State of Union Message James Monroe December 2, 1823
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
The view which I have now to present to you of our affairs, foreign
and domestic, realizes the most sanguine anticipations which have been
entertained of the public prosperity. If we look to the whole, our growth
as a nation continues to be rapid beyond example; if to the States which
compose it, the same gratifying spectacle is exhibited. Our expansion over
the vast territory within our limits has been great, without indicating
any decline in those sections from which the emigration has been most conspicuous.
We have daily gained strength by a native population in every quarter --
a population devoted to our happy system of government and cherishing the
bond of union with internal affection.
Experience has already shewn that the difference
of climate and of industry, proceeding from that cause, inseparable from
such vast domains, and which under other systems might have a repulsive
tendency, can not fail to produce with us under wise regulations the opposite
effect. What one portion wants the other may supply; and this will be most
sensibly felt by the parts most distant from each other, forming thereby
a domestic market and an active intercourse between the extremes and throughout
every portion of our Union.
Thus by a happy distribution of power between
the National and State Governments, Governments which rest exclusively
on the sovereignty of the people and are fully adequate to the great purposes
for which they were respectively instituted, causes which might otherwise
lead to dismemberment operate powerfully to draw us closer together.
In every other circumstance a correct view
of the actual state of our Union must be equally gratifying to our constituents.
Our relations with foreign powers are of a
friendly character, although certain interesting differences remain unsettled
Our revenue under the mild system of impost
and tonnage continues to be adequate to all the purposes of the Government.
Our agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and
Our fortifications are advancing in the degree
authorized by existing appropriations to maturity, and due progress is
made in the augmentation of the Navy to the limit prescribed for it by
For these blessings we owe to Almighty God,
from whom we derive them, and with profound reverence, our most grateful
and unceasing acknowledgments.
In adverting to our relations with foreign
powers, which are always an object of the highest importance, I have to
remark that of the subjects which have been brought into discussion with
them during the present Administration some have been satisfactorily terminated,
others have been suspended, to be resumed hereafter under circumstances
more favorable to success, and others are still in negotiation, with the
hope that they may be adjusted with mutual accommodation to the interests
and to the satisfaction of the respective parties. It has been the invariable
object of this Government to cherish the most friendly relations with every
power, and on principles and conditions which might make them permanent.
A systematic effort has been made to place our commerce with each power
on a footing of perfect reciprocity, to settle with each in a spirit of
candor and liberality all existing differences, and to anticipate and remove
so far as it might be practicable all causes of future variance.
It having been stipulated by the 7th article
of the convention of navigation and commerce which was concluded on [1822-06-24],
between the United States and France, that the said convention should continue
in force for two years from the first of October of that year, and for
an indefinite term afterwards, unless one of the parties should declare
its intention to renounce it, in which event it should cease to operate
at the end of 6 months from such declaration, and no such intention having
been announced, the convention having been found advantageous to both parties,
it has since remained, and still remains, in force.
At the time when that convention was concluded
many interesting subjects were left unsettled, and particularly our claim
to indemnity for spoliations which were committed on our commerce in the
late wars. For these interests and claims it was in the contemplation of
the parties to make provision at a subsequent day by a more comprehensive
and definitive treaty. The object has been duly attended to since by the
Executive, but as yet it has not been accomplished.
It is hoped that a favorable opportunity will
present itself for opening a negotiation which may embrace and arrange
all existing differences and every other concern in which they have a common
interest upon the accession of the present King of France, an event which
has occurred since the close of the last session of Congress.
With Great Britain our commercial intercourse
rests on the same footing that it did at the last session. by the convention
of 1815, the commerce between the United States and the British dominions
in Europe and the East Indies was arranged on a principle of reciprocity.
That convention was confirmed and continued in force, with slight exceptions,
by a subsequent treaty for the term of 10 years from [1818-10-20], the
date of the latter.
The trade with the British colonies in the
West Indies has not as yet been arranged, by treaty or otherwise, to our
satisfaction. An approach to that result has been made by legislative acts,
whereby many serious impediments which had been raised by the parties in
defense of their respective claims were removed. An earnest desire exists,
and has been manifested on the part of this Government, to place the commerce
with the colonies, likewise, on a footing of reciprocal advantage, and
it is hoped that the British Government, seeing the justice of the proposal
and its importance to the colonies, will ere long accede to it.
The commissioners who were appointed for the
adjustment of the boundary between the territories of the United States
and those of Great Britain, specified in the 5th article of the treaty
of Ghent, having disagreed in their decision, and both Governments having
agreed to establish that boundary by amicable negotiation between them,
it is hoped that it may be satisfactorily adjusted in that mode. The boundary
specified by the 6th article has been established by the decision of the
commissioners. From the progress made in that provided for by the 7th,
according to a report recently received, there is good cause to presume
that it will be settled in the course of the ensuing year.
It is a cause of serious regret that no arrangement
has yet been finally concluded between the two Governments to secure by
joint cooperation the suppression of the slave trade. It was the object
the British Government in the early stages
of the negotiation to adopt a plan for the suppression which should include
the concession of the mutual right of search by the ships of war of each
party of the vessels of the other for suspected offenders. This was objected
to by this Government on the principle that as the right of search was
a right of war of a belligerent toward a neutral power it might have an
ill effect to extend it by treaty, to an offense which had been made comparatively
mild, to a time of peace.
Anxious, however, for the suppression of this
trade, it was thought advisable, in compliance with a resolution of the
House of Representatives, founded on an act of Congress, to propose to
the British Government an expedient which should be free from that objection
and more effectual for the object, by making it piratical. In that mode
the enormity of the crime would place the offenders out of the protection
of their Government, and involve no question of search or other question
between the parties touching their
respective rights. It was believed, also,
that it would completely suppress the trade in the vessels of both parties,
and by their respective citizens and subjects in those of other powers,
with whom it was hoped that the odium which would thereby be attached to
it would produce a corresponding arrangement, and by means thereof its
entire extirpation forever.
A convention to this effect was concluded
and signed in London on [1824-03-13], by plenipotentiaries duly authorized
by both Governments, to the ratification of which certain obstacles have
arisen which are not yet entirely removed. The difference between the parties
still remaining has been reduced to a point not of sufficient magnitude,
as is presumed, to be permitted to defeat an object so near to the heart
of both nations and so desirable to the friends of humanity throughout
the world. As objections, however, to the principle recommended by the
House of Representatives, or at least to the consequences inseparable from
it, and which are understood to apply to the law, have been raised, which
may deserve a reconsideration of the whole subject, I have thought it proper
to suspend the conclusion of a new convention until the definitive sentiments
of Congress may be ascertained. The documents relating to the negotiation
are with that intent submitted to your consideration.
Our commerce with Sweden has been placed on
a footing of perfect reciprocity by treaty, and with Russia, the Netherlands,
Prussia, the free Hanseatic cities, the Dukedom of Oldenburg, and Sardinia
by internal regulations on each side, founded on mutual agreement between
the respective Governments.
The principles upon which the commercial policy
of the United States is founded are to be traced to an early period. They
are essentially connected with those upon which their independence was
declared, and owe their origin to the enlightened men who took the lead
in our affairs at that important epoch. They are developed in their first
treaty of commerce with France of [1778-02-06], and by a formal commission
which was instituted immediately after the conclusion of their Revolutionary
struggle, for the purpose of negotiating treaties of commerce with every
European power. The first treaty of the United States with Prussia, which
was negotiated by that commission, affords a signal illustration of those
principles. The act of Congress of [1815-03-03], adopted immediately after
the return of a general peace, was a new overture to foreign nations to
establish our commercial relations with them on the basis of free and equal
reciprocity. That principle has pervaded all the acts of Congress and all
the negotiations of the Executive on the subject.
A convention for the settlement of important
questions in relation to the North West coast of this continent and its
adjoining seas was concluded and signed at St. Petersburg on the 5th day
of April last by the minister plenipotentiary of the United States and
plenipotentiaries of the Imperial Government of Russia. It will immediately
be laid before the Senate for the exercise of the constitutional authority
of that body with reference to its ratification. It is proper to add that
the manner in which this negotiation was invited and conducted on the part
of the Emperor has been very satisfactory.
The great and extraordinary changes which
have happened in the Governments of Spain and Portugal within the last
two years, without seriously affecting the friendly relations which under
all of them have been maintained with those powers by the United States,
have been obstacles to the adjustment of the particular subjects of discussion
which have arisen with each. A resolution of the Senate adopted at their
last session called for information as to the effect produced upon our
relations with Spain by the recognition on the part of the United States
of the independent South American Governments. The papers containing that
information are now communicated to Congress.
A charge' d'affaires has been received from
the independent Government of Brazil. That country, heretofore a colonial
possession of Portugal, had some years since been proclaimed by the Sovereign
of Portugal himself an independent Kingdom. Since his return to Lisbon
a revolution in Brazil has established a new Government there with an imperial
title, at the head of which is placed a prince, in whom the regency had
been vested by the King at the time of his departure. There is reason to
expect that by amicable negotiation the independence of Brazil will ere
long be recognized by Portugal herself.
With the remaining powers of Europe, with
those on the coast of Barbary, and with all the new South American States
our relations are of a friendly character. We have ministers plenipotentiary
residing with the Republics of Colombia and Chile, and have received ministers
of the same rank from Columbia, Guatemala, Buenos Ayres, and Mexico. Our
commercial relations with all those States are mutually beneficial and
increasing. With the Republic of Colombia a treaty of commerce has been
formed, of which a copy is received and the original daily expected. A
negotiation for a like treaty would have been commenced with Buenos Ayres
had it not been prevented by the indisposition and lamented decease of
Mr. Rodney, our minister there, and to whose memory the most respectful
attention has been shewn by the Government of that Republic. An advantageous
alteration in our treaty with Tunis has been obtained by our consular agent
residing there, the official document of which when received will be laid
before the Senate.
The attention of the Government has been drawn
with great solicitude to other subjects, and particularly to that relating
to a state of maritime war, involving the relative rights of neutral and
belligerent in such wars. Most of the difficulties which we have experienced
and of the losses which we have sustained since the establishment of our
independence have proceeded from the unsettled state of those rights and
the extent to which the belligerent claim has been carried against the
It is impossible to look back on the occurrences
of the late wars in Europe, and to behold the disregard which was paid
to our rights as a neutral power, and the waste which was made of our commerce
by the parties to tho e wars by various acts of their respective Governments,
and under the pretext by each that the other had set the example, without
great mortification and a fixed purpose never to submit to the like in
future. An attempt to remove those causes of possible variance by friendly
negotiation and on just principles which should be applicable to all parties
could, it was presumed, be viewed by none other than as a proof of an earnest
desire to preserve those relations with every power.
In the late war between France and Spain a
crisis occurred in which it seemed probable that all controvertible principles
involved in such wars might be brought into discussion and settled to the
satisfaction of all parties. Propositions having this object in view have
been made to the Governments of Great Britain, France, Russia, and of other
powers, which have been received in a friendly manner by all, but as yet
no treaty has been formed with either for its accomplishment. The policy
will, it is presumed, be persevered in, and in the hope that it may be
It will always be recollected that with one
of the parties to those wars and from whom we received those injuries,
we sought redress by war. From the other, by whose then reigning Government
our vessels were seized in port as well as at sea and their cargoes confiscated,
indemnity has been expected, but has not yet been rendered. It was under
the influence of the latter that our vessels were likewise seized by the
Governments of Spain, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and Naples, and from whom
indemnity has been claimed and is still expected, with the exception of
Spain, by whom it has been rendered.
With both parties we had abundant cause of
war, but we had no alternative but to resist that which was most powerful
at sea and pressed us nearest at home. With this all differences were settled
by a treaty, founded on conditions fair and honorable to both, and which
has been so far executed with perfect good faith. It has been earnestly
hoped that the other would of its own accord, and from a sentiment of justice
and conciliation, make to our citizens the indemnity to which they are
entitled, and thereby remove from our relations any just cause of discontent
on our side.
It is estimated that the receipts into the
Treasury during the current year, exclusive of loans, will exceed $18.5M,
which, with the sum remaining in the Treasury at the end of the last year,
amounting to $9,463,922.81 will, after discharging the current disbursements
of the year, the interest on the public debt, and upward of $11,633,011.52
of the principal, leave a balance of more than $3M in the Treasury on the
first day of January next.
A larger amount of the debt contracted during
the late war, bearing an interest of 6%, becoming redeemable in the course
of the ensuing year than could be discharged by the ordinary revenue, the
act of the 26th of May authorized a loan of $5M at 4.5% to meet the same.
By this arrangement an annual saving will accrue to the public of $75,000.
Under the act of the 24th of May last a loan
of $5M was authorized, in order to meet the awards under the Florida treaty,
which was negotiated at par with the Bank of the United States at 4.5%,
the limit of interest fixed by the act. By this provision the claims of
our citizens who had sustained so great a loss by spoliations, and from
whom indemnity had been so long withheld, were promptly paid. For these
advances the public will be amply repaid at no distant day by the sale
of the lands in Florida. Of the great advantages resulting from the acquisition
of the Territory in other respects too high an estimate can not be formed.
It is estimated that the receipts into the
Treasury during the year 1825 will be sufficient to meet the disbursements
of the year, including the sum of $10M, which is annually appropriated
by the act of constituting th sinking fund to the payment of the principal
and interest of the public debt.
The whole amount of the public debt on the
first of January next may be estimated at $86M, inclusive of $2.5M of the
loan authorized by the act of the 26th of May last. In this estimate is
included a stock of $7M, issued for the purchase of that amount of the
capital stock of the Bank of the United States, and which, as the stock
of the bank still held by the Government will at least be fully equal to
its reimbursement, ought not to be considered as constituting a part of
the public debt.
Estimating, then, the whole amount of the
public debt at $79M and regarding the annual receipts and expenditures
of the Government, a well-founded hope may be entertained that, should
no unexpected event occur, the whole of the public debt may be discharged
in the course of 10 years, and the Government be left at liberty thereafter
to apply such portion of the revenue as may not be necessary for current
expenses to such other objects as may be most conducive to the public security
and welfare. That the sums applicable to these objects will be very considerable
may be fairly concluded when it is recollected that a large amount of the
public revenue has been applied since the late war
to the construction of the public buildings
in this city;
to the erection of fortifications along the
coast and of arsenals in different parts of the Union;
to the augmentation of the Navy;
to the extinguishment of the Indian title
to large tracts of fertile territory;
to the acquisition of Florida;
to pensions to Revolutionary officers and
soldiers, and to invalids of the late war.
On many of these objects the expense will
annually be diminished and cease at no distant period on most of them.
On the [1917-01-01], the public debt amounted
to $123,491,965.16, and, notwithstanding the large sums which have been
applied to these objects, it has been reduced since that period $37,446,961.78.
The last portion of the public debt will be redeemable on [1835-01-01],
and, while there is the best reason to believe that the resources of the
Government will be continually adequate to such portions of it as may become
due in the interval, it is recommended to Congress to seize every opportunity
which may present itself to reduce the rate of interest on every part thereof.
The high state of the public credit and the great abundance of money are
at this time very favorable to such a result. It must be very gratifying
to our fellow citizens to witness this flourishing state of the public
finances when it is recollected that no burthen whatever has been
imposed upon them.
The military establishment in all its branches,
in the performance of the various duties assigned to each, justifies the
favorable view which was presented of the efficiency of its organization
at the last session. All the appropriations have been regularly applied
to the objects intended by Congress, and so far as the disbursements have
been made the accounts have been rendered and settled without loss to the
The condition of the Army itself, as relates
to the officers and men, in science and discipline is highly respectable.
The Military Academy, on which the Army essentially rests, and to which
it is much indebted for this state of improvement, has attained, in comparison
with any other institution of a like kind, a high degree of perfection.
Experience, however, has shewn that the dispersed
condition of the corps of artillery is unfavorable to the discipline of
that important branch of the military establishment. To remedy this inconvenience,
eleven companies have been assembled at the fortification erected at Old
Point Comfort as a school for artillery instruction, with intention as
they shall be perfected in the various duties of that service to order
them to other posts, and, to supply their places with other companies for
instruction in like manner. In this mode a complete knowledge of the science
and duties of this arm will be extended throughout the whole corps of artillery.
But to carry this object fully into effect will require the aid of Congress,
to obtain which the subject is now submitted to your consideration.
Of the progress which has been made in the
construction of fortifications for the permanent defense of our maritime
frontier, according to the plan decided on and to the extent of the existing
appropriations, the report of the Secretary of War, which is herewith communicated,
will give a detailed account. Their final completion can not fail to give
great additional security to that frontier, and to diminish proportionably
the expense of defending it in the event of war.
The provisions in several acts of Congress
of the last session for the improvement of the navigation of the Mississippi
and the Ohio, of the harbor of Presqu'isle, on Lake Erie, and the repair
of the Plymouth beach are in a course of regular execution; and there is
reason to believe that the appropriation in each instance will be adequate
to the object. To carry these improvements fully into effect, the superintendence
of them has been assigned to officers of the Corps of Engineers.
Under the act of 30th April last, authorizing
the President to cause a survey to be made, with the necessary plans and
estimates, of such roads and canals as he might deem of national importance
in a commercial or military point of view, or for the transportation of
the mail, a board has been instituted, consisting of two distinguished
officers of the Corps of Engineers and a distinguished civil engineer,
with assistants, who have been actively employed in carrying into effect
the object of the act. They have carefully examined the route between the
Potomac and the Ohio rivers; between the latter and Lake Erie; between
the Alleghany and the Susquehannah; and the routes between the Delaware
and the Raritan, Barnstable and Buzzards Bay, and between Boston Harbor
and Narraganset Bay. Such portion of the Corps of Topographical Engineers
as could be spared from the survey of the coast has been employed in surveying
the very important route between the Potomac and the Ohio. Considerable
progress has been made in it, but the survey can not be completed until
the next season. It is gratifying to add, from the view already taken,
that there is good cause to believe that this great national object may
be fully accomplished.
It is contemplated to commence early in the
next season the execution of the other branch of the act -- that which
relates to roads -- and with the survey of a route from this city, through
the Southern States, to New Orleans, the importance of which can not be
too highly estimated. All the officers of both the corps of engineers who
could be spared from other services have been employed in exploring and
surveying the routes for canals. to digest a plan for both objects for
the great purposes specified will require a thorough knowledge of every
part of our Union and of the relation of each part to the others and of
all to the seat of the General Government. For such a digest it will be
necessary that the information be full, minute, and precise.
With a view to these important objects, I
submit to the consideration of the Congress the propriety of enlarging
both the corps of engineers -- the military and topographical. It need
scarcely be remarked that the more extensively these corps are engaged
in the improvement of their country, in the execution of the powers of
Congress, and in aid of the States in such improvements as lie beyond that
limit, when such aid is desired, the happier the effect will be in many
views of which the subject is perceptible. By profiting of their science
the works will always be well executed, and by giving to the officers such
employment our Union will derive all the advantage, in peace as well as
in war, from their talents and services which they can afford. In this
mode, also, the military will be incorporated with the civil, and unfounded
and injurious distinctions and prejudices of every kind be done away. To
the corps themselves this service can not fail to be equally useful, since
by the knowledge they would thus acquire they would be eminently better
qualified in the event of war for the great purposes for which they were
Our relations with the Indian tribes within
our limits have not been materially changed during the year. The hostile
disposition evinced by certain tribes on the Missouri during the last year
still continues, and has extended in some degree to those on the Upper
Mississippi and the Upper Lakes. Several parties of our citizens have been
plundered and murdered by those tribes. In order to establish relations
of friendship with them, Congress at the last session made an appropriation
for treaties with them and for the employment of a suitable military escort
to accompany and attend the commissioners at the places appointed for the
negotiations. This object has not been effected. The season was too far
advanced when the appropriation was made and the distance too great to
permit it, but measures have been taken, and all the preparations will
be completed to accomplish it at an early period in the next season.
Believing that the hostility of the tribes,
particularly on the Upper Mississippi and the Lakes, is in no small degree
owing to the wars which are carried on between the tribes residing in that
quarter, measures have been taken to bring about a general peace among
them, which, if successful, will not only tend to the security of our citizens,
but be of great advantage to the Indians themselves.
With the exception of the tribes referred
to, our relations with all the others are on the same friendly footing,
and it affords me great satisfaction to add that they are making steady
advances in civilization and the improvement of their condition. Many of
the tribes have already made great progress in the arts of civilized life.
This desirable result has been brought about by the humane and persevering
policy of the Government, and particularly by means of the appropriation
for the civilization of the Indians. There have been established under
the provisions of this act 32 schools, containing 916 scholars, who are
well instructed in several branches of literature, and likewise in agriculture
and the ordinary arts of life.
Under the appropriation to authorize treaties
with the Creeks and Quaupaw Indians commissioners have been appointed and
negotiations are now pending, but the result is not yet known.
For more full information respecting the principle
which has been adopted for carrying into effect the act of Congress authorizing
surveys, with plans and estimates for canals and roads, and on every other
branch of duty incident to the Department of War, I refer you to the report
of the Secretary.
The squadron in the Mediterranean has been
maintained in the extent which was proposed in the report of the Secretary
of the Navy of the last year, and has afforded to our commerce the necessary
protection in that sea. Apprehending, however, that the unfriendly relations
which have existed between Algiers and some of the powers of Europe might
be extended to us, it has been thought expedient to augment the force there,
and in consequence the North Carolina, a ship of the line, has been prepared,
and will sail in a few days to join it.
The force employed in the Gulf of Mexico and
in the neighboring seas for the suppression of piracy has likewise been
preserved essentially in the state in which it was during the last year.
A persevering effort has been made for the accomplishment of that object,
and much protection has thereby been afforded to our commerce, but still
the practice is far from being suppressed. From every view which has been
taken of the subject it is thought that it will be necessary rather to
augment than to diminish our force in that quarter.
There is reason to believe that the piracies
now complained of are committed by bands of robbers who inhabit the land,
and who, by preserving good intelligence with the towns and seizing favorable
opportunities, rush forth and fall on unprotected merchant vessels, of
which they make an easy prey. The pillage thus taken they carry to their
lurking places, and dispose of afterwards at prices tending to seduce the
This combination is understood to be of great
extent, and is the more to be deprecated because the crime of piracy is
often attended with the murder of the crews, these robbers knowing if any
survived their lurking places would be exposed and they be caught and punished.
That this atrocious practice should be carried to such extent is cause
of equal surprise and regret. It is presumed that it must be attributed
to the relaxed and feeble state of the local governments, since it is not
doubted, from the high character of the governor of Cuba, who is well known
and much respected here, that if he had the power he would promptly suppress
it. Whether those robbers should be pursued on the land, the local authorities
be made responsible for these atrocities, or any other measure be resorted
to to suppress them, is submitted to the consideration of Congress.
In execution of the laws for the suppression
of the slave trade a vessel has been occasionally sent from that squadron
to the coast of Africa with orders to return thence by the usual track
of the slave ships, and to seize any of our vessels which might be engaged
in that trade. None have been found, and it is believed that none are thus
employed. It is well known, however, that the trade still exists under
The health of our squadron while at Thompsons
Island has been much better during the present than it was the last season.
Some improvements have been made and others are contemplated there which,
it is believed, will have a very salutary effect.
On the Pacific, our commerce has much increased,
and on that coast, as well as on that sea, the United States have many
important interests which require attention and protection. It is thought
that all the considerations which suggested the expediency of placing a
squadron on that sea operate with augmented force for maintaining it there,
at least in equal extent.
For detailed information respecting the state
of our maritime force on each sea, the improvement necessary to be made
on either in the organization of the naval establishment generally, and
of the laws for its better government I refer you to the report of the
Secretary of the Navy, which is herewith communicated.
The revenue of the Post Office Department
has received a considerable augmentation in the present year. The current
receipts will exceed the expenditures, although the transportation of the
mail within the year has been much increased. A report of the PostMaster
General, which is transmitted, will furnish in detail the necessary information
respecting the administration and present state of this Department.
In conformity with a resolution of Congress
of the last session, an invitation was given to General Lafayette to visit
the United States, with an assurance that a ship of war should attend at
any port of France which he might designate, to receive and convey him
across the Atlantic, whenever it might be convenient for him to sail. He
declined the offer of the public ship from motives of delicacy, but assured
me that he had long intended and would certainly visit our Union in the
course of the present year.
In August last he arrived at New York, where
he was received with the warmth of affection and gratitude to which his
very important and disinterested services and sacrifices in our Revolutionary
struggle so eminently entitled him. A corresponding sentiment has since
been manifested in his favor throughout every portion of our Union, and
affectionate invitations have been given him to extend his visits to them.
To these he has yielded all the accommodation in his power. At every designated
point of rendezvous the whole population of the neighboring country has
been assembled to greet him, among whom it has excited in a peculiar manner
the sensibility of all to behold the surviving members of our Revolutionary
contest, civil and military, who had shared with him in the toils and dangers
of the war, many of them in a decrepit state. A more interesting spectacle,
it is believed, was never witnessed, because none could be founded on purer
principles, none proceed from higher or more disinterested motives. That
the feelings of those who had fought and bled with him in a common cause
should have been much excited was natural.
There are, however, circumstances attending
these interviews which pervaded the whole community and touched the breasts
of every age, even the youngest among us. There was not an individual present
who had not some relative who had not partaken in those scenes, nor an
infant who had not heard the relation of them. But the circumstance which
was most sensibly felt, and which his presence brought forcibly to the
recollection of all, was the great cause in which we were engaged and the
blessings which we have derived from our success in it.
The struggle was for independence and liberty,
public and personal, and in this we succeeded. The meeting with one who
had borne so distinguished a part in that great struggle, and from such
lofty and disinterested motives, could not fail to affect profoundly every
individual and of every age. It is natural that we should all take a deep
interest in his future welfare, as we do. His high claims on our Union
are felt, and the sentiment universal that they should be met in a generous
spirit. Under these impressions I invite your attention to the subject,
with a view that, regarding his very important services, losses, and sacrifices,
a provision may be made and tendered to him which shall correspond with
the sentiments and be worthy the character of the American people.
In turning our attention to the condition
of the civilized world, in which the United States have always taken a
deep interest, it is gratifying to see how large a portion of it is blessed
with peace. The only wars which now exist within that limit are those between
Turkey and Greece, in Europe, and between Spain and the new Governments,
our neighbors, in this hemisphere. In both these wars the cause of independence,
of liberty and humanity, continues to prevail.
The success of Greece, when the relative population
of the contending parties is considered, commands our admiration and applause,
and that it has had a similar effect with the neighboring powers is obvious.
The feeling of the whole civilized world is excited in a high degree in
their favor. May we not hope that these sentiments, winning on the hearts
of their respective Governments, may lead to a more decisive result; that
they may produce an accord among them to replace Greece on the ground which
she formerly held, and to which her heroic exertions at this day so eminently
With respect to the contest to which our neighbors
are a party, it is evident that Spain as a power is scarcely felt in it.
These new States had completely achieved their independence before it was
acknowledged by the United States, and they have since maintained it with
little foreign pressure. The disturbances which have appeared in certain
portions of that vast territory have proceeded from internal causes, which
had their origin in their former Governments and have not yet been thoroughly
It is manifest that these causes are daily
losing their effect, and that these new States are settling down under
Governments elective and representative in every branch, similar to our
own. In this course we ardently wish them to persevere, under a firm conviction
that it will promote their happiness. In this, their career, however, we
have not interfered, believing that every people have a right to institute
for themselves the government which, in their judgment, may suit them best.
Our example is before them, of the good effect
of which, being our neighbors, they are competent judges, and to their
judgment we leave it, in the expectation that other powers will pursue
the same policy. The deep interest which we take in their independence,
which we have acknowledged, and in their enjoyment of all the rights incident
thereto, especially in the very important one of instituting their own
Governments, has been declared, and is known to the world.
Separated as we are from Europe by the great
Atlantic Ocean, we can have no concern in the wars of the European Governments
nor in the causes which produce them. The balance of power between them,
into whichever scale it may turn in its various vibrations, can not affect
us. It is the interest of the United States to preserve the most friendly
relations with every power and on conditions fair, equal, and applicable
But in regard to our neighbors our situation
is different. It is impossible for the European Governments to interfere
in their concerns, especially in those alluded to, which are vital, without
affecting us; indeed, the motive which might induce such interference in
the present state of the war between the parties, if a war it may be called,
would appear to be equally applicable to us. It is gratifying to know that
some of the powers with whom we enjoy a very friendly intercourse, and
to whom these views have been communicated, have appeared to acquiesce
The augmentation of our population with the
expansion of our Union and increased number of States have produced effects
in certain branches of our system which merit the attention of Congress.
Some of our arrangements, and particularly the judiciary establishment,
were made with a view to the original 13 States only. Since then the United
States have acquired a vast extent of territory; eleven new States have
been admitted into the Union, and Territories have been laid off for three
others, which will likewise be admitted at no distant day.
An organization of the Supreme Court which
assigns the judges any portion of the duties which belong to the inferior,
requiring their passage over so vast a space under any distribution of
the States that may now be made, if not impracticable in the execution,
must render it impossible for them to discharge the duties of either branch
with advantage to the Union. The duties of the Supreme Court would be of
great importance if its decisions were confined to the ordinary limits
of other tribunals, but when it is considered that this court decides,
and in the last resort, on all the great questions which arise under our
Constitution, involving those between the United States individually, between
the States and the United States, and between the latter and foreign powers,
too high an estimate of their importance can not be formed. The great interests
of the nation seem to require that the judges of the Supreme Court should
be exempted from every other duty than those which are incident to that
high trust. The organization of the inferior courts would of course be
adapted to circumstances. It is presumed that such an one might be formed
as would secure an able and faithful discharge of their duties, and without
any material augmentation of expense.
The condition of the aborigines within our
limits, and especially those who are within the limits of any of the States,
merits likewise particular attention. Experience has shown that unless
the tribes be civilized they can never be incorporated into our system
in any form whatever. it has likewise shown that in the regular augmentation
of our population with the extension of our settlements their situation
will become deplorable, if their extinction is not menaced.
Some well-digested plan which will rescue
them from such calamities is due to their rights, to the rights of humanity,
and to the honor of the nation. Their civilization is indispensable to
their safety, and this can be accomplished only by degrees. The process
must commence with the infant state, through whom some effect may be wrought
on the parental. Difficulties of the most serious character present themselves
to the attainment of this very desirable result on the territory on which
they now reside. To remove them from it by force, even with a view to their
own security and happiness, would be revolting to humanity and utterly
unjustifiable. Between the limits of our present States and Territories
and the Rocky Mountains and Mexico there is a vast territory to which they
might be invited with inducements which might be successful. It is thought
if that territory should be divided into districts by previous agreement
with the tribes now residing there and civil governments be established
in each, with schools for every branch of instruction in literature and
the arts of civilized life, that all the tribes now within our limits might
gradually be drawn there. The execution of this plan would necessarily
be attended with expense, and that not inconsiderable, but it is doubted
whether any other can be devised which would be less liable to that objection
or more likely to succeed.
In looking to the interests which the United
States have on the Pacific Ocean and on the western coast of this continent,
the propriety of establishing a military post at the mouth of the Columbia
River, or at some other point in that quarter within our acknowledged limits,
is submitted to the consideration of Congress. Our commerce and fisheries
on that sea and along the coast have much increased and are increasing.
It is thought that a military post, to which our ships of war might resort,
would afford protection to every interest, and have a tendency to conciliate
the tribes to the North West, with whom our trade is extensive. It is thought
also that by the establishment of such a post the intercourse between our
Western States and Territories and the Pacific and our trade with the tribes
residing in the interior on each side of the Rocky Mountains would be essentially
promoted. To carry this object into effect the appropriation of an adequate
sum to authorize the employment of a frigate, with an officer of the Corps
of Engineers, to explore the mouth of the Columbia River and the coast
contiguous thereto, to enable the Executive to make such establishment
at the most suitable point, is recommended to Congress.
It is thought that attention is also due to
the improvement of this city. The communication between the public buildings
and in various other parts and the grounds around those buildings require
it. It is presumed also that the completion of the canal from the Tiber
to the Eastern Branch would have a very salutary effect. Great exertions
have been made and expenses incurred by the citizens in improvements of
various kinds; but those which are suggested belong exclusively to the
Government, or are of a nature to require expenditures beyond their resources.
The public lots which are still for sale would, it is not doubted, be more
than adequate for these purposes.
From the view above presented it is manifest
that the situation of the United States is in the highest degree prosperous
and happy. There is no object which as a people we can desire which we
do not possess or which is not within our reach. Blessed with governments
the happiest which the world ever knew, with no distinct orders in society
or divided interests in any portion of the vast territory over which their
dominion extends, we have every motive to cling together which can animate
a virtuous and enlightened people. The great object is to preserve these
blessings, and to hand them down to the latest posterity.
Our experience ought to satisfy us that our
progress under the most correct and provident policy will not be exempt
from danger. Our institutions form an important epoch in the history of
the civilized world. On their preservation and in their utmost purity everything
will depend. Extending as our interests do to every part of the inhabited
globe and to every sea to which our citizens are carried by their industry
and enterprise, to which they are invited by the wants of others, and have
a right to go, we must either protect them in the enjoyment of their rights
or abandon them in certain events to waste and desolation
Our attitude is highly interesting as relates
to other powers, and particularly to our southern neighbors. We have duties
to perform WRT all to which we must be faithful. To every kind of danger
we should pay the most vigilant and unceasing attention, remove the cause
where it may be practicable, and be prepared to meet it when inevitable.
Against foreign danger the policy of the Government
seems to be already settled. The events of the late war admonished us to
make our maritime frontier impregnable by a well-digested chain of fortifications,
and to give efficient protection to our commerce by augmenting our Navy
to a certain extent, which has been steadily pursued, and which it is incumbent
upon us to complete as soon as circumstances will permit. In the event
of war it is on the maritime frontier that we shall be assailed. It is
in that quarter, therefore, that we should be prepared to meet the attack.
It is there that our whole force will be called into action to prevent
the destruction of our towns and the desolation and pillage of the interior.
To give full effect to this policy great improvements
will be indispensable. Access to those works by every practicable communication
should be made easy and in every direction. The intercourse between every
part of our Union should also be promoted and facilitated by the exercise
of those powers which may comport with a faithful regard to the great principles
of our Constitution. With respect to internal causes, those great principles
point out with equal certainty the policy to be pursued.
Resting on the people as our Governments do,
State and National, with well-defined powers, it is of the highest importance
that they severally keep within the limits prescribed to them. Fulfilling
that sacred duty, it is of equal importance that the movement between them
be harmonious, and in case of any disagreement, should any such occur,
a calm appeal be made to the people, and that their voice be heard and
promptly obeyed. Both Governments being instituted for the common good,
we can not fail to prosper while those who made them are attentive to the
conduct of their representatives and control their measures. In the pursuit
of these great objects let a generous spirit and national views and feelings
be indulged, and let every part recollect that by cherishing that spirit
and improving the condition of the others in what relates to their welfare
the general interest will not only be promoted, but the local advantage
be reciprocated by all.
I can not conclude this communication, the
last of the kind which I shall have to make, without recollecting with
great sensibility and heart felt gratitude the many instances of the public
confidence and the generous support which I have received from my fellow
citizens in the various trusts with which I have been honored. Having commenced
my service in early youth, and continued it since with few and short intervals,
I have witnessed the great difficulties to which our Union has been surmounted.
From the present prosperous and happy state I derive a gratification which
I can not express. That these blessings may be preserved and perpetuated
will be the object of my fervent and unceasing prayers to the Supreme Ruler
of the Universe.