PRESIDENT JOHN QUINCY ADAMS STATE OF THE UNION ADDRESS 4 December 1827
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
A revolution of the seasons has nearly been completed since the representatives
of the people and States of this Union were last assembled at this place
to deliberate and to act upon the common important interests of their constituents.
In that interval the never slumbering eye of a wise and beneficent Providence
has continued its guardian care over the welfare of our beloved country;
the blessing of health has continued generally to prevail throughout the
land; the blessing of peace with our brethren of the human race has been
enjoyed without interruption; internal quiet has left our fellow citizens
in the full enjoyment of all their rights and in the free exercise of all
their faculties, to pursue the impulse of their nature and the obligation
of their duty in the improvement of their own condition; the productions
of the soil, the exchanges of commerce, the vivifying labors of human industry,
have combined to mingle in our cup a portion of enjoyment as large and
liberal as the indulgence of Heaven has perhaps ever granted to the imperfect
state of man upon earth; and as the purest of human felicity consists in
its participation with others, it is no small addition to the sum of our
national happiness at this time that peace and prosperity prevail to a
degree seldom experienced over the whole habitable globe, presenting, though
as yet with painful exceptions, a foretaste of that blessed period of promise
when the lion shall lie down with the lamb and wars shall be no more.
To preserve, to improve, and to perpetuate the sources and to direct
in their most effective channels the streams which contribute to the public
weal is the purpose for which Government was instituted. Objects of deep
importance to the welfare of the Union are constantly recurring to demand
the attention of the Federal Legislature, and they call with accumulated
interest at the first meeting of the two Houses after their periodical
renovation. To present to their consideration from time to time subjects
in which the interests of the nation are most deeply involved, and for
the regulation of which the legislative will is alone competent, is a duty
prescribed by the Constitution, to the performance of which the first meeting
of the new Congress is a period eminently appropriate, and which it is
now my purpose to discharge.
Our relations of friendship with the other nations of the earth, political
and commercial, have been preserved unimpaired, and the opportunities to
improve them have been cultivated with anxious and unremitting attention.
A negotiation upon subjects of high and delicate interest with the Government
of Great Britain has terminated in the adjustment of some of the questions
at issue upon satisfactory terms and the postponement of others for future
discussion and agreement.
The purposes of the convention concluded at St. Petersburg on 1822-07-12,
under the mediation of the late Emperor Alexander, have been carried into
effect by a subsequent convention, concluded at London on 1826-11-13, the
ratifications of which were exchanged at that place on 1827-02-06. A copy
of the proclamations issued on 1827-03-19, publishing this convention,
is herewith communicated to Congress. The sum of $1,204,960, therein stipulated
to be paid to the claimants of indemnity under the first article of the
treaty of Ghent, has been duly received, and the commission instituted,
comformably to the act of Congress of 1827-03-02, for the distribution
of the indemnity of the persons entitled to receive it are now in session
and approaching the consummation of their labors. This final disposal of
one of the most painful topics of collision between the United States and
Great Britain not only affords an occasion of gratulation to ourselves,
but has had the happiest effect in promoting a friendly disposition and
in softening asperities upon other objects of discussion; nor ought it
to pass without the tribute of a frank and cordial acknowledgment of the
magnanimity with which an honorable nation, by the reparation of their
own wrongs, achieves a triumph more glorious than any field of blood can
The conventions of 1815-07-03, and of 1818-10-20, will expire by their
own limitation on 1828-10-20. These have regulated the direct commercial
intercourse between the United States and Great Britain upon terms of the
most perfect reciprocity; and they effected a temporary compromise of the
respective rights and claims to territory westward of the Rocky Mountains.
These arrangements have been continued for an indefinite period of time
after the expiration of the above mentioned conventions, leaving each party
the liberty of terminating them by giving twelve months' notice to the
The radical principle of all commercial intercourse between independent
nations is the mutual interest of both parties. It is the vital spirit
of trade itself; nor can it be reconciled to the nature of man or to the
primary laws of human society that any traffic should long be willingly
pursued of which all the advantages are on one side and all the burdens
on the other. Treaties of commerce have been found by experience to be
among the most effective instruments for promoting peace and harmony between
nations whose interests, exclusively considered on either side, are brought
into frequent collisions by competition. In framing such treaties it is
the duty of each party not simply to urge with unyielding pertinacity that
which suits its own interest, but to concede liberally to that which is
adapted to the interest of the other.
To accomplish this, little more is generally required than a simple
observance of the rule of reciprocity, and were it possible for the states-men
of 1 nation by stratagem and management to obtain from the weakness or
ignorance of another an over-reaching treaty, such a compact would prove
an incentive to war rather than a bond of peace.
Our conventions with Great Britain are founded upon the principles of
reciprocity. The commercial intercourse between the two countries is greater
in magnitude and amount than between any two other nations on the globe.
It is for all purposes of benefit or advantage to both as precious, and
in all probability far more extensive, than if the parties were still constituent
parts of one and the same nation. Treaties between such States, regulating
the intercourse of peace between them and adjusting interests of such transcendent
importance to both, which have been found in a long experience of years
mutually advantageous, should not be lightly cancelled or discontinued.
Two conventions for continuing in force those above mentioned have been
concluded between the plenipotentiaries of the two Governments on 1827-08-06,
and will be forthwith laid before the Senate for the exercise of their
constitutional authority concerning them.
In the execution of the treaties of peace of 1782-11 and 1783-09, between
the United States and Great Britain, and which terminated the war of our
independence, a line of boundary was drawn as the demarcation of territory
between the two countries, extending over nearly 20 degrees of latitude,
and ranging over seas, lakes, and mountains, then very imperfectly explored
and scarcely opened to the geographical knowledge of the age. In the progress
of discovery and settlement by both parties since that time several questions
of boundary between their respective territories have arisen, which have
been found of exceedingly difficult adjustment.
At the close of the last war with Great Britain four of these questions
pressed themselves upon the consideration of the negotiators of the treaty
of Ghent, but without the means of concluding a definitive arrangement
concerning them. They were referred to three separate commissions consisting,
of two commissioners, one appointed by each party, to examine and decide
upon their respective claims. In the event of a disagreement between the
commissioners, one appointed by each party, to examine and decide upon
their respective claims. In the event of a disagreement between the commissioners
it was provided that they should make reports to their several Governments,
and that the reports should finally be referred to the decision of a sovereign
the common friend of both.
Of these commissions two have already terminated their sessions and
investigations, one by entire and the other by partial agreement. The commissioners
of the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent have finally disagreed, and made
their conflicting reports to their own Governments. But from these reports
a great difficulty has occurred in making up a question to be decided by
the arbitrator. This purpose has, however, been effected by a 4th convention,
concluded at London by the plenipotentiaries of the two Governments on
1827-09-29. It will be submitted, together with the others, to the consideration
of the Senate.
While these questions have been pending incidents have occurred of conflicting
pretensions and of dangerous character upon the territory itself in dispute
between the two nations. By a common understanding between the Governments
it was agreed that no exercise of exclusive jurisdiction by either party
while the negotiation was pending should change the state of the question
of right to be definitively settled. Such collision has, never the less,
recently taken place by occurrences the precise character of which has
not yet been ascertained. A communication from the governor of the State
of Maine, with accompanying documents, and a correspondence between the
Secretary of State and the minister of Great Britain on this subject are
now communicated. Measures have been taken to ascertain the state of the
facts more correctly by the employment of a special agent to visit the
spot where the alleged outrages have occurred, the result of those inquiries,
when received, will be transmitted to Congress.
While so many of the subjects of high interest to the friendly relations
between the two countries have been so far adjusted, it is a matter of
regret that their views respecting the commercial intercourse between the
United States and the British colonial possessions have not equally approximated
to a friendly agreement.
At the commencement of the last session of Congress they were informed
of the sudden and unexpected exclusion by the British Government of access
in vessels of the United States to all their colonial ports except those
immediately bordering upon our own territories. In the amicable discussions
which have succeeded the adoption of this measure which, as it affected
harshly the interests of the United States, became subject of expostulation
on our part, the principles upon which its justification has been placed
have been of a diversified character. It has been at once ascribed to a
mere recurrence to the old, long established principle of colonial monopoly
and at the same time to a feeling of resentment because the offers of an
act of Parliament opening the colonial ports upon certain conditions had
not been grasped at with sufficient eagerness by an instantaneous conformity
At a subsequent period it has been intimated that the new exclusion
was in resentment because a prior act of Parliament, of 1822, opening certain
colonial ports, under heavy and burdensome restrictions, to vessels of
the United States, had not been reciprocated by an admission of British
vessels from the colonies, and their cargoes, without any restriction or
discrimination what ever. But be the motive for the interdiction what it
may, the British Government have manifested no disposition, either by negotiation
or by corresponding legislative enactments, to recede from it, and we have
been given distinctly to understand that neither of the bills which were
under the consideration of Congress at their last session would have been
deemed sufficient in their concessions to have been rewarded by any relaxation
from the British interdict. It is one of the inconveniences inseparably
connected with the attempt to adjust by reciprocal legislation interests
of this nature that neither party can know what would be satisfactory to
the other, and that after enacting a statute for the avowed and sincere
purpose of conciliation it will generally be found utterly inadequate to
the expectation of the other party, and will terminate in mutual disappointment.
The session of Congress having terminated without any act upon the subject,
a proclamation was issued on 1827-03-17, conformably to the provisions
of the 6th section of the act of 1823-03-01 declaring the fact that the
trade and intercourse authorized by the British act of Parliament of 1822-06-24,
between the United States and the British enumerated colonial ports had
been by the subsequent acts of Parliament of 1825-07-05, and the order
of council of 1826-07-27 prohibited. The effect of this proclamation, by
the terms of the act under which it was issued, has been that each and
every provision of the act concerning navigation of 1818-04-18, and of
the act supplementary thereto of 1820-05-15, revived and is in full force.
Such, then is the present condition of the trade that, useful as it
is to both parties it can, with a single momentary exception, be carried
on directly by the vessels of neither. That exception itself is found in
a proclamation of the governor of the island of St. Christopher and of
the Virgin Islands, inviting for 3 months from 1827-08-28 the importation
of the articles of the produce of the United States which constitute their
export portion of this trade in the vessels of all nations.
That period having already expired, the state of mutual interdiction
has again taken place. The British Government have not only declined negotiation
upon this subject, but by the principle they have assumed with reference
to it have precluded even the means of negotiation. It becomes not the
self respect of the United States either to solicit gratuitous favors or
to accept as the grant of a favor that for which an ample equivalent is
exacted. It remains to be determined by the respective Governments whether
the trade shall be opened by acts of reciprocal legislation. It is, in
the mean time, satisfactory to know that apart from the inconvenience resulting
from a disturbance of the usual channels of trade no loss has been sustained
by the commerce, the navigation, or the revenue of the United States, and
none of magnitude is to be apprehended from this existing state of mutual
With the other maritime and commercial nations of Europe our intercourse
continues with little variation. Since the cessation by the convention
of 1822-06-24, of all discriminating duties upon the vessels of the United
States and of France in either country our trade with that nation has increased
and is increasing. A disposition on the part of France has been manifested
to renew that negotiation, and in acceding to the proposal we have expressed
the wish that it might be extended to other subjects upon which a good
understanding between the parties would be beneficial to the interests
The origin of the political relations between the United States and
France is coeval with the first years of our independence. The memory of
it is interwoven with that of our arduous struggle for national existence.
Weakened as it has occasionally been since that time, it can by us never
be forgotten, and we should hail with exultation the moment which should
indicate a recollection equally friendly in spirit on the part of France.
A fresh effort has recently been made by the minister of the United
States residing at Paris to obtain a consideration of the just claims of
citizens of the United States to the reparation of wrongs long since committed,
many of them frankly acknowledged and all of them entitled upon every principle
of justice to a candid examination. The proposal last made to the French
Government has been to refer the subject which has formed an obstacle to
this consideration to the determination of a sovereign the common friend
of both. To this offer no definitive answer has yet been received, but
the gallant and honorable spirit which has at all times been the pride
and glory of France will not ultimately permit the demands of innocent
sufferers to be extinguished in the mere consciousness of the power to
A new treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce has been concluded with
the Kingdom of Sweden, which will be submitted to the Senate for their
advice with regard to its ratification. At a more recent date a minister
plenipotentiary from the Hanseatic Republics of Hamburg, Lubeck, and Bremen
has been received, charged with a special mission for the negotiation of
a treaty of amity and commerce between that ancient and renowned league
and the United States. This negotiation has accordingly been commenced,
and is now in progress, the result of which will, if successful, be also
submitted to the Senate for their consideration.
Since the accession of the Emperor Nicholas to the imperial throne of
all the Russias the friendly dispositions toward the United States so constantly
manifested by his predecessor have continued unabated, and have been recently
testified by the appointment of a minister plenipotentiary to reside at
this place. From the interest taken by this Sovereign in behalf of the
suffering Greeks and from the spirit with which others of the great European
powers are cooperating with him the friends of freedom and of humanity
may indulge the hope that they will obtain relief from that most unequal
of conflicts which they have so long and so gallantly sustained; that they
will enjoy the blessing of self government, which by their sufferings in
the cause of liberty they have richly earned, and that their independence
will be secured by those liberal institutions of which their country furnished
the earliest examples in the history of man-kind, and which have consecrated
to immortal remembrance the very soil for which they are now again profusely
pouring forth their blood. The sympathies which the people and Government
of the United States have so warmly indulged with their cause have been
acknowledged by their Government in a letter of thanks, which I have received
from their illustrious President, a translation of which is now communicated
to Congress, the representatives of that nation to whom this tribute of
gratitude was intended to be paid, and to whom it was justly due.
In the American hemisphere the cause of freedom and independence has
continued to prevail, and if signalized by none of those splendid triumphs
which had crowned with glory some of the preceding years it has only been
from the banishment of all external force against which the struggle had
been maintained. The shout of victory has been superseded by the expulsion
of the enemy over whom it could have been achieved.
Our friendly wishes and cordial good will, which have constantly followed
the southern nations of America in all the vicissitudes of their war of
independence, are succeeded by a solicitude equally ardent and cordial
that by the wisdom and purity of their institutions they may secure to
themselves the choicest blessings of social order and the best rewards
of virtuous liberty. Disclaiming alike all right and all intention of interfering
in those concerns which it is the prerogative of their independence to
regulate as to them shall seem fit, we hail with joy every indication of
their prosperity, of their harmony, of their persevering and inflexible
homage to those principles of freedom and of equal rights which are alone
suited to the genius and temper of the American nations.
It has been, therefore, with some concern that we have observed indications
of intestine divisions in some of the Republics of the south, and appearances
of less union with one another than we believe to be the interest of all.
Among the results of this state of things has been that the treaties concluded
at Panama do not appear to have been ratified by the contracting parties,
and that the meeting of the congress at Tacubaya has been indefinitely
postponed. In accepting the invitations to be represented at this congress,
while a manifestation was intended on the part of the United States of
the most friendly disposition toward the southern Republics by whom it
had been proposed, it was hoped that it would furnish an opportunity for
bringing all the nations of this hemisphere to the common acknowledgment
and adoption of the principles in the regulation of their internal relations
which would have secured a lasting peace and harmony between them and have
promoted the cause of mutual benevolence throughout the globe. But as obstacles
appear to have arisen to the reassembling of the congress, one of the 2
ministers commissioned on the part of the United States has returned to
the bosom of his country, while the minister charged with the ordinary
mission to Mexico remains authorized to attend the conferences of the congress
when ever they may be resumed.
A hope was for a short time entertained that a treaty of peace actually
signed between the Government of Buenos Ayres and of Brazil would supersede
all further occasion for those collisions between belligerent pretensions
and neutral rights which are so commonly the result of maritime war, and
which have unfortunately disturbed the harmony of the relations between
the United States and the Brazilian Governments. At their last session
Congress were informed that some of the naval officers of that Empire had
advanced and practiced upon principles in relation to blockades and to
neutral navigation which we could not sanction, and which our commanders
found it necessary to resist. It appears that they have not been sustained
by the Government of Brazil itself. Some of the vessels captured under
the assumed authority of these erroneous principles have been restored,
and we trust that our just expectations will be realized that adequate
indemnity will be made to all the citizens of the United States who have
suffered by the unwarranted captures which the Brazilian tribunals themselves
have pronounced unlawful.
In the diplomatic discussions at Rio de Janeiro of these wrongs sustained
by citizens of the United States and of others which seemed as if emanating
immediately from that Government itself the chargé d'affaires of
the United States, under an impression that his representations in behalf
of the rights and interests of his country-men were totally disregarded
and useless, deemed it his duty, without waiting for instructions, to terminate
his official functions, to demand his passports, and return to the United
States. This movement, dictated by an honest zeal for the honor and interests
of his country -- motives which operated exclusively on the mind of the
officer who resorted to it -- has not been disapproved by me.
The Brazilian Government, however, complained of it as a measure for
which no adequate intentional cause had been given by them, and upon an
explicit assurance through their charge' d'affaires residing here that
a successor to the late representative of the United States near that Government,
the appointment of whom they desired, should be received and treated with
the respect due to his character, and that indemnity should be promptly
made for all injuries inflicted on citizens of the United States or their
property contrary to the laws of nations, a temporary commission as charge'
d'affaires to that country has been issued, which it is hopes will entirely
restore the ordinary diplomatic intercourse between the 2 Governments and
the friendly relations between their respective nations.
Turning from the momentous concerns of our Union in its intercourse
with foreign nations to those of the deepest interest in the administration
of our internal affairs, we find the revenues of the present year corresponding
as nearly as might be expected with the anticipations of the last, and
presenting an aspect still more favorable in the promise of the next.
The balance in the Treasury on 1827-01-01 was $6,358,686.18. The receipts
from that day to 1827-09-30, as near as the returns of them yet received
can show, amount to $16,886,581.32. The receipts of the present quarter,
estimated at $4,515,000, added to the above form an aggregate of $21,400,000
The expenditures of the year may perhaps amount to $22,300,000 presenting
a small excess over the receipts. But of these $22,000,000, upward of $6,000,000
have been applied to the discharge of the principal of the public debt,
the whole amount of which, approaching $74,000,000 on 1827-01-01, will
on 1828-01-01 fall short of $67,500,000. The balance in the Treasury on
1828-01-01 it is expected will exceed $5,450,000, a sum exceeding that
of 1825-01-01, though falling short of that exhibited on 1827-01-01.
It was foreseen that the revenue of the present year 1827 would not
equal that of the last, which had itself been less than that of the next
preceding year. But the hope has been realized which was entertained, that
these deficiencies would in no wise interrupt the steady operation of the
discharge of the public debt by the annual $10,000,000 devoted to that
object by the act of 1817-03-03.
The amount of duties secured on merchandise imported from the commencement
of the year until 1827-09-30 is $21,226,000, and the probably amount of
that which will be secured during the remainder of the year is $5,774,000,
forming a sum total of $27,000,000. With the allowances for draw-backs
and contingent deficiencies which may occur, though not specifically foreseen,
we may safely estimate the receipts of the ensuing year at $22,300,000
-- a revenue for the next equal to the expenditure of the present year.
The deep solicitude felt by our citizens of all classes throughout the
Union for the total discharge of the public debt will apologize for the
earnestness with which I deem it my duty to urge this topic upon the consideration
of Congress -- of recommending to them again the observance of the strictest
economy in the application of the public funds. The depression upon the
receipts of the revenue which had commenced with the year 1826 continued
with increased severity during the two first quarters of the present year.
The returning tide began to flow with the third quarter, and, so far
as we can judge from experience, may be expected to continue through the
course of the ensuing year. In the mean time an alleviation from the burden
of the public debt will in the three years have been effected to the amount
of nearly $16,000,000, and the charge of annual interest will have been
reduced upward of $1,000,000. But among the maxims of political economy
which the stewards of the public moneys should never suffer without urgent
necessity to be transcended is that of keeping the expenditures of the
year within the limits of its receipts.
The appropriations of the two last years, including the yearly $10,000,000
of the sinking fund, have each equaled the promised revenue of the ensuing
year. While we foresee with confidence that the public coffers will be
replenished from the receipts as fast as they will be drained by the expenditures,
equal in amount to those of the current year, it should not be forgotten
that they could ill suffer the exhaustion of larger disbursements.
The condition of the Army and of all the branches of the public service
under the superintendence of the Secretary of War will be seen by the report
from that officer and the documents with which it is accompanied.
During the last summer a detachment of the Army has been usefully and
successfully called to perform their appropriate duties. At the moment
when the commissioners appointed for carrying into execution certain provisions
of the treaty of 1825-08-19, with various tribes of the NorthWestern Indians
were about to arrive at the appointed place of meeting the unprovoked murder
of several citizens and other acts of unequivocal hostility committed by
a party of the Winnebago tribe, one of those associated in the treaty,
followed by indications of a menacing character among other tribes of the
same region, rendered necessary an immediate display of the defensive and
protective force of the Union in that quarter.
It was accordingly exhibited by the immediate and concerted movements
of the governors of the State of Illinois and of the Territory of Michigan,
and competent levies of militia, under their authority, with a corps of
700 men of United States troops, under the command of General Atkinson,
who, at the call of Governor Cass, immediately repaired to the scene of
danger from their station at St. Louis. Their presence dispelled the alarms
of our fellow citizens on those disorders, and overawed the hostile purposes
of the Indians. The perpetrators of the murders were surrendered to the
authority and operation of our laws, and every appearance of purposed hostility
from those Indian tribes has subsided.
Although the present organization of the Army and the administration
of its various branches of service are, upon the whole, satisfactory, they
are yet susceptible of much improvement in particulars, some of which have
been heretofore submitted to the consideration of Congress, and others
are now first presented in the report of the Secretary of War.
The expediency of providing for additional numbers of officers in the
two corps of engineers will in some degree depend upon the number and extent
of the objects of national importance upon which Congress may think it
proper that surveys should be made conformably to the act of 1824-04-30.
Of the surveys which before the last session of Congress had been made
under the authority of that act, reports were made
Of the Board of Internal Improvement, on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.
On the continuation of the national road from Cumberland to the tide
waters within the District of Columbia.
On the continuation of the national road from Canton to Zanesville.
On the location of the national road from Zanesville to Columbus.
On the continuation of the same to the seat of government in Missouri.
On a post road from Baltimore to Philadelphia.
Of a survey of Kennebec River (in part).
On a national road from Washington to Buffalo.
On the survey of Saugatuck Harbor and River.
On a canal from Lake PontChartrain to the Mississippi River.
On surveys at Edgartown, Newburyport, and Hyannis Harbor.
On survey of La Plaisance Bay, in the Territory of Michigan.
And reports are now prepared and will be submitted to Congress -
On surveys of the peninsula of Florida, to ascertain the practicability
of a canal to connect the waters of the Atlantic with the Gulf of Mexico
across that peninsula; and also of the country between the bays of Mobile
and of Pensacola, with the view of connecting them together by a canal.
On surveys of a route for a canal to connect the waters of James and
Great Kenhawa rivers.
On the survey of the Swash, in Pamlico Sound, and that of Cape Fear,
below the town of Wilmington, in North Carolina.
On the survey of the Muscle Shoals, in the Tennessee River, and for
a route for a contemplated communication between the Hiwassee and Coosa
rivers, in the State of Alabama.
Other reports of surveys upon objects pointed out by the several acts
of Congress of the last and preceding sessions are in the progress of preparation,
and most of them may be completed before the close of this session. All
the officers of both corps of engineers, with several other persons duly
qualified, have been constantly employed upon these services from the passage
of the act of 1824-04-30, to this time.
Were no other advantage to accrue to the country from their labors than
the fund of topographical knowledge which they have collected and communicated,
that alone would have been a profit to the Union more than adequate to
all the expenditures which have been devoted to the object; but the appropriations
for the repair and continuation of the Cumberland road, for the construction
of various other roads, for the removal of obstructions from the rivers
and harbors, for the erection of light houses, beacons, piers, and buoys,
and for the completion of canals undertaken by individual associations,
but needing the assistance of means and resources more comprehensive than
individual enterprise can command, may be considered rather as treasures
laid up from the contributions of the present age for the benefit of posterity
than as unrequited applications of the accruing revenues of the nation.
To such objects of permanent improvement to the condition of the country,
of real addition to the wealth as well as to the comfort of the people
by whose authority and resources they have been effected, from $3,000,000
to $4,000,000 of the annual income of the nation have, by laws enacted
at the three most recent sessions of Congress, been applied, without intrenching
upon the necessities of the Treasury, without adding a dollar to the taxes
or debts of the community, without suspending even the steady and regular
discharge of the debts contracted in former days, which within the same
three years have been diminished by the amount of nearly $16,000,000.
The same observations are in a great degree applicable to the appropriations
made for fortifications upon the coasts and harbors of the United States,
for the maintenance of the Military Academy at West Point, and for the
various objects under the superintendence of the Department of the Navy.
The report from the Secretary of the Navy and those from the subordinate
branches of both the military departments exhibit to Congress in minute
detail the present condition of the public establishments dependent upon
them, the execution of the acts of Congress relating to them, and the views
of the officers engaged in the several branches of the service concerning
the improvements which may tend to their perfection.
The fortification of the coasts and the gradual increase and improvement
of the Navy are parts of a great system of national defense which has been
upward of 10 years in progress, and which for a series of years to come
will continue to claim the constant and persevering protection and superintendence
of the legislative authority. Among the measures which have emanated from
these principles the act of the last session of Congress for the gradual
improvement of the Navy holds a conspicuous place. The collection of timber
for the future construction of vessels of war, the preservation and reproduction
of the species of timber peculiarly adapted to that purpose, the construction
of dry docks for the use of the Navy, the erection of a marine railway
for the repair of the public ships, and the improvement of the navy yards
for the preservation of the public property deposited in them have all
received from the Executive the attention required by that act, and will
continue to receive it, steadily proceeding toward the execution of all
The establishment of a naval academy, furnishing the means of theoretic
instruction to the youths who devote their lives to the service of their
country upon the ocean, still solicits the sanction of the Legislature.
Practical seamanship and the art of navigation may be acquired on the cruises
of the squadrons which from time to time are dispatched to distant seas,
but a competent knowledge even of the art of ship building, the higher
mathematics, and astronomy; the literature which can place our officers
on a level of polished education with the officers of other maritime nations;
the knowledge of the laws, municipal and national, which in their intercourse
with foreign states and their governments are continually called into operation,
and, above all, that acquaintance with the principles of honor and justice,
with the higher obligations of morals and of general laws, human and divine,
which constitutes the great distinction between the warrior-patriot and
the licensed robber and pirate -- these can be systematically taught and
eminently acquired only in a permanent school, stationed upon the shore
and provided with the teachers, the instruments, and the books conversant
with and adapted to the communication of the principles of these respective
sciences to the youthful and inquiring mind.
The report from the PostMaster General exhibits the condition of that
Department as highly satisfactory for the present and still more promising
for the future. Its receipts for the year ending 1827-07-01 amounted to
$1,473,551, and exceeded its expenditures by upward of $100,000. It can
not be an over sanguine estimate to predict that in less than 10 years,
of which half have elapsed, the receipts will have been more than doubled.
In the mean time a reduced expenditure upon established routes has kept
pace with increased facilities of public accommodation and additional services
have been obtained at reduced rates of compensation. Within the last year
the transportation of the mail in stages has been greatly augmented. The
number of post offices has been increased to 7,000, and it may be anticipated
that while the facilities of intercourse between fellow citizens in person
or by correspondence will soon be carried to the door of every villager
in the Union, a yearly surplus of revenue will accrue which may be applied
as the wisdom of Congress under the exercise of their constitutional powers
may devise for the further establishment and improvement of the public
roads, or by adding still further to the facilities in the transportation
of the mails. Of the indications of the prosperous condition of our country,
none can be more pleasing than those presented by the multiplying relations
of personal and intimate intercourse between the citizens of the Union
dwelling at the remotest distances from each other.
Among the subjects which have heretofore occupied the earnest solicitude
and attention of Congress is the management and disposal of that portion
of the property of the nation which consists of the public lands. The acquisition
of them, made at the expense of the whole Union, not only in treasury but
in blood, marks a right of property in them equally extensive. By the report
and statements from the General Land Office now communicated it appears
that under the present Government of the United States a sum little short
of $33,000,000 has been paid from the common Treasury for that portion
of this property which has been purchased from France and Spain, and for
the extinction of the aboriginal titles. The amount of lands acquired is
near 260,000,000 acres, of which on 1826-01-01, about 139,000,000 acres
had been surveyed, and little more than 19,000,000 acres had been sold.
The amount paid into the Treasury by the purchasers of the public lands
sold is not yet equal to the sums paid for the whole, but leaves a small
balance to be refunded. The proceeds of the sales of the lands have long
been pledged to the creditors of the nation, a pledge from which we have
reason to hope that they will in a very few years be redeemed.
The system upon which this great national interest has been managed
was the result of long, anxious, and persevering deliberation. Matured
and modified by the progress of our population and the lessons of experience,
it has been hitherto eminently successful. More than 9/10 of the lands
still remain the common property of the Union, the appropriation and disposal
of which are sacred trusts in the hands of Congress.
Of the lands sold, a considerable part were conveyed under extended
credits, which in the vicissitudes and fluctuations in the value of lands
and of their produce became oppressively burdensome to the purchasers.
It can never be the interest or the policy of the nation to wring from
its own citizens the reasonable profits of their industry and enterprise
by holding them to the rigorous import of disastrous engagements. In 1821-03,
a debt of $22,000,000, due by purchasers of the public lands, had accumulated,
which they were unable to pay. An act of Congress of 1821-03-02, came to
their relief, and has been succeeded by others, the latest being the act
of 1826-05-04, the indulgent provisions of which expired on 1827-07-04.
The effect of these laws has been to reduce the debt from the purchasers
to a remaining balance of about $4,300,000 due, more than 3/5 of which
are for lands within the State of Alabama. I recommend to Congress the
revival and continuance for a further term of the beneficent accommodations
to the public debtors of that statute, and submit to their consideration,
in the same spirit of equity, the remission, under proper discriminations,
of the forfeitures of partial payments on account of purchases of the public
lands, so far as to allow of their application to other payments.
There are various other subjects of deep interest to the whole Union
which have heretofore been recommended to the consideration of Congress,
as well by my predecessors as, under the impression of the duties devolving
upon me, by myself. Among these are the debt, rather of justice than gratitude,
to the surviving warriors of the Revolutionary war; the extension of the
judicial administration of the Federal Government to those extensive since
the organization of the present judiciary establishment, now constitute
at least 1/3 of its territory, power, and population; the formation of
a more effective and uniform system for the government of the militia,
and the amelioration in some form or modification of the diversified and
often oppressive codes relating to insolvency. Amidst the multiplicity
of topics of great national concernment which may recommend themselves
to the calm and patriotic deliberations of the Legislature, it may suffice
to say that on these and all other measures which may receive their sanction
my hearty cooperation will be given, conformably to the duties enjoined
upon me and under the sense of all the obligations prescribed by the Constitution.