Rutherford B. Hayes
State of the Union Address
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Our heartfelt gratitude is due to the Divine Being who holds in His
hands the destinies of nations for the continued bestowal during the last
year of countless blessings upon our country.
We are at peace with all other nations. Our public credit has greatly
improved, and is perhaps now stronger than ever before. Abundant harvests
have rewarded the labors of those who till the soil, our manufacturing
industries are reviving, and it is believed that general prosperity, which
has been so long anxiously looked for, is at last within our reach.
The enjoyment of health by our people generally has, however, been interrupted
during the past season by the prevalence of a fatal pestilence (the yellow
fever) in some portions of the Southern States, creating an emergency which
called for prompt and extraordinary measures of relief. The disease appeared
as an epidemic at New Orleans and at other places on the Lower Mississippi
soon after midsummer. It was rapidly spread by fugitives from the infected
cities and towns, and did not disappear until early in November. The States
of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee have suffered severely. About
100,000 cases are believed to have occurred, of which about 20,000, according
to intelligent estimates, proved fatal. It is impossible to estimate with
any approach to accuracy the loss to the country occasioned by this epidemic
It is to be reckoned by the hundred millions of dollars. The suffering
and destitution that resulted excited the deepest sympathy in all parts
of the Union. Physicians and nurses hastened from every quarter to the
assistance of the afflicted communities. Voluntary contributions of money
and supplies, in every needed form, were speedily and generously furnished.
The Government was able to respond in some measure to the call for help,
by providing tents, medicines, and food for the sick and destitute, the
requisite directions for the purpose being given in the confident expectation
that this action of the Executive would receive the sanction of Congress.
About 1,800 tents, and rations of the value of about $25,000, were sent
to cities and-towns which applied for them, full details of which will
be furnished to Congress by the proper Department.
The fearful spread of this pestilence has awakened a very general public
sentiment in favor of national sanitary administration, which shall not
only control quarantine, but have the sanitary supervision of internal
commerce in times of epidemics, and hold an advisory relation to the State
and municipal health authorities, with power to deal with whatever endangers
the public health, and which the municipal and State authorities are unable
to regulate. The national quarantine act approved April 29, 1878, which
was passed too late in the last session of Congress to provide the means
for carrying it into practical operation during the past season, is a step
in the direction here indicated. In view of the necessity for the most
effective measures, by quarantine and otherwise, for the protection of
our seaports and the country generally from this and other epidemics, it
is recommended that Congress give to the whole subject early and careful
The permanent pacification of the country by the complete protection
of all citizens in every civil and political right continues to be of paramount
interest with the great body of our people. Every step in this direction
is welcomed with public approval, and every interruption of steady and
uniform progress to the desired consummation awakens general uneasiness
and widespread condemnation. The recent Congressional elections have furnished
a direct and trustworthy test of the advance thus far made in the practical
establishment of the right of suffrage secured by the Constitution to the
liberated race in the Southern States. All disturbing influences, real
or imaginary, had been removed from all of these States.
The three constitutional amendments which conferred freedom and equality
of civil and political rights upon the colored people of the South were
adopted by the concurrent action of the great body of good citizens who
maintained the authority of the National Government and the integrity and
perpetuity of the Union at such a cost of treasure and life, as a wise
and necessary embodiment in the organic law of the just results of the
war. The people of the former slaveholding States accepted these results,
and gave in every practicable form assurances that the thirteenth, fourteenth,
and fifteenth amendments, and laws passed in pursuance thereof, should
in good faith be enforced, rigidly and impartially, in letter and spirit,
to the end that the humblest citizen, without distinction of race or color,
should under them receive full and equal protection in person and property
and in political rights and privileges. By these constitutional amendments
the southern section of the Union obtained a large increase of political
power in Congress and in the electoral college, and the country justly
expected that elections would proceed, as to the enfranchised race, upon
the same circumstances of legal and constitutional freedom and protection
which obtained in all the other States of the Union. The friends of law
and order looked forward to the conduct of these elections as offering
to the general judgment of the country an important opportunity to measure
the degree in which the right of suffrage could be exercised by the colored
people and would be respected by their fellow-citizens; but a more general
enjoyment of freedom of suffrage by the colored people and a more just
and generous protection of that freedom by the communities of which they
form a part were generally anticipated than the record of the elections
discloses. In some of those States in which the colored people have been
unable to make their opinions felt in the elections the result is mainly
due to influences not easily measured or remedied by legal protection;
but in the States of Louisiana and South Carolina at large, and in some
particular Congressional districts outside of those States, the records
of the elections seem to compel the conclusion that the rights of the colored
voters have been overridden and their participation in the elections not
permitted to be either general or free.
It will be for the Congress for which these elections were held to make
such examinations into their conduct as may be appropriate to determine
the validity of the claims of members to their seats. In the meanwhile
it becomes the duty of the executive and judicial departments of the Government,
each in its province, to inquire into and punish violations of the laws
of the United States which have occurred. I can but repeat what I said
in this connection in my last message, that whatever authority rests with
me to this end I shall not hesitate to put forth; and I am unwilling to
forego a renewed appeal to the legislatures, the courts, the executive
authorities, and the people of the States where these wrongs have been
perpetrated to give their assistance toward bringing to justice the offenders
and preventing a repetition of the crimes. No means within my power will
be spared to obtain a full and fair investigation of the alleged crimes
and to secure the conviction and just punishment of the guilty.
It is to be observed that the principal appropriation made for the Department
of Justice at the last session contained the following clause:
And for defraying the expenses which may be incurred in the enforcement
of the act approved February 28, 1871, entitled "An act to amend an act
approved May 31, 1870, entitled 'An act to enforce the rights of citizens
of the United States to vote in the several States of this Union, and for
other purposes,'" or any acts amendatory thereof or supplementary thereto.
It is the opinion of the Attorney-General that the expenses of these
proceedings will largely exceed the amount which was thus provided, and
I rely confidently upon Congress to make adequate appropriations to enable
the executive department to enforce the laws.
I respectfully urge upon your attention that the Congressional elections,
in every district, in a very important sense, are justly a matter of political
interest and concern throughout the whole country. Each State, every political
party, is entitled to the share of power which is conferred by the legal
and constitutional suffrage. It is the right of every citizen possessing
the qualifications prescribed by law to east one unintimidated ballot and
to have his ballot honestly counted. So long as the exercise of this power
and the enjoyment of this right are common and equal, practically as well
as formally, submission to the results of the suffrage will be accorded
loyally and cheerfully, and all the departments of Government will feel
the true vigor of the popular will thus expressed. No temporary or administrative
interests of Government, however urgent or weighty, will ever displace
the zeal of our people in defense of the primary rights of citizenship.
They understand that the protection of liberty requires the maintenance
in full vigor of the manly methods of free speech, free press, and free
suffrage, and will sustain the full authority of Government to enforce
the laws which are framed to preserve these inestimable rights. The material
progress and welfare of the States depend on the protection afforded to
their citizens. There can be no peace without such protection, no prosperity
without peace, and the whole country is deeply interested in the growth
and prosperity of all its parts.
While the country has not yet reached complete unity of feeling and
reciprocal confidence between the communities so lately and so seriously
estranged, I feel an absolute assurance that the tendencies are in that
direction, and with increasing force. The power of public opinion will
override all political prejudices and all sectional or State attachments
in demanding that all over our wide territory the name and character of
citizen of the United States shall mean one and the same thing and carry
with them unchallenged security and respect.
Our relations with other countries continue peaceful. Our neutrality
in contests between foreign powers has been maintained and respected.
The Universal Exposition held at Paris during the past summer has been
attended by large numbers of our citizens. The brief period allowed for
the preparation and arrangement of the contributions of our citizens to
this great exposition was well employed in energetic and judicious efforts
to overcome this disadvantage. These efforts, led and directed by the commissioner-general,
were remarkably successful, and the exhibition of the products of American
industry was creditable and gratifying in scope and character. The reports
of the United States commissioners, giving its results in detail, will
be duly laid before you. Our participation in this international competition
for the favor and the trade of the world may be expected to produce useful
and important results--in promoting intercourse, friendship, and commerce
with other nations.
In accordance with the provisions of the act of February 28, 1878, three
commissioners were appointed to an international conference on the subject
of adopting a common ratio between gold and silver, for the purpose of
establishing internationally the use of bimetallic money and securing fixity
of relative value between those metals.
Invitations were addressed to the various governments which had expressed
a willingness to participate in its deliberations. The conference held
its meetings in Paris in August last. The report of the commissioners,
herewith submitted, will show its results. No common ratio between gold
and silver could be agreed upon by the conference. The general conclusion
was reached that it is necessary to maintain in the world the monetary
functions of silver as well as of gold, leaving the selection of the use
of one or the other of these two metals, or of both, to be made by each
Congress having appropriated at its last session the sum of $5,500,000
to pay the award of the joint commission at Halifax, if, after correspondence
with the British Government on the subject of the conformity of the award
to the requirements of the treaty and to the terms of the question thereby
submitted to the commission, the President shall deem it his duty to make
the payment, communications upon these points were addressed to the British
Government through the legation of the United States at London. Failing
to obtain the concurrence of the British Government in the views of this
Government respecting the award, I have deemed it my duty to tender the
sum named within the year fixed by the treaty, accompanied by a notice
of the grounds of the payment and a protest against any other construction
of the same. The correspondence upon this subject will be laid before you.
The Spanish Government has officially announced the termination of the
insurrection in Cuba and the restoration of peace throughout that island.
Confident expectations are expressed of a revival of trade and prosperity,
which it is earnestly hoped may prove well rounded. Numerous claims of
American citizens for relief for injuries or restoration of property have
been among the incidents of the long-continued hostilities. Some of these
claims are in process of adjustment by Spain, and the others are promised
early and careful consideration.
The treaty made with Italy in regard to reciprocal consular privileges
has been duly ratified and proclaimed.
No questions of grave importance have arisen with any other of the
The Japanese Government has been desirous of a revision of such parts
of its treaties with foreign powers as relate to commerce, and it is understood
has addressed to each of the treaty powers a request to open negotiations
with that view. The United States Government has been inclined to regard
the matter favorably. Whatever restrictions upon trade with Japan are found
injurious to that people can not but affect injuriously nations holding
commercial intercourse with them. Japan, after a long period of seclusion,
has within the past few years made rapid strides in the path of enlightenment
and progress, and, not unreasonably, is looking forward to the time when
her relations with the nations of Europe and America shall be assimilated
to those which they hold with each other. A treaty looking to this end
has been made, which will be submitted for the consideration of the Senate.
After an interval of several years the Chinese Government has again
sent envoys to the United States. They have been received, and a permanent
legation is now established here by that Government. It is not doubted
that this step will be of advantage to both nations in promoting friendly
relations and removing causes of difference.
The treaty with the Samoan Islands, having been duly ratified and accepted
on the part of both Governments, is now in operation, and a survey and
soundings of the harbor of Pago-Pago have been made by a naval vessel of
the United States, with a view of its occupation as a naval station if
found desirable to the service.
Since the resumption of diplomatic relations with Mexico correspondence
has been opened and still continues between the two Governments upon the
various questions which at one time seemed to endanger their relations.
While no formal agreement has been reached as to the troubles on the border,
much has been done to repress and diminish them. The effective force of
United States troops on the Rio Grande, by a strict and faithful compliance
with instructions, has done much to remove the sources of dispute, and
it is now understood that a like force of Mexican troops on the other side
of the river is also making an energetic movement against the marauding
Indian tribes. This Government looks with the greatest satisfaction upon
every evidence of strength in the national authority of Mexico, and upon
every effort put forth to prevent or to punish incursions upon our territory.
Reluctant to assume any action or attitude in the control of these incursions
by military movements across the border not imperatively demanded for the
protection of the lives and property of our own citizens, I shall take
the earliest opportunity consistent with the proper discharge of this plain
duty to recognize the ability of the Mexican Government to restrain effectively
violations of our territory. It is proposed to hold next year an international
exhibition in Mexico, and it is believed that the display of the agricultural
and manufacturing products of the two nations will tend to better understanding
and increased commercial intercourse between their people.
With Brazil and the Republics of Central and South America some steps
have been taken toward the development of closer commercial intercourse.
Diplomatic relations have been resumed with Colombia and with Bolivia.
A boundary question between the Argentine Republic and Paraguay has been
submitted by those Governments for arbitration to the President of the
United States, and I have, after careful examination, given a decision
A naval expedition up the Amazon and Madeira rivers has brought back
information valuable both for scientific and commercial purposes. A like
expedition is about visiting the coast of Africa and the Indian Ocean.
The reports of diplomatic and consular officers in relation to the development
of our foreign commerce have furnished many facts that have proved of public
interest and have stimulated to practical exertion the enterprise of our
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury furnishes a detailed statement
of the operations of that Department of the Government and of the condition
of the public finances.
The ordinary revenues from all sources for the fiscal year ended June
30, 1878, were $257,763,878.70; the ordinary expenditures for the same
period were $236,964,326.80, leaving a surplus revenue for the year of
$20,799,551.90. The receipts for the present fiscal year, ending June 30,
1879, actual and estimated, are as follows: Actual receipts for the first
quarter, commencing July 1, 1878, $73,389,743.43; estimated receipts for
the remaining three quarters of the year, $191,110,256.57; total receipts
for the current fiscal year, actual and estimated, $264,500,000. The expenditures
for the same period will be, actual and estimated, as follows: For the
quarter commencing July 1, 1878, actual expenditures, $73,344,573.27; and
for the remaining three quarters of the year the expenditures are estimated
at $166,755,426.73, making the total expenditures $240,100,000, and leaving
an estimated surplus revenue for the year ending June 30, 1879, of $24,400,000.
The total receipts during the next fiscal year, ending June 30, 1880, estimated
according to existing laws, will be $264,500,000, and the estimated ordinary
expenditures for the same period will be $236,320,412.68, leaving a surplus
of $28,179,587.32 for that year.
In the foregoing statements of expenditures, actual and estimated, no
amount is allowed for the sinking fund provided for by the act approved
February 25, 1862, which requires that 1 per cent of the entire debt of
the United States shall be purchased or paid within each fiscal year, to
be set apart as a sinking fund. There has been, however, a substantial
compliance with the conditions of the law. By its terms the public debt
should have been reduced between 1862 and the close of the last fiscal
year $518,361,806.28; the actual reduction of the ascertained debt in that
period has been $720,644,739.61, being in excess of the reduction required
by the sinking fund act $202,282,933.33.
The amount of the public debt, less cash in the Treasury, November 1,
1878, was $2,024,200,083.18 a reduction since the same date last year of
The progress made during the last year in refunding the public debt
at lower rates of interest is very gratifying. The amount of 4 per cent
bonds sold during the present year prior to November 23, 1878, is $100,270,900,
and 6 per cent bonds, commonly known as five-twenties, to an equal amount,
have been or will be redeemed as calls mature.
It has been the policy of the Department to place the 4 per cent bonds
within easy reach of every citizen who desires to invest his savings, whether
small or great, in these securities. The Secretary of the Treasury recommends
that the law be so modified that small sums may be invested, and that through
the post-offices or other agents of the Government the freest opportunity
may be given in all parts of the country for such investments.
The best mode suggested is that the Department be authorized to issue
certificates of deposit, of the denomination of $10, bearing interest at
the rate of 3.65 per cent per annum and convertible at any time within
one year after their issue into the 4 per cent bonds authorized by the
refunding act, and to be issued only in exchange for United States notes
sent to the Treasury by mail or otherwise. Such a provision of law, supported
by suitable regulations, would enable any person readily, without cost
or risk, to convert his money into an interest-bearing security of the
United States, and the money so received could be applied to the redemption
of 6 per cent bonds.
The coinage of gold during the last fiscal year was $52,798,980. The
coinage of silver dollars under the act passed February 28, 1878, amounted
on the 23d of November, 1878, to $19,814,550, of which amount $4,984,947
are in circulation, and the balance, $14,829.,603, is still in the possession
of the Government.
With views unchanged with regard to the act under which the coinage
of silver proceeds, it has been the purpose of the Secretary faithfully
to execute the law and to afford a fair trial to the measure.
In the present financial condition of the country I am persuaded that
the welfare of legitimate business and industry of every description will
be best promoted by abstaining from all attempts to make radical changes
in the existing financial legislation. Let it be understood that during
the coming year the business of the country will be undisturbed by governmental
interference with the laws affecting it, and we may confidently expect
that the resumption of specie payments, which will take place at the appointed
time, will be successfully and easily maintained, and that it will be followed
by a healthful and enduring revival of business prosperity.
Let the healing influence of time, the inherent energies of our people,
and the boundless resources of our country have a fair opportunity, and
relief from present difficulties will surely follow.
The report of the Secretary of War shows that the Army has been well
and economically supplied; that our small force has been actively employed
and has faithfully performed all the service required of it. The morale
of the Army has improved and the number of desertions has materially decreased
during the year.
The Secretary recommends--
1. That a pension be granted to the widow of the late Lieutenant Henry
H. Benner, Eighteenth Infantry, who lost his life by yellow fever while
in command of the steamer. J.M. Chambers, sent with supplies for the relief
of sufferers in the South from that disease.
2. The establishment of the annuity scheme for the benefit of the heirs
of deceased officers, as suggested by the Paymaster-General.
3. The adoption by Congress of a plan for the publication of the records
of the War of the Rebellion, now being prepared for that purpose.
4. The increase of the extra per diem of soldier teachers employed in
post schools, and liberal appropriations for the erection of buildings
for schools and libraries at the different posts.
5. The repeal or amendment of the act of June 18, 1878, forbidding the
use of the Army "as a posse comitatus, or otherwise, for the purpose of
executing the laws, except in such cases and under such circumstances as
such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution
or by act of Congress."
6. The passage of a joint resolution of Congress legalizing the issues
of rations, tents, and medicines which were made for the relief of sufferers
from yellow fever.
7. That provision be made for the erection of a fireproof building for
the preservation of certain valuable records, now constantly exposed to
destruction by fire.
These recommendations are all commended to your favorable consideration.
The report of the Secretary of the Navy shows that the Navy has improved
during the last fiscal year. Work has been done on seventy-five vessels,
ten of which have been thoroughly repaired and made ready for sea. Two
others are in rapid progress toward completion. The total expenditures
of the year, including the amount appropriated for the deficiencies of
the previous year, were $17,468,392.65. The actual expenses chargeable
to the year, exclusive of these deficiencies, were $13,306,914.09, or $767,199.18
less than those of the previous year, and $4,928,677.74 less than the expenses
including the deficiencies. The estimates for the fiscal year ending June
30, 1880, are $14,562,381.45, exceeding the appropriations of the present
year only $33,949.75, which excess is occasioned by the demands of the
Naval Academy and the Marine Corps, as explained in the Secretary's report.
The appropriations for the present fiscal year are $14,528,431.70, which,
in the opinion of the Secretary, will be ample for all the current expenses
of the Department during the year. The amount drawn from the Treasury from
July 1 to November 1, 1878, is $4,740,544.14, of which $70,980.75 has been
refunded, leaving as the expenditure for that period $4,669,563.39, or
$520,899.24 less than the corresponding period of the last fiscal year.
The report of the Postmaster-General embraces a detailed statement of
the operations of the Post-Office Department. The expenditures of that
Department for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1878, were $34,165,084.49.
The receipts, including sales of stamps, money-order business, and official
stamps, were $29,277,516.95. The sum of $290,436.90, included in the foregoing
statement of expenditures, is chargeable to preceding years, so that the
actual expenditures for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1878, are $33,874,647.59.
The amount drawn from the Treasury on appropriations, in addition to the
revenues of the Department, was $5,307,652.82. The expenditures for the
fiscal year ending June 30, 1880, are estimated at $36,571,900 and the
receipts from all sources at $30,664,023.90, leaving a deficiency to be
appropriated out of the Treasury of $5,907,876.10. The report calls attention
to the fact that the compensation of postmasters and of railroads for carrying
the mail is regulated by law, and that the failure of Congress to appropriate
the amounts required for these purposes does not relieve the Government
of responsibility, but necessarily increases the deficiency bills which
Congress will be called upon to pass.
In providing for the postal service the following questions are presented:
Should Congress annually appropriate a sum for its expenses largely in
excess of its revenues, or should such rates of postage be established
as will make the Department self-sustaining? Should the postal service
be reduced by excluding from the mails matter which does not pay its way?
Should the number of post routes be diminished? Should other methods be
adopted which will increase the revenues or diminish the expenses of the
The International Postal Congress which met at Paris May 1, 1878, and
continued in session until June 4 of the same year, was composed of delegates
from nearly all the civilized countries of the world. It adopted a new
convention (to take the place of the treaty concluded at Berne October
9, 1874), which goes into effect on the 1st of April, 1879, between the
countries whose delegates have signed it. It was ratified and approved,
by and with the consent of the President, August 13, 1878. A synopsis of
this Universal Postal Convention will be found in the report of the Postmaster-General,
and the full text in the appendix thereto. In its origin the Postal Union
comprised twenty-three countries, having a population of 350,000,000 people.
On the 1st of April next it will comprise forty-three countries and colonies,
with a population of more than 650,000,000 people, and will soon, by the
accession of the few remaining countries and colonies which maintain organized
postal services, constitute in fact as well as in name, as its new title
indicates, a universal union, regulating, upon a uniform basis of cheap
postage rates, the postal intercourse between all civilized nations.
Some embarrassment has arisen out of the conflict between the customs
laws of this country and the provisions of the Postal Convention in regard
to the transmission of foreign books and newspapers to this country by
mail. It is hoped that Congress will be able to devise some means of reconciling
the difficulties which have thus been created, so as to do justice to all
The business of the Supreme Court and of the courts in many of the circuits
has increased to such an extent during the past year that additional legislation
is imperative to relieve and prevent the delay of justice and possible
oppression to suitors which is thus occasioned. The encumbered condition
of these dockets is presented anew in the report of the Attorney-General,
and the remedy suggested is earnestly urged for Congressional action. The
creation of additional circuit judges, as proposed, would afford a complete
remedy, and would involve an expense, at the present rate of salaries of
not more than $60,000 a year.
The annual reports of the Secretary of the Interior and of the Commissioner
of Indian Affairs present an elaborate account of the present condition
of the Indian tribes and of that branch of the public service which ministers
to their interests. While the conduct of the Indians generally has been
orderly and their relations with their neighbors friendly and peaceable,
two local disturbances have occurred, which were deplorable in their character,
but remained, happily, confined to a comparatively small number of Indians.
The discontent among the Bannocks, which led first to some acts of violence
on the part of some members of the tribe and finally to the outbreak, appears
to have been caused by an insufficiency of food on the reservation, and
this insufficiency to have been owing to the inadequacy of the appropriations
made by Congress to the wants of the Indians at a time when the Indians
were prevented from supplying the deficiency by hunting. After an arduous
pursuit by the troops of the United States, and several engagements, the
hostile Indians were reduced to subjection, and the larger part of them
surrendered themselves as prisoners. In this connection I desire to call
attention to the recommendation made by the Secretary of the Interior,
that a sufficient fund be placed at the disposal of the Executive, to be
used, with proper accountability, at discretion, in sudden emergencies
of the Indian service.
The other case of disturbance was that of a band of Northern Cheyennes,
who suddenly left their reservation in the Indian Territory and marched
rapidly through the States of Kansas and Nebraska in the direction of their
old hunting grounds, committing murders and other crimes on their way.
From documents accompanying the report of the Secretary of the Interior
it appears that this disorderly band was as fully supplied with the necessaries
of life as the 4,700 other Indians who remained quietly on the reservation,
and that the disturbance was caused by men of a restless and mischievous
disposition among the Indians themselves. Almost the whole of this band
have surrendered to the military authorities; and it is a gratifying fact
that when some of them had taken refuge in the camp of the Red Cloud Sioux,
with whom they had been in friendly relations, the Sioux held them as prisoners
and readily gave them up to the officers of the United States, thus giving
new proof of the loyal spirit which, alarming rumors to the contrary notwithstanding,
they have uniformly shown ever since the wishes they expressed at the council
of September, 1877, had been complied with.
Both the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of War unite in
the recommendation that provision be made by Congress for the organization
of a corps of mounted "Indian auxiliaries," to be under the control of
the Army and to be used for the purpose of keeping the Indians on their
reservations and preventing or repressing disturbance on their part. I
earnestly concur in this recommendation. It is believed that the organization
of such a body of Indian cavalry, receiving a moderate pay from the Government,
would considerably weaken the restless element among the Indians by withdrawing
from it a number of young men and giving them congenial employment under
the Government, it being a matter of experience that Indians in our service
almost without exception are faithful in the performance of the duties
assigned to them. Such an organization would materially aid the Army in
the accomplishment of a task for which its numerical strength is sometimes
But while the employment of force for the prevention or repression of
Indian troubles is of occasional necessity, and wise preparation should
be made to that end, greater reliance must be placed on humane and civilizing
agencies for the ultimate solution of what is called the Indian problem.
It may be very difficult and require much patient effort to curb the unruly
spirit of the savage Indian to the restraints of civilized life, but experience
shows that it is not impossible. Many of the tribes which are now quiet
and orderly and self-supporting were once as savage as any that at present
roam over the plains or in the mountains of the far West, and were then
considered inaccessible to civilizing influences. It may be impossible
to raise them fully up to the level of the white population of the United
States; but we should not forget that they are the aborigines of the country,
and called the soil their own on which our people have grown rich, powerful,
and happy. We owe it to them as a moral duty to help them in attaining
at least that degree of civilization which they may be able to reach. It
is not only our duty, it is also our interest to do so. Indians who have
become agriculturists or herdsmen, and feel an interest in property, will
thenceforth cease to be a warlike and disturbing element. It is also a
well-authenticated fact that Indians are apt to be peaceable and quiet
when their children are at school, and I am gratified to know, from the
expressions of Indians themselves and from many concurring reports, that
there is a steadily increasing desire, even among Indians belonging to
comparatively wild tribes, to have their children educated. I invite attention
to the reports of the Secretary of the Interior and the Commissioner of
Indian Affairs touching the experiment recently inaugurated, in taking
fifty Indian children, boys and girls, from different tribes, to the Hampton
Normal Agricultural Institute in Virginia, where they are to receive an
elementary English education and training in agriculture and other useful
works, to be returned to their tribes, after the completed course, as interpreters,
instructors, and examples. It is reported that the officer charged with
the selection of those children might have had thousands of young Indians
sent with him had it been possible to make provision for them. I agree
with the Secretary of the Interior in saying that "the result of this interesting
experiment, if favorable, may be destined to become an important factor
in the advancement of civilization among the Indians."
The question whether a change in the control of the Indian service should
be made was at the last session of Congress referred to a committee for
inquiry and report. Without desiring to anticipate that report, I venture
to express the hope that in the decision of so important a question the
views expressed above may not be lost sight of, and that the decision,
whatever it may be, will arrest further agitation of this subject, such
agitation being apt to produce a disturbing effect upon the service, as
well as on the Indians themselves.
In the enrollment of the bill making appropriations for sundry civil
expenses, at the last session of Congress, that portion which provided
for the continuation of the Hot Springs Commission was omitted. As the
commission had completed the work of taking testimony on the many conflicting
claims, the suspension of their labors, before determining the rights of
claimants, threatened for a time to embarrass the interests, not only of
the Government, but also of a large number of the citizens of Hot Springs,
who were waiting for final action on their claims before beginning contemplated
improvements. In order to prevent serious difficulties, which were apprehended,
and at the solicitation of many leading citizens of Hot Springs and others
interested in the welfare of the town, the Secretary of the Interior was
authorized to request the late commissioners to take charge of the records
of their proceedings and to perform such work as could properly be done
by them under such circumstances to facilitate the future adjudication
of the claims at an early day and to preserve the status of the claimants
until their rights should be finally determined. The late commissioners
complied with that request, and report that the testimony in all the cases
has been written out, examined, briefed, and so arranged as to facilitate
an early settlement when authorized by law. It is recommended that the
requisite authority be given at as early a day in the session as possible,
and that a fair compensation be allowed the late commissioners for the
expense incurred and the labor performed by them since the 25th of June
I invite the attention of Congress to the recommendations made by the
Secretary of the Interior with regard to the preservation of the timber
on the public lands of the United States. The protection of the public
property is one of the first duties of the Government. The Department of
the Interior should therefore be enabled by sufficient appropriations to
enforce the laws in that respect. But this matter appears still more important
as a question of public economy. The rapid destruction of our forests is
an evil fraught with the gravest consequences, especially in the mountainous
districts, where the rocky slopes, once denuded of their trees, will remain
so forever. There the injury, once done, can not be repaired. I fully concur
with the Secretary of the Interior in the opinion that for this reason
legislation touching the public timber in the mountainous States and Territories
of the West should be especially well considered, and that existing laws
in which the destruction of the forests is not sufficiently guarded against
should be speedily modified. A general law concerning this important subject
appears to me to be a matter of urgent public necessity.
From the organization of the Government the importance of encouraging
by all possible means the increase of our agricultural productions has
been acknowledged and urged upon the attention of Congress and the people
as the surest and readiest means of increasing our substantial and enduring
The words of Washington are as applicable to-day as when, in his eighth
annual message, he said:
It will not be doubted that, with reference either to individual or
national welfare, agriculture is of primary importance. In proportion as
nations advance in population and other circumstances of maturity this
truth becomes more apparent, and renders the cultivation of the soil more
and more an object of public patronage. Institutions for promoting it grow
up, supported by the public purse; and to what object can it be dedicated
with greater propriety? Among the means which have been employed to this
end none have been attended with greater success than the establishment
of boards (composed of proper characters) charged with collecting and diffusing
information, and enabled by premiums and small pecuniary aids to encourage
and assist a spirit of discovery and improvement. This species of establishment
contributes doubly to the increase of improvement, by stimulating to enterprise
and experiment, and by drawing to a common center the results everywhere
of individual skill and observation and spreading them thence over the
whole nation. Experience accordingly hath shewn that they are very cheap
instruments of immense national benefits.
The preponderance of the agricultural over any other interest in the
United States entitles it to all the consideration claimed for it by Washington.
About one-half of the population of the United States is engaged in agriculture.
The value of the agricultural products of the United States for the year
1878 is estimated at $3,000,000,000. The exports of agricultural products
for the year 1877, as appears from the report of the Bureau of Statistics,
were $524,000,000. The great extent of our country, with its diversity
of soil and climate, enables us to produce within our own borders and by
our own labor not only the necessaries, but most of the luxuries, that
are consumed in civilized countries. Yet, notwithstanding our advantages
of soil, climate, and inter-communication, it appears from the statistical
statements in the report of the Commissioner of Agriculture that we import
annually from foreign lands many millions of dollars worth of agricultural
products which could be raised in our own country.
Numerous questions arise in the practice of advanced agriculture which
can only be answered by experiments, often costly and sometimes fruitless,
which are beyond the means of private individuals and are a just and proper
charge on the whole nation for the benefit of the nation. It is good policy,
especially in times of depression and uncertainty in other business pursuits,
with a vast area of uncultivated, and hence unproductive, territory, wisely
opened to homestead settlement, to encourage by every proper and legitimate
means the occupation and tillage of the soil. The efforts of the Department
of Agriculture to stimulate old and introduce new agricultural industries,
to improve the quality and increase the quantity of our products, to determine
the value of old or establish the importance of new methods of culture,
are worthy of your careful and favorable consideration, and assistance
by such appropriations of money and enlargement of facilities as may seem
to be demanded by the present favorable conditions for the growth and rapid
development of this important interest.
The abuse of animals in transit is widely attracting public attention.
A national convention of societies specially interested in the subject
has recently met at Baltimore, and the facts developed, both in regard
to cruelties to animals and the effect of such cruelties upon the public
health, would seem to demand the careful consideration of Congress and
the enactment of more efficient laws for the prevention of these abuses.
The report of the Commissioner of the Bureau of Education shows very
gratifying progress throughout the country in all the interests committed
to the care of this important office. The report is especially encouraging
with respect to the extension of the advantages of the common-school system
in sections of the country where the general enjoyment of the privilege
of free schools is not yet attained.
To education more than to any other agency we are to look as the resource
for the advancement of the people in the requisite knowledge and appreciation
of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and I desire to repeat
the suggestion contained in my former message in behalf of the enactment
of appropriate measures by Congress for the purpose of supplementing with
national aid the local systems of education in the several States.
Adequate accommodations for the great library, which is overgrowing
the capacity of the rooms now occupied at the Capitol, should be provided
without further delay. This invaluable collection of books, manuscripts,
and illustrative art has grown to such proportions, in connection with
the copyright system of the country, as to demand the prompt and careful
attention of Congress to save it from injury in its present crowded and
insufficient quarters. As this library is national in its character, and
must from the nature of the case increase even more rapidly in the future
than in the past, it can not be doubted that the people will sanction any
wise expenditure to preserve it and to enlarge its usefulness.
The appeal of the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the means
to organize, exhibit, and make available for the public benefit the articles
now stored away belonging to the National Museum I heartily recommend to
your favorable consideration.
The attention of Congress is again invited to the condition of the river
front of the city of Washington. It is a matter of vital importance to
the health of the residents of the national capital, both temporary and
permanent, that the lowlands in front of the city, now subject to tidal
overflow, should be reclaimed. In their present condition these flats obstruct
the drainage of the city and are a dangerous source of malarial poison.
The reclamation will improve the navigation of the river by restricting,
and consequently deepening, its channel, and is also of importance when
considered in connection with the extension of the public ground and the
enlargement of the park west and south of the Washington Monument. The
report of the board of survey, heretofore ordered by act of Congress, on
the improvement of the harbor of Washington and Georgetown, is respectfully
commended to consideration.
The report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia presents
a detailed statement of the affairs of the District.
The relative expenditures by the United States and the District for
local purposes is contrasted, showing that the expenditures by the people
of the District greatly exceed those of the General Government. The exhibit
is made in connection with estimates for the requisite repair of the defective
pavements and sewers of the city, which is a work of immediate necessity;
and in the same connection a plan is presented for the permanent funding
of the outstanding securities of the District.
The benevolent, reformatory, and penal institutions of the District
are all entitled to the favorable attention of Congress. The Reform School
needs additional buildings and teachers. Appropriations which will place
all of these institutions in a condition to become models of usefulness
and beneficence will be regarded by the country as liberality wisely bestowed.
The Commissioners, with evident justice, request attention to the discrimination
made by Congress against the District in the donation of land for the support
of the public schools, and ask that the same liberality that has been shown
to the inhabitants of the various States and Territories of the United
States may be extended to the District of Columbia.
The Commissioners also invite attention to the damage inflicted upon
public and private interests by the present location of the depots and
switching tracks of the several railroads entering the city, and ask for
legislation looking to their removal. The recommendations and suggestions
contained in the report will, I trust, receive the careful consideration
Sufficient time has, perhaps, not elapsed since the reorganization of
the government of the District under the recent legislation of Congress
for the expression of a confident opinion as to its successful operation,
but the practical results already attained are so satisfactory that the
friends of the new government may well urge upon Congress the wisdom of
its continuance, without essential modification, until by actual experience
its advantages and defects may be more fully ascertained.