Ulysses S. Grant
State of the Union Address
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
In submitting my eighth and last annual message to Congress it seems
proper that I should refer to and in some degree recapitulate the events
and official acts of the past eight years.
It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief
Executive without any previous political training. From the age of 17 I
had never even witnessed the excitement attending a Presidential campaign
but twice antecedent to my own candidacy, and at but one of them was I
eligible as a voter.
Under such circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors
of judgment must have occurred. Even had they not, differences of opinion
between the Executive, bound by an oath to the strict performance of his
duties, and writers and debaters must have arisen. It is not necessarily
evidence of blunder on the part of the Executive because there are these
differences of views. Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit,
but it seems to me oftener in the selections made of the assistants appointed
to aid in carrying out the various duties of administering the Government--in
nearly every case selected without a personal acquaintance with the appointee,
but upon recommendations of the representatives chosen directly by the
people. It is impossible, where so many trusts are to be allotted, that
the right parties should be chosen in every instance. History shows that
no Administration from the time of Washington to the present has been free
from these mistakes. But I leave comparisons to history, claiming only
that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what
was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests
of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.
My civil career commenced, too, at a most critical and difficult time.
Less than four years before, the country had emerged from a conflict such
as no other nation had ever survived. Nearly one-half of the States had
revolted against the Government, and of those remaining faithful to the
Union a large percentage of the population sympathized with the rebellion
and made an "enemy in the rear" almost as dangerous as the more honorable
enemy in the front. The latter committed errors of judgment, but they maintained
them openly and courageously; the former received the protection of the
Government they would see destroyed, and reaped all the pecuniary advantage
to be gained out of the then existing state of affairs, many of them by
obtaining contracts and by swindling the Government in the delivery of
Immediately on the cessation of hostilities the then noble President,
who had carried the country so far through its perils, fell a martyr to
his patriotism at the hands of an assassin.
The intervening time to my first inauguration was filled up with wranglings
between Congress and the new Executive as to the best mode of "reconstruction,"
or, to speak plainly, as to whether the control of the Government should
be thrown immediately into the hands of those who had so recently and persistently
tried to destroy it, or whether the victors should continue to have an
equal voice with them in this control. Reconstruction, as finally agreed
upon, means this and only this, except that the late slave was enfranchised,
giving an increase, as was supposed, to the Union-loving and Union-supporting
votes. If free in the full sense of the word, they would not disappoint
this expectation. Hence at the beginning of my first Administration the
work of reconstruction, much embarrassed by the long delay, virtually commenced.
It was the work of the legislative branch of the Government. My province
was wholly in approving their acts, which I did most heartily, urging the
legislatures of States that had not yet done so to ratify the fifteenth
amendment to the Constitution. The country was laboring under an enormous
debt, contracted in the suppression of rebellion, and taxation was so oppressive
as to discourage production. Another danger also threatened us--a foreign
war. The last difficulty had to be adjusted and was adjusted without a
war and in a manner highly honorable to all parties concerned. Taxes have
been reduced within the last seven years nearly $300,000,000, and the national
debt has been reduced in the same time over $435,000,000. By refunding
the 6 per cent bonded debt for bonds bearing 5 and 4 1/2 per cent interest,
respectively, the annual interest has been reduced from over $130,000,000
in 1869 to but little over $100,000,000 in 1876. The balance of trade has
been changed from over $130,000,000 against the United States in 1869 to
more than $120,000,000 in our favor in 1876.
It is confidently believed that the balance of trade in favor of the
United States will increase, not diminish, and that the pledge of Congress
to resume specie payments in 1879 will be easily accomplished, even in
the absence of much-desired further legislation on the subject.
A policy has been adopted toward the Indian tribes inhabiting a large
portion of the territory of the United States which has been humane and
has substantially ended Indian hostilities in the whole land except in
a portion of Nebraska, and Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana Territories--the
Black Hills region and approaches thereto. Hostilities there have grown
out of the avarice of the white man, who has violated our treaty stipulations
in his search for gold. The question might be asked why the Government
has not enforced obedience to the terms of the treaty prohibiting the occupation
of the Black Hills region by whites. The answer is simple: The first immigrants
to the Black Hills were removed by troops, but rumors of rich discoveries
of gold took into that region increased numbers. Gold has actually been
found in paying quantity, and an effort to remove the miners would only
result in the desertion of the bulk of the troops that might be sent there
to remove them. All difficulty in this matter has, however, been removed--subject
to the approval of Congress--by a treaty ceding the Black Hills and approaches
to settlement by citizens.
The subject of Indian policy and treatment is so fully set forth by
the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and
my views so fully expressed therein, that I refer to their reports and
recommendations as my own.
The relations of the United States with foreign powers continue on
a friendly footing.
Questions have arisen from time to time in the foreign relations of
the Government, but the United States have been happily free during the
past year from the complications and embarrassments which have surrounded
some of the foreign powers.
The diplomatic correspondence submitted herewith contains information
as to certain of the matters which have occupied the Government.
The cordiality which attends our relations with the powers of the earth
has been plainly shown by the general participation of foreign nations
in the exhibition which has just closed and by the exertions made by distant
powers to show their interest in and friendly feelings toward the United
States in the commemoration of the centennial of the nation. The Government
and people of the United States have not only fully appreciated this exhibition
of kindly feeling, but it may be justly and fairly expected that no small
benefits will result both to ourselves and other nations from a better
acquaintance, and a better appreciation of our mutual advantages and mutual
Congress at its last session saw fit to reduce the amount usually appropriated
for foreign intercourse by withholding appropriations for representatives
of the United States in certain foreign countries and for certain consular
officers, and by reducing the amounts usually appropriated for certain
other diplomatic posts, and thus necessitating a change in the grade of
the representatives. For these reasons, immediately upon the passage of
the bill making appropriations for the diplomatic and consular service
for the present fiscal year, instructions were issued to the representatives
of the United States at Bolivia, Ecuador, and Colombia, and to the consular
officers for whom no appropriation had been made, to close their respective
legations and consulates and cease from the performance of their duties;
and in like manner steps were immediately taken to substitute charge's
d'affaires for ministers resident in Portugal, Denmark, Greece, Switzerland,
While thoroughly impressed with the wisdom of sound economy in the foreign
service, as in other branches of the Government, I can not escape the conclusion
that in some instances the withholding of appropriations will prove an
expensive economy, and that the small retrenchment secured by a change
of grade in certain diplomatic posts is not an adequate consideration for
the loss of influence and importance which will attend our foreign representatives
under this reduction. I am of the opinion that a reexamination of the subject
will cause a change in some instances in the conclusions reached on these
subjects at the last session of Congress.
The Court of Commissioners of Alabama Claims, whose functions were continued
by an act of the last session of Congress until the 1st day of January,
1877, has carried on its labors with diligence and general satisfaction.
By a report from the clerk of the court, transmitted herewith, bearing
date November 14, 1876, it appears that within the time now allowed by
law the court will have disposed of all the claims presented for adjudication.
This report also contains a statement of the general results of the labors
of the court to the date thereof. It is a cause of satisfaction that the
method adopted for the satisfaction of the classes of claims submitted
to the court, which are of long standing and justly entitled to early consideration,
should have proved successful and acceptable.
It is with satisfaction that I am enabled to state that the work of
the joint commission for determining the boundary line between the United
States and British possessions from the northwest angle of the Lake of
the Woods to the Rocky Mountains, commenced in 1872, has been completed.
The final agreements of the commissioners, with the maps, have been duly
signed, and the work of the commission is complete.
The fixing of the boundary upon the Pacific coast by the protocol of
March 10, 1873, pursuant to the award of the Emperor of Germany by Article
XXXIV of the treaty of Washington, with the termination of the work of
this commission, adjusts and fixes the entire boundary between the United
States and the British possessions, except as to the portion of territory
ceded by Russia to the United States under the treaty of 1867. The work
intrusted to the commissioner and the officers of the Army attached to
the commission has been well and satisfactorily performed. The original
of the final agreement of the commissioners, signed upon the 29th of May,
1876, with the original official "lists of astronomical stations observed,"
the original official "list of monuments marking the international boundary
line," and the maps, records, and general reports relating to the commission,
have been deposited in the Department of State. The official report of
the commissioner on the part of the United States, with the report of the
chief astronomer of the United States, will be submitted to Congress within
a short time.
I reserve for a separate communication to Congress a statement of the
condition of the questions which lately arose with Great Britain respecting
the surrender of fugitive criminals under the treaty of 1842.
The Ottoman Government gave notice, under date of January 15, 1874,
of its desire to terminate the treaty of 1862, concerning commerce and
navigation, pursuant to the provisions of the twenty-second article thereof.
Under this notice the treaty terminated upon the 5th day of June, 1876.
That Government has invited negotiations toward the conclusion of a new
By the act of Congress of March 23, 1874, the President was authorized,
when he should receive satisfactory information that the Ottoman Government
or that of Egypt had organized new tribunals likely to secure to citizens
of the United States the same impartial justice enjoyed under the exercise
of judicial functions by diplomatic and consular officers of the United
States, to suspend the operation of the act of June 22, 1860, and to accept
for citizens of the United States the jurisdiction of the new tribunals.
Satisfactory information having been received of the organization of such
new tribunals in Egypt, I caused a proclamation to be issued upon the 27th
of March last, suspending the operation of the act of June 22, 1860, in
Egypt, according to the provisions of the act. A copy of the proclamation
accompanies this message. The United States has united with the other powers
in the organization of these courts. It is hoped that the jurisdictional
questions which have arisen may be readily adjusted, and that this advance
in judicial reform may be hindered by no obstacles.
The necessary legislation to carry into effect the convention respecting
commercial reciprocity concluded with the Hawaiian Islands in 1875 having
been had, the proclamation to carry into effect the convention, as provided
by the act approved August 15, 1876, was duly issued upon the 9th day of
September last. A copy thereof accompanies this message.
The commotions which have been prevalent in Mexico for some time past,
and which, unhappily, seem to be not yet wholly quieted, have led to complaints
of citizens of the United States of injuries by persons in authority. It
is hoped, however, that these will ultimately be adjusted to the satisfaction
of both Governments. The frontier of the United States in that quarter
has not been exempt from acts of violence by citizens of one Republic on
those of the other. The frequency of these is supposed to be increased
and their adjustment made more difficult by the considerable changes in
the course of the lower part of the Rio Grande River, which river is a
part of the boundary between the two countries. These changes have placed
on either side of that river portions of land which by existing conventions
belong to the jurisdiction of the Government on the opposite side of the
river. The subject of adjustment of this cause of difficulty is under consideration
between the two Republics.
The Government of the United States of Colombia has paid the award in
the case of the steamer Montijo, seized by authorities of that Government
some years since, and the amount has been transferred to the claimants.
It is with satisfaction that I am able to announce that the joint commission
for the adjustment of claims between the United States and Mexico under
the convention of 1868, the duration of which has been several times extended,
has brought its labors to a close. From the report of the agent of the
United States, which accompanies the papers transmitted herewith, it will
be seen that within the time limited by the commission 1,017 claims on
the part of citizens of the United States against Mexico were referred
to the commission. Of these claims 831 were dismissed or disallowed, and
in 186 cases awards were made in favor of the claimants against the Mexican
Republic, amounting in the aggregate to $4,125,622.20. Within the same
period 998 claims on the part of citizens of the Mexican Republic against
the United States were referred to the commission. Of these claims 831
were dismissed or disallowed, and in 167 cases awards were made in favor
of the claimants against the United States, amounting in the aggregate
By the terms of the convention the amount of these awards is to be deducted
from the amount awarded in favor of our citizens against Mexico, and the
balance only to be paid by Mexico to the United States, leaving the United
States to make provision for this proportion of the awards in favor of
its Own citizens.
I invite your attention to the legislation which will be necessary
to provide for the payment.
In this connection I am pleased to be able to express the acknowledgments
due to Sir Edward Thornton, the umpire of the commission, who has given
to the consideration of the large number of claims submitted to him much
time, unwearied patience, and that firmness and intelligence which are
well known to belong to the accomplished representative of Great Britain,
and which are likewise recognized by the representative in this country
of the Republic of Mexico.
Monthly payments of a very small part of the amount due by the Government
of Venezuela to citizens of the United States on account of claims of the
latter against that Government continue to be made with reasonable punctuality.
That Government has proposed to change the system which it has hitherto
pursued in this respect by issuing bonds for part of the amount of the
several claims. The proposition, however, could not, it is supposed, properly
be accepted, at least without the consent of the holders of certificates
of the indebtedness of Venezuela. These are so much dispersed that it would
be difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain their disposition on the
In former messages I have called the attention of Congress to the necessity
of legislation with regard to fraudulent naturalization and to the subject
of expatriation and the election of nationality.
The numbers of persons of foreign birth seeking a home in the United
States, the ease and facility with which the honest emigrant may, after
the lapse of a reasonable time, become possessed of all the privileges
of citizenship of the United States, and the frequent occasions which induce
such adopted citizens to return to the country of their birth render the
subject of naturalization and the safeguards which experience has proved
necessary for the protection of the honest naturalized citizen of paramount
importance. The very simplicity in the requirements of law on this question
affords opportunity for fraud, and the want of uniformity in the proceedings
and records of the various courts and in the forms of the certificates
of naturalization issued affords a constant source of difficulty.
I suggest no additional requirements to the acquisition of citizenship
beyond those now existing, but I invite the earnest attention of Congress
to the necessity and wisdom of some provisions regarding uniformity in
the records and certificates, and providing against the frauds which frequently
take place and for the vacating of a record of naturalization obtained
These provisions are needed in aid and for the protection of the honest
citizen of foreign birth, and for the want of which he is made to suffer
not infrequently. The United States has insisted upon the right of expatriation,
and has obtained, after a long struggle, an admission of the principle
contended for by acquiescence therein on the part of many foreign powers
and by the conclusion of treaties on that subject. It is, however, but
justice to the government to which such naturalized citizens have formerly
owed allegiance, as well as to the United States, that certain fixed and
definite rules should be adopted governing such cases and providing how
expatriation may be accomplished.
While emigrants in large numbers become citizens of the United States,
it is also true that persons, both native born and naturalized, once citizens
of the United States, either by formal acts or as the effect of a series
of facts and circumstances, abandon their citizenship and cease to be entitled
to the protection of the United States, but continue on convenient occasions
to assert a claim to protection in the absence of provisions on these questions.
And in this connection I again invite your attention to the necessity
of legislation concerning the marriages of American citizens contracted
abroad, and concerning the status of American women who may marry foreigners
and of children born of American parents in a foreign country.
The delicate and complicated questions continually occurring with reference
to naturalization, expatriation, and the status of such persons as I have
above referred to induce me to earnestly direct your attention again to
In like manner I repeat my recommendation that some means be provided
for the hearing and determination of the just and subsisting claims of
aliens upon the Government of the United States within a reasonable limitation,
and of such as may hereafter arise. While by existing provisions of law
the Court of Claims may in certain cases be resorted to by an alien claimant,
the absence of any general provisions governing all such cases and the
want of a tribunal skilled in the disposition of such cases upon recognized
fixed and settled principles, either provides no remedy in many deserving
cases or compels a consideration of such claims by Congress or the executive
department of the Government.
It is believed that other governments are in advance of the United States
upon this question, and that the practice now adopted is entirely unsatisfactory.
Congress, by an act approved the 3d day of March, 1875, authorized the
inhabitants of the Territory of Colorado to form a State government, with
the name of the State of Colorado, and therein provided for the admission
of said State, when formed, into the Union upon an equal footing with the
A constitution having been adopted and ratified by the people of that
State, and the acting governor having certified to me the facts as provided
by said act, together with a copy of such constitution and ordinances as
provided for in the said act, and the provisions of the said act of Congress
having been duly complied with, I issued a proclamation upon the 1st of
August, 1876, a copy of which is hereto annexed.
The report of the Secretary of War shows that the Army has been actively
employed during the year in subduing, at the request of the Indian Bureau,
certain wild bands of the Sioux Indian Nation and in preserving the peace
at the South during the election. The commission constituted under the
act of July 24, 1876, to consider and report on the "whole subject of the
reform and reorganization of the Army" met in August last, and has collected
a large mass of statistics and opinions bearing on the subject before it.
These are now under consideration, and their report is progressing. I am
advised, though, by the president of the commission that it will be impracticable
to comply with the clause of the act requiring the report to be presented,
through me, to Congress on the first day of this session, as there has
not yet been time for that mature deliberation which the importance of
the subject demands. Therefore I ask that the time of making the report
be extended to the 29th day of January, 1877.
In accordance with the resolution of August 15, 1876, the Army regulations
prepared under the act of March 1, 1875, have not been promulgated, but
are held until after the report of the above-mentioned commission shall
have been received and acted on.
By the act of August 15, 1876, the cavalry force of the Army was increased
by 2,500 men, with the proviso that they should be discharged on the expiration
of hostilities. Under this authority the cavalry regiments have been strengthened,
and a portion of them are now in the field pursuing the remnants of the
Indians with whom they have been engaged during the summer.
The estimates of the War Department are made up on the basis of the
number of men authorized by law, and their requirements as shown by years
of experience, and also with the purpose on the part of the bureau officers
to provide for all contingencies that may arise during the time for which
the estimates are made. Exclusive of engineer estimates (presented in accordance
with acts of Congress calling for surveys and estimates for improvements
at various localities), the estimates now presented are about six millions
in excess of the appropriations for the years 1874-75 and 1875-76. This
increase is asked in order to provide for the increased cavalry force (should
their services be necessary), to prosecute economically work upon important
public buildings, to provide for armament of fortifications and manufacture
of small arms, and to replenish the working stock in the supply departments.
The appropriations for these last named have for the past few years been
so limited that the accumulations in store will be entirely exhausted during
the present year, and it will be necessary to at once begin to replenish
I invite your special attention to the following recommendations of
the Secretary of War:
First. That the claims under the act of July 4, 1864, for supplies
taken by the Army during the war be removed from the offices of the Quartermaster
and Commissary Generals and transferred to the Southern Claims Commission.
These claims are of precisely similar nature to those now before the Southern
Claims Commission, and the War Department bureaus have not the clerical
force for their examination nor proper machinery for investigating the
loyalty of the claimants.
Second. That Congress sanction the scheme of an annuity fund for the
benefit of the families of deceased officers, and that it also provide
for the permanent organization of the Signal Service, both of which were
recommended in my last annual message.
Third. That the manufacturing operations of the Ordnance Department
be concentrated at three arsenals and an armory, and that the remaining
arsenals be sold and the proceeds applied to this object by the Ordnance
The appropriations for river and harbor improvements for the current
year were $5,015,000. With my approval, the Secretary of War directed that
of this amount $2,000,000 should be expended, and no new works should be
begun and none prosecuted which were not of national importance. Subsequently
this amount was increased to $2,237,600, and the works are now progressing
on this basis.
The improvement of the South Pass of the Mississippi River, under James
B. Eads and his associates, is progressing favorably. At the present time
there is a channel of 20.3 feet in depth between the jetties at the mouth
of the pass and 18.5 feet at the head of the pass. Neither channel, however,
has the width required before payments can be made by the United States.
A commission of engineer officers is now examining these works, and their
reports will be presented as soon as received.
The report of the Secretary of the Navy shows that branch of the service
to be in condition as effective as it is possible to keep it with the means
and authority given the Department. It is, of course, not possible to rival
the costly and progressive establishments of great European powers with
the old material of our Navy, to which no increase has been authorized
since the war, except the eight small cruisers built to supply the place
of others which had gone to decay. Yet the most has been done that was
possible with the means at command; and by substantially rebuilding some
of our old ships with durable material and completely repairing and refitting
our monitor fleet the Navy has been gradually so brought up that, though
it does not maintain its relative position among the progressive navies
of the world, it is now in a condition more powerful and effective than
it ever has been in time of peace.
The complete repairs of our five heavy ironclads are only delayed on
account of the inadequacy of the appropriations made last year for the
working bureaus of the Department, which were actually less in amount than
those made before the war, notwithstanding the greatly enhanced price of
labor and materials and the increase in the cost of the naval service growing
out of the universal use and great expense of steam machinery. The money
necessary for these repairs should be provided at once, that they may be
completed without further unnecessary delay and expense.
When this is done, all the strength that there is in our Navy will be
developed and useful to its full capacity, and it will be powerful for
purposes of defense, and also for offensive action, should the necessity
for that arise within a reasonable distance from our shores.
The fact that our Navy is not more modern and powerful than it is has
been made a cause of complaint against the Secretary of the Navy by persons
who at the same time criticise and complain of his endeavors to bring the
Navy that we have to its best and most efficient condition; but the good
sense of the country will understand that it is really due to his practical
action that we have at this time any effective naval force at command.
The report of the Postmaster-General shows the excess of expenditures
(excluding expenditures on account of previous years) over receipts for
the fiscal year ended June 30, 1876, to be $4,151,988.66.
Estimated expenditures for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1878, are
Estimated revenue for same period is $30,645,165, leaving estimated
excess of expenditure, to be appropriated as a deficiency, of $6,078,267.43.
The Postmaster-General, like his predecessor, is convinced that a change
in the basis of adjusting the salaries of postmasters of the fourth class
is necessary for the good of the service as well as for the interests of
the Government, and urgently recommends that the compensation of the class
of postmasters above mentioned be based upon the business of their respective
offices, as ascertained from the sworn returns to the Auditor of stamps
A few postmasters in the Southern States have expressed great apprehension
of their personal safety on account of their connection with the postal
service, and have specially requested that their reports of apprehended
danger should not be made public lest it should result in the loss of their
lives. But no positive testimony of interference has been submitted, except
in the case of a mail messenger at Spartanburg, in South Carolina, who
reported that he had been violently driven away while in charge of the
mails on account of his political affiliations. An assistant superintendent
of the Railway Mail Service investigated this case and reported that the
messenger had disappeared from his post, leaving his work to be performed
by a substitute. The Postmaster-General thinks this case is sufficiently
suggestive to justify him in recommending that a more severe punishment
should be provided for the offense of assaulting any person in charge of
the mails or of retarding or otherwise obstructing them by threats of personal
"A very gratifying result is presented in the fact that the deficiency
of this Department during the last fiscal year was reduced to $4,081,790.18,
as against $6,169,938.88 of the preceding year. The difference can be traced
to the large increase in its ordinary receipts (which greatly exceed the
estimates therefor) and a slight decrease in its expenditures."
The ordinary receipts of the Post-Office Department for the past seven
fiscal years have increased at an average of over 8 per cent per annum,
while the increase of expenditures for the same period has been but about
5.50 per cent per annum, and the decrease of deficiency in the revenues
has been at the rate of nearly 2 per cent per annum.
The report of the Commissioner of Agriculture accompanying this message
will be found one of great interest, marking, as it does, the great progress
of the last century in the variety of products of the soil; increased knowledge
and skill in the labor of producing, saving, and manipulating the same
to prepare them for the use of man; in the improvements in machinery to
aid the agriculturist in his labors, and in a knowledge of those scientific
subjects necessary to a thorough system of economy in agricultural production,
namely, chemistry, botany, entomology, etc. A study of this report by those
interested in agriculture and deriving their support from it will find
it of value in pointing out those articles which are raised in greater
quantity than the needs of the world require, and must sell, therefore,
for less than the cost of production, and those which command a profit
over cost of production because there is not an overproduction.
I call special attention to the need of the Department for a new gallery
for the reception of the exhibits returned from the Centennial Exhibition,
including the exhibits donated by very many foreign nations, and to the
recommendations of the Commissioner of Agriculture generally.
The reports of the District Commissioners and the board of health are
just received--too late to read them and to make recommendations thereon--and
are herewith submitted.
The international exhibition held in Philadelphia this year, in commemoration
of the one hundredth anniversary of American independence, has proven a
great success, and will, no doubt, be of enduring advantage to the country.
It has shown the great progress in the arts, sciences, and mechanical skill
made in a single century, and demonstrated that we are but little behind
older nations in any one branch, while in some we scarcely have a rival.
It has served, too, not only to bring peoples and products of skill and
labor from all parts of the world together, but in bringing together people
from all sections of our own country, which must prove a great benefit
in the information imparted and pride of country engendered.
It has been suggested by scientists interested in and connected with
the Smithsonian Institution, in a communication herewith, that the Government
exhibit be removed to the capital and a suitable building be erected or
purchased for its accommodation as a permanent exhibit. I earnestly recommend
this; and believing that Congress would second this view, I directed that
all Government exhibits at the Centennial Exhibition should remain where
they are, except such as might be injured by remaining in a building not
intended as a protection in inclement weather, or such as may be wanted
by the Department furnishing them, until the question of permanent exhibition
is acted on.
Although the moneys appropriated by Congress to enable the participation
of the several Executive Departments in the International Exhibition of
1876 were not sufficient to carry out the undertaking to the full extent
at first contemplated, it gives me pleasure to refer to the very efficient
and creditable manner in which the board appointed from these several Departments
to provide an exhibition on the part of the Government have discharged
their duties with the funds placed at their command. Without a precedent
to guide them in the preparation of such a display, the success of their
labors was amply attested by the sustained attention which the contents
of the Government building attracted during the period of the exhibition
from both foreign and native visitors.
I am strongly impressed with the value of the collection made by the
Government for the purposes of the exhibition, illustrating, as it does,
the mineral resources of the country, the statistical and practical evidences
of our growth as a nation, and the uses of the mechanical arts and the
applications of applied science in the administration of the affairs of
Many nations have voluntarily contributed their exhibits to the United
States to increase the interest in any permanent exhibition Congress may
provide for. For this act of generosity they should receive the thanks
of the people, and I respectfully suggest that a resolution of Congress
to that effect be adopted.
The attention of Congress can not be too earnestly called to the necessity
of throwing some greater safeguard over the method of choosing and declaring
the election of a President. Under the present system there seems to be
no provided remedy for contesting the election in any one State. The remedy
is partially, no doubt, in the enlightenment of electors. The compulsory
support of the free school and the disfranchisement of all who can not
read and write the English language, after a fixed probation, would meet
my hearty approval. I would not make this apply, however, to those already
voters, but I would to all becoming so after the expiration of the probation
fixed upon. Foreigners coming to this country to become citizens, who are
educated in their own language, should acquire the requisite knowledge
of ours during the necessary residence to obtain naturalization. If they
did not take interest enough in our language to acquire sufficient knowledge
of it to enable them to study the institutions and laws of the country
intelligently, I would not confer upon them the right to make such laws
nor to select those who do.
I append to this message, for convenient reference, a synopsis of administrative
events and of all recommendations to Congress made by me during the last
seven years. Time may show some of these recommendations not to have been
wisely conceived, but I believe the larger part will do no discredit to
the Administration. One of these recommendations met with the united opposition
of one political party in the Senate and with a strong opposition from
the other, namely, the treaty for the annexation of Santo Domingo to the
United States, to which I will specially refer, maintaining, as I do, that
if my views had been concurred in the country would be in a more prosperous
condition to-day, both politically and financially.
Santo Domingo is fertile, and upon its soil may be grown just those
tropical products of which the United States use so much, and which are
produced or prepared for market now by slave labor almost exclusively,
namely, sugar, coffee, dyewoods, mahogany, tropical fruits, tobacco, etc.
About 75 per cent of the exports of Cuba are consumed in the United States.
A large percentage of the exports of Brazil also find the same market.
These are paid for almost exclusively in coin, legislation, particularly
in Cuba, being unfavorable to a mutual exchange of the products of each
country. Flour shipped from the Mississippi River to Havana can pass by
the very entrance to the city on its way to a port in Spain, there pay
a duty fixed upon articles to be reexported, transferred to a Spanish vessel
and brought back almost to the point of starting, paying a second duty,
and still leave a profit over what would be received by direct shipment.
All that is produced in Cuba could be produced in Santo Domingo. Being
a part of the United States, commerce between the island and mainland would
be free. There would be no export duties on her shipments nor import duties
on those coming here. There would be no import duties upon the supplies,
machinery, etc., going from the States. The effect that would have been
produced upon Cuban commerce, with these advantages to a rival, is observable
at a glance. The Cuban question would have been settled long ago in favor
of "free Cuba." Hundreds of American vessels would now be advantageously
used in transporting the valuable woods and other products of the soil
of the island to a market and in carrying supplies and emigrants to it.
The island is but sparsely settled, while it has an area sufficient for
the profitable employment of several millions of people. The soil would
have soon fallen into the hands of United States capitalists. The products
are so valuable in commerce that emigration there would have been encouraged;
the emancipated race of the South would have found there a congenial home,
where their civil rights would not be disputed and where their labor would
be so much sought after that the poorest among them could have found the
means to go. Thus in cases of great oppression and cruelty, such as has
been practiced upon them in many places within the last eleven years, whole
communities would have sought refuge in Santo Domingo. I do not suppose
the whole race would have gone, nor is it desirable that they should go.
Their labor is desirable--indispensable almost--where they now are. But
the possession of this territory would have left the negro "master of the
situation," by enabling him to demand his rights at home on pain of finding
I do not present these views now as a recommendation for a renewal of
the subject of annexation, but I do refer to it to vindicate my previous
action in regard to it.
With the present term of Congress my official life terminates. It is
not probable that public affairs will ever again receive attention from
me further than as a citizen of the Republic, always taking a deep interest
in the honor, integrity, and prosperity of the whole land.