3,000,000 to meet the last installment of the ten millions provided for in
the late treaty with Mexico and $7,750,000 appropriated on account of the
debt due to Texas, which two sums make an aggregate amount of $10,750,000
and reduce the expenditures, actual or estimated, for ordinary objects of
the year to the sum of $60,476,000.

The amount of the public debt at the commencement of the present fiscal
year was $40,583,631, and, deduction being made of subsequent payments, the
whole public debt of the Federal Government remaining at this time is less
than $40,000,000. The remnant of certain other Government stocks, amounting
to $243,000, referred to in my last message as outstanding, has since been

I am fully persuaded that it would be difficult to devise a system superior
to that by which the fiscal business of the Government is now conducted.
Notwithstanding the great number of public agents of collection and
disbursement, it is believed that the checks and guards provided, including
the requirement of monthly returns, render it scarcely possible for any
considerable fraud on the part of those agents or neglect involving hazard
of serious public loss to escape detection. I renew, however, the
recommendation heretofore made by me of the enactment of a law declaring it
felony on the part of public officers to insert false entries in their
books of record or account or to make false returns, and also requiring
them on the termination of their service to deliver to their successors all
books, records, and other objects of a public nature in their custody.

Derived, as our public revenue is, in chief part from duties on imports,
its magnitude affords gratifying evidence of the prosperity, not only of
our commerce, but of the other great interests upon which that depends.

The principle that all moneys not required for the current expenses of the
Government should remain for active employment in the hands of the people
and the conspicuous fact that the annual revenue from all sources exceeds
by many millions of dollars the amount needed for a prudent and economical
administration of public affairs can not fail to suggest the propriety of
an early revision and reduction of the tariff of duties on imports. It is
now so generally conceded that the purpose of revenue alone can justify the
imposition of duties on imports that in readjusting the impost tables and
schedules, which unquestionably require essential modifications, a
departure from the principles of the present tariff is not anticipated.

The Army during the past year has been actively engaged in defending the
Indian frontier, the state of the service permitting but few and small
garrisons in our permanent fortifications. The additional regiments
authorized at the last session of Congress have been recruited and
organized, and a large portion of the troops have already been sent to the
field. All the duties which devolve on the military establishment have been
satisfactorily performed, and the dangers and privations incident to the
character of the service required of our troops have furnished additional
evidence of their courage, zeal, and capacity to meet any requisition which
their country may make upon them. For the details of the military
operations, the distribution of the troops, and additional provisions
required for the military service, I refer to the report of the Secretary
of War and the accompanying documents.

Experience gathered from events which have transpired since my last annual
message has but served to confirm the opinion then expressed of the
propriety of making provision by a retired list for disabled officers and
for increased compensation to the officers retained on the list for active
duty. All the reasons which existed when these measures were recommended on
former occasions continue without modification, except so far as
circumstances have given to some of them additional force.

The recommendations heretofore made for a partial reorganization of the
Army are also renewed. The thorough elementary education given to those
officers who commenced their service with the grade of cadet qualifies them
to a considerable extent to perform the duties of every arm of the service;
but to give the highest efficiency to artillery requires the practice and
special study of many years, and it is not, therefore, believed to be
advisable to maintain in time of peace a larger force of that arm than can
be usually employed in the duties appertaining to the service of field and
siege artillery. The duties of the staff in all its various branches belong
to the movements of troops, and the efficiency of an army in the field
would materially depend upon the ability with which those duties are
discharged. It is not, as in the case of the artillery, a specialty, but
requires also an intimate knowledge of the duties of an officer of the
line, and it is not doubted that to complete the education of an officer
for either the line or the general staff it is desirable that he shall have
served in both. With this view, it was recommended on a former occasion
that the duties of the staff should be mainly performed by details from the
line, and, with conviction of the advantages which would result from such a
change, it is again presented for the consideration of Congress.

The report of the Secretary of the Navy, herewith submitted, exhibits in
full the naval operations of the past year, together with the present
condition of the service, and it makes suggestions of further legislation,
to which your attention is invited.

The construction of the six steam frigates for which appropriations were
made by the last Congress has proceeded in the most satisfactory manner and
with such expedition as to warrant the belief that they will be ready for
service early in the coming spring. Important as this addition to our naval
force is, it still remains inadequate to the contingent exigencies of the
protection of the extensive seacoast and vast commercial interests of the
United States. In view of this fact and of the acknowledged wisdom of the
policy of a gradual and systematic increase of the Navy an appropriation is
recommended for the construction of six steam sloops of war.

In regard to the steps taken in execution of the act of Congress to promote
the efficiency of the Navy, it is unnecessary for me to say more than to
express entire concurrence in the observations on that subject presented by
the Secretary in his report.

It will be perceived by the report of the postmaster-General that the gross
expenditure of the Department for the last fiscal year was $9,968,342 and
the gross receipts $7,342,136, making an excess of expenditure over
receipts of $2,626,206; and that the cost of mail transportation during
that year was $674,952 greater than the previous year. Much of the heavy
expenditures to which the Treasury is thus subjected is to be ascribed to
the large quantity of printed matter conveyed by the mails, either franked
or liable to no postage by law or to very low rates of postage compared
with that charged on letters, and to the great cost of mail service on
railroads and by ocean steamers. The suggestions of the Postmaster-General
on the subject deserve the consideration of Congress.

The report of the Secretary of the Interior will engage your attention as
well for useful suggestions it contains as for the interest and importance
of the subjects to which they refer.

The aggregate amount of public land sold during the last fiscal year,
located with military scrip or land warrants, taken up under grants for
roads, and selected as swamp lands by States is 24,557,409 acres, of which
the portion sold was 15,729,524 acres, yielding in receipts the sum of
$11,485,380. In the same period of time 8,723,854 acres have been surveyed,
but, in consideration of the quantity already subject to entry, no
additional tracts have been brought into market.

The peculiar relation of the General Government to the District of Columbia
renders it proper to commend to your care not only its material but also
its moral interests, including education, more especially in those parts of
the District outside of the cities of Washington and Georgetown.

The commissioners appointed to revise and codify the laws of the District
have made such progress in the performance of their task as to insure its
completion in the time prescribed by the act of Congress.

Information has recently been received that the peace of the settlements in
the Territories of Oregon and Washington is disturbed by hostilities on the
part of the Indians, with indications of extensive combinations of a
hostile character among the tribes in that quarter, the more serious in
their possible effect by reason of the undetermined foreign interests
existing in those Territories, to which your attention has already been
especially invited. Efficient measures have been taken, which, it is
believed, will restore quiet and afford protection to our citizens.

In the Territory of Kansas there have been acts prejudicial to good order,
but as yet none have occurred under circumstances to justify the
interposition of the Federal Executive. That could only be in case of
obstruction to Federal law or of organized resistance to Territorial law,
assuming the character of insurrection, which, if it should occur, it would
be my duty promptly to overcome and suppress. I cherish the hope, however,
that the occurrence of any such untoward event will be prevented by the
sound sense of the people of the Territory, who by its organic law,
possessing the right to determine their own domestic institutions, are
entitled while deporting themselves peacefully to the free exercise of that
right, and must be protected in the enjoyment of it without interference on
the part of the citizens of any of the States. The southern boundary line
of this Territory has never been surveyed and established. The rapidly
extending settlements in that region and the fact that the main route
between Independence, in the State of Missouri, and New Mexico is
contiguous in this line suggest the probability that embarrassing questions
of jurisdiction may consequently arise. For these and other considerations
I commend the subject to your early attention.

I have thus passed in review the general state of the Union, including such
particular concerns of the Federal Government, whether of domestic or
foreign relation, as it appeared to me desirable and useful to bring to the
special notice of Congress. Unlike the great States of Europe and Asia and
many of those of America, these United States are wasting their strength
neither in foreign war nor domestic strife. Whatever of discontent or
public dissatisfaction exists is attributable to the imperfections of human
nature or is incident to all governments, however perfect, which human
wisdom can devise. Such subjects of political agitation as occupy the
public mind consist to a great extent of exaggeration of inevitable evils,
or over zeal in social improvement, or mere imagination of grievance,
having but remote connection with any of the constitutional functions or
duties of the Federal Government. To whatever extent these questions
exhibit a tendency menacing to the stability of the Constitution or the
integrity of the Union, and no further, they demand the consideration of
the Executive and require to be presented by him to Congress.

Before the thirteen colonies became a confederation of independent States
they were associated only by community of transatlantic origin, by
geographical position, and by the mutual tie of common dependence on Great
Britain. When that tie was sundered they severally assumed the powers and
rights of absolute self-government. The municipal and social institutions
of each, its laws of property and of personal relation, even its political
organization, were such only as each one chose to establish, wholly without
interference from any other. In the language of the Declaration of
Independence, each State had "full power to levy war, conclude peace,
contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things
which independent states may of right do." The several colonies differed in
climate, in soil, in natural productions, in religion, in systems of
education, in legislation, and in the forms of political administration,
and they continued to differ in these respects when they voluntarily allied
themselves as States to carry on the War of the Revolution. The object of
that war was to disenthrall the united colonies from foreign rule, which
had proved to be oppressive, and to separate them permanently from the
mother country. The political result was the foundation of a Federal
Republic of the free white men of the colonies, constituted, as they were,
in distinct and reciprocally independent State governments. As for the
subject races, whether Indian or African, the wise and brave statesmen of
that day, being engaged in no extravagant scheme of social change, left
them as they were, and thus preserved themselves and their posterity from
the anarchy and the ever-recurring civil wars which have prevailed in other
revolutionized European colonies of America.

When the confederated States found it convenient to modify the conditions
of their association by giving to the General Government direct access in
some respects to the people of the States, instead of confining it to
action on the States as such, they proceeded to frame the existing
Constitution, adhering steadily to one guiding thought, which was to
delegate only such power as was necessary and proper to the execution of
specific purposes, or, in other words, to retain as much as possible
consistently with those purposes of the independent powers of the
individual States. For objects of common defense and security, they
intrusted to the General Government certain carefully defined functions,
leaving all others as the undelegated rights of the separate independent

Such is the constitutional theory of our Government, the practical
observance of which has carried us, and us alone among modern republics,
through nearly three generations of time without the cost of one drop of
blood shed in civil war. With freedom and concert of action, it has enabled
us to contend successfully on the battlefield against foreign foes, has
elevated the feeble colonies into powerful States, and has raised our
industrial productions and our commerce which transports them to the level
of the richest and the greatest nations of Europe. And the admirable
adaptation of our political institutions to their objects, combining local
self-government with aggregate strength, has established the practicability
of a government like ours to cover a continent with confederate states.

The Congress of the United States is in effect that congress of
sovereignties which good men in the Old World have sought for, but could
never attain, and which imparts to America an exemption from the mutable
leagues for common action, from the wars, the mutual invasions, and vague
aspirations after the balance of power which convulse from time to time the
Governments of Europe. Our cooperative action rests in the conditions of
permanent confederation prescribed by the Constitution. Our balance of
power is in the separate reserved rights of the States and their equal
representation in the Senate. That independent sovereignty in every one of
the States, with its reserved rights of local self-government assured to
each by their coequal power in the Senate, was the fundamental condition of
the Constitution. Without it the Union would never have existed. However
desirous the larger States might be to reorganize the Government so as to
give to their population its proportionate weight in the common counsels,
they knew it was impossible unless they conceded to the smaller ones
authority to exercise at least a negative influence on all the measures of
the Government, whether legislative or executive, through their equal
representation in the Senate. Indeed, the larger States themselves could
not have failed to perceive that the same power was equally necessary to
them for the security of their own domestic interests against the aggregate
force of the General Government. In a word, the original States went into
this permanent league on the agreed premises of exerting their common
strength for the defense of the whole and of all its parts, but of utterly
excluding all capability of reciprocal aggression. Each solemnly bound
itself to all the others neither to undertake nor permit any encroachment
upon or intermeddling with another's reserved rights.

Where it was deemed expedient particular rights of the States were
expressly guaranteed by the Constitution, but in all things besides these
rights were guarded by the limitation of the powers granted and by express
reservation of all powers not granted in the compact of union. Thus the
great power of taxation was limited to purposes of common defense and
general welfare, excluding objects appertaining to the local legislation of
the several States; and those purposes of general welfare and common
defense were afterwards defined by specific enumeration as being matters
only of co-relation between the States themselves or between them and
foreign governments, which, because of their common and general nature,
could not be left to the separate control of each State.

Of the circumstances of local condition, interest, and rights in which a
portion of the States, constituting one great section of the Union,
differed from the rest and from another section, the most important was the
peculiarity of a larger relative colored population in the Southern than in
the Northern States.

A population of this class, held in subjection, existed in nearly all the
States, but was more numerous and of more serious concernment in the South
than in the North on account of natural differences of climate and
production; and it was foreseen that, for the same reasons, while this
population would diminish and sooner or later cease to exist in some
States, it might increase in others. The peculiar character and magnitude
of this question of local rights, not in material relations only, but still
more in social ones, caused it to enter into the special stipulations of
the Constitution.

Hence, while the General Government, as well by the enumerated powers
granted to it as by those not enumerated, and therefore refused to it, was
forbidden to touch this matter in the sense of attack or offense, it was
placed under the general safeguard of the Union in the sense of defense
against either invasion or domestic violence, like all other local
interests of the several States. Each State expressly stipulated, as well
for itself as for each and all of its citizens, and every citizen of each
State became solemnly bound by his allegiance to the Constitution that any
person held to service or labor in one State, escaping into another, should
not, in consequence of any law or regulation thereof, be discharged from
such service or labor, but should be delivered up on claim of the party to
whom such service or labor might be due by the laws of his State.

Thus and thus only, by the reciprocal guaranty of all the rights of every
State against interference on the part of another, was the present form of
government established by our fathers and transmitted to us, and by no
other means is it possible for it to exist. If one State ceases to respect
the rights of another and obtrusively intermeddles with its local
interests; if a portion of the States assume to impose their institutions
on the others or refuse to fulfill their obligations to them, we are no
longer united, friendly States, but distracted, hostile ones, with little
capacity left of common advantage, but abundant means of reciprocal injury
and mischief. Practically it is immaterial whether aggressive interference
between the States or deliberate refusal on the part of any one of them to
comply with constitutional obligations arise from erroneous conviction or
blind prejudice, whether it be perpetrated by direction or indirection. In
either case it is full of threat and of danger to the durability of the

Placed in the office of Chief Magistrate as the executive agent of the
whole country, bound to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and
specially enjoined by the Constitution to give information to Congress on
the state of the Union, it would be palpable neglect of duty on my part to
pass over a subject like this, which beyond all things at the present time
vitally concerns individual and public security.

It has been matter of painful regret to see States conspicuous for their
services in rounding this Republic and equally sharing its advantages
disregard their constitutional obligations to it. Although conscious of
their inability to heal admitted and palpable social evils of their own,
and which are completely within their jurisdiction, they engage in the
offensive and hopeless undertaking of reforming the domestic institutions
of other States, wholly beyond their control and authority. In the vain
pursuit of ends by them entirely unattainable, and which they may not
legally attempt to compass, they peril the very existence of the
Constitution and all the countless benefits which it has conferred. While
the people of the Southern States confine their attention to their own
affairs, not presuming officiously to intermeddle with the social
institutions of the Northern States, too many of the inhabitants of the
latter are permanently organized in associations to inflict injury on the
former by wrongful acts, which would be cause of war as between foreign
powers and only fail to be such in our system because perpetrated under
cover of the Union.

Is it possible to present this subject as truth and the occasion require
without noticing the reiterated but groundless allegation that the South
has persistently asserted claims and obtained advantages in the practical
administration of the General Government to the prejudice of the North, and
in which the latter has acquiesced? That is, the States which either
promote or tolerate attacks on the rights of persons and of property in
other States, to disguise their own injustice, pretend or imagine, and
constantly aver, that they, whose constitutional rights are thus
systematically assailed, are themselves the aggressors. At the present time
this imputed aggression, resting, as it does, only in the vague declamatory
charges of political agitators, resolves itself into misapprehension, or
misinterpretation, of the principles and facts of the political
organization of the new Territories of the United States.

What is the voice of history? When the ordinance which provided for the
government of the territory northwest of the river Ohio and for its
eventual subdivision into new States was adopted in the Congress of the
Confederation, it is not to be supposed that the question of future
relative power as between the States which retained and those which did not
retain a numerous colored population escaped notice or failed to be
considered. And yet the concession of that vast territory to the interests
and opinions of the Northern States, a territory now the seat of five among
the largest members of the Union, was in great measure the act of the State
of Virginia and of the South.

When Louisiana was acquired by the United States, it was an acquisition not
less to the North than to the South; for while it was important to the
country at the mouth of the river Mississippi to become the emporium of the
country above it, so also it was even more important to the whole Union to
have that emporium; and although the new province, by reason of its
imperfect settlement, was mainly regarded as on the Gulf of Mexico, yet in
fact it extended to the opposite boundaries of the United States, with far
greater breadth above than below, and was in territory, as in everything
else, equally at least an accession to the Northern States. It is mere
delusion and prejudice, therefore, to speak of Louisiana as acquisition in
the special interest of the South.

The patriotic and just men who participated in the act were influenced by
motives far above all sectional jealousies. It was in truth the great event
which, by completing for us the possession of the Valley of the
Mississippi, with commercial access to the Gulf of Mexico, imparted unity
and strength to the whole Confederation and attached together by
indissoluble ties the East and the West, as well as the North and the

As to Florida, that was but the transfer by Spain to the United States of
territory on the east side of the river Mississippi in exchange for large
territory which the United States transferred to Spain on the west side of
that river, as the entire diplomatic history of the transaction serves to
demonstrate. Moreover, it was an acquisition demanded by the commercial
interests and the security of the whole Union. In the meantime the people
of the United States had grown up to a proper consciousness of their
strength, and in a brief contest with France and in a second serious war
with Great Britain they had shaken off all which remained of undue
reverence for Europe, and emerged from the atmosphere of those
transatlantic influences which surrounded the infant Republic, and had
begun to turn their attention to the full and systematic development of the
internal resources of the Union.

Among the evanescent controversies of that period the most conspicuous was
the question of regulation by Congress of the social condition of the
future States to be rounded in the territory of Louisiana.

The ordinance for the government of the territory northwest of the river
Ohio had contained a provision which prohibited the use of servile labor
therein, subject to the condition of the extraditions of fugitives from
service due in any other part of the United States. Subsequently to the
adoption of the Constitution this provision ceased to remain as a law, for
its operation as such was absolutely superseded by the Constitution. But
the recollection of the fact excited the zeal of social propagandism in
some sections of the Confederation, and when a second State, that of
Missouri, came to be formed in the territory of Louisiana proposition was
made to extend to the latter territory the restriction originally applied
to the country situated between the rivers Ohio and Mississippi.

Most questionable as was this proposition in all its constitutional
relations, nevertheless it received the sanction of Congress, with some
slight modifications of line, to save the existing rights of the intended
new State. It was reluctantly acquiesced in by Southern States as a
sacrifice to the cause of peace and of the Union, not only of the rights
stipulated by the treaty of Louisiana, but of the principle of equality
among the States guaranteed by the Constitution. It was received by the
Northern States with angry and resentful condemnation and complaint,
because it did not concede all which they had exactingly demanded. Having
passed through the forms of legislation, it took its place in the statute
book, standing open to repeal, like any other act of doubtful
constitutionality, subject to be pronounced null and void by the courts of
law, and possessing no possible efficacy to control the rights of the
States which might thereafter be organized out of any part of the original
territory of Louisiana.

In all this, if any aggression there were, any innovation upon preexisting
rights, to which portion of the Union are they justly chargeable? This
controversy passed away with the occasion, nothing surviving it save the
dormant letter of the statute.

But long afterwards, when by the proposed accession of the Republic of
Texas the United States were to take their next step in territorial
greatness, a similar contingency occurred and became the occasion for
systematized attempts to intervene in the domestic affairs of one section
of the Union, in defiance of their rights as States and of the stipulations
of the Constitution. These attempts assumed a practical direction in the
shape of persevering endeavors by some of the Representatives in both
Houses of Congress to deprive the Southern States of the supposed benefit
of the provisions of the act authorizing the organization of the State of

But the good sense of the people and the vital force of the Constitution
triumphed over sectional prejudice and the political errors of the day, and
the State of Texas returned to the Union as she was, with social
institutions which her people had chosen for themselves and with express
agreement by the reannexing act that she should be susceptible of
subdivision into a plurality of States.

Whatever advantage the interests of the Southern States, as such, gained by
this were far inferior in results, as they unfolded in the progress of
time, to those which sprang from previous concessions made by the South.

To every thoughtful friend of the Union, to the true lovers of their
country, to all who longed and labored for the full success of this great
experiment of republican institutions, it was cause of gratulation that
such an opportunity had occurred to illustrate our advancing power on this
continent and to furnish to the world additional assurance of the strength
and stability of the Constitution. Who would wish to see Florida still a
European colony? Who would rejoice to hail Texas as a lone star instead of
one in the galaxy of States? Who does not appreciate the incalculable
benefits of the acquisition of Louisiana? And yet narrow views and
sectional purposes would inevitably have excluded them all from the Union.

But another struggle on the same point ensued when our victorious armies
returned from Mexico and it devolved on Congress to provide for the
territories acquired by the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The great
relations of the subject had now become distinct and clear to the
perception of the public mind, which appreciated the evils of sectional
controversy upon the question of the admission of new States. In that
crisis intense solicitude pervaded the nation. But the patriotic impulses
of the popular heart, guided by the admonitory advice of the Father of his
Country, rose superior to all the difficulties of the incorporation of a
new empire into the Union. In the counsels of Congress there was manifested
extreme antagonism of opinion and action between some Representatives, who
sought by the abusive and unconstitutional employment of the legislative
powers of the Government to interfere in the condition of the inchoate
States and to impose their own social theories upon the latter, and other
Representatives, who repelled the interposition of the General Government
in this respect and maintained the self-constituting rights of the States.
In truth, the thing attempted was in form alone action of the General
Government, while in reality it was the endeavor, by abuse of legislative
power, to force the ideas of internal policy entertained in particular
States upon allied independent States. Once more the Constitution and the
Union triumphed signally. The new territories were organized without
restrictions on the disputed point, and were thus left to judge in that
particular for themselves; and the sense of constitutional faith proved
vigorous enough in Congress not only to accomplish this primary object, but
also the incidental and hardly less important one of so amending the
provisions of the statute for the extradition of fugitives from service as
to place that public duty under the safeguard of the General Government,
and thus relieve it from obstacles raised up by the legislation of some of
the States.

Vain declamation regarding the provisions of law for the extradition of
fugitives from service, with occasional episodes of frantic effort to
obstruct their execution by riot and murder, continued for a brief time to
agitate certain localities. But the true principle of leaving each State
and Territory to regulate its own laws of labor according to its own sense
of right and expediency had acquired fast hold of the public judgment, to
such a degree that by common consent it was observed in the organization of
the Territory of Washington. When, more recently, it became requisite to
organize the Territories of Nebraska and Kansas, it was the natural and
legitimate, if not the inevitable, consequence of previous events and
legislation that the same great and sound principle which had already been
applied to Utah and New Mexico should be applied to them--that they should
stand exempt from the restrictions proposed in the act relative to the
State of Missouri.

These restrictions were, in the estimation of many thoughtful men, null
from the beginning, unauthorized by the Constitution, contrary to the
treaty stipulations for the cession of Louisiana, and inconsistent with the
equality of these States.

They had been stripped of all moral authority by persistent efforts to
procure their indirect repeal through contradictory enactments. They had
been practically abrogated by the legislation attending the organization of
Utah, New Mexico, and Washington. If any vitality remained in them it would
have been taken away, in effect, by the new Territorial acts in the form
originally proposed to the Senate at the first session of the last
Congress. It was manly and ingenuous, as well as patriotic and just, to do
this directly and plainly, and thus relieve the statute book of an act
which might be of possible future injury, but of no possible future
benefit; and the measure of its repeal was the final consummation and
complete recognition of the principle that no portion of the United States
shall undertake through assumption of the powers of the General Government
to dictate the social institutions of any other portion.

The scope and effect of the language of repeal were not left in doubt. It
was declared in terms to be "the true intent and meaning of this act not to
legislate slavery into any Territory or State, nor to exclude it therefrom,
but to leave the people thereof perfectly free to form and regulate their
domestic institutions in their own way, subject only to the Constitution of
the United States."

The measure could not be withstood upon its merits alone. It was attacked
with violence on the false or delusive pretext that it constituted a breach
of faith. Never was objection more utterly destitute of substantial
justification. When before was it imagined by sensible men that a
regulative or declarative statute, whether enacted ten or forty years ago,
is irrepealable; that an act of Congress is above the Constitution? If,
indeed, there were in the facts any cause to impute bad faith, it would
attach to those only who have never ceased, from the time of the enactment
of the restrictive provision to the present day, to denounce and condemn
it; who have constantly refused to complete it by needful supplementary
legislation; who have spared no exertion to deprive it of moral force; who
have themselves again and again attempted its repeal by the enactment of
incompatible provisions, and who, by the inevitable reactionary effect of
their own violence on the subject, awakened the country to perception of
the true constitutional principle of leaving the matter involved to the
discretion of the people of the respective existing or incipient States.

It is not pretended that this principle or any other precludes the
possibility of evils in practice, disturbed, as political action is liable
to be, by human passions. No form of government is exempt from
inconveniences; but in this case they are the result of the abuse, and not
of the legitimate exercise, of the powers reserved or conferred in the
organization of a Territory. They are not to be charged to the great
principle of popular sovereignty. On the contrary, they disappear before
the intelligence and patriotism of the people, exerting through the ballot
box their peaceful and silent but irresistible power.

If the friends of the Constitution are to have another struggle, its
enemies could not present a more acceptable issue than that of a State
whose constitution clearly embraces "a republican form of government" being
excluded from the Union because its domestic institutions may not in all
respects comport with the ideas of what is wise and expedient entertained
in some other State. Fresh from groundless imputations of breach of faith
against others, men will commence the agitation of this new question with
indubitable violation of an express compact between the independent
sovereign powers of the United States and of the Republic of Texas, as well
as of the older and equally solemn compacts which assure the equality of
all the States.

But deplorable as would be such a violation of compact in itself and in all
its direct consequences, that is the very least of the evils involved. When
sectional agitators shall have succeeded in forcing on this issue, can
their pretensions fail to be met by counter pretensions? Will not different
States be compelled, respectively, to meet extremes with extremes? And if
either extreme carry its point, what is that so far forth but dissolution
of the Union? If a new State, formed from the territory of the United
States, be absolutely excluded from admission therein, that fact of itself
constitutes the disruption of union between it and the other States. But
the process of dissolution could not stop there. Would not a sectional
decision producing such result by a majority of votes, either Northern or
Southern, of necessity drive out the oppressed and aggrieved minority and
place in presence of each other two irreconcilably hostile confederations?

It is necessary to speak thus plainly of projects the offspring of that
sectional agitation now prevailing in some of the States, which are as
impracticable as they are unconstitutional, and which if persevered in must
and will end calamitously. It is either disunion and civil war or it is
mere angry, idle, aimless disturbance of public peace and tranquillity.
Disunion for what? If the passionate rage of fanaticism and partisan spirit
did not force the fact upon our attention, it would be difficult to believe
that any considerable portion of the people of this enlightened country
could have so surrendered themselves to a fanatical devotion to the
supposed interests of the relatively few Africans in the United States as
totally to abandon and disregard the interests of the 25,000,000 Americans;
to trample under foot the injunctions of moral and constitutional
obligation, and to engage in plans of vindictive hostility against those
who are associated with them in the enjoyment of the common heritage of our
national institutions.

Nor is it hostility against their fellow-citizens of one section of the
Union alone. The interests, the honor, the duty, the peace, and the
prosperity of the people of all sections are equally involved and imperiled
in this question. And are patriotic men in any part of the Union prepared
on such issue thus madly to invite all the consequences of the forfeiture
of their constitutional engagements? It is impossible. The storm of frenzy
and faction must inevitably dash itself in vain against the unshaken rock
of the Constitution. I shall never doubt it. I know that the Union is
stronger a thousand times than all the wild and chimerical schemes of
social change which are generated one after another in the unstable minds
of visionary sophists and interested agitators. I rely confidently on the
patriotism of the people, on the dignity and self-respect of the States, on
the wisdom of Congress, and, above all, on the continued gracious favor of
Almighty God to maintain against all enemies, whether at home or abroad,
the sanctity of the Constitution and the integrity of the Union.


State of the Union Address
Franklin Pierce
December 2, 1856

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

The Constitution requires that the President shall from time to time not
only recommend to the consideration of Congress such measures as he may
judge necessary and expedient, but also that he shall give information to
them of the state of the Union. To do this fully involves exposition of all
matters in the actual condition of the country, domestic or foreign, which
essentially concern the general welfare. While performing his
constitutional duty in this respect, the President does not speak merely to
express personal convictions, but as the executive minister of the
Government, enabled by his position and called upon by his official
obligations to scan with an impartial eye the interests of the whole and of
every part of the United States.

Of the condition of the domestic interests of the Union--its agriculture,
mines, manufactures, navigation, and commerce--it is necessary only to say
that the internal prosperity of the country, its continuous and steady
advancement in wealth and population and in private as well as public
well-being, attest the wisdom of our institutions and the predominant
spirit of intelligence and patriotism which, notwithstanding occasional
irregularities of opinion or action resulting from popular freedom, has
distinguished and characterized the people of America. In the brief
interval between the termination of the last and the commencement of the
present session of Congress the public mind has been occupied with the care
of selecting for another constitutional term the President and
Vice-President of the United States.

The determination of the persons who are of right, or contingently, to
preside over the administration of the Government is under our system
committed to the States and the people. We appeal to them, by their voice
pronounced in the forms of law, to call whomsoever they will to the high
post of Chief Magistrate.

And thus it is that as the Senators represent the respective States of the
Union and the members of the House of Representatives the several
constituencies of each State, so the President represents the aggregate
population of the United States. Their election of him is the explicit and
solemn act of the sole sovereign authority of the Union.

It is impossible to misapprehend the great principles which by their recent
political action the people of the United States have sanctioned and

They have asserted the constitutional equality of each and all of the
States of the Union as States: they have affirmed the constitutional
equality of each and all of the citizens of the United States as citizens,
whatever their religion, wherever their birth or their residence; they have
maintained the inviolability of the constitutional rights of the different
sections of the Union, and they have proclaimed their devoted and
unalterable attachment to the Union and to the Constitution, as objects of
interest superior to all subjects of local or sectional controversy, as the
safeguard of the rights of all, as the spirit and the essence of the
liberty, peace, and greatness of the Republic. In doing this they have at
the same time emphatically condemned the idea of organizing in these United
States mere geographical parties, of marshaling in hostile array toward
each other the different parts of the country, North or South, East or

Schemes of this nature, fraught with incalculable mischief, and which the
considerate sense of the people has rejected, could have had countenance in
no part of the country had they not been disguised by suggestions plausible
in appearance, acting upon an excited state of the public mind, induced by
causes temporary in their character and, it is to be hoped, transient in
their influence.

Perfect liberty of association for political objects and the widest scope
of discussion are the received and ordinary conditions of government in our
country. Our institutions, framed in the spirit of confidence in the
intelligence and integrity of the people, do not forbid citizens, either
individually or associated together, to attack by writing, speech, or any
other methods short of physical force the Constitution and the very
existence of the Union. Under the shelter of this great liberty, and
protected by the laws and usages of the Government they assail,
associations have been formed in some of the States of individuals who,
pretending to seek only to prevent the spread of the institution of slavery
into the present or future inchoate States of the Union, are really
inflamed with desire to change the domestic institutions of existing
States. To accomplish their objects they dedicate themselves to the odious
task of depreciating the government organization which stands in their way
and of calumniating with indiscriminate invective not only the citizens of
particular States with whose laws they find fault, but all others of their
fellow citizens throughout the country who do not participate with them in
their assaults upon the Constitution, framed and adopted by our fathers,
and claiming for the privileges it has secured and the blessings it has
conferred the steady support and grateful reverence of their children. They
seek an object which they well know to be a revolutionary one. They are
perfectly aware that the change in the relative condition of the white and
black races in the slaveholding States which they would promote is beyond
their lawful authority; that to them it is a foreign object; that it can
not be effected by any peaceful instrumentality of theirs; that for them
and the States of which they are citizens the only path to its
accomplishment is through burning cities, and ravaged fields, and
slaughtered populations, and all there is most terrible in foreign
complicated with civil and servile war; and that the first step in the
attempt is the forcible disruption of a country embracing in its broad
bosom a degree of liberty and an amount of individual and public prosperity
to which there is no parallel in history, and substituting in its place
hostile governments, driven at once and inevitably into mutual devastation
and fratricidal carnage, transforming the now peaceful and felicitous
brotherhood into a vast permanent camp of armed men like the rival
monarchies of Europe and Asia. Well knowing that such, and such only, are
the means and the consequences of their plans and purposes, they endeavor
to prepare the people of the United States for civil war by doing
everything in their power to deprive the Constitution and the laws of moral
authority and to undermine the fabric of the Union by appeals to passion
and sectional prejudice, by indoctrinating its people with reciprocal
hatred, and by educating them to stand face to face as enemies, rather than
shoulder to shoulder as friends.

It is by the agency of such unwarrantable interference, foreign and
domestic, that the minds of many otherwise good citizens have been so
inflamed into the passionate condemnation of the domestic institutions of
the Southern States as at length to pass insensibly to almost equally
passion late hostility toward their fellow-citizens of those States, and
thus finally to fall into temporary fellowship with the avowed and active
enemies of the Constitution. Ardently attached to liberty in the abstract,
they do not stop to consider practically how the objects they would attain
can be accomplished, nor to reflect that, even if the evil were as great as
they deem it, they have no remedy to apply, and that it can be only
aggravated by their violence and unconstitutional action. A question which
is one of the most difficult of all the problems of social institution,
political economy, and statesmanship they treat with unreasoning
intemperance of thought and language. Extremes beget extremes. Violent
attack from the North finds its inevitable consequence in the growth of a
spirit of angry defiance at the South. Thus in the progress of events we
had reached that consummation, which the voice of the people has now so
pointedly rebuked, of the attempt of a portion of the States, by a
sectional organization and movement, to usurp the control of the Government
of the United States.

I confidently believe that the great body of those who inconsiderately took
this fatal step are sincerely attached to the Constitution and the Union.
They would upon deliberation shrink with unaffected horror from any
conscious act of disunion or civil war. But they have entered into a path
which leads nowhere unless it be to civil war and disunion, and which has
no other possible outlet. They have proceeded thus far in that direction in
consequence of the successive stages of their progress having consisted of
a series of secondary issues, each of which professed to be confined within
constitutional and peaceful limits, but which attempted indirectly what few
men were willing to do directly; that is, to act aggressively against the
constitutional rights of nearly one-half of the thirty-one States.

In the long series of acts of indirect aggression, the first was the
strenuous agitation by citizens of the Northern States, in Congress and out
of it, of the question of Negro emancipation in the Southern States.

The second step in this path of evil consisted of acts of the people of the
Northern States, and in several instances of their governments, aimed to
facilitate the escape of persons held to service in the Southern States and
to prevent their extradition when reclaimed according to law and in virtue
of express provisions of the Constitution. To promote this object,
legislative enactments and other means were adopted to take away or defeat
rights which the Constitution solemnly guaranteed. In order to nullify the
then existing act of Congress concerning the extradition of fugitives from
service, laws were enacted in many States forbidding their officers, under
the severest penalties, to participate in the execution of any act of
Congress whatever. In this way that system of harmonious cooperation
between the authorities of the United States and of the several States, for
the maintenance of their common institutions, which existed in the early
years of the Republic was destroyed; conflicts of jurisdiction came to be
frequent, and Congress found itself compelled, for the support of the
Constitution and the vindication of its power, to authorize the appointment
of new officers charged with the execution of its acts, as if they and the
officers of the States were the ministers, respectively, of foreign
governments in a state of mutual hostility rather than fellow-magistrates
of a common country peacefully subsisting under the protection of one
well-constituted Union. Thus here also aggression was followed by reaction,
and the attacks upon the Constitution at this point did but serve to raise
up new barriers for its defense and security.

The third stage of this unhappy sectional controversy was in connection
with the organization of Territorial governments and the admission of new
States into the Union. When it was proposed to admit the State of Maine, by
separation of territory from that of Massachusetts, and the State of
Missouri, formed of a portion of the territory ceded by France to the
United States, representatives in Congress objected to the admission of the
latter unless with conditions suited to particular views of public policy.
The imposition of such a condition was successfully resisted; but at the
same period the question was presented of imposing restrictions upon the
residue of the territory ceded by France. That question was for the time
disposed of by the adoption of a geographical line of limitation.

In this connection it should not be forgotten that when France, of her own
accord, resolved, for considerations of the most farsighted sagacity, to
cede Louisiana to the United States, and that accession was accepted by the
United States, the latter expressly engaged that "the inhabitants of the
ceded territory shall be incorporated in the Union of the United States and
admitted as soon as possible, according to the principles of the Federal
Constitution, to the enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and
immunities of citizens of the United States; and in the meantime they shall
be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty,
property, and the religion which they profess;" that is to say, while it
remains in a Territorial condition its inhabitants are maintained and
protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property, with a right
then to pass into the condition of States on a footing of perfect equality
with the original States.

The enactment which established the restrictive geographical line was
acquiesced in rather than approved by the States of the Union. It stood on
the statute book, however, for a number of years; and the people of the
respective States acquiesced in the reenactment of the principle as applied
to the State of Texas, and it was proposed to acquiesce in its further
application to the territory acquired by the United States from Mexico. But
this proposition was successfully resisted by the representatives from the
Northern States, who, regardless of the statute line, insisted upon
applying restriction to the new territory generally, whether lying north or
south of it, thereby repealing it as a legislative compromise, and, on the
part of the North, persistently violating the compact, if compact there

Thereupon this enactment ceased to have binding virtue in any sense,
whether as respects the North or the South, and so in effect it was treated
on the occasion of the admission of the State of California and the
organization of the Territories of New Mexico, Utah, and Washington.

Such was the state of this question when the time arrived for the
organization of the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska. In the progress of
constitutional inquiry and reflection it had now at length come to be seen
clearly that Congress does not possess constitutional power to impose
restrictions of this character upon any present or future State of the
Union. In a long series of decisions, on the fullest argument and after the
most deliberate consideration, the Supreme Court of the United States had
finally determined this point in every form under which the question could
arise, whether as affecting public or private rights--in questions of the
public domain, of religion, of navigation, and of servitude.

The several States of the Union are by force of the Constitution coequal in
domestic legislative power. Congress can not change a law of domestic
relation in the State of Maine; no more can it in the State of Missouri.
Any statute which proposes to do this is a mere nullity; it takes away no
right, it confers none. If it remains on the statute book unrepealed, it
remains there only as a monument of error and a beacon of warning to the
legislator and the statesman. To repeal it will be only to remove
imperfection from the statutes, without affecting, either in the sense of
permission, or of prohibition, the action of the States or of their

Still, when the nominal restriction of this nature, already a dead letter
in law, was in terms repealed by the last Congress, in a clause of the act
organizing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska, that repeal was made the
occasion of a widespread and dangerous agitation. It was alleged that the
original enactment being a compact of perpetual moral obligation, its
repeal constituted an odious breach of faith. An act of Congress, while it
remains unrepealed, more especially if it be constitutionally valid in the
judgment of those public functionaries whose duty it is to pronounce on
that point, is undoubtedly binding on the conscience of each good citizen
of the Republic. But in what sense can it be asserted that the enactment in
question was invested with perpetuity and entitled to the respect of a
solemn Compact? Between whom was the compact? No distinct contending powers
of the Government, no separate sections of the Union treating as such,
entered into treaty stipulations on the subject. It was a mere clause of an
act of Congress, and, like any other controverted matter of legislation,
received its final shape and was passed by compromise of the conflicting
opinions or sentiments of the members of Congress. But if it had moral
authority over men's consciences, to whom did this authority attach? Not to
those of the North, who had repeatedly refused to confirm it by extension
and who had zealously striven to establish other and incompatible
regulations upon the subject. And if, as it thus appears, the supposed
compact had no obligatory force as to the North, of course it could not
have had any as to the South, for all such compacts must be mutual and of
reciprocal obligation.

It has not unfrequently happened that lawgivers, with undue estimation of
the value of the law they give or in the view of imparting to it peculiar
strength, make it perpetual in terms; but they can not thus bind the
conscience, the judgment, and the will of those who may succeed them,
invested with similar responsibilities and clothed with equal authority.
More careful investigation may prove the law to be unsound in principle.
Experience may show it to be imperfect in detail and impracticable in
execution. And then both reason and right combine not merely to justify but
to require its repeal.

The Constitution, supreme, as it is, over all the departments of the
Government--legislative, executive, and judicial--is open to amendment by
its very terms; and Congress or the States may, in their discretion,
propose amendment to it, solemn compact though it in truth is between the
sovereign States of the Union. In the present instance a political
enactment which had ceased to have legal power or authority of any kind was
repealed. The position assumed that Congress had no moral right to enact
such repeal was strange enough, and singularly so in view of the fact that
the argument came from those who openly refused obedience to existing laws
of the land, having the same popular designation and quality as compromise
acts; nay, more, who unequivocally disregarded and condemned the most
positive and obligatory injunctions of the Constitution itself, and sought
by every means within their reach to deprive a portion of their
fellow-citizens of the equal enjoyment of those rights and privileges
guaranteed alike to all by the fundamental compact of our Union.

This argument against the repeal of the statute line in question was
accompanied by another of congenial character and equally with the former
destitute of foundation in reason and truth. It was imputed that the
measure originated in the conception of extending the limits of slave labor
beyond those previously assigned to it, and that such was its natural as
well as intended effect; and these baseless assumptions were made, in the
Northern States, the ground of unceasing assault upon constitutional

The repeal in terms of a statute, which was already obsolete and also null
for unconstitutionality, could have no influence to obstruct or to promote
the propagation of conflicting views of political or social institution.
When the act organizing the Territories of Kansas and Nebraska was passed,
the inherent effect upon that portion of the public domain thus opened to
legal settlement was to admit settlers from all the States of the Union
alike, each with his convictions of public policy and private interest,
there to found, in their discretion, subject to such limitations as the
Constitution and acts of Congress might prescribe, new States, hereafter to
be admitted into the Union. It was a free field, open alike to all, whether
the statute line of assumed restriction were repealed or not. That repeal
did not open to free competition of the diverse opinions and domestic
institutions a field which without such repeal would have been closed
against them; it found that field of competition already opened, in fact
and in law. All the repeal did was to relieve the statute book of an
objectionable enactment, unconstitutional in effect and injurious in terms
to a large portion of the States.

Is it the fact that in all the unsettled regions of the United States, if
emigration be left free to act in this respect for itself, without legal
prohibitions on either side, slave labor will spontaneously go everywhere
in preference to free labor? Is it the fact that the peculiar domestic
institutions of the Southern States possess relatively so much of vigor
that wheresoever an avenue is freely opened to all the world they will
penetrate to the exclusion of those of the Northern States? Is it the fact
that the former enjoy, compared with the latter, such irresistibly superior
vitality, independent of climate, soil, and all other accidental
circumstances, as to be able to produce the supposed result in spite of the
assumed moral and natural obstacles to its accomplishment and of the more
numerous population of the Northern States? The argument of those who
advocate the enactment of new laws of restriction and condemn the repeal of
old ones in effect avers that their particular views of government have no
self-extending or self-sustaining power of their own, and will go nowhere
unless forced by act of Congress. And if Congress do but pause for a moment
in the policy of stern coercion; if it venture to try the experiment of
leaving men to judge for themselves what institutions will best suit them;
if it be not strained up to perpetual legislative exertion on this
point--if Congress proceed thus to act in the very spirit of liberty, it is
at once charged with aiming to extend slave labor into all the new
Territories of the United States.

Of course these imputations on the intentions of Congress in this respect,
conceived, as they were, in prejudice and disseminated in passion, are
utterly destitute of any justification in the nature of things and contrary
to all the fundamental doctrines and principles of civil liberty and

While, therefore, in general, the people of the Northern States have never
at any time arrogated for the Federal Government the power to interfere
directly with the domestic condition of persons in the Southern States,
but, on the contrary, have disavowed all such intentions and have shrunk
from conspicuous affiliation with those few who pursue their fanatical
objects avowedly through the contemplated means of revolutionary change of
the Government and with acceptance of the necessary consequences--a civil
and servile war--yet many citizens have suffered themselves to be drawn
into one evanescent political issue of agitation after another,
appertaining to the same set of opinions, and which subsided as rapidly as
they arose when it came to be seen, as it uniformly did, that they were
incompatible with the compacts of the Constitution and the existence of the
Union. Thus when the acts of some of the States to nullify the existing
extradition law imposed upon Congress the duty of passing a new one, the
country was invited by agitators to enter into party organization for its
repeal; but that agitation speedily ceased by reason of the
impracticability of its object. So when the statute restriction upon the
institutions of new States by a geographical line had been repealed, the
country was urged to demand its restoration, and that project also died
almost with its birth. Then followed the cry of alarm from the North
against imputed Southern encroachments, which cry sprang in reality from
the spirit of revolutionary attack on the domestic institutions of the
South, and, after a troubled existence of a few months, has been rebuked by
the voice of a patriotic people.

Of this last agitation, one lamentable feature was that it was carried on
at the immediate expense of the peace and happiness of the people of the
Territory of Kansas. That was made the battlefield, not so much of opposing
factions or interests within itself as of the conflicting passions of the
whole people of the United States. Revolutionary disorder in Kansas had its
origin in projects of intervention deliberately arranged by certain members
of that Congress which enacted the law for the organization of the
Territory; and when propagandist colonization of Kansas had thus been
undertaken in one section of the Union for the systematic promotion of its
peculiar views of policy there ensued as a matter of course a counteraction
with opposite views in other sections of the Union.

In consequence of these and other incidents, many acts of disorder, it is
undeniable, have been perpetrated in Kansas, to the occasional interruption
rather than the permanent suspension of regular government. Aggressive and
most reprehensible incursions into the Territory were undertaken both in
the North and the South, and entered it on its northern border by the way
of Iowa, as well as on the eastern by way of Missouri; and there has
existed within it a state of insurrection against the constituted
authorities, not without countenance from inconsiderate persons in each of
the great sections of the Union. But the difficulties in that Territory
have been extravagantly exaggerated for purposes of political agitation
elsewhere. The number and gravity of the acts of violence have been
magnified partly by statements entirely untrue and partly by reiterated
accounts of the same rumors or facts. Thus the Territory has been seemingly
filled with extreme violence, when the whole amount of such acts has not
been greater than what occasionally passes before us in single cities to
the regret of all good citizens, but without being regarded as of general
or permanent political consequence.

Imputed irregularities in the elections had in Kansas, like occasional
irregularities of the same description in the States, were beyond the
sphere of action of the Executive. But incidents of actual violence or of
organized obstruction of law, pertinaciously renewed from time to time,
have been met as they occurred by such means as were available and as the
circumstances required, and nothing of this character now remains to affect
the general peace of the Union. The attempt of a part of the inhabitants of
the Territory to erect a revolutionary government, though sedulously
encouraged and supplied with pecuniary aid from active agents of disorder
in some of the States, has completely failed. Bodies of armed men, foreign
to the Territory, have been prevented from entering or compelled to leave
it; predatory bands, engaged in acts of rapine under cover of the existing
political disturbances, have been arrested or dispersed, and every
well-disposed person is now enabled once more to devote himself in peace to
the pursuits of prosperous industry, for the prosecution of which he
undertook to participate in the settlement of the Territory.

It affords me unmingled satisfaction thus to announce the peaceful
condition of things in Kansas, especially considering the means to which it
was necessary to have recourse for the attainment of the end, namely, the
employment of a part of the military force of the United States. The
withdrawal of that force from its proper duty of defending the country
against foreign foes or the savages of the frontier to employ it for the
suppression of domestic insurrection is, when the exigency occurs, a matter
of the most earnest solicitude. On this occasion of imperative necessity it
has been done with the best results, and my satisfaction in the attainment
of such results by such means is greatly enhanced by the consideration
that, through the wisdom and energy of the present executive of Kansas and
the prudence, firmness, and vigilance of the military officers on duty
there tranquillity has been restored without one drop of blood having been
shed in its accomplishment by the forces of the United States.

The restoration of comparative tranquillity in that Territory furnishes the
means of observing calmly and appreciating at their just value the events
which have occurred there and the discussions of which the government of
the Territory has been the subject. We perceive that controversy concerning
its future domestic institutions was inevitable; that no human prudence, no
form of legislation, no wisdom on the part of Congress, could have
prevented it.

It is idle to suppose that the particular provisions of their organic law
were the cause of agitation. Those provisions were but the occasion, or the
pretext, of an agitation which was inherent in the nature of things.
Congress legislated upon the subject in such terms as were most consonant
with the principle of popular sovereignty which underlies our Government.
It could not have legislated otherwise without doing violence to another
great principle of our institutions--the imprescriptible right of equality
of the several States.

We perceive also that sectional interests and party passions have been the
great impediment to the salutary operation of the organic principles
adopted and the chief cause of the successive disturbances in Kansas. The
assumption that because in the organization of the Territories of Nebraska
and Kansas Congress abstained from imposing restraints upon them to which
certain other Territories had been subject, therefore disorders occurred in
the latter Territory, is emphatically contradicted by the fact that none
have occurred in the former. Those disorders were not the consequence, in
Kansas, of the freedom of self-government conceded to that Territory by
Congress, but of unjust interference on the part of persons not inhabitants
of the Territory. Such interference, wherever it has exhibited itself by
acts of insurrectionary character or of obstruction to process of law, has
been repelled or suppressed by all the means which the Constitution and the
laws place in the hands of the Executive.

In those parts of the United States where, by reason of the inflamed state
of the public mind, false rumors and misrepresentations have the greatest
currency it has been assumed that it was the duty of the Executive not only
to suppress insurrectionary movements in Kansas, but also to see to the
regularity of local elections. It needs little argument to show that the
President has no such power. All government in the United States rests
substantially upon popular election. The freedom of elections is liable to
be impaired by the intrusion of unlawful votes or the exclusion of lawful
ones, by improper influences, by violence, or by fraud. But the people of
the United States are themselves the all sufficient guardians of their own
rights, and to suppose that they will not remedy in due season any such
incidents of civil freedom is to suppose them to have ceased to be capable
of self-government. The President of the United States has not power to
interpose in elections, to see to their freedom, to canvass their votes, or
to pass upon their legality in the Territories any more than in the States.
If he had such power the Government might be republican in form, but it
would be a monarchy in fact; and if he had undertaken to exercise it in the
case of Kansas he would have been justly subject to the charge of
usurpation and of violation of the dearest rights of the people of the
United States.

Unwise laws, equally with irregularities at elections, are in periods of
great excitement the occasional incidents of even the freest and best
political institutions; but all experience demonstrates that in a country
like ours, where the right of self-constitution exists in the completest
form, the attempt to remedy unwise legislation by resort to revolution is
totally out of place, inasmuch as existing legal institutions afford more
prompt and efficacious means for the redress of wrong.

I confidently trust that now, when the peaceful condition of Kansas affords
opportunity for calm reflection and wise legislation, either the
legislative assembly of the Territory or Congress will see that no act
shall remain on its statute book violative of the provisions of the
Constitution or subversive of the great objects for which that was ordained
and established, and will take all other necessary steps to assure to its
inhabitants the enjoyment, without obstruction or abridgment, of all the
constitutional rights, privileges, and immunities of citizens of the United
States, as contemplated by the organic law of the Territory.

Full information in relation to recent events in this Territory will be
found in the documents communicated herewith from the Departments of State
and War.

I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury for particular
information concerning the financial condition of the Government and the
various branches of the public service connected with the Treasury

During the last fiscal year the receipts from customs were for the first
time more than $64,000,000, and from all sources $73,918,141, which, with
the balance on hand up to the 1st of July, 1855, made the total resources
of the year amount to $92,850,117. The expenditures, including $3,000,000
in execution of the treaty with Mexico and excluding sums paid on account
of the public debt, amounted to $60,172,401, and including the latter to
$72,948,792, the payment on this account having amounted to $12,776,390.

On the 4th of March, 1853, the amount of the public debt was $69,129,937.
There was a subsequent increase of $2,750,000 for the debt of Texas, making
a total of $71,879,937. Of this the sum of $45,525,319, including premium,
has been discharged, reducing the debt to $30,963,909, all which might be
paid within a year without embarrassing the public service, but being not
yet due and only redeemable at the option of the holder, can not be pressed
to payment by the Government.

On examining the expenditures of the last five years it will be seen that
the average, deducting payments on account of the public debt and
$10,000,000 paid by treaty to Mexico, has been but about $48,000,000. It is
believed that under an economical administration of the Government the
average expenditure for the ensuing five years will not exceed that sum,
unless extraordinary occasion for its increase should occur. The acts
granting bounty lands will soon have been executed, while the extension of
our frontier settlements will cause a continued demand for lands and
augmented receipts, probably, from that source. These considerations will
justify a reduction of the revenue from customs so as not to exceed
forty-eight or fifty million dollars. I think the exigency for such
reduction is imperative, and again urge it upon the consideration of

The amount of reduction, as well as the manner of effecting it, are
questions of great and general interest, it being essential to industrial
enterprise and the public prosperity, as well as the dictate of obvious
justice, that the burden of taxation be made to rest as equally as possible
upon all classes and all sections and interests of the country.

I have heretofore recommended to your consideration the revision of the
revenue laws, prepared under the direction of the Secretary of the
Treasury, and also legislation upon some special questions affecting the
business of that Department, more especially the enactment of a law to
punish the abstraction of official books or papers from the files of the
Government and requiring all such books and papers and all other public
property to be turned over by the outgoing officer to his successor; of a
law requiring disbursing officers to deposit all public money in the vaults
of the Treasury or in other legal depositories, where the same are
conveniently accessible, and a law to extend existing penal provisions to
all persons who may become possessed of public money by deposit or
otherwise and who shall refuse or neglect on due demand to pay the same
into the Treasury. I invite your attention anew to each of these objects.

The Army during the past year has been so constantly employed against
hostile Indians in various quarters that it can scarcely be said, with
propriety of language, to have been a peace establishment. Its duties have
been satisfactorily performed, and we have reason to expect as a result of
the year's operations greater security to the frontier inhabitants than has
been hitherto enjoyed. Extensive combinations among the hostile Indians of
the Territories of Washington and Oregon at one time threatened the
devastation of the newly formed settlements of that remote portion of the
country. From recent information we are permitted to hope that the
energetic and successful operations conducted there will prevent such
combinations in future and secure to those Territories an opportunity to
make steady progress in the development of their agricultural and mineral

Legislation has been recommended by me on previous occasions to cure
defects in the existing organization and to increase the efficiency of the
Army, and further observation has but served to confirm me in the views
then expressed and to enforce on my mind the conviction that such measures
are not only proper, but necessary.

I have, in addition, to invite the attention of Congress to a change of
policy in the distribution of troops and to the necessity of providing a
more rapid increase of the military armament. For details of these and
other subjects relating to the Army I refer to the report of the Secretary
of War.

The condition of the Navy is not merely satisfactory, but exhibits the most
gratifying evidences of increased vigor. As it is comparatively small, it
is more important that it should be as complete as possible in all the
elements of strength; that it should be efficient in the character of its
officers, in the zeal and discipline of its men, in the reliability of its
ordnance, and in the capacity of its ships. In all these various qualities
the Navy has made great progress within the last few years. The execution
of the law of Congress of February 28, 1855, "to promote the efficiency of
the Navy," has been attended by the most advantageous results. The law for
promoting discipline among the men is found convenient and salutary. The
system of granting an honorable discharge to faithful seamen on the
expiration of the period of their enlistment and permitting them to
reenlist after a leave of absence of a few months without cessation of pay
is highly beneficial in its influence. The apprentice system recently
adopted is evidently destined to incorporate into the service a large
number of our countrymen, hitherto so difficult to procure. Several hundred
American boys are now on a three years' cruise in our national vessels and
will return well-trained seamen. In the Ordnance Department there is a
decided and gratifying indication of progress, creditable to it and to the
country. The suggestions of the Secretary of the Navy in regard to further
improvement in that branch of the service I commend to your favorable
action. The new frigates ordered by Congress are now afloat and two of them
in active service. They are superior models of naval architecture, and with
their formidable battery add largely to public strength and security. I
concur in the views expressed by the Secretary of the Department in favor
of a still further increase of our naval force.

The report of the Secretary of the Interior presents facts and views in
relation to internal affairs over which the supervision of his Department
extends of much interest and importance.

The aggregate sales of the public lands during the last fiscal year amount
to 9,227,878 acres, for which has been received the sum of $8,821,414.
During the same period there have been located with military scrip and land
warrants and for other purposes 30,100,230 acres, thus making a total
aggregate of 39,328,108 acres. On the 30th of September last surveys had
been made of 16,873,699 acres, a large proportion of which is ready for

The suggestions in this report in regard to the complication and
progressive expansion of the business of the different bureaus of the
Department, to the pension system, to the colonization of Indian tribes,
and the recommendations in relation to various improvements in the District
of Columbia are especially commended to your consideration.

The report of the Postmaster-General presents fully the condition of that
Department of the Government. Its expenditures for the last fiscal year
were $10,407,868 and its gross receipts $7,620,801, making an excess of
expenditure over receipts of $2,787,046. The deficiency of this Department
is thus $744,000 greater than for the year ending June 30, 1853. Of this
deficiency $330,000 is to be attributed to the additional compensation
allowed to postmasters by the act of Congress of June 22, 1854. The mail
facilities in every part of the country have been very much increased in
that period, and the large addition of railroad service, amounting to 7,908
miles, has added largely to the cost of transportation.

The inconsiderable augmentation of the income of the Post-Office Department
under the reduced rates of postage and its increasing expenditures must for
the present make it dependent to some extent upon the Treasury for support.
The recommendations of the Postmaster-General in relation to the abolition
of the franking privilege and his views on the establishment of mail
steamship lines deserve the consideration of Congress. I also call the
special attention of Congress to the statement of the Postmaster-General
respecting the sums now paid for the transportation of mails to the Panama
Railroad Company, and commend to their early and favorable consideration
the suggestions of that officer in relation to new contracts for mail
transportation upon that route, and also upon the Tehuantepec and Nicaragua

The United States continue in the enjoyment of amicable relations with all
foreign powers.

When my last annual message was transmitted to Congress two subjects of
controversy, one relating to the enlistment of soldiers in this country for
foreign service and the other to Central America, threatened to disturb the
good understanding between the United States and Great Britain. Of the
progress and termination of the former question you were informed at the
time, and the other is now in the way of satisfactory adjustment.

The object of the convention between the United States and Great Britain of
the 19th of April, 1850, was to secure for the benefit of all nations the
neutrality and the common use of any transit way or interoceanic
communication across the Isthmus of Panama which might be opened within the
limits of Central America. The pretensions subsequently asserted by Great
Britain to dominion or control over territories in or near two of the
routes, those of Nicaragua and Honduras, were deemed by the United States
not merely incompatible with the main object of the treaty, but opposed
even to its express stipulations. Occasion of controversy on this point has
been removed by an additional treaty, which our minister at London has
concluded, and which will be immediately submitted to the Senate for its
consideration. Should the proposed supplemental arrangement be concurred in
by all the parties to be affected by it, the objects contemplated by the
original convention will have been fully attained.

The treaty between the United States and Great Britain of the 5th of June,
1854, which went into effective operation in 1855, put an end to causes of
irritation between the two countries, by securing to the United States the
right of fishery on the coast of the British North American Provinces, with
advantages equal to those enjoyed by British subjects. Besides the signal
benefits of this treaty to a large class of our citizens engaged in a
pursuit connected to no inconsiderable degree with our national prosperity
and strength, it has had a favorable effect upon other interests in the
provision it made for reciprocal freedom of trade between the United States
and the British Provinces in America. The exports of domestic articles to
those Provinces during the last year amounted to more than $22,000,000,
exceeding those of the preceding year by nearly $7,000,000; and the imports
therefrom during the same period amounted to more than twenty-one million,
an increase of six million upon those of the previous year.

The improved condition of this branch of our commerce is mainly
attributable to the above-mentioned treaty.

Provision was made in the first article of that treaty for a commission to
designate the mouths of rivers to which the common right of fishery on the
coast of the United States and the British Provinces was not to extend.
This commission has been employed a part of two seasons, but without much
progress in accomplishing the object for which it was instituted, in
consequence of a serious difference of opinion between the commissioners,
not only as to the precise point where the rivers terminate, but in many
instances as to what constitutes a river. These difficulties, however, may
be overcome by resort to the umpirage provided for by the treaty.

The efforts perseveringly prosecuted since the commencement of my
Administration to relieve our trade to the Baltic from the exaction of
Sound dues by Denmark have not yet been attended with success. Other
governments have also sought to obtain a like relief to their commerce, and
Denmark was thus induced to propose an arrangement to all the European
powers interested in the subject, and the manner in which her proposition
was received warranting her to believe that a satisfactory arrangement with
them could soon be concluded, she made a strong appeal to this Government
for temporary suspension of definite action on its part, in consideration
of the embarrassment which might result to her European negotiations by an
immediate adjustment of the question with the United States. This request
has been acceded to upon the condition that the sums collected after the
16th of June last and until the 16th of June next from vessels and cargoes
belonging to our merchants are to be considered as paid under protest and
subject to future adjustment. There is reason to believe that an
arrangement between Denmark and the maritime powers of Europe on the
subject will be soon concluded, and that the pending negotiation with the
United States may then be resumed and terminated in a satisfactory manner.

With Spain no new difficulties have arisen, nor has much progress been made
in the adjustment of pending ones.

Negotiations entered into for the purpose of relieving our commercial
intercourse with the island of Cuba of some of its burdens and providing
for the more speedy settlement of local disputes growing out of that
intercourse have not yet been attended with any results. Soon after the
commencement of the late war in Europe this Government submitted to the
consideration of all maritime nations two principles for the security of
neutral commerce--one that the neutral flag should cover enemies' goods,
except articles contraband of war, and the other that neutral property on
board merchant vessels of belligerents should be exempt from condemnation,
with the exception of contraband articles. These were not presented as new
rules of international law, having been generally claimed by neutrals,
though not always admitted by belligerents. One of the parties to the war
(Russia), as well as several neutral powers, promptly acceded to these
propositions, and the two other principal belligerents (Great Britain and
France) having consented to observe them for the present occasion, a
favorable opportunity seemed to be presented for obtaining a general
recognition of them, both in Europe and America. But Great Britain and
France, in common with most of the States of Europe, while forbearing to
reject, did not affirmatively act upon the overtures of the United States.

While the question was in this position the representatives of Russia,
France, Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Sardinia, and Turkey, assembled at
Paris, took into consideration the subject of maritime rights, and put
forth a declaration containing the two principles which this Government had
submitted nearly two years before to the consideration of maritime powers,
and adding thereto the following propositions: "Privateering is and remains
abolished," and "Blockades in order to be binding must be effective; that
is to say, maintained by a force sufficient really to prevent access to the
coast of the enemy;" and to the declaration thus composed of four points,
two of which had already been proposed by the United States, this
Government has been invited to accede by all the powers represented at
Paris except Great Britain and Turkey. To the last of the two additional
propositions--that in relation to blockades--there can certainly be no
objection. It is merely the definition of what shall constitute the
effectual investment of a blockaded place, a definition for which this
Government has always contended, claiming indemnity for losses where a
practical violation of the rule thus defined has been injurious to our
commerce. As to the remaining article of the declaration of the conference
of Paris, that "privateering is and remains abolished," I certainly can not
ascribe to the powers represented in the conference of Paris any but
liberal and philanthropic views in the attempt to change the unquestionable
rule of maritime law in regard to privateering. Their proposition was
doubtless intended to imply approval of the principle that private property
upon the ocean, although it might belong to the citizens of a belligerent
state, should be exempted from capture; and had that proposition been so
framed as to give full effect to the principle, it would have received my
ready assent on behalf of the United States. But the measure proposed is
inadequate to that purpose. It is true that if adopted private property
upon the ocean would be withdrawn from one mode of plunder, but left
exposed meanwhile to another mode, which could be used with increased
effectiveness. The aggressive capacity of great naval powers would be
thereby augmented, while the defensive ability of others would be reduced.
Though the surrender of the means of prosecuting hostilities by employing
privateers, as proposed by the conference of Paris, is mutual in terms, yet
in practical effect it would be the relinquishment of a right of little
value to one class of states, but of essential importance to another and a
far larger class. It ought not to have been anticipated that a measure so
inadequate to the accomplishment of the proposed object and so unequal in
its operation would receive the assent of all maritime powers. Private
property would be still left to the depredations of the public armed

I have expressed a readiness on the part of this Government to accede to
all the principles contained in the declaration of the conference of Paris
provided that the one relating to the abandonment of privateering can be so
amended as to effect the object for which, as is presumed, it was
intended--the immunity of private property on the ocean from hostile
capture. To effect this object, it is proposed to add to the declaration
that "privateering is and remains abolished" the following amendment:

And that the private property of subjects and citizens of a belligerent on
the high seas shall be exempt from seizure by the public armed vessels of
the other belligerent, except it be contraband.

This amendment has been presented not only to the powers which have asked
our assent to the declaration to abolish privateering, but to all other
maritime states. Thus far it has not been rejected by any, and is favorably
entertained by all which have made any communication in reply.

Several of the governments regarding with favor the proposition of the
United States have delayed definitive action upon it only for the purpose
of consulting with others, parties to the conference of Paris. I have the
satisfaction of stating, however, that the Emperor of Russia has entirely
and explicitly approved of that modification and will cooperate in
endeavoring to obtain the assent of other powers, and that assurances of a
similar purport have been received in relation to the disposition of the
Emperor of the French. The present aspect of this important subject allows
us to cherish the hope that a principle so humane in its character, so just
and equal in its operation, so essential to the prosperity of commercial
nations, and so consonant to the sentiments of this enlightened period of
the world will command the approbation of all maritime powers, and thus be
incorporated into the code of international law.

My views on the subject are more fully set forth in the reply of the
Secretary of State, a copy of which is herewith transmitted, to the
communications on the subject made to this Government, especially to the
communication of France.

The Government of the United States has at all times regarded with friendly
interest the other States of America, formerly, like this country, European
colonies, and now independent members of the great family of nations. But
the unsettled condition of some of them, distracted by frequent
revolutions, and thus incapable of regular and firm internal
administration, has tended to embarrass occasionally our public intercourse
by reason of wrongs which our citizens suffer at their hands, and which
they are slow to redress.

Unfortunately, it is against the Republic of Mexico, with which it is our
special desire to maintain a good understanding, that such complaints are
most numerous; and although earnestly urged upon its attention, they have
not as yet received the consideration which this Government had a right to
expect. While reparation for past injuries has been withheld, others have
been added. The political condition of that country, however, has been such
as to demand forbearance on the part of the United States. I shall continue
my efforts to procure for the wrongs of our citizens that redress which is
indispensable to the continued friendly association of the two Republics.

The peculiar condition of affairs in Nicaragua in the early part of the
present year rendered it important that this Government should have
diplomatic relations with that State. Through its territory had been opened
one of the principal thoroughfares across the isthmus connecting North and
South America, on which a vast amount of property was transported and to
which our citizens resorted in great numbers in passing between the
Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States. The protection of both
required that the existing power in that State should be regarded as a
responsible Government, and its minister was accordingly received. But he
remained here only a short time. Soon thereafter the political affairs of
Nicaragua underwent unfavorable change and became involved in much
uncertainty and confusion. Diplomatic representatives from two contending
parties have been recently sent to this Government, but with the imperfect
information possessed it was not possible to decide which was the
Government de facto, and, awaiting further developments, I have refused to
receive either.

Questions of the most serious nature are pending between the United States
and the Republic of New Granada. The Government of that Republic undertook
a year since to impose tonnage duties on foreign vessels in her ports, but
the purpose was resisted by this Government as being contrary to existing
treaty stipulations with the United States and to rights conferred by
charter upon the Panama Railroad Company, and was accordingly refurbished
at that time, it being admitted that our vessels were entitled to be exempt
from tonnage duty in the free ports of Panama and Aspinwall. But the
purpose has been recently revived on the part of New Granada by the
enactment of a law to subject vessels visiting her ports to the tonnage
duty of 40 cents per ton, and although the law has not been put in force,
yet the right to enforce it is still asserted and may at any time be acted
on by the Government of that Republic.

The Congress of New Granada has also enacted a law during the last year
which levies a tax of more than $3 on every pound of mail matter
transported across the Isthmus. The sum thus required to be paid on the
mails of the United States would be nearly $2,000,000 annually in addition
to the large sum payable by contract to the Panama Railroad Company. If the
only objection to this exaction were the exorbitancy of its amount, it
could not be submitted to by the United States.

The imposition of it, however, would obviously contravene our treaty with
New Granada and infringe the contract of that Republic with the Panama
Railroad Company. The law providing for this tax was by its terms to take
effect on the 1st of September last, but the local authorities on the
Isthmus have been induced to suspend its execution and to await further
instructions on the subject from the Government of the Republic. I am not
yet advised of the determination of that Government. If a measure so
extraordinary in its character and so clearly contrary to treaty
stipulations and the contract rights of the Panama Railroad Company,
composed mostly of American citizens, should be persisted in, it will be
the duty of the United States to resist its execution.

I regret exceedingly that occasion exists to invite your attention to a
subject of still graver import in our relations with the Republic of New
Granada. On the 15th day of April last a riotous assemblage of the
inhabitants of Panama committed a violent and outrageous attack on the
premises of the railroad company and the passengers and other persons in or
near the same, involving the death of several citizens of the United
States, the pillage of many others, and the destruction of a large amount
of property belonging to the railroad company. I caused full investigation
of that event to be made, and the result shows satisfactorily that complete
responsibility for what occurred attaches to the Government of New Granada.
I have therefore demanded of that Government that the perpetrators of the
wrongs in question should be punished; that provision should be made for
the families of citizens of the United States who were killed, with full
indemnity for the property pillaged or destroyed.

The present condition of the Isthmus of Panama, in so far as regards the
security of persons and property passing over it, requires serious
consideration. Recent incidents tend to show that the local authorities can
not be relied on to maintain the public peace of Panama, and there is just
ground for apprehension that a portion of the inhabitants are meditating
further outrages, without adequate measures for the security and protection
of persons or property having been taken, either by the State of Panama or
by the General Government of New Granada. Under the guaranties of treaty,
citizens of the United States have, by the outlay of several million
dollars, constructed a railroad across the Isthmus, and it has become the
main route between our Atlantic and Pacific possessions, over which
multitudes of our citizens and a vast amount of property are constantly
passing; to the security and protection of all which and the continuance of
the public advantages involved it is impossible for the Government of the
United States to be indifferent.

I have deemed the danger of the recurrence of scenes of lawless violence in
this quarter so imminent as to make it my duty to station a part of our
naval force in the harbors of Panama and Aspinwall, in order to protect the
persons and property of the citizens of the United States in those ports
and to insure to them safe passage across the Isthmus. And it would, in my
judgment, be unwise to withdraw the naval force now in those ports until,
by the spontaneous action of the Republic of New Granada or otherwise, some
adequate arrangement shall have been made for the protection and security
of a line of interoceanic communication, so important at this time not to
the United States only, but to all other maritime states, both of Europe
and America.

Meanwhile negotiations have been instituted, by means of a special
commission, to obtain from New Granada full indemnity for injuries
sustained by our citizens on the Isthmus and satisfactory security for the
general interests of the United States.

In addressing to you my last annual message the occasion seems to me an
appropriate one to express my congratulations, in view of the peace,
greatness, and felicity which the United States now possess and enjoy. To
point you to the state of the various Departments of the Government and of
all the great branches of the public service, civil and military, in order
to speak of the intelligence and the integrity which pervades the whole,
would be to indicate but imperfectly the administrative condition of the
country and the beneficial effects of that on the general welfare. Nor
would it suffice to say that the nation is actually at peace at home and
abroad; that its industrial interests are prosperous; that the canvas of
its mariners whitens every sea, and the plow of its husbandmen is marching
steadily onward to the bloodless conquest of the continent; that cities and
populous States are springing up, as if by enchantment, from the bosom of
oar Western wilds, and that the courageous energy of our people is making
of these United States the great Republic of the world. These results have
not been attained without passing through trials and perils, by experience
of which, and thus only, nations can harden into manhood. Our forefathers
were trained to the wisdom which conceived and the courage which achieved
independence by the circumstances which surrounded them, and they were thus
made capable of the creation of the Republic. It devolved on the next
generation to consolidate the work of the Revolution, to deliver the
country entirely from the influences of conflicting transatlantic
partialities or antipathies which attached to our colonial and
Revolutionary history, and to organize the practical operation of the
constitutional and legal institutions of the Union. To us of this
generation remains the not less noble task of maintaining and extending the
national power. We have at length reached that stage of our country's
career in which the dangers to be encountered and the exertions to be made
are the incidents, not of weakness, but of strength. In foreign relations
we have to attemper our power to the less happy condition of other
Republics in America and to place ourselves in the calmness and conscious
dignity of right by the side of the greatest and wealthiest of the Empires
of Europe. In domestic relations we have to guard against the shock of the
discontents, the ambitions, the interests, and the exuberant, and therefore
sometimes irregular, impulses of opinion or of action which are the natural
product of the present political elevation, the self-reliance, and the
restless spirit of enterprise of the people of the United States.

I shall prepare to surrender the Executive trust to my successor and retire
to private life with sentiments of profound gratitude to the good
Providence which during the period of my Administration has vouchsafed to
carry the country through many difficulties, domestic and foreign, and
which enables me to contemplate the spectacle of amicable and respectful
relations between ours and all other governments and the establishment of
constitutional order and tranquillity throughout the Union.

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

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