Chester A. Arthur
State of the Union Address
To the Congress of the United States:
Since the close of your last session the American people, in the exercise
of their highest right of suffrage, have chosen their Chief Magistrate
for the four years ensuing.
When it is remembered that at no period in the country's history has
the long political contest which customarily precedes the day of the national
election been waged with greater fervor and intensity, it is a subject
of general congratulation that after the controversy at the polls was over,
and while the slight preponderance by which the issue had been determined
was as yet unascertained, the public peace suffered no disturbance, but
the people everywhere patiently and quietly awaited the result.
Nothing could more strikingly illustrate the temper of the American
citizen, his love of order, and his loyalty to law. Nothing could more
signally demonstrate the strength and wisdom of our political institutions.
Eight years have passed since a controversy concerning the result of
a national election sharply called the attention of the Congress to the
necessity of providing more precise and definite regulations for counting
the electoral vote.
It is of the gravest importance that this question be solved before
conflicting claims to the Presidency shall again distract the country,
and I am persuaded that by the people at large any of the measures of relief
thus far proposed would be preferred to continued inaction.
Our relations with all foreign powers continue to be amicable.
With Belgium a convention has been signed whereby the scope of present
treaties has been so enlarged as to secure to citizens of either country
within the jurisdiction of the other equal rights and privileges in the
acquisition and alienation of property. A trade-marks treaty has also been
The war between Chile and Peru is at an end. For the arbitration of
the claims of American citizens who during its continuance suffered through
the acts of the Chilean authorities a convention will soon be negotiated.
The state of hostilities between France and China continues to be an
embarrassing feature of our Eastern relations. The Chinese Government has
promptly adjusted and paid the claims of American citizens whose property
was destroyed in the recent riots at Canton. I renew the recommendation
of my last annual message, that the Canton indemnity fund be returned to
The true interpretation of the recent treaty with that country permitting
the restriction of Chinese immigration is likely to be again the subject
of your deliberations. It may be seriously questioned whether the statute
passed at the last session does not violate the treaty rights of certain
Chinese who left this country with return certificates valid under the
old law, and who now seem to be debarred from relanding for lack of the
certificates required by the new.
The recent purchase by citizens of the United States of a large trading
fleet heretofore under the Chinese flag has considerably enhanced our commercial
importance in the East. In view of the large number of vessels built or
purchased by American citizens in other countries and exclusively employed
in legitimate traffic between foreign ports under the recognized protection
of our flag, it might be well to provide a uniform rule for their registration
and documentation, so that the bona fide property rights of our citizens
therein shall be duly evidenced and properly guarded.
Pursuant to the advice of the Senate at the last session, I recognized
the flag of the International Association of the Kongo as that of a friendly
government, avoiding in so doing any prejudgment of conflicting territorial
claims in that region. Subsequently, in execution of the expressed wish
of the Congress, I appointed a commercial agent for the Kongo basin.
The importance of the rich prospective trade of the Kongo Valley has
led to the general conviction that it should be open to all nations upon
equal terms. At an international conference for the consideration of this
subject called by the Emperor of Germany, and now in session at Berlin,
delegates are in attendance on behalf of the United States. Of the results
of the conference you will be duly advised.
The Government of Korea has generously aided the efforts of the United
States minister to secure suitable premises for the use of the legation.
As the conditions of diplomatic intercourse with Eastern nations demand
that the legation premises be owned by the represented power, I advise
that an appropriation be made for the acquisition of this property by the
Government. The United States already possess valuable premises at Tangier
as a gift from the Sultan of Morocco. As is stated hereafter, they have
lately received a similar gift from the Siamese Government. The Government
of Japan stands ready to present to us extensive grounds at Tokyo whereon
to erect a suitable building for the legation, court-house, and jail, and
similar privileges can probably be secured in China and Persia. The owning
of such premises would not only effect a large saving of the present rentals,
but would permit of the due assertion of extraterritorial rights in those
countries, and would the better serve to maintain the dignity of the United
The failure of Congress to make appropriation for our representation
at the autonomous court of the Khedive has proved a serious embarrassment
in our intercourse with Egypt; and in view of the necessary intimacy of
diplomatic relationship due to the participation of this Government as
one of the treaty powers in all matters of administration there affecting
the rights of foreigners, I advise the restoration of the agency and consulate-general
at Cairo on its former basis. I do not conceive it to be the wish of Congress
that the United States should withdraw altogether from the honorable position
they have hitherto held with respect to the Khedive, or that citizens of
this Republic residing or sojourning in Egypt should hereafter be without
the aid and protection of a competent representative.
With France the traditional cordial relationship continues. The colossal
statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, the generous gift of the people
of France, is expected to reach New York in May next. I suggest that Congressional
action be taken in recognition of the spirit which has prompted this gift
and in aid of the timely completion of the pedestal upon which it is to
Our relations with Germany, a country which contributes to our own some
of the best elements of citizenship, continue to be cordial. The United
States have extradition treaties with several of the German States, but
by reason of the confederation of those States under the imperial rule
the application of such treaties is not as uniform and comprehensive as
the interests of the two countries require. I propose, therefore, to open
negotiations for a single convention of extradition to embrace all the
territory of the Empire.
It affords me pleasure to say that our intercourse with Great Britain
continues to be of a most friendly character.
The Government of Hawaii has indicated its willingness to continue for
seven years the provisions of the existing reciprocity treaty. Such continuance,
in view of the relations of that country to the American system of States,
should, in my judgment, be favored.
The revolution in Hayti against the established Government has terminated.
While it was in progress it became necessary to enforce our neutrality
laws by instituting proceedings against individuals and vessels charged
with their infringement. These prosecutions were in all cases successful.
Much anxiety has lately been displayed by various European Governments,
and especially by the Government of Italy, for the abolition of our import
duties upon works of art. It is well to consider whether the present discrimination
in favor of the productions of American artists abroad is not likely to
result, as they themselves seem very generally to believe it may, in the
practical exclusion of our painters and sculptors from the rich fields
for observation, study, and labor which they have hitherto enjoyed.
There is prospect that the long-pending revision of the foreign treaties
of Japan may be concluded at a new conference to be held at Tokyo. While
this Government fully recognizes the equal and independent station of Japan
in the community of nations, it would not oppose the general adoption of
such terms of compromise as Japan may be disposed to offer in furtherance
of a uniform policy of intercourse with Western nations.
During the past year the increasing good will between our own Government
and that of Mexico has been variously manifested. The treaty of commercial
reciprocity concluded January 20, 1883, has been ratified and awaits the
necessary tariff legislation of Congress to become effective. This legislation
will, I doubt not, be among the first measures to claim your attention.
A full treaty of commerce, navigation, and consular rights is much to
be desired, and such a treaty I have reason to believe that the Mexican
Government stands ready to conclude.
Some embarrassment has been occasioned by the failure of Congress at
its last session to provide means for the due execution of the treaty of
July 29, 1882, for the resurvey of the Mexican boundary and the relocation
of boundary monuments.
With the Republic of Nicaragua a treaty has been concluded which authorizes
the construction by the United States of a canal, railway, and telegraph
line across the Nicaraguan territory.
By the terms of this treaty 60 miles of the river San Juan, as well
as Lake Nicaragua, an inland sea 40 miles in width, are to constitute a
part of the projected enterprise.
This leaves for actual canal construction 17 miles on the Pacific side
and 36 miles on the Atlantic. To the United States, whose rich territory
on the Pacific is for the ordinary purposes of commerce practically cut
off from communication by water with the Atlantic ports, the political
and commercial advantages of such a project can scarcely be overestimated.
It is believed that when the treaty is laid before you the justice and
liberality of its provisions will command universal approval at home and
The death of our representative at Russia while at his post at St. Petersburg
afforded to the Imperial Government a renewed opportunity to testify its
sympathy in a manner befitting the intimate friendliness which has ever
marked the intercourse of the two countries.
The course of this Government in raising its representation at Bangkok
to the diplomatic rank has evoked from Siam evidences of warm friendship
and augurs well for our enlarged intercourse. The Siamese Government has
presented to the United States a commodious mansion and grounds for the
occupancy of the legation, and I suggest that by joint resolution Congress
attest its appreciation of this generous gift.
This government has more than once been called upon of late to take
action in fulfillment of its international obligations toward Spain. Agitation
in the island of Cuba hostile to the Spanish Crown having been fomented
by persons abusing the sacred rights of hospitality which our territory
affords, the officers of this Government have been instructed to exercise
vigilance to prevent infractions of our neutrality laws at Key West and
at other points near the Cuban coast. I am happy to say that in the only
instance where these precautionary measures were successfully eluded the
offenders, when found in our territory, were subsequently tried and convicted.
The growing need of close relationship of intercourse and traffic between
the Spanish Antilles and their natural market in the United States led
to the adoption in January last of a commercial agreement looking to that
end. This agreement has since been superseded by a more carefully framed
and comprehensive convention, which I shall submit to the Senate for approval.
It has been the aim of this negotiation to open such a favored reciprocal
exchange of productions carried under the flag of either country as to
make the intercourse between Cuba and Puerto Rico and ourselves scarcely
less intimate than the commercial movement between our domestic ports,
and to insure a removal of the burdens on shipping in the Spanish Indies,
of which in the past our shipowners and shipmasters have so often had cause
The negotiation of this convention has for a time postponed the prosecution
of certain claims of our citizens which were declared to be without the
jurisdiction of the late Spanish-American Claims Commission, and which
are therefore remitted to diplomatic channels for adjustment. The speedy
settlement of these claims will now be urged by this Government.
Negotiations for a treaty of commercial reciprocity with the Dominican
Republic have been successfully concluded, and the result will shortly
be laid before the Senate.
Certain questions between the United States and the Ottoman Empire still
remain unsolved. Complaints on behalf of our citizens are not satisfactorily
adjusted. The Porte has sought to withhold from our commerce the right
of favored treatment to which we are entitled by existing conventional
stipulations, and the revision of the tariffs is unaccomplished.
The final disposition of pending questions with Venezuela has not as
yet been reached, but I have good reason to expect an early settlement
which will provide the means of reexamining the Caracas awards in conformity
with the expressed desire of Congress, and which will recognize the justice
of certain claims preferred against Venezuela.
The Central and South American Commission appointed by authority of
the act of July 7, 1884, will soon proceed to Mexico. It has been furnished
with instructions which will be laid before you. They contain a statement
of the general policy of the Government for enlarging its commercial intercourse
with American States. The commissioners have been actively preparing for
their responsible task by holding conferences in the principal cities with
merchants and others interested in Central and South American trade.
The International Meridian Conference lately convened in Washington
upon the invitation of the Government of the United States was composed
of representatives from twenty-five nations. The conference concluded its
labors on the 1st of November, having with substantial unanimity agreed
upon the meridian of Greenwich as the starting point whence longitude is
to be computed through 180 degrees eastward and westward, and upon the
adoption, for all purposes for which it may be found convenient, of a universal
day which shall begin at midnight on the initial meridian and whose hours
shall be counted from zero up to twenty-four.
The formal report of the transactions of this conference will be hereafter
transmitted to the Congress.
This Government is in frequent receipt of invitations from foreign states
to participate in international exhibitions, often of great interest and
importance. Occupying, as we do, an advanced position in the world's production,
and aiming to secure a profitable share for our industries in the general
competitive markets, it is a matter of serious concern that the want of
means for participation in these exhibitions should so often exclude our
producers from advantages enjoyed by those of other countries. During the
past year the attention of Congress was drawn to the formal invitations
in this regard tendered by the Governments of England, Holland, Belgium,
Germany, and Austria. The Executive has in some instances appointed honorary
commissioners. This is, however, a most unsatisfactory expedient, for without
some provision to meet the necessary working expenses of a commission it
can effect little or nothing in behalf of exhibitors. An International
Inventions Exhibition is to be held in London next May. This will cover
a field of special importance, in which our country holds a foremost rank;
but the Executive is at present powerless to organize a proper representation
of our vast national interests in this direction.
I have in several previous messages referred to this subject. It seems
to me that a statute giving to the Executive general discretionary authority
to accept such invitations and to appoint honorary commissioners, without
salary, and placing at the disposal of the Secretary of State a small fund
for defraying their reasonable expenses, would be of great public utility.
This Government has received official notice that the revised international
regulations for preventing collisions at sea have been adopted by all the
leading maritime powers except the United States, and came into force on
the 1st of September last. For the due protection of our shipping interests
the provisions of our statutes should at once be brought into conformity
with these regulations.
The question of securing to authors, composers, and artists copyright
privileges in this country in return for reciprocal rights abroad is one
that may justly challenge your attention. It is true that conventions will
be necessary for fully accomplishing this result; but until Congress shall
by statute fix the extent to which foreign holders of copyright shall be
here privileged it has been deemed inadvisable to negotiate such conventions.
For this reason the United States were not represented at the recent conference
I recommend that the scope of the neutrality laws of the United States
be so enlarged as to cover all patent acts of hostility committed in our
territory and aimed against the peace of a friendly nation. Existing statutes
prohibit the fitting out of armed expeditions and restrict the shipment
of explosives, though the enactments in the latter respect were not framed
with regard to international obligations, but simply for the protection
of passenger travel. All these statutes were intended to meet special emergencies
that had already arisen. Other emergencies have arisen since, and modern
ingenuity supplies means for the organization of hostilities without open
resort to armed vessels or to filibustering parties.
I see no reason why overt preparations in this country for the commission
of criminal acts such as are here under consideration should not be alike
punishable whether such acts are intended to be committed in our own country
or in a foreign country with which we are at peace.
The prompt and thorough treatment of this question is one which intimately
concerns the national honor.
Our existing naturalization laws also need revision. Those sections
relating to persons residing within the limits of the United States in
1795 and 1798 have now only a historical interest. Section 2172, recognizing
the citizenship of the children of naturalized parents, is ambiguous in
its terms and partly obsolete. There are special provisions of law favoring
the naturalization of those who serve in the Army or in merchant vessels,
while no similar privileges are granted those who serve in the Navy or
the Marine Corps.
"An uniform rule of naturalization" such as the Constitution contemplates
should, among other things, clearly define the status of persons born within
the United States subject to a foreign power (section 1992) and of minor
children of fathers who have declared their intention to become citizens
but have failed to perfect their naturalization. It might be wise to provide
for a central bureau of registry, wherein should be filed authenticated
transcripts of every record of naturalization in the several Federal and
State courts, and to make provision also for the vacation or cancellation
of such record in cases where fraud had been practiced upon the court by
the applicant himself or where he had renounced or forfeited his acquired
citizenship. A just and uniform law in this respect would strengthen the
hands of the Government in protecting its citizens abroad and would pave
the way for the conclusion of treaties of naturalization with foreign countries.
The legislation of the last session effected in the diplomatic and consular
service certain changes and reductions which have been productive of embarrassment.
The population and commercial activity of our country are steadily on the
increase, and are giving rise to new, varying, and often delicate relationships
with other countries. Our foreign establishment now embraces nearly double
the area of operations that it occupied twenty years ago. The confinement
of such a service within the limits of expenditure then established is
not, it seems to me, in accordance with true economy. A community of 60,000,000
people should be adequately represented in its intercourse with foreign
A project for the reorganization of the consular service and for recasting
the scheme of extraterritorial jurisdiction is now before you. If the limits
of a short session will not allow of its full consideration, I trust that
you will not fail to make suitable provision for the present needs of the
It has been customary to define in the appropriation acts the rank of
each diplomatic office to which a salary is attached. I suggest that this
course be abandoned and that it be left to the President, with the advice
and consent Of the Senate, to fix from time to time the diplomatic grade
of the representatives of this Government abroad as may seem advisable,
provision being definitely made, however, as now, for the amount of salary
attached to the respective stations.
The condition of our finances and the operations of the various branches
of the public service which are connected with the Treasury Department
are very fully discussed in the report of the Secretary.
It appears that the ordinary revenues for the fiscal year ended June
30, 1884, were:
From customs $195,067,489.76
From internal revenue 121,586,072.51
From all other sources 31,866,307.65
Total ordinary revenues 348,519,869.92
The public expenditures during the same period were:
For civil expenses $22,312,907.71
For foreign intercourse 1,260,766.37
For Indians 6,475,999.29
For pensions 55,429,228.06
For the military establishment, including river and harbor
improvements and arsenals 39,429,603.36
For the naval establishment, including vessels, machinery,
and improvements at navy-yards 17,292,601.44
For miscellaneous expenditures, including public buildings,
light-houses, and collecting the revenue 43,939,710.00
For expenditures on account of the District of Columbia 3,407,049.62
For interest on the public debt 54,578,378.48
For the sinking fund 46,790,229.50
Total ordinary expenditures 290,926,473.83
Leaving a surplus of 57,603,396.09
As compared with the preceding fiscal year, there was a net decrease
of over $21,000,000 in the amount of expenditures. The aggregate receipts
were less than those of the year previous by about $54,000,000. The falling
off in revenue from customs made up nearly $20,000,000 of this deficiency,
and about $23,000,000 of the remainder was due to the diminished receipts
from internal taxation.
The Secretary estimates the total receipts for the fiscal year which
will end June 30, 1885, at $330,000,000 and the total expenditures at $290,620,201.16,
in which sum are included the interest on the debt and the amount payable
to the sinking fund. This would leave a surplus for the entire year of
The value of exports from the United States to foreign countries during
the year ending June 30, 1884, was as follows:
Domestic merchandise $724,964,852
Foreign merchandise 15,548,757
Total merchandise 740,513,609
Total exports of merchandise and specie 807,646,992
The cotton and cotton manufactures included in this statement were valued
at $208,900,415; the breadstuffs at $162,544,715; the provisions at $114,416,547,
and the mineral oils at $47,103,248.
During the same period the imports were as follows:
Gold and silver 37,426,262
More than 63 per cent of the entire value of imported merchandise consisted
of the following articles:
Sugar and molasses $103,884,274
Wool and woolen manufactures 53,842,292
Silk and its manufactures 49,949,128
Iron and steel and manufactures thereof 41,464,599
Flax, hemp, jute, and like substances, and manufactures thereof 33,463,398
Cotton and manufactures of cotton 30,454,476
Hides and skins other than fur skins 22,350,906
I concur with the Secretary of the Treasury in recommending the immediate
suspension of the coinage of silver dollars and of the issuance of silver
certificates. This is a matter to which in former communications I have
more than once invoked the attention of the National Legislature.
It appears that annually for the past six years there have been coined,
in Compliance with the requirements of the act of February 28, 1878, more
than 27,000,000 silver dollars.
The number now outstanding is reported by the Secretary to be nearly
185,000,000, whereof but little more than 40,000,000, or less than 22 per
cent, are in actual circulation. The mere existence of this fact seems
to me to furnish of itself a cogent argument for the repeal of the statute
which has made such fact possible.
But there are other and graver considerations that tend in the same
The Secretary avows his conviction that unless this coinage and the
issuance of silver certificates be suspended silver is likely at no distant
day to become our sole metallic standard. The commercial disturbance and
the impairment of national credit that would be thus occasioned can scarcely
I hope that the Secretary's suggestions respecting the withdrawal from
circulation of the $1 and $2 notes will receive your approval. It is likely
that a considerable portion of the silver now encumbering the vaults of
the Treasury might thus find its way into the currency.
While trade dollars have ceased, for the present at least, to be an
element of active disturbance in our currency system, some provision should
be made for their surrender to the Government. In view of the circumstances
under which they were coined and of the fact that they have never had a
legal-tender quality, there should be offered for them only a slight advance
over their bullion value.
The Secretary in the course of his report considers the propriety of
beautifying the designs of our subsidiary silver coins and of so increasing
their weight that they may bear their due ratio of value to the standard
dollar. His conclusions in this regard are cordially approved.
In my annual message of 1882 I recommended the abolition of all excise
taxes except those relating to distilled spirits. This recommendation is
now renewed. In case these taxes shall be abolished the revenues that will
still remain to the Government will, in my opinion, not only suffice to
meet its reasonable expenditures, but will afford a surplus large enough
to permit such tariff reduction as may seem to be advisable when the results
of recent revenue laws and commercial treaties shall have shown in what
quarters those reductions can be most judiciously effected.
One of the gravest of the problems which appeal to the wisdom of Congress
for solution is the ascertainment of the most effective means for increasing
our foreign trade and thus relieving the depression under which our industries
are now languishing. The Secretary of the Treasury advises that the duty
of investigating this subject be intrusted in the first instance to a competent
commission. While fully recognizing the considerations that may be urged
against this course, I am nevertheless of the opinion that upon the whole
no other would be likely to effect speedier or better results.
That portion of the Secretary's report which concerns the condition
of our shipping interests can not fail to command your attention. He emphatically
recommends that as an incentive to the investment of American capital in
American steamships the Government shall, by liberal payments for mail
transportation or otherwise, lend its active assistance to individual enterprise,
and declares his belief that unless that course be pursued our foreign
carrying trade must remain, as it is to-day, almost exclusively in the
hands of foreigners.
One phase of this subject is now especially prominent in view of the
repeal by the act of June 26, 1884, of all statutory provisions arbitrarily
compelling American vessels to carry the mails to and from the United States.
As it is necessary to make provision to compensate the owners of such vessels
for performing that service after April, 1885, it is hoped that the whole
subject will receive early consideration that will lead to the enactment
of such measures for the revival of our merchant marine as the wisdom of
Congress may devise
The 3 per cent bonds of the Government to the amount of more than $100,000,000
have since my last annual message been redeemed by the Treasury. The bonds
of that issue still outstanding amount to little over $200,000,000, about
one-fourth of which will be retired through the operations of the sinking
fund during the coming year. As these bonds still constitute the chief
basis for the circulation of the national banks, the question how to avert
the contraction of the currency caused by their retirement is one of constantly
It seems to be generally conceded that the law governing this matter
exacts from the banks excessive security, and that upon their present bond
deposits a larger circulation than is now allowed may be granted with safety.
I hope that the bill which passed the Senate at the last session, permitting
the issue of notes equal to the face value of the deposited bonds, will
commend itself to the approval of the House of Representatives.
In the expenses of the War Department the Secretary reports a decrease
of more than $9,000,000. Of this reduction $5,600,000 was effected in the
expenditures for rivers and harbors and $2,700,000 in expenditures for
the Quartermaster's Department.
Outside of that Department the annual expenses of all the Army bureaus
proper (except possibly the Ordnance Bureau) are substantially fixed charges,
which can not be materially diminished without a change in the numerical
strength of the Army. The expenditures in the Quartermaster's Department
can readily be subjected to administrative discretion, and it is reported
by the Secretary of War that as a result of exercising such discretion
in reducing the number of draft and pack animals in the Army the annual
cost of supplying and caring for such animals is now $1,108,085.90 less
than it was in 1881.
The reports of military commanders show that the last year has been
notable for its entire freedom from Indian outbreaks.
In defiance of the President's proclamation of July 1, 1884, certain
intruders sought to make settlements in the Indian Territory. They were
promptly removed by a detachment of troops.
During the past session of Congress a bill to provide a suitable fire-proof
building for the Army Medical Museum and the library of the Surgeon-General's
Office received the approval of the Senate. A similar bill, reported favorably
to the House of Representatives by one of its committees, is still pending
before that body. It is hoped that during the coming session the measure
may become a law, and that thereafter immediate steps may be taken to secure
a place of safe deposit for these valuable collections, now in a state
The funds with which the works for the improvement of rivers and harbors
were prosecuted during the past year were derived from the appropriations
of the act of August 2, 1882, together with such few balances as were on
hand from previous appropriations. The balance in the Treasury subject
to requisition July 1, 1883, was $10,021,649.55. The amount appropriated
during the fiscal year 1884 was $1,319,634.62 and the amount drawn from
the Treasury during the fiscal year was $8,228,703.54, leaving a balance
of $3,112,580.63 in the Treasury subject to requisition July 1, 1884.
The Secretary of War submits the report of the Chief of Engineers as
to the practicability of protecting our important cities on the seaboard
by fortifications and other defenses able to repel modern methods of attack.
The time has now come when such defenses can be prepared with confidence
that they will not prove abortive, and when the possible result of delay
in making such preparation is seriously considered delay seems inexcusable.
For the most important cities--those whose destruction or capture would
be a national humiliation--adequate defenses, inclusive of guns, may be
made by the gradual expenditure of $60,000,000--a sum much less than a
victorious enemy could levy as a contribution. An appropriation of about
one-tenth of that amount is asked to begin the work, and I concur with
the Secretary of War in urging that it be granted.
The War Department is proceeding with the conversion of 10-inch smoothbore
guns into 8-inch rifles by lining the former with tubes of forged steel
or of coil wrought iron. Fifty guns will be thus converted within the year.
This, however, does not obviate the necessity of providing means for the
construction of guns of the highest power both for the purposes of coast
defense and for the armament of war vessels.
The report of the Gun Foundry Board, appointed April 2, 1883, in pursuance
of the act of March 3, 1883, was transmitted to Congress in a special message
of February 18, 1884. In my message of March 26, 1884, I called attention
to the recommendation of the board that the Government should encourage
the production at private steel works of the required material for heavy
cannon, and that two Government factories, one for the Army and one for
the Navy, should be established for the fabrication of guns from such material.
No action having been taken, the board was subsequently reconvened to determine
more fully the plans and estimates necessary for carrying out its recommendation.
It has received information which indicates that there are responsible
steel manufacturers in this country who, although not provided at present
with the necessary plant, are willing to construct the same and to make
bids for contracts with the Government for the supply of the requisite
material for the heaviest guns adapted to modern warfare if a guaranteed
order of sufficient magnitude, accompanied by a positive appropriation
extending over a series of years, shall be made by Congress. All doubts
as to the feasibility of the plan being thus removed, I renew my recommendation
that such action be taken by Congress as will enable the Government to
construct its own ordnance upon its own territory, and so to provide the
armaments demanded by considerations of national safety and honor.
The report of the Secretary of the Navy exhibits the progress which
has been made on the new steel cruisers authorized by the acts of August
5, 1882, and March 3, 1883. Of the four vessels under contract, one, the
Chicago, of 4,500 tons, is more than half finished; the Atlanta, of 3,000
tons, has been successfully launched, and her machinery is now fitting;
the Boston, also of 3,000 tons, is ready for launching, and the Dolphin,
a dispatch steamer of 1,500 tons, is ready for delivery.
Certain adverse criticisms upon the designs of these cruisers are discussed
by the Secretary, who insists that the correctness of the conclusions reached
by the Advisory Board and by the Department has been demonstrated by recent
developments in shipbuilding abroad.
The machinery of the double-turreted monitors Puritan, Terror, and Amphitrite,
contracted for under the act of March 3, 1883, is in process of construction.
No work has been done during the past year on their armor for lack of the
necessary appropriations. A fourth monitor, the Monadnock, still remains
unfinished at the navy-yard in California. It is recommended that early
steps be taken to complete these vessels and to provide also an armament
for the monitor Miantonomoh.
The recommendations of the Naval Advisory Board, approved by the Department,
comprise the construction of one steel cruiser of 4,500 tons, one cruiser
of 3,000 tons, two heavily armed gunboats, one light cruising gunboat,
one dispatch vessel armed with Hotchkiss cannon, one armored ram, and three
torpedo boats. The general designs, all of which are calculated to meet
the existing wants of the service, are now well advanced, and the construction
of the vessels can be undertaken as soon as you shall grant the necessary
The act of Congress approved August 7, 1882, authorized the removal
to the United States of the bodies of Lieutenant-Commander George W. De
Long and his companions of the Jeannette expedition. This removal has been
successfully accomplished by Lieutenants Harber and Schuetze. The remains
were taken from their grave in the Lena Delta in March, 1883, and were
retained at Yakutsk until the following winter, the season being too far
advanced to admit of their immediate transportation. They arrived at New
York February 20, 1884, where they were received with suitable honors.
In pursuance of the joint resolution of Congress approved February 13,
1884, a naval expedition was fitted out for the relief of Lieutenant A.
W. Greely, United States Army, and of the party who had been engaged under
his command in scientific observations at Lady Franklin Bay. The fleet
consisted of the steam sealer Thetis, purchased in England; the Bear, purchased
at St. Johns, Newfoundland, and the Alert, which was generously provided
by the British Government. Preparations for the expedition were promptly
made by the Secretary of the Navy, with the active cooperation of the Secretary
of War. Commander George W. Coffin was placed in command of the Alert and
Lieutenant William H. Emory in command of the Bear. The Thetis was intrusted
to Commander Winfield S. Schley, to whom also was assigned the superintendence
of the entire expedition.
Immediately upon its arrival at Upernavik the fleet began the dangerous
navigation of Melville Bay, and in spite of every obstacle reached Littleton
Island on June 22, a fortnight earlier than any vessel had before attained
that point. On the same day it crossed over to Cape Sabine, where Lieutenant
Greely and the other survivors of his party were discovered. After taking
on board the living and the bodies of the dead, the relief ships sailed
for St. Johns, where they arrived on July 17. They were appropriately received
at Portsmouth, N. H., on August 1 and at New York on August 8. One of the
bodies was landed at the former place. The others were put on shore at
Governors Island, and, with the exception of one, which was interred in
the national cemetery, were forwarded thence to the destinations indicated
by friends. The organization and conduct of this relief expedition reflects
great credit upon all who contributed to its success.
In this the last of the stated messages that I shall have the honor
to transmit to the Congress of the United States I can not too strongly
urge upon its attention the duty of restoring our Navy as rapidly as possible
to the high state of efficiency which formerly characterized it. As the
long peace that has lulled us into a sense of fancied security may at any
time be disturbed, it is plain that the policy of strengthening this arm
of the service is dictated by considerations of wise economy, of just regard
for our future tranquillity, and of true appreciation of the dignity and
honor of the Republic.
The report of the Postmaster-General acquaints you with the present
condition and needs of the postal service.
It discloses the gratifying fact that the loss of revenue from the reduction
in the rate of letter postage recommended in my message of December 4,
1882, and effected by the act of March 3, 1883, has been much less than
was generally anticipated. My recommendation of this reduction was based
upon the belief that the actual falling off in receipts from letter postages
for the year immediately succeeding the change of rate would be $3,000,000.
It has proved to be only $2,275,000.
This is a trustworthy indication that the revenue will soon be restored
to its former volume by the natural increase of sealed correspondence.
I confidently repeat, therefore, the recommendation of my last annual
message that the single-rate postage upon drop letters be reduced to 1
cent wherever the payment of 2 cents is now required by law. The double
rate is only exacted at offices where the carrier system is in operation,
and it appears that at those offices the increase in the tax upon local
letters defrays the cost not only of its own collection and delivery, but
of the collection and delivery of all other mail matter. This is an inequality
that ought no longer to exist.
I approve the recommendation of the Postmaster-General that the unit
of weight in the rating of first-class matter should be 1 ounce instead
of one-half ounce, as it now is. In view of the statistics furnished by
the Department, it may well be doubted whether the change would result
in any loss of revenue. That it would greatly promote the convenience of
the public is beyond dispute.
The free-delivery system has been lately applied to five cities, and
the total number of offices in which it is now in operation is 159. Experience
shows that its adoption, under proper conditions, is equally an accommodation
to the public and an advantage to the postal service. It is more than self-sustaining,
and for the reasons urged by the Postmaster-General may properly be extended.
In the opinion of that officer it is important to provide means whereby
exceptional dispatch in dealing with letters in free-delivery offices may
be secured by payment of extraordinary postage. This scheme might be made
effective by employment of a special stamp whose cost should be commensurate
with the expense of the extra service.
In some of the large cities private express companies have undertaken
to outstrip the Government mail carriers by affording for the prompt transmission
of letters better facilities than have hitherto been at the command of
It has always been the policy of the Government to discourage such enterprises,
and in no better mode can that policy be maintained than in supplying the
public with the most efficient mail service that, with due regard to its
own best interests, can be furnished for its accommodation.
The Attorney-General renews the recommendation contained in his report
of last year touching the fees of witnesses and jurors.
He favors radical changes in the fee bill, the adoption of a system
by which attorneys and marshals of the United States shall be compensated
solely by salaries, and the erection by the Government of a penitentiary
for the confinement of offenders against its laws.
Of the varied governmental concerns in charge of the Interior Department
the report of its Secretary presents an interesting summary. Among the
topics deserving particular attention I refer you to his observations respecting
our Indian affairs, the preemption and timber-culture acts, the failure
of railroad companies to take title to lands granted by the Government,
and the operations of the Pension Office, the Patent Office, the Census
Bureau, and the Bureau of Education.
Allusion has been made already to the circumstance that, both as between
the different Indian tribes and as between the Indians and the whites,
the past year has been one of unbroken peace.
In this circumstance the President is glad to find justification for
the policy of the Government in its dealing with the Indian question and
confirmation of the views which were fully expressed in his first communication
to the Forty-seventh Congress.
The Secretary urges anew the enactment of a statute for the punishment
of crimes committed on the Indian reservations, and recommends the passage
of the bill now pending in the House of Representatives for the purchase
of a tract of 18,000 square miles from the Sioux Reservation. Both these
measures are worthy of approval.
I concur with him also in advising the repeal of the preemption law,
the enactment of statutes resolving the present legal complications touching
lapsed grants to railroad companies, and the funding of the debt of the
several Pacific railroads under such guaranty as shall effectually secure
its ultimate payment.
The report of the Utah Commission will be read with interest.
It discloses the results of recent legislation looking to the prevention
and punishment of polygamy in that Territory. I still believe that if that
abominable practice can be suppressed by law it can only be by the most
radical legislation consistent with the restraints of the Constitution.
I again recommend, therefore, that Congress assume absolute political
control of the Territory of Utah and provide for the appointment of commissioners
with such governmental powers as in its judgment may justly and wisely
be put into their hands.
In the course of this communication reference has more than once been
made to the policy of this Government as regards the extension of our foreign
trade. It seems proper to declare the general principles that should, in
my opinion, underlie our national efforts in this direction.
The main conditions of the problem may be thus stated:
We are a people apt in mechanical pursuits and fertile in invention.
We cover a vast extent of territory rich in agricultural products and in
nearly all the raw materials necessary for successful manufacture. We have
a system of productive establishments more than sufficient to supply our
own demands. The wages of labor are nowhere else so great. The scale of
living of our artisan classes is such as tends to secure their personal
comfort and the development of those higher moral and intellectual qualities
that go to the making of good citizens. Our system of tax and tariff legislation
is yielding a revenue which is in excess of the present needs of the Government.
These are the elements from which it is sought to devise a scheme by
which, without unfavorably changing the condition of the workingman, our
merchant marine shall be raised from its enfeebled condition and new markets
provided for the sale beyond our borders of the manifold fruits of our
The problem is complex and can be solved by no single measure of innovation
The countries of the American continent and the adjacent islands are
for the United States the natural marts of supply and demand. It is from
them that we should obtain what we do not produce or do not produce in
sufficiency, and it is to them that the surplus productions of our fields,
our mills, and our workshops should flow, under conditions that will equalize
or favor them in comparison with foreign competition.
Four paths of policy seem to point to this end:
First. A series of reciprocal commercial treaties with the countries
of America which shall foster between us and them an unhampered movement
of trade. The conditions of these treaties should be the free admission
of such merchandise as this country does not produce, in return for the
admission free or under a favored scheme of duties of our own products,
the benefits of such exchange to apply only to goods carried under the
flag of the parties to the contract; the removal on both sides from the
vessels so privileged of all tonnage dues and national imposts, so that
those vessels may ply unhindered between our ports and those of the other
contracting parties, though without infringing on the reserved home coasting
trade; the removal or reduction of burdens on the exported products of
those countries coming within the benefits of the treaties, and the avoidance
of the technical restrictions and penalties by which our intercourse with
those countries is at present hampered.
Secondly. The establishment of the consular service of the United States
on a salaried footing, thus permitting the relinquishment of consular fees
not only as respects vessels under the national flag, but also as respects
vessels of the treaty nations carrying goods entitled to the benefits of
Thirdly. The enactment of measures to favor the construction and maintenance
of a steam carrying marine under the flag of the United States.
Fourthly. The establishment of an uniform currency basis for the countries
of America, so that the coined products of our mines may circulate on equal
terms throughout the Whole system of commonwealths. This would require
a monetary union of America, whereby the output of the bullion-producing
countries and the circulation of those which yield neither gold nor silver
could be adjusted in conformity with the population, wealth, and commercial
needs of each. As many of the countries furnish no bullion to the common
stock, the surplus production of our mines and mints might thus be utilized
and a step taken toward the general remonetization of silver.
To the accomplishment of these ends, so far as they can be attained
by separate treaties, the negotiations already concluded and now in progress
have been directed; and the favor which this enlarged policy has thus far
received warrants the belief that its operations will ere long embrace
all, or nearly all, the countries of this hemisphere.
It is by no means desirable, however, that the policy under consideration
should be applied to these countries alone. The healthful enlargement of
our trade with Europe, Asia, and Africa should be sought by reducing tariff
burdens on such of their wares as neither we nor the other American States
are fitted to produce, and thus enabling ourselves to obtain in return
a better market for our supplies of food, of raw materials, and of the
manufactures in which we excel.
It seems to me that many of the embarrassing elements in the great national
conflict between protection and free trade may thus be turned to good account;
that the revenue may be reduced so as no longer to overtax the people;
that protective duties may be retained without becoming burdensome; that
our shipping interests may be judiciously encouraged, the currency fixed
on firm bases, and, above all, such an unity of interests established among
the States of the American system as will be of great and ever-increasing
advantage to them all.
All treaties in the line of this policy which have been negotiated or
are in process of negotiation contain a provision deemed to be requisite
under the clause of the Constitution limiting to the House of Representatives
the authority to originate bills for raising revenue.
On the 29th of February last I transmitted to the Congress the first
annual report of the Civil Service Commission, together with communications
from the heads of the several Executive Departments of the Government respecting
the practical workings of the law under which the Commission had been acting.
The good results therein foreshadowed have been more than realized.
The system has fully answered the expectations of its friends in securing
competent and faithful public servants and in protecting the appointing
officers of the Government from the pressure of personal importunity and
from the labor of examining the claims and pretensions of rival candidates
for public employment.
The law has had the unqualified support of the President and of the
heads of the several Departments, and the members of the Commission have
performed their duties with zeal and fidelity. Their report will shortly
be submitted, and will be accompanied by such recommendations for enlarging
the scope of the existing statute as shall commend themselves to the Executive
and the Commissioners charged with its administration.
In view of the general and persistent demand throughout the commercial
community for a national bankrupt law, I hope that the differences of sentiment
which have hitherto prevented its enactment may not outlast the present
The pestilence which for the past two years has been raging in the countries
of the East recently made its appearance in European ports with which we
are in constant communication.
The then Secretary of the Treasury, in pursuance of a proclamation of
the President, issued certain regulations restricting and for a time prohibiting
the importation of rags and the admission of baggage of immigrants and
of travelers arriving from infected quarters. Lest this course may have
been without strict warrant of law, I approve the recommendation of the
present Secretary that the Congress take action in the premises, and I
also recommend the immediate adoption of such measures as will be likely
to ward off the dreaded epidemic and to mitigate its severity in case it
shall unhappily extend to our shores.
The annual report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia reviews
the operations of the several departments of its municipal government.
I ask your careful consideration of its suggestions in respect to legislation,
especially commending such as relate to a revision of the civil and criminal
code, the performance of labor by persons sentenced to imprisonment in
the jail, the construction and occupation of wharves along the river front,
and the erection of a suitable building for District offices.
I recommend that in recognition of the eminent services of Ulysses S.
Grant, late General of the armies of the United States and twice President
of this nation, the Congress confer upon him a suitable pension.
Certain of the measures that seem to me necessary and expedient I have
now, in obedience to the Constitution, recommended for your adoption.
As respects others of no less importance I shall content myself with
renewing the recommendations already made to the Congress, without restating
the grounds upon which such recommendations were based.
The preservation of forests on the public domain, the granting of Government
aid for popular education, the amendment of the Federal Constitution so
as to make effective the disapproval by the President of particular items
in appropriation bills, the enactment of statutes in regard to the filling
of vacancies in the Presidential office, and the determining of vexed questions
respecting Presidential inability are measures which may justly receive
your serious consideration.
As the time draws nigh when I am to retire from the public service,
I can not refrain from expressing to the members of the National Legislature
with whom I have been brought into personal and official intercourse my
sincere appreciation of their unfailing courtesy and of their harmonious
cooperation with the Executive in so many measures calculated to promote
the best interests of the nation.
And to my fellow-citizens generally I acknowledge a deep sense of obligation
for the support which they have accorded me in my administration of the
executive department of this Government.