PRESIDENT JAMES BUCHANAN
STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Throughout the year since our last meeting the country has been eminently
prosperous in all its material interests. The general health has been excellent,
our harvests have been abundant, and plenty smiles throughout the land.
Our commerce and manufactures have been prosecuted with energy and industry,
and have yielded fair and ample returns. In short, no nation in the tide
of time has ever presented a spectacle of greater material prosperity than
we have done until within a very recent period.
Why is it, then, that discontent now so extensively prevails, and the
Union of the States, which is the source of all these blessings, is threatened
The long-continued and intemperate interference of the Northern people
with the question of slavery in the Southern States has at length produced
its natural effects. The different sections of the Union are now arrayed
against each other, and the time has arrived, so much dreaded by the Father
of his Country, when hostile geographical parties have been formed.
I have long foreseen and often forewarned my countrymen of the now impending
danger. This does not proceed solely from the claim on the part of Congress
or the Territorial legislatures to exclude slavery from the Territories,
nor from the efforts of different States to defeat the execution of the
fugitiveslave law. All or any of these evils might have been endured
by the South without danger to the Union (as others have been) in the hope
that time and reflection might apply the remedy. The immediate peril arises
not so much from these causes as from the fact that the incessant and violent
agitation of the slavery question throughout the North for the last quarter
of a century has at length produced its malign influence on the slaves
and inspired them with vague notions of freedom. Hence a sense of security
no longer exists around the family altar. This feeling of peace at home
has given place to apprehensions of servile insurrections. Many a matron
throughout the South retires at night in dread of what may befall herself
and children before the morning. Should this apprehension of domestic danger,
whether real or imaginary, extend and intensify itself until it shall pervade
the masses of the Southern people, then disunion will become inevitable.
Self-preservation is the first law of nature, and has been implanted in
the heart of man by his Creator for the wisest purpose; and no political
union, however fraught with blessings and benefits in all other respects,
can long continue if the necessary consequence be to render the homes and
the firesides of nearly half the parties to it habitually and hopelessly
insecure. Sooner or later the bonds of such a union must be severed. It
is my conviction that this fatal period has not yet arrived, and my prayer
to God is that He would preserve the Constitution and the Union throughout
But let us take warning in time and remove the cause of danger. It can
not be denied that for five and twenty years the agitation at the North
against slavery has been incessant. In 1835 pictorial handbills and inflammatory
appeals were circulated extensively throughout the South of a character
to excite the passions of the slaves, and, in the language of General Jackson,
"to stimulate them to insurrection and produce all the horrors of a servile
war." This agitation has ever since been continued by the public press,
by the proceedings of State and county conventions and by abolition sermons
and lectures. The time of Congress has been occupied in violent speeches
on this never-ending subject, and appeals, in pamphlet and other forms,
indorsed by distinguished names, have been sent forth from this central
point and spreadbroadcast over the Union.
How easy would it be for the American people to settle the slavery question
forever and to restore peace and harmony to this distracted country! They,
and they alone, can do it. All that is necessary to accomplish the object,
and all for which the slave States have ever contended, is to be let alone
and permitted to manage their domestic institutions in their own way. As
sovereign States, they, and they alone, are responsible before God and
the world for the slavery ex sting among them. For this the people of the
North are not more responsible and have no more right to interfere than
with similar institutions in Russia or in Brazil.
Upon their good sense and patriotic forbearance I confess . still greatly
rely. Without their aid it is beyond the power of any President, no matter
what may be his own political proclivities, to restore peace and harmony
among the States. Wisely limited and restrained as is his power under our
Constitution and laws, he alone can accomplish but little for good or for
evil on such a momentous question.
And this brings me to observe that Election of any one of our fellow"
citizens to the office of President does not of itself afford just cause
for dissolving the Union. This is more especially true if his election
has been effected by a mere plurality, and not a majority of the people,
and teas resulted from transient and temporary causes, which may probably
never again occur. In order to justify a resort to revolutionary resistance,
the Federal Government must tee guilty of "a deliberate, palpable, and
dangerous exercise" of powers not granted by the Constitution. The late
Presidential election, however, has been held in strict conformity with
its express provisions. How, then, can the result justify a revolution
to destroy this very Constitution? Reason, justice, a regard for the Constitution,
all require that we shall wait for some overt and dangerous act on the
part of the President elect before resorting to such a remedy. It is said,
however, that the antecedents of the President elect have been sufficient
to justify the fears of the South that he will attempt to invade their
constitutional rights. But are such apprehensions of contingent danger
in the future sufficient to justify the immediate destruction of the noblest
system of government ever devised by mortals? From the very nature of his
office and its high responsibilities he must necessarily be conservative.
The stern duty of administering the vast and complicated concerns of this
Government affords in itself a guaranty that he will not attempt any violation
of a clear constitutional right.
After all, he is no more than the chief executive officer of the Government
His province is not to make but to execute the laws. And it is a remarkable
fact in cur history that, notwithstanding the repeated efforts of the antislavery
party, no single act has ever passed Congress, unless we may possibly except
the Missouri compromise, impairing in the slightest degree the rights of
the South to their property in slaves; and it may also be observed, judging
from present indications, that no probability exists of the passage of
such an act by a majority of both Houses, either in the present or the
next Congress. Surely under these circumstances we ought to be restrained
from present action by the precept of Him who spake as man never spoke,
that "sufficient unto :he day is the evil thereof. " The day of evil may
never come unless we shall rashly bring it upon ourselves.
It is alleged as one cause for immediate secession that the Southern
States are denied equal rights with the other States in the common Territories.
But by what authority are these denied ? Not by Congress, which has never
passed, and I believe never will pass, any act to exclude slavery from
these Territories; and certainly not by the Supreme Court, which has solemnly
decided that slaves are property, and, like all other property, their owners
have a right to take them into the common Territories and hold them there
under the protection of the Constitution.
So far then. as Congress is concerned, the objection is not to anything
they have already done, but to what they may do hereafter. It willsurely
be admitted that this apprehension of future danger is no good reason for
an immediate dissolution of the Union. It is true that the Territorial
legislature of Kansas, on the 23d February, 1860, passed in great haste
an act over the veto of the governor declaring that slavery "is and shall
be forever prohibited in this Territory." Such an act, however, plainly
violating the rights of property secured by the Constitution, will surely
be declared void by the judiciary whenever it shall be presented in a legal
Only three days after my inauguration the Supreme Court of the United
States solemnly adjudged that this power did not exist in a Territorial
legislature. Yet such has been the factious temper of the times that the
correctness of this decision has been extensively impugned before the people,
and the question has given rise to angry political conflicts throughout
the country. Those who have appealed from this judgment of our highest
constitutional tribunal to popular assemblies would, if they could, invest
a Territorial legislature with power to annul the sacred rights of property.
This power Congress is expressly forbidden by the Federal Constitution
to exercise. Every State legislature in the Union is forbidden b: its own
constitution to exercise it. It can not be exercised in any State except
by the people in their highest sovereign capacity, when framing or amending
their State constitution. In like manner it can only be exercised by the
people of a Territory I .presented in a convention of delegates for the
purpose of framing a constitution preparatory to admission as a State into
the Union. Then, and not until then, are they invested with power to decide
the question whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their limits.
This is an act of sovereign authority, and not of subordinate Territorial
legislation. Were it otherwise, then indeed would the equality of the States
in the Territories be destroyed, and the rights of property in slaves would
depend not upon the guaranties of the Constitution, but upon the shifting
majorities of an irresponsible Territorial legislature. Such a doctrine,
from its intrinsic unsoundness, can not long influence any considerable
portion of our people, much less can it afford a good reason for a dissolution
of the Union.
The most palpable violations of constitutional duty which have yet been
committed consist in the acts of different State legislatures to defeat
the execution of the fugitive-slave law. It ought to be remembered, however,
that for these acts neither Congress nor any President can justly be held
responsible. Having been passed in violation of the Federal Constitution,
they are therefore mill and void. All the courts, both State and national,
before whom the question has arisen have from the beginning declared tile
fugitive-slave law to be constitutional. The single exception is that of
a State court in Wisconsin, and this has not only been reversed by the
proper appellate tribunal, but has met With such universal reprobation
that there can be no danger from it as a precedent. The validity of this
law has been established over and over again .by the Supreme Court of the
United States with perfect unanimity. It is founded upon an express provision
of the Constitution, requiring that fugitive slaves who escape from service
in one State to another shall be "delivered up" to their masters. Without
this provision it is a well-known historical fact that the Constitution
itself could never have been adopted by the Convention. In one form or
other, under the acts of 1793 and 1850, both being substantially the same,
the fugitive-slave law has been the law of the land from the days of Washington
until the present moment. Here, then a clear case is presented in which
it will be the duty of the next President. as it has been my own, to act
with vigor in executing this supreme law against the conflicting enactments
of State legislatures. Should he fail in the performance of this high duty,
he will then have manifested a disregard of the Constitution and laws,
to the great injury of the people of nearly one-half of the States of the
Union. But are we to presume in advance that he will thus violate his duty?
This would be at war with every principle of justice and of Christian charity.
Let us wait for the overt act. The fugitiveslave law has been carried
into execution in every contested case since the commencement of the present
Administration. though often, it is to be regretted, with great loss and
inconvenience to the master and with considerable expense to the Government.
Let us trust that the State legislatures will repeal their unconstitutional
and obnoxious enactments. Unless this shall be done without unnecessary
delay, it is impossible for any human power to save the Union.
The Southern States, standing on the basis of the Constitution, have
a right to demand this act of justice from the States of the North. Should
it be refused, then the Constitution, to which all the States are parties,
will have been willfully violated by one portion of them in a provision
essential to the domestic security and happiness of the remainder. In that
event the injured States, after having first used all peaceful and constitutional
means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance
to the Government of the Union.
I have purposely confined my remarks to revolutionary resistance, because
it has been claimed within the last few years that any State, whenever
this shall be its sovereign v ill and pleasure, may secede from the Union
in accordance with the Constitution and without any violation of the constitutional
rights of the other members of the Confederacy; that as each became parties
to the Union by the vote of its own people assembled in convention, so
any one of them may retire from the Union in a similar manner by the vote
of such a convention.
In order to justify secession as a constitutional remedy, it must be
on the principle that the Federal Government is a mere voluntary association
of States, to be dissolved at pleasure by any one of the contracting parties.
If this be so, the confederacy is a rope of sand, to be penetrated and
dissolved by the first adverse wave of public opinion in any of the States.
In this manner our thirty-three States may resolve themselves into as many
petty, jarring, and hostile republics, each one retiring from the Union
without responsibility whenever any sudden excitement might impel them
to such a course. By this process a Union might be entirely broken into
fragments in a few weeks which cost our forefathers manyyears of toil,
privation, and blood to establish.
Such a principle is wholly inconsistent with the history as well as
the character of the Federal Constitution. After it was framed with the
greatest deliberation and care it was submitted to conventions of the people
of the several States for ratification. Its provisions were discussed at
length in these bodies. composed of the first men of the country. Its opponents
contended that it conferred powers upon the Federal Government dangerous
to the rights of the States, whilst its advocates maintained that under
a fair construction of the instrument there was no foundation for such
apprehensions. In that mighty struggle between the first intellects of
this or any other country it never occurred to any individual, either among
its opponents or advocates, to assert or even to intimate that their efforts
were all vain labor, because the moment that any State felt herself aggrieved
she might secede from the Union. What a crushing argument would this have
proved against those who dreaded that the rights of the States would be
endangered by the Constitution! The truth is that it was not until many
years after the origin of the Federal Government that such a proposition
was first advanced. It was then met and refuted by the conclusive arguments
or General Jackson, who in his message of the 16th of January, 1833, transmitting
the nullifying ordinance of South Carolina to Congress, employs the following
The right of the people of a single State to absolve themselves at will
and without the consent of the other States from their most solemn obligations,
and hazard the liberties and happiness of the millions composing the Union,
can not be acknowledged. Such authority is believed to be utterly repugnant
troth to the principles upon which the General Government is constituted
and to the objects which it is expressly formed to attain.
It is not pretended that any clause in the Constitution gives countenance
to such a theory. It is altogether founded upon inference; not from any
language contained in the instrument itself, but from the sovereign character
of the severalStates by which it was ratified. But is it beyond the power
of a State,like an individual, to yield a portion of its sovereign rights
to secure the remainder? In the language of Mr. Madison, who has been called
the father of the Constitution.
It was formed by the States; that is, by the people in each of the States
acting in their highest sovereign capacity, and formed, consequently, by
the same authority which formed the State constitutions. Nor is the Government
of the United States, created by the Constitution, less a government, in
the strict sense of the term, within the sphere of its powers than the
governments created by the constitutionsof the States are within their
several spheres. It is, like them, organized into legislative, executive,
and judiciary departments. It operates, like them directly on persons and
things, and, like them, it has at command a physical force for executing
the powers committed to it.
It was intended to be perpetual, and not to be annulled at the pleasure
of any one of the contracting parties. The old Articles of Confederation
were entitled "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union between the
States," and by the thirteenth article it is expressly declared that "
the articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every
State, and the Union shall be perpetual. " The preamble to the Constitutionof
the United States, having express reference to the Articles of Confederation,
recites that it was established " in order to form a more perfect union."
And yet it is contended that this " more perfect union " does not include
the essential attribute of perpetuity.
But that the Union was designed to be perpetual appears conclusively
from the nature and extent of the powers conferred by the Constitution
on the Federal Government. These powers embrace the very highest attributesof
national sovereignty. They place both the sword and the purse under its
control. Congress has power to make war and to make peace, to raiseand
support armies and navies, and to conclude treaties with foreign governments.
It is invested with the power to coin money and to regulate thevalue thereof,
and to regulate commerce with foreign nations and amongthe several States.
It is not necessary to enumerate the otherhigh powers which have been conferred
upon the Federal Government. In order to carry the enumerated powers into
effect, Congress possesses the exclusive right to lay and collect duties
on imports, and, in common with the States, to lay and collect all other
But the Constitution has not only conferred these high powers upon Congress,
but it has adopted effectual means to restrain the States from interfering
with their exercise. For that purpose it has in strong prohibitory language
expressly declared that-
No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant
letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make
anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts; pass an,
bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law impairing the obligation of
Moreover- No State shall without the consent of the Congress lay any
imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely
necessary for executing its inspection laws.
And if they exceed this amount the excess shall belong to the United
No State shall without the consent of Congress lay any duty of tonnage,
keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement
or compact with another State or with a foreign power, or engage is war,
unless actuary invaded or in such imminent danger as will not admit of
In order still further to secure the uninterrupted exercise of these
high powers against State interposition, it is provided that-
This Constitution and the laws of the United States which shall De made
in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made or which shall be made under
the authority of the United States, snail we the supreme law of the land,
and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, anything in the constitution
or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
The solemn sanction of religion has been superadded to the obligations
of official duty, and all Senators and Representatives of the United States,
all members of State legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers,
"both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by
oath or affirmation to support this Constitution. "
In order to carry into effect these powers the Constitution has established
a perfect Government in all its forms-legislative. executive, and judicial;
and this Government to the extent of its powers acts directly upon the
individual citizens of every State, and executes its own decrees by the
agency of its own officers. In this respect it differs entirely from the
Government under the old Confederation, which was confined to making requisitions
on the States in their sovereign character. This left it in the discretion
of each whether to obey or to refuse, and they often declined to comply
with such requisitions. It thus became necessary for the purpose of
removing this barrier and " in order to form a more perfect union " to
establish a Government which could act directly upon the people and execute
its own laws without the intermediate agency of the States. This has been
accomplished by the Constitution of the United States. In short, the Government
created by the Constitution, and deriving its authority from the sovereign
people of each of the several States, has precisely the same right to exercise
its power over the people of all these States in the enumerated cases that
each one of them possesses over subjects not delegated to the United States,
but " reserved to the States respectively or to the people. "
To the extent of the delegated powers the Constitution of the United
States is as much a part of the constitution of each State and is as binding
upon its people as though it had been textually inserted therein.
This Government, therefore, is a great and powerful Government, invested
with all the attributes of sovereignty over the special subjects to which
its authority extends. Its framers never intended to implant i~ its bosom
the seeds of its own destruction, nor were they at its creation guilty
of the absurdity of providing for its own dissolution. It was not intended
by its framers to be the baseless fabric of a vision, which at the touch
of the enchanter would vanish into thin air but a substantial and mighty
fabric, capable of resisting the slow decay of time and of defying the
stormsof ages. Indeed, well may the jealous patriots of that day have indulged
fears that a Government of such high powers might violate the reserved
rights of the States, and wisely did they adopt the rule of a strict construction
of these powers to prevent the danger. But they did not fear, nor had they
any reason to imagine, that the Constitution would ever be so interpreted
as to enable any State by her own act, and without the consent of her sister
States, to discharge her people from all or any of their federal obligations.
It may be asked, then, Are the people of the States without redress
against the tyranny and oppression of the Federal Government? By no means.
The right of resistance on the part of the governed against the oppression
of their governments can not be denied. It exists independently of all
constitutions, and has been exercised at all periods of the world's history
Under it old governments have been destroyed and new ones have taken their
place. It is embodied in strong and express language in our own Declaration
of Independence. But the distinctionmust ever be observed that this is
revolution against an established government, and not a voluntary secession
from it by virtue of an inherent constitutional right. In short, let us
look the danger fairly in the face. Secession is neither more nor less
than revolution. It may or it may notbe a justifiable revolution, but still
it is revolution.
What, in the meantime, is the responsibility and true position of the
Executive? He is bound by solemn oath, before God and the country, " to
take care that the laws be faithfully executed, " and from this obligation
he can not be absolved by any human power. But what if the performance
of this duty, in whole or in part has been rendered impracticable by events
over which he could have exercised no control? Such at the present moment
is the case throughout the State of South Carolina so far as the laws of
the United States to secure the administration of justice by means of the
Federal judiciary are concerned. All the Federal officers within its limits
through whose agency alone these laws can be carried into execution have
already resigned. We no longer have a district judge, a district attorney,
or a marshal in South Carolina. In fact, the whole machinery of the Federal
Government necessary for the distribution of remedial justice among the
people has been demolished, and it would be difficult, if not impossible,
to replace it.
The only acts of Congress on the statute book bearing upon this subject
are those of February 28, 1795, and March 3, 1807. These authorize the
President, after he shall have ascertained that the marshal, with his posse
comitatus, is unable to execute civil or criminal process in any particular
case, to call forth the militia and employ the Army and Navy to aid him
in performing this service, having first by proclamation commanded the
insurgents " to disperse and retire peaceably to their respective abodes
within a limited time. " This duty can not by possibility be performed
in a State where no judicial authority exists to issue process, and where
there is no marshal to execute it, and where, even if there were such an
officer, the entire population would constitute one solid combination to
The bare enumeration of these provisions proves how inadequate they
are without further legislation to overcome a united opposition in a single
State, not to speak of other States who may place themselves in a similar
attitude. Congress alone has power to decide whether the present laws can
or can not be amended so as to carry out more effectually the objects of
The same insuperable obstacles do not lie in the way of executing the
laws for the collection of the customs. The revenue still continues to
be collected as heretofore at the custom-house in Charleston, and should
the collector unfortunately resign a successor may be appointed to perform
Then, in regard to the property of the United States in South Carolina.
This has been purchased for a fair equivalent, " by the consent of the
legislature of the State," "for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals,"
etc., and over these the authority " to exercise exclusive legislation
" has been expressly granted by the Constitution to Congress. It is not
believed that any attempt will be made to expel the United States from
this property by force; but if in this I should prove to be mistaken, the
officer in command of the forts has received orders to act strictly on
the defensive. In such a contingency the responsibility for consequences
would rightfully rest upon the heads of the assailants.
Apart from the execution of the laws, so far as this may be practicable,
the Executive has no authority to decide what shall be the relations between
the Federal Government and South Carolina. He has been invested with no
such discretion. He possesses no power to change the relations heretofore
existing between them, much less to acknowledge the independence of that
State. This would be to invest a mere executive officer with the power
of recognizing the dissolution of the confederacy among our thirtythree
sovereign States. It bears no resemblance to the recognition of a foreign
de facto government, involving no such responsibility. Any attempt to do
this would, on his part, be a naked act of usurpation. It is therefore
my duty to submitto Congress the whole question in all its bearings. The
course of events is so rapidly hastening forward that the emergency may
soon arise when you may be called upon to decide he momentous question
whether you possess She power by force of arm to compel a State to remain
in the Union. I should feel myself recreant to my duty were I not to express
an opinion on this important subject.
The question fairly stated is, Has the Constitution delegated to Congress
the power to coerce . State into submission which is attempting to withdraw
or has actually withdrawn from the Confederacy? If answered in the affirmative,
it must be on the principle that the power has been conferred upon Congress
to declare and to make war against a State. After much serious reflection
I have arrived at the conclusion that no such power has been delegated
to Congress or to any other department of the Federal Government. It is
manifest upon an inspection of the Constitution that this is not among
the specific and enumerated powers granted to Congress, and it is equally
apparent that its exercise is not " necessary and proper for carrying into
execution " any one of these powers. So far from this power having been
delegated to Congress, it was expressly refused by the Convention which
framed the Constitution.
It appears from the proceedings of that body that on the 31st May, 1787,
the clause ' authorizing an exertion of the force of the whole against
a delinquent State" came up for consideration. Mr. Madison opposed ii in
a brief but powerful speech, from which I shall extract but a single sentence.
The use of force against a State would look more like a declaration
of war than an infliction of punishment, and would probably be considered
by the party attacked as a dissolution of all previous compacts by which
it might be bound.
Upon his motion the clause was unanimously postponed, and was never,
I believe, again presented. Soon afterwards, on the 8th June, 1787, when
incidentally adverting to the subject, he said: "Any government for the
United States formed on the supposed practicability of using force against
the unconstitutional proceedings of the States would prove as visionary
and fallacious as the government of Congress," evidently meaning the then
existing Congress of the old Confederation.
Without descending to particulars, it may be safely asserted that the
power to make war against a State is at variance with the whole spirit
and intent of the Constitution. Suppose such a war should result in the
conquest of a State; how are we to govern it afterwards? Shall we hold
it as a province and govern it by despotic power? In the nature of things,
w e could not by physical force control the will of the people and compel
them to elect Senators and Representatives to Congress and to perform all
the other duties depending upon their own volition and required from the
free citizens of a free State as a constituent member of the Confederacy.
But if we possessed this power, would it be wise to exercise it under
existing circumstances? The object would doubtless be to preserve theUnion.
War would not only present the most effectual means of destroying it, but
would vanish all hope of its peaceable reconstruction. Besides, in the
fraternal conflict a vast amount of blood and treasure would be expended,
rendering future reconciliation between the States impossible. In the meantime,
who can foretell what would be the sufferings and privations of the people
during its existence?
The fact is that our Union rests upon public opinion, and can never
be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in civil war. If it can not
live in the affections of the people, it must one day perish. Congress
possesses many means of preserving it by conciliation, but the sword was
not placed in their hand to preserve it by force.
But may I be permitted solemnly to invoke my countrymen to pause and
deliberate before they determine to destroy this the grandest temple which
has ever been dedicated to human freedom since the world began? It has
been consecrated by the blood of our fathers, by' the glories of the past,
and by the hopes of the future. The Union has already made us the most
prosperous, and ere long will, if preserved, render us the most powerful,
nation on the face of the earth. In every foreign region of the globe the
title of American citizen is held in the highest respect, and when pronounced
in a foreign land it causes the hearts of our countrymen to swell with
honest pride. Surely when we reach the brim; of the yawning abyss we shall
recoil with horror from the last fatal plunge.
By such a dread catastrophe the hopes of the friends of freedom throughout
the world would be destroyed, and a long night of leaden despotism would
enshroud the nations. Our example for more than eighty years would not
only be lost, but it would be quoted as a conclusive proof that man is
unfit for self-government.
It is not every wrong-nay, it is not every grievous wrong which can
justify a resort to such a fearful alternative. This ought to be the last
desperate remedy of a despairing people, after every other constitutional
means of conciliation had been exhausted. We should reflect that under
this free Government there is an incessant ebb and flow in public opinion.
The slavery question, like everything human, will have its day. I firmly
believe that it has reached and passed the culminating point. But if in
the midst of the existing excitement the unionshallperish, the evil may
then become irreparable.
Congress can contribute much to avert it by proposing and recommending
to the legislatures of the several States the remedy for existing evils
which the Constitution has itself provided for its own preservation. This
has been tried at different critical periods of our history, and always
with eminent success. It is to be found in the fifth article, providing
for its own amendment. Under this article amendments have been proposed
by two-thirds of both Houses of Congress, and have been "ratified by the
legislatures of three-fourths of the several States," and have consequently
become parts of the Constitution. To this process the country is indebted
for the clause prohibiting Congress from passing any law respecting an
establishment of religion or abridging the freedom of speech or of the
press or of the right of petition. To this we are also indebted for the
bill of rights which secures the people against any abuse of power by the
Federal Government. Such were the apprehensions just y entertained by the
friends of State rights at that period as to have rendered it extremely
doubtful whether the Constitution could have long survived without those
Again the Constitution was amended by the same process, after Election
of President Jefferson by the House of Representatives in February, 1803.
This amendment was rendered necessary to prevent a recurrence of the dangers
which had seriously threatenedthe existence of the Government during the
pendency of that election. The article for its own amendment was intended
to secure the amicable adjustment of conflicting constitutional questions
like the present which might arise between the governments of the States
and that of the United States. This appears from contemporaneous history.
In this connection I shall merely call attention to a few sentences in
Mr. Madison's justly celebrated report, in 1799, to the legislature of
Virginia. In this he ably and conclusively defended the resolutions of
the preceding legislature against the strictures of several other State
legislatures. These were mainly founded upon the protest of the Virginia
legislature against the " alien and sedition acts," as " palpable and alarming
infractions of the Constitution." In pointing out the peaceful and constitutional
remedies-and he referred to none other to which the States were authorized
to resort on such occasions, he concludes by saying that-
The legislatures of the States might have made a direct representation
to Congress with a view to obtain a rescinding of the two offensive acts,
or they might have represented to their respective Senators in Congress
their wish that two-thirds thereof would propose an explanatory amendment
to the Constitution, or two-thirds of themselves, if such had been their
option, might by an application to Congress have obtained a convention
for the same object.
This is the very course which I earnestly recommend in order to obtain
an " explanatory amendment" of the Constitution on the subject of slavery.
This might originate with Congress or the State legislatures, as may be
deemed most advisable to attain the object. The explanatory amendment might
be confined to the final settlement of the true construction of the Constitution
on three special points:
An express recognition of the right of property in slaves in the States
where it now exists or may hereafter exist.
The duty of protecting this right in all the common Territories throughout
their Territorial existence, and until they shall be admitted as States
into the Union, with or without slavery, as their constitutions may prescribe.
A like recognition of the right of the master to have his slave who
has escaped from one State to another restored and " delivered up" to him,
and of the validity of the fugitive-slave law enacted for this purpose,
together with a declaration that all State laws impairing or defeating
this right are violations of the Constitution, and are consequently null
and void. It may be objected that this construction of the Constitution
has already been settled by the Supreme Court of the United States, and
what more ought to be required? The answer is that a very large proportion
of the people of the United States still contest the correctness of this
decision, and never will cease from agitation and admit its binding force
until clearly established by the people of the several States in their
sovereign character. Such an explanatory amendment would, it is believed,
forever terminate the existing dissensions, and restore peace and harmony
among the State.
It ought not to be doubted that such an appeal to the arbitrament established
by the Constitution itself would be received with favor by all the States
of the Confederacy. In any event, it ought to be tried in a spirit of conciliation
before any of these States shall separate themselves from the Union.
When I entered upon the duties of the Presidential office, the aspect
neither of our foreign nor domestic affairs was at all satisfactory. We
were involved in dangerous complications with several nations, and two
of our Territories were in a state of revolution against the Government.
A restoration of the African slave trade had numerous and powerful advocates.
Unlawful military expeditions were countenanced by many of out citizens,
and were suffered, in defiance of the efforts of the Government, to escape
from our shores for the purpose of making war upon the offending people
of neighboring republics with whom we were at peace. In addition to these
and other difficulties, we experienced a revulsion in monetary affairs
soon after my advent to power of unexampled severity and of ruinous consequences
to all the great interests of the country. When we take a retrospect of
what was then our condition and contrast this with its material prosperity
at the time of the late Presidential election, we have abundant reason
to return our grateful thanks to that merciful Providence which has never
forsaken us as a nation in all our past trials.
Our relations with Great Britain are of the most friendly character.
Since the commencement of my Administration the two dangerous questions
arising from the Clayton and Bulwer treaty and from the right of search
claimed by the British Government have been amicably and honorably adjusted.
The discordant constructions of the Clayton and Bulwer treaty between
the two Governments, which at different periods of the discussion bore
a threatening aspect, have resulted in a final settlement entirely satisfactory
to this Government. In my last annual message I informed Congress that
the BritishGovernment had not then "completed treaty arrangements
with the Republics of Honduras and Nicaragua in pursuance of the understanding
between the two Governments. It is, nevertheless, confidently expected
that this good work will ere long be accomplished. " This confident expectation
has since been fulfilled. Her Britannic Majesty concluded a treaty with
Honduras on the 28th November, 1859, and with Nicaragua on the 28th August,
1860, relinquishing the Mosquito protectorate. Besides, by the former the
Bay Islands are recognized as a part of the Republic of Honduras. It may
be observed that the stipulations of these treaties conform in every important
particular to the amendments adopted by the Senate of the United States
to the treaty concluded at London on the 17th October, 1856, between the
two Governments. It will be recollected that this treaty was rejected by
the British Government because of its objection to the just and important
amendment of the Senate to the article relating to Ruatan and the other
islands in the Bay of Honduras.
It must be a source of sincere satisfaction to all classes of our fellow-citizens,
and especially to those engaged in foreign commerce, that the claim on
the part of Great Britain forcibly to visit and search American merchant
vessels on the high seas in time of peace has been abandoned. This was
by far the most dangerous question to the peace of the two countries which
has existed since the War of 1812. Whilst it remained open they might at
any moment have been precipitated into a war. This was rendered manifest
by the exasperated state of public feeling throughout our entire country
produced by the forcible search of American. merchant vessels by British
cruisers on the coast of Cuba in the spring of 1858. The American people
hailed with general acclaim the orders of the Secretary of the Navy to
our naval force in the Gulf of Mexico " to protect all vessels of the United
States on the high seas from search or detention by the vessels of war
of any other nation. " These orders might have produced an immediate collision
between the naval forces of the two countries. This was most fortunately
prevented by an appeal to the justice of Great Britain and to the law of
nations as expounded by her own most eminent jurists.
The only question of any importance which still remains open is the
disputed title between the two Governments to the island of San Juan, in
the vicinity of Washington Territory. As this question is still under negotiation,
it is not deemed advisable at the present moment to make any other allusion
to the subject.
The recent visit of the Prince of Wales, in a private character, to
the people of this country has proved to be a most auspicious event. In
its consequences it can not fail to increase the kindred and kindly feelings
which I trust may ever actuate the Government and people of both countries
in their political and social intercourse with each other.
With France, our ancient and powerful ally, our relations continue to
be of the most friendly character. A decision has recently been made by
a French judicial tribunal, with the approbation of the Imperial Government,
which can not fail to foster the sentiments of mutual regard that have
so long existed between the two countries. Under the French law no person
can serve in the armies of France unless he be a French citizen. The law
of France recognizing the natural right of expatriation, it follows as
a necessary consequence that a Frenchman by the fact of having become a
citizen of the United States has changed his allegiance and has lost his
native character. He can not therefore be compelled to serve in the French
armies in case he should return to his native country. These principles
were announced in 1852 by the French minister of war. and in two late cases
have been confirmed by the French judiciary. In these, two natives of France
have been discharged from the French army because they had become American
citizens. To employ the language of our present minister to France, who
has rendered good service on this occasion, ' I do not think our French
naturalized fellow-citizens will hereafter experience much annoyance on
I venture to predict that the time is not far distant when the other
continental powers will adopt the same wise and just policy which has done
so much honor to the enlightened Government of the Emperor. In any event,
our Government is bound to protect the rights of our naturalized citizens
everywhere to the same extent as though they had drawn their first breath
in this country. We can recognize no distinction between our native and
Between the great Empire of Russia and the United States the mutual
friendship and regard which has so long existed still continues to prevail,
and if possible to increase. Indeed, our relations with that Empire are
all that we could desire. Our relations with Spain are now of a morecomplicated,
though less dangerous, character than they have been for many years. Our
citizens have long held and continue to hold numerous claims against the
Spanish Government. These had been ably urged for a series of years by
our successive diplomatic representatives at Madrid, but without obtaining
redress. The Spanish Government finally agreed to institute a joint commission
for the adjustment of these claims, and on the 5th day of March, 1860,
concluded a convention for this purpose with our present minister at Madrid.
Under this convention what have been denominated the "Cuban claims,"
amounting to $128,635.54, in which more than 100 of our fellow-citizens
are interested, were recognized, and the Spanish Government agreed to pay
$100,000 of this amount "within three months following the exchange of
ratifications." The payment of the remaining $28,635.54 was to await the
decision of the commissioners for or against the Amistad claim; but in
any event the balance was to be paid to the claimants either by Spain or
the United States. Theseterms, I have every reason to know, are highly
satisfactory to the holders of the Cuban claims. Indeed, they have made
a formal offer authorizing the State Department to settle these claims
and to deduct the amount of the Amistad claim from the sums which they
are entitled to receive from Spain. This offer, of course, can not be accepted.
All other claims o citizens of the United States against Spain, or the
subjects of the Queen of Spain against the United States, including the
Amistad claim, were by this convention referred to a board of commissioners
in the usual form. Neither the validity of the Amistad claim nor of any
other claim against either party, with the single exception of the Cuban
claims, was recognized by the convention. Indeed, the Spanish Government
did not insist that the validity of the Amistad claim should be thus recognized,
notwithstanding its payment had been recommended to Congress by two of
my predecessors, as well as by myself, and an appropriation for hat purpose
had passed the Senate of the United States.
They were content that it should be submitted to the board for examination
and decision like the other claims. Both Governments were bound respectively
to pay the amounts awarded to the several claimants " at such times and
places as may be fixed by and according to the tenor of said awards. "
I transmitted this convention to the Senate for their constitutional
action on the 3rd of May, 1860, and on the 7th of the succeeding June they
determined that they would " not advise and consent " to its ratification.
These proceedings place our relations with Spain in an awkward and embarrassing
position. It is more than probable that the final adjustment of these claims
will devolve upon my successor.
I reiterate the recommendation contained in my annual message of December,
1858, and repeated in that of December, 1859, in favor of the acquisition
of Cuba from Spain by fair purchase. I firmly believe that such an acquisition
would contribute essentially to the well-being and prosperity of both countries
in all future time, as well as prove the certain means of immediately abolishing
the African slave trade throughout the world. I would not repeat this recommendation
upon the present occasion if I believed that the transfer of Cuba to the
United States upon conditions highly favorable to Spain could justly tarnish
the national honor of the proud and ancient Spanish monarchy. Surely no
person ever attributed to, the first Napoleon a disregard of the national
honor of France for transferring Louisiana to the United States for a fair
equivalent, both in money and commercial advantages.
With the Emperor of Austria and the remaining continental powers of
Europe, including that of the Sultan, our relations continue to be of the
most friendly character.
The friendly and peaceful policy pursued by the Government of the United
States toward the Empire of China has produced the most satisfactory results.
The treaty of Tien-tsin of the 18th June, 1858, has been faithful y observed
by the Chinese authorities. The convention of the 8th November, 1858, supplementary
to this treaty, for the adjustment and satisfaction of the claims of our
citizens on China referred to in my last annual message, has been already
carried into effect so far as this was practicable. Under this convention
the sum of 500,000 taels, equal to about $700,000, was stipulated to be
paid in satisfaction of the claims of American citizens out of the one-fifth
of the receipts for tonnage, import, and export duties on American vessels
at the ports of Canton, Shanghai, and Fuchau, and it was " agreed that
this amount shall be in full liquidation of all claims of American citizens
at the various ports to this date " Debentures for this amount, to wit,
300,000 taels for Canton, 100,000 for Shanghai, and 100,000 for Fuchau,
were delivered, according to the terms of the convention, by the respective
Chinese collectors of the customs of these ports to the agent selected
by our minister to receive the same. Since that time the claims of our
citizens have been adjusted by the board of commissioners appointed for
that purpose under the act of March 3, 1859, and their awards, which proved
satisfactory to the claimants, have been approved by our minister. In the
aggregate they amount to the sum of $498,694.78. The claimants have already
received a large proportion of the sums awarded to them out of the fund
provided, and it is confidently expected that the remainder will ere long
be entirely paid. After the awards shall have been satisfied there will
remain a surplus of more than $2000,000 at the disposition of Congress.
As this will, in equity, belong to the Chinese Government, would not justice
require its appropriation to some benevolent object in which the Chinese
may be specially interested?
Our minister to China, in obedience to his instructions, has remained
perfectly neutral in the war between Great Britain and France and the Chinese
Empire, although, in conjunction with the Russian minister, he was ever
ready and willing, had the opportunity offered, to employ his good offices
in restoring peace between the parties. It is but an act of simple justice,
both to our present minister and his predecessor, to state that they have
proved fully equal to the delicate, trying, and responsible positions in
which they have on different occasions been placed.
The ratifications of the treaty with Japan concluded at Yeddo on the
29th July, 1858, were exchanged at Washington on the 22d May last, and
the treaty itself was proclaimed on the succeeding day. There is good reason
to expect that under its protection and influence our trade and intercourse
with that distant and interesting people will rapidly increase.
The ratifications of the treaty were exchanged with unusual solemnity.
For this purpose the Tycoon had accredited three of his most distinguished
subjects as envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary, who were
received and treated with marked distinction anal kindness, both by the
Government and people of the United States. There is every reason to believe
that they have returned to their native land entirely satisfied with their
visit and inspired by the most friendly feelings for our country. Let us
ardently hope, in the language of the treaty itself, that "there shall
henceforward be perpetual peace and friendship between the United States
of America and His Majesty the Tycoon of Japan and his successors. "
With the wise, conservative, and liberal Government of the Empire of
Brazil our relations continue to be of the most amicable character.
The exchange of the ratifications of the convention with the Republic
of New Granada signed at Washington on the 10th of September, 1857, has
been long delayed from accidental causes for which neither party is censurable.
These ratifications were duly exchanged in this city at the 5th of November
last. Thus has a controversy been amicably terminated which had become
so serious at the period of my inauguration as to require me, on the 17th
of April, 1857, to direct our minister to demand his passports and return
to the United States.
Under this convention the Government of New Granada has specially acknowledged
itself to be responsible to our citizens " for damages which were caused
by the riot at Panama on the 15th April, 1856." These claims, together
with other claims of our citizens which had been long urged in vain, are
referred for adjustment to a board of commissioners. I submit a copy of
the convention to Congress, and recommend the legislation necessary to
carry it into effect.
Persevering efforts have been made for the adjustment of the claims
of American citizens against the Government of Costa Rica, and I am happyto
inform you that these have finally prevailed. A convention was signed at
the city of San Jose on the 2nd July last, between the minister resident
of the United States in Costa Rica and the plenipotentiaries of that Republic,
referring these claims to a board of commissioners and providing for the
payment of their awards. This convention will be submitted immediately
to the Senate for their constitutional action.
The claims of our citizens upon the Republic of Nicaragua have not yet
been provided for by treaty, although diligent efforts for this purpose
have been made by our minister resident to that Republic. These are still
continued, with a fair prospect of success.
Our relations with Mexico remain in a most unsatisfactory condition.
In my last two annual messages I discussed extensively the subject of these
relations, and do not now propose to repeat at length the facts and arguments
then presented. They proved conclusively that our citizens residing in
Mexico and our merchants trading thereto had suffered a series of wrongs
and outrages such as we have never patiently borne from any other nation.
For these our successive ministers, invoking the faith of treaties, had
in the name of their country persistently demanded redress and indemnification,
but without the slightest effect. Indeed, so confident had the Mexican
authorities become of our patient endurance that they universally believed
they might commit these outrages upon American citizens with absolute impunity.
Thus wrote our minister in 1856, and expressed the opinion that nothing
but a manifestation of the power of the Government and of its purpose to
punish these wrongs will avail.
Afterwards, in 1857, came the adoption of a new, constitution for Mexico,
Election of a President and Congress under its provisions, and the inauguration
of the President. Within one short month, however, this President was expelled
from the capital by a rebellion in the army, and the supreme power of the
Republic was assigned to General Zuloaga. This usurper was in his turn
soon compelled to retire and give place to General Miramon.
Under the constitution which had thus been adopted Señor Juarez,
as chief justice of the supreme court, becamethe lawful President of the
Republic, and it was for the maintenance of the constitution and his authority
derived from it that the civil war commenced and still continues to be
Throughout the year 1858 the constitutional party grew stronger and
stronger. In the previous history of Mexico a successful military revolution
at the capital had almost universally been the signal for submission throughout
the Republic. Not so on the present occasion. A majority of the citizens
persistently sustained the constitutional Government. When this was recognized,
in April, 1859, by the Government of the United States, its authority extended
over a large majority of the Mexican States and people, including Vera
Cruz and all the other important seaports of the Republic. From that period
our commerce with Mexico began to revive, and the constitutional Government
has afforded it all the protection in its power.
Meanwhile the Government of Miramon still held sway at the capital and
over the surrounding country, and continued its outrages against the few
American citizens who still had the courage to remain within its power.
To cap the climax, after the battle of Tacubaya, in April, 1859, General
Marquez ordered three citizens of the United States, two of them physicians,
to be seized in the hospital at that place, taken out and shot, without
crime and without trial. This was done, notwithstanding our unfortunate
countrymen were at the moment engaged in the holy cause of affording relief
to the soldiers of both parties who had been wounded in the battle, without
making any distinction between them.
The time had arrived, in my opinion, when this Government was bound
to exert its power to avenge and redress the wrongs of our citizens and
to afford them protection in Mexico. The interposing obstacle was that
the portion of the country under the sway of Miramon could not be reached
without passing over territory under the jurisdiction of the constitutional
Government. Under these circumstances I deemed it my duty to recommend
to Congress in my last annual message the employment of a sufficient military
force to penetrate into the interior, where the Government of Miramon was
to be found, with or, if need be, without the consent of the Juarez Government,
though it was not doubted that this consent could be obtained. Never have
I had a clearer conviction on any subject than of the justice as well as
wisdom of such a policy. No other alternative was left except the entire
abandonment of our fellow-citizens who had gone to Mexico under the faith
of treaties to the systematic injustice, cruelty, and oppression of Miramon's
Government. Besides, it is almost certain that the simple authority to
employ this force would of itself have accomplished all our objects without
striking a single blow. The constitutional Government would then ere this
have been established at the City of Mexico, and would have been ready
and willing to the extent of its ability to do us justice.
In addition-and I deem this a most important consideration-European
Governments would have been deprived of all pretext to interfere in the
territorial and domestic concerns of Mexico. We should thus have been relieved
from the obligation of resisting, even by force should this become necessary,
any attempt by these Governments to deprive our neighboring Republic of
portions of her territory--a duty from which we could not shrink without
abandoning the traditional and established policy of the American people.
I am happy to observe that, firmly relying upon the justice and good faith
of these Governments, there is no present danger that such a contingency
Having discovered that my recommendations would not be sustained by
Congress, the next alternative was to accomplish in some degree, if possible,
the same objects by treaty stipulations with the constitutional Government.
Such treaties were accordingly concluded by our late able and excellent
minister to Mexico, and on the 4th of January last were submitted to the
Senate for ratification. As these have not yet received the final action
of that body, it would be improper for me to present a detailed statement
of their provisions. Still, I may be permitted to express the opinion in
advance that they are calculated to promote the agricultural, manufacturing,
and commercial interests of the country and to secure our just influence
with an adjoining Republic as to whose fortunes and fate we can never feel
indifferent, whilst at the same time they provide for the payment of a
considerable amount toward the satisfaction of the claims of our injured
At the period of my inauguration I was confronted in Kansas by a revolutionary
government existing under what is called the " Topeka constitution. " Its
avowed object was to subdue the Territorial government by force and to
inaugurate what was called the " Topeka government" in its stead. To accomplish
this object an extensive military organization was formed, and its command
intrusted to the most violent revolutionary leaders. Under these circumstances
it became my imperative duty to exert the whole constitutional power of
the Executive to prevent the flames of civil war from again raging in Kansas,
which in the excited state of the public mind, both North and South, might
have extended into the neighboring States. The hostile parties in Kansas
had been inflamed against each other by emissaries both from the North
and the South to a degree of malignity without parallel in our history.
To prevent actual collision and to assist the civil magistrates in enforcing
the laws, a strong detachment of the Army was stationed in the Territory,
ready to aid the marshal and his deputies when lawfully called upon as
a posse comitatus in the execution of civil and criminal process. Still,
the troubles in Kansas could not have been permanently settled without
an election by the people.
The ballot box is the surest arbiter of disputes among freemen. Under
this conviction every proper effort was employed to induce the hostile
parties to vote at Election of delegates to frame a State constitution,
and afterwards at the election to decide whether Kansas should be a slave
or free State.
The insurgent party refused to vote at either, lest this might be considered
a recognition on their part of the Territorial governmentestablished by
Congress. A better spirit, however, seemed soon after to prevail, and the
two parties met face to face at the third election, held on the first Monday
of January 1858, for members of the legislature and State officers under
the Lecompton constitution. The result was the triumph of the antislavery
party at the polls. This decision of the ballot box proved clearly that
this party were in the majority, and removed the danger of civil war. From
that time we have heard little or nothing of the Topeka government, and
all serious danger of revolutionary troubles in Kansas was then at an end.
The Lecompton constitution, which had been thus recognized at this State
election by the votes of both political parties in Kansas, was transmitted
to me with the request that I should present it to Congress. This I could
not have refused to do without violating my clearest and strongest convictions
of duty. The constitution and all the proceedings which preceded and followed
its formation were fair and regular on their face. I then believed, and
experience has proved, that the interests of the people of Kansas would
have been best consulted by its admission as a State into the Union, especially
as the majority within a brief period could have amended the constitution
according to their will and pleasure If fraud existed in all or any of
these proceedings, it was not for the President but for Congress to investigate
and determine the question of fraud and what ought to be its consequences.
If at the first two elections the majority refused to vote, it can not
be pretended that this refusal to exercise the elective franchise could
invalidate an election fairly held under lawful authority, even if they
had not subsequently voted at the third election. It is true that the whole
constitution had not been submitted to the people, as I always desired;
but the precedents are numerous of the admission of States into the Union
without such submission. It would not comport with my present purpose to
review the proceedings of Congress upon the Lecompton constitution. It
is sufficient to observe that their final action has removed the last vestige
of serious revolutionary troubles. The desperate band recently assembled
under a notorious outlaw in the southern portion of the Territory to resist
the execution of the laws and to plunder peaceful citizens will, I doubt
not, be speedily subdued and brought to justice.
Had I treated the Lecompton constitution as a nullity and refused to
transmit it to Congress, it is not difficult to imagine, whilst recalling
the position of the country at that moment, what would have been the disastrous
consequences, both in and out of the Territory, from such a dereliction
of duty on the part of the Executive.
Peace has also been restored within the Territory of Utah, which at
the commencement of my Administration was in a state of open rebellion.
This was the more dangerous, as the people, animated by a fanatical spirit
and intrenched within their distant mountain fastnesses, might have made
a long and formidable resistance. Cost what it might, it was necessary
to bring them into subjection to the Constitution and the laws. Sound policy,
therefore, as well as humanity, required that this object should if possible
be accomplished without the effusion of blood. This could only be effected
by sending a military force into the Territory sufficiently strong to convince
the people that resistance would be hopeless, and at the same time to offer
them a pardon for past offenses on condition of immediate submission to
the Government. This policy was pursued with eminent success, and the only
cause for regret is the heavy expenditure required to march a large detachment
of the Army to that remote region and to furnish it subsistence.
Utah is now comparatively peaceful and quiet, and the military force
has been withdrawn, except that portion of it necessary to keep the Indians
in check and to protect the emigrant trains on their way to our Pacific
In my first annual message I promised to employ my best exertions in
cooperation with Congress to reduce the expenditures of the Government
within the limits of a wise and judicious economy. An overflowing Treasury
had produced habits of prodigality and extravagance which could only be
gradually corrected. The work required both time and patience. I applied
myself diligently to this task from the beginning and was aided by the
able and energetic efforts of the heads of the different Executive Departments.
The result of our labors in this good cause did not appear in the sum total
of our expenditures for the first two years, mainly in consequence of the
extraordinary expenditure necessarily incurred in the Utah expedition and
the very large amount of the contingent expenses of Congress during this
period. These greatly exceeded the pay and mileage of the members. For
the year ending June 30, 1858, whilst the pay and mileage amounted to $1,490,214,
the contingent expenses rose to $2,093,309.79; and for the year ending
June 30, 1859, whilst the pay and mileage amounted to $859,093.66, the
contingent expenses amounted to $1,431,565.78. I am happy, however, to
be able to inform you that during the last fiscal year, ending June 30,
1860, the total expenditures of the Government in all its branches, legislative,
executive, and judicial-exclusive of the public debt, were reduced to the
sum of $55,402,465.46. This conclusively appears from the books of the
Treasury. In the year ending June 30, 1858, the total expenditure, exclusive
of the public debt, amounted to $71,901,129.77, and that for the year ending
June 30, 1859, to $66,346,226.13. Whilst the books of the Treasury show
an actual expenditure of $59,848,474.72 for the year ending June 30, 1860
including $1,040,667 71 for the contingent expenses of Congress, there
must be deducted from this amount the sum of $4, 296,009.26, with the interest
upon it of $150,000, appropriated by the act of February 15, 1860, " for
the purpose of supplying the deficiency in the revenues and defraying the
expenses of the Post-Office Department for the year ending June 30, 1859."
This sum, therefore, justly chargeable to the year 1859, must be deducted
from the sum of $59,848,474.72 in order to ascertain the expenditure for
the year ending June 30, 1860, which leaves a balance for the expenditures
of that year of $55,402,465.46. The interest on the public debt, including
Treasury notes, for the same fiscal year, ending June 30, 1860, amounted
to $3,177,314.62, which, added to the above sum of $55,402,465.46, makes
the aggregate of $58,579,780.08.
It ought in justice to be observed that several of the estimates from
the Departments for the year ending June 30, 1860, were reduced by Congress
below what was and still is deemed compatible with the public interest.
Allowing a liberal margin of $2,500,000 for this reduction and for other
causes, it may be safely asserted that the sum of $61,000,000 or, at the
most, $62,000,000 is amply sufficient to administer the Government and
to pay the interest on the public debt, unless contingent events should
hereafter render extraordinary expenditures necessary.
This result has been attained in a considerable degree by the care exercised
by the appropriate Departments in entering into public contracts I have
myself never interfered with the award of any such contract, except in
a single case, with the Colonization Society, deeming it advisable to cast
the whole responsibility in each case of the proper head of theDepartment,
with the general instruction that these contracts should always be given
to the lowest and best bidder. It has ever been my opinion that public
contracts are not a legitimate source of patronage to be conferred upon
personal or political favorites, but that in all such cases a public officer
is bound to act for the Government as a prudent individual would act for
It is with great satisfaction I communicate the fact that since the
date of my last annual message not a single slave has been imported into
the United States in violation of the laws prohibiting the African slave
trade. This statement is founded upon a thorough examination and investigation
of the subject. Indeed, the spirit which prevailed some time sin e among
a portion of our fellow-citizens in favor of this trade seems to have entirely
I also congratulate you upon the public sentiment which now exists against
the crime of setting on foot military expeditions within the limits of
the United States to proceed from thence and make war upon the people of
unoffending States with whom we are at peace. In this respect a happy change
has been effected since the commencement of my Administration. It surely
ought to be the prayer of every Christian and patriot that such expeditions
may never again receive countenance in our country or depart from our shores.
It would be a useless repetition to do more than refer with earnest
commendation to my former recommendations in favor of the Pacific railroad;
of the grant of power to the President to employ the naval force in the
vicinity for the protection of the lives and property of our fellow-citizens
passing in transit over the different Central American routes against sudden
and lawless outbreaks and depredations, and also to protect American merchant
vessels, their crews and cargoes, against violent and unlawful seizure
and confiscation in the ports of Mexico and the South American Republics
when these may be in a disturbed and revolutionary condition. It is my
settled conviction that without such a power we do not afford that protection
to those engaged in the commerce of the country which they have a right
I again recommend to Congress the passage of a law, in pursuance of
the provisions of the Constitution, appointing a day certain previous to
the 4th March in each year of an odd number for Election of Representatives
throughout all the States. A similar power has already been exercised,
with general approbation, in the appointment of the same day throughout
the Union for holding Election of electors for President and Vice-President
of the United States. My attention was earnestly directed to this subject
from the fact that the Thirty-fifth Congress terminated on the 3rd March,
1859, without making the necessary appropriation for the service of the
Post-Office Department. I was then forced to consider the best remedy for
this omission, and an immediate call of the present Congress was the natural
resort. Upon inquiry however, 1 ascertained that fifteen out of the thirty-three
States composing the Confederacy were without Representatives, and that
consequently these fifteen States would be disfranchised by such a call.
These fifteen States will be in the same condition on the 4th March next.
Ten of them can not elect Representatives, according to existing State
laws, until different periods, extending from the beginning of August next
until the months of October and November. In my last message I gave warning
that in a time of sudden and alarming danger the salvation of our institutions
might depend upon the power of the President immediately to assemble a
full Congress to meet the emergency.
It is now quite evident that the financial necessities of the Government
will require a modification of the tariff during your present session for
the purpose of increasing the revenue. In this aspect, I desire to reiterate
the recommendation contained in my last two annual messages in favor of
imposing specific instead of ad valorem duties on all imported articles
to which these can be properly applied. From long observation and experience
I am convinced that specific duties are necessary, both to protect the
revenue and to secure to our manufacturing interests that amount of incidental
encouragement which unavoidably results from a revenue tariff.
As an abstract proposition it may be admitted that ad valorem duties
would in theory be the most just and equal. But if the experience of this
and of all other commercial nations has demonstrated that such duties can
not be assessed and collected without great frauds upon the revenue, then
it is the part of wisdom to resort to specific duties. Indeed, from the
very nature of an ad valorem duty this must be the result. Under it the
inevitable consequence is that foreign goods will be entered at less than
their true value. The Treasury will therefore lose the duty on the difference
between their real and fictitious value, and to this extent we are defrauded.
The temptations which ad valorem duties present to a dishonest importer
are irresistible. His object is to pass his goods through the custom-house
at the very lowest valuation necessary to save them from confiscation.
In this he too often succeeds in spite of the vigilance of the revenue
officers. Hence the resort to false invoices, one for the purchaser and
another for the custom-house, and to other expedients to defraud the Government.
The honest importer produces his invoice to the collector, stating the
actual price at which he purchased the articles abroad. Not so the dishonest
importer and the agent of the foreign manufacturer. And here it may be
observed that a very large proportion of the manufactures imported from
abroad are consigned for sale to commission merchants, who are mere agents
employed by the manufacturers. In such cases no actual sale has been made
to fix their value. The foreign manufacturer, if he be dishonest, prepares
an invoice of the goods, not at their actual value, but at the very lowest
rate necessary to escape detection. In this manner the dishonest importer
and the foreign manufacturer enjoy a decided advantage over the honest
merchant. They are thus enabled to undersell the fair trader and drive
him from the market. In fact the operation of this system has already driven
from the pursuits of honorable commerce many of that class of regular and
conscientious merchants whose character throughout the world is the pride
of our country.
The remedy for these evils is to be found in specific duties, so far
as this may be practicable. They dispense with any inquiry at the custom-house
into the actual cost or value of the article, and it pays the precise amount
of duty previously fixed by law. They present no temptations to the appraisers
of foreign goods, who receive but small salaries, and might by undervaluation
in a few cases render themselves independent.
Besides, specific duties best conform to the requisition in the Constitution
that " no preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue
to the ports of one State over those of another. " Under our ad valorem
system such preferences are to some extent inevitable, and complaints have
often been made that the spirit of this provision has been violated by
a lower appraisement of the same articles at one port than at another.
An impression strangely enough prevails to some extent that specific
dutiesare necessarily protective duties. Nothing can be more fallacious.
Great Britain glories in free trade, and yet her whole revenue from imports
is at the present moment collected under a system of specific duties. It
is a striking fact in this connection that in the commercial treaty of
January 23, 1860. between France and England one of the articles provides
that the ad valorem duties which it imposes shall be converted into specific
duties within six months from its date, and these are to be ascertained
by making an average of the prices for six months previousto that time.
The reverse of the propositions would be nearer to the truth, because a
much larger amount of revenue would be collected by merely converting the
ad valorem duties of a tariff into equivalent specific duties. To this
extent the revenue would be increased, and in the same proportion the specific
duty might be diminished.
Specific duties would secure to the American manufacturer the incidental
protection to which he is fairly entitled under a revenue tariff, and to
this surely no person would object. The framers of the existing tariff
have gone further, and in a liberal spirit have discriminated in favor
of large and useful branches of our manufactures, not by raising the rate
of duty upon the importation of similar articles from abroad, but, what
is the same in effect, by admitting articles free of duty which enter into
the composition of their fabrics.
Under the present system it has been often truly remarked that this
incidental protection decreases when the manufacturer needs it most and
increases when he needs it least, and constitutes a sliding scale which
always operates against him. The revenues of the country are subject to
similar fluctuations. Instead of approaching a steady standard, as would
be the case under a system of specific duties, they sink and rise with
the sinking and rising prices of articles in foreign countries. It would
not be difficult for Congress to arrange a system of specific duties which
would afford additional stability both to our revenue and our manufactures
and without injury or injustice to any interest of the country. This might
be accomplished by ascertaining the average value of any given article
for a series of years at the place of exportation and by simply converting
the rate of ad valorem duty upon it which might be deemed necessary for
revenue purposes into the form of a specific duty. Such an arrangement
could not injure the consumer. If he should pay a greater amount of duty
one year, this would be counterbalanced by a lesser amount the next, and
in the end the aggregate would be the same.
I desire to call your immediate attention to the present condition of
the Treasury, so ably and clearly presented by the Secretary in his report
to Congress, and to recommend that measures be promptly adopted to enable
it to discharge its pressing obligations. The other recommendations of
the report are well worthy of your favorable consideration.
I herewith transmit to Congress the reports of the Secretaries of War,
of the Navy, of the Interior, and of the Postmaster-General. The recommendations
and suggestions which they contain are highly valuable and deserve your
The report of the Postmaster-General details the circumstances under
which Cornelius Vanderbilt, on my request, agreed in the month of July
last to carry the ocean mails between our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Had he not thus acted this important intercommunication must have been
suspended, at least for a season. The Postmaster-General had no power to
make him any other compensation than the postages on the mail matter which
he might carry. It was known at the time that these postages would fall
far short of an adequate compensation, as well as of the sum which the
same service had previously cost the Government. Mr. Vanderbilt, in .a
commendable spirit, was willing to rely upon the justice of Congress to
make up the deficiency, and I therefore recommend that an appropriation
may be granted for this purpose.
I should do great injustice to the Attorney-General were I to omit the
mention of his distinguished services in the measures adopted and prosecuted
by him for the defense of the Government against numerous and unfounded
claims to land in California purporting to have been made by the Mexican
Government previous to the treaty of cession. The successful opposition
to these claims has saved the United States public property worth many
millions of dollars and to individuals holding title under them to at least
an equal amount.
It has been represented to me from sources which I deem reliable that
the inhabitants in several portions of Kansas have been reduced nearly
to a state of starvation on account of the almost total failure of their
crops, whilst the harvests in every other portion of the country have been
abundant. The prospect before them for the approaching winter is well calculated
to .enlist the sympathies of every heart. The destitution appears to be
so general that it can not be relieved by private contributions, and they
are in such indigent circumstances as to be unable to purchase the necessaries
of life for themselves. I refer the subject to Congress. If any constitutional
measure for their relief can be devised, I would recommend its adoption.
I cordially commend to your favorable regard the interests of the people
of this District. They are eminently entitled to your consideration, especially
since, unlike the people of the States, they can appeal to no government
except that of the Union.