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A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents: Polk by Compiled by James D. Richardson

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Under the benignant providence of Almighty God the representatives of
the States and of the people are again brought together to deliberate
for the public good. The gratitude of the nation to the Sovereign
Arbiter of All Human Events should be commensurate with the boundless
blessings which we enjoy.

Peace, plenty, and contentment reign throughout our borders, and our
beloved country presents a sublime moral spectacle to the world.

The troubled and unsettled condition of some of the principal European
powers has had a necessary tendency to check and embarrass trade and to
depress prices throughout all commercial nations, but notwithstanding
these causes, the United States, with their abundant products, have felt
their effects less severely than any other country, and all our great
interests are still prosperous and successful.

In reviewing the great events of the past year and contrasting the
agitated and disturbed state of other countries with our own tranquil
and happy condition, we may congratulate ourselves that we are the most
favored people on the face of the earth. While the people of other
countries are struggling to establish free institutions, under which man
may govern himself, we are in the actual enjoyment of them--a rich
inheritance from our fathers. While enlightened nations of Europe are
convulsed and distracted by civil war or intestine strife, we settle all
our political controversies by the peaceful exercise of the rights of
freemen at the ballot box.

The great republican maxim, so deeply engraven on the hearts of our
people, that the will of the majority, constitutionally expressed, shall
prevail, is our sure safeguard against force and violence. It is a
subject of just pride that our fame and character as a nation continue
rapidly to advance in the estimation of the civilized world.

To our wise and free institutions it is to be attributed that while
other nations have achieved glory at the price of the suffering,
distress, and impoverishment of their people, we have won our honorable
position in the midst of an uninterrupted prosperity and of an
increasing individual comfort and happiness.

I am happy to inform you that our relations with all nations are
friendly and pacific. Advantageous treaties of commerce have been
concluded within the last four years with New Granada, Peru, the Two
Sicilies, Belgium, Hanover, Oldenburg, and Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Pursuing our example, the restrictive system of Great Britain, our
principal foreign customer, has been relaxed, a more liberal commercial
policy has been adopted by other enlightened nations, and our trade has
been greatly enlarged and extended. Our country stands higher in the
respect of the world than at any former period. To continue to occupy
this proud position, it is only necessary to preserve peace and
faithfully adhere to the great and fundamental principle of our foreign
policy of noninterference in the domestic concerns of other nations. We
recognize in all nations the right which we enjoy ourselves, to change
and reform their political institutions according to their own will and
pleasure. Hence we do not look behind existing governments capable of
maintaining their own authority. We recognize all such actual
governments, not only from the dictates of true policy, but from a
sacred regard for the independence of nations. While this is our settled
policy, it does not follow that we can ever be indifferent spectators of
the progress of liberal principles. The Government and people of the
United States hailed with enthusiasm and delight the establishment of
the French Republic, as we now hail the efforts in progress to unite the
States of Germany in a confederation similar in many respects to our own
Federal Union. If the great and enlightened German States, occupying, as
they do, a central and commanding position in Europe, shall succeed in
establishing such a confederated government, securing at the same time
to the citizens of each State local governments adapted to the peculiar
condition of each, with unrestricted trade and intercourse with each
other, it will be an important era in the history of human events.
Whilst it will consolidate and strengthen the power of Germany, it must
essentially promote the cause of peace, commerce, civilization, and
constitutional liberty throughout the world.

With all the Governments on this continent our relations, it is
believed, are now on a more friendly and satisfactory footing than they
have ever been at any former period.

Since the exchange of ratifications of the treaty of peace with Mexico
our intercourse with the Government of that Republic has been of the
most friendly character. The envoy extraordinary and minister
plenipotentiary of the United States to Mexico has been received and
accredited, and a diplomatic representative from Mexico of similar rank
has been received and accredited by this Government. The amicable
relations between the two countries, which had been suspended, have been
happily restored, and are destined, I trust, to be long preserved. The
two Republics, both situated on this continent, and with coterminous
territories, have every motive of sympathy and of interest to bind them
together in perpetual amity.

This gratifying condition of our foreign relations renders it
unnecessary for me to call your attention more specifically to them.

It has been my constant aim and desire to cultivate peace and commerce
with all nations. Tranquillity at home and peaceful relations abroad
constitute the true permanent policy of our country. War, the scourge of
nations, sometimes becomes inevitable, but is always to be avoided when
it can be done consistently with the rights and honor of a nation.

One of the most important results of the war into which we were recently
forced with a neighboring nation is the demonstration it has afforded of
the military strength of our country. Before the late war with Mexico
European and other foreign powers entertained imperfect and erroneous
views of our physical strength as a nation and of our ability to
prosecute war, and especially a war waged out of our own country. They
saw that our standing Army on the peace establishment did not exceed
10,000 men. Accustomed themselves to maintain in peace large standing
armies for the protection of thrones against their own subjects, as well
as against foreign enemies, they had not conceived that it was possible
for a nation without such an army, well disciplined and of long service,
to wage war successfully. They held in low repute our militia, and were
far from regarding them as an effective force, unless it might be for
temporary defensive operations when invaded on our own soil. The events
of the late war with Mexico have not only undeceived them, but have
removed erroneous impressions which prevailed to some extent even among
a portion of our own countrymen. That war has demonstrated that upon the
breaking out of hostilities not anticipated, and for which no previous
preparation had been made, a volunteer army of citizen soldiers equal to
veteran troops, and in numbers equal to any emergency, can in a short
period be brought into the field. Unlike what would have occurred in any
other country, we were under no necessity of resorting to drafts or
conscriptions. On the contrary, such was the number of volunteers who
patriotically tendered their services that the chief difficulty was
in making selections and determining who should be disappointed and
compelled to remain at home. Our citizen soldiers are unlike those
drawn from the population of any other country. They are composed
indiscriminately of all professions and pursuits--of farmers, lawyers,
physicians, merchants, manufacturers, mechanics, and laborers--and this
not only among the officers, but the private soldiers in the ranks.
Our citizen soldiers are unlike those of any other country in other
respects. They are armed, and have been accustomed from their youth up
to handle and use firearms, and a large proportion of them, especially
in the Western and more newly settled States, are expert marksmen. They
are men who have a reputation to maintain at home by their good conduct
in the field. They are intelligent, and there is an individuality of
character which is found in the ranks of no other army. In battle each
private man, as well as every officer, fights not only for his country,
but for glory and distinction among his fellow-citizens when he shall
return to civil life.

The war with Mexico has demonstrated not only the ability of the
Government to organize a numerous army upon a sudden call, but also to
provide it with all the munitions and necessary supplies with dispatch,
convenience, and ease, and to direct its operations with efficiency. The
strength of our institutions has not only been displayed in the valor
and skill of our troops engaged in active service in the field, but in
the organization of those executive branches which were charged with the
general direction and conduct of the war. While too great praise can not
be bestowed upon the officers and men who fought our battles, it would
be unjust to withhold from those officers necessarily stationed at home,
who were charged with the duty of furnishing the Army in proper time and
at proper places with all the munitions of war and other supplies so
necessary to make it efficient, the commendation to which they are
entitled. The credit due to this class of our officers is the greater
when it is considered that no army in ancient or modern times was ever
better appointed or provided than our Army in Mexico. Operating in an
enemy's country, removed 2,000 miles from the seat of the Federal
Government, its different corps spread over a vast extent of territory,
hundreds and even thousands of miles apart from each other, nothing
short of the untiring vigilance and extraordinary energy of these
officers could have enabled them to provide the Army at all points and
in proper season with all that was required for the most efficient

It is but an act of justice to declare that the officers in charge of
the several executive bureaus, all under the immediate eye and
supervision of the Secretary of War, performed their respective duties
with ability, energy, and efficiency. They have reaped less of the glory
of the war, not having been personally exposed to its perils in battle,
than their companions in arms; but without their forecast, efficient
aid, and cooperation those in the field would not have been provided
with the ample means they possessed of achieving for themselves and
their country the unfading honors which they have won for both.

When all these facts are considered, it may cease to be a matter of so
much amazement abroad how it happened that our noble Army in Mexico,
regulars and volunteers, were victorious upon every battlefield, however
fearful the odds against them.

The war with Mexico has thus fully developed the capacity of republican
governments to prosecute successfully a just and necessary foreign war
with all the vigor usually attributed to more arbitrary forms of
government. It has been usual for writers on public law to impute to
republics a want of that unity, concentration of purpose, and vigor of
execution which are generally admitted to belong to the monarchical and
aristocratic forms; and this feature of popular government has been
supposed to display itself more particularly in the conduct of a war
carried on in an enemy's territory. The war with Great Britain in 1812
was to a great extent confined within our own limits, and shed but
little light on this subject; but the war which we have just closed by
an honorable peace evinces beyond all doubt that a popular
representative government is equal to any emergency which is likely to
arise in the affairs of a nation.

The war with Mexico has developed most strikingly and conspicuously
another feature in our institutions. It is that without cost to the
Government or danger to our liberties we have in the bosom of our
society of freemen, available in a just and necessary war, virtually a
standing army of 2,000,000 armed citizen soldiers, such as fought the
battles of Mexico. But our military strength does not consist alone in
our capacity for extended and successful operations on land. The Navy is
an important arm of the national defense. If the services of the Navy
were not so brilliant as those of the Army in the late war with Mexico,
it was because they had no enemy to meet on their own element. While the
Army had opportunity of performing more conspicuous service, the Navy
largely participated in the conduct of the war. Both branches of the
service performed their whole duty to the country. For the able and
gallant services of the officers and men of the Navy, acting
independently as well as in cooperation with our troops, in the conquest
of the Californias, the capture of Vera Cruz, and the seizure and
occupation of other important positions on the Gulf and Pacific coasts,
the highest praise is due. Their vigilance, energy, and skill rendered
the most effective service in excluding munitions of war and other
supplies from the enemy, while they secured a safe entrance for abundant
supplies for our own Army. Our extended commerce was nowhere
interrupted, and for this immunity from the evils of war the country is
indebted to the Navy.

High praise is due to the officers of the several executive bureaus,
navy-yards, and stations connected with the service, all under the
immediate direction of the Secretary of the Navy, for the industry,
foresight, and energy with which everything was directed and furnished
to give efficiency to that branch of the service. The same vigilance
existed in directing the operations of the Navy as of the Army. There
was concert of action and of purpose between the heads of the two arms
of the service. By the orders which were from time to time issued, our
vessels of war on the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico were stationed in
proper time and in proper positions to cooperate efficiently with the
Army. By this means their combined power was brought to bear
successfully on the enemy.

The great results which have been developed and brought to light by
this war will be of immeasurable importance in the future progress of
our country. They will tend powerfully to preserve us from foreign
collisions, and to enable us to pursue uninterruptedly our cherished
policy of "peace with all nations, entangling alliances with none."

Occupying, as we do, a more commanding position among nations than at
any former period, our duties and our responsibilities to ourselves
and to posterity are correspondingly increased. This will be the more
obvious when we consider the vast additions which have been recently
made to our territorial possessions and their great importance and

Within less than four years the annexation of Texas to the Union has
been consummated; all conflicting title to the Oregon Territory south of
the forty-ninth degree of north latitude, being all that was insisted on
by any of my predecessors, has been adjusted, and New Mexico and Upper
California have been acquired by treaty. The area of these several
Territories, according to a report carefully prepared by the
Commissioner of the General Land Office from the most authentic
information in his possession, and which is herewith transmitted,
contains 1,193,061 square miles, or 763,559,040 acres; while the area of
the remaining twenty-nine States and the territory not yet organized
into States east of the Rocky Mountains contains 2,059,513 square miles,
or 1,318,126,058 acres. These estimates show that the territories
recently acquired, and over which our exclusive jurisdiction and
dominion have been extended, constitute a country more than half as
large as all that which was held by the United States before their
acquisition. If Oregon be excluded from the estimate, there will still
remain within the limits of Texas, New Mexico, and California 851,598
square miles, or 545,012,720 acres, being an addition equal to more than
one-third of all the territory owned by the United States before their
acquisition, and, including Oregon, nearly as great an extent of
territory as the whole of Europe, Russia only excepted. The Mississippi,
so lately the frontier of our country, is now only its center. With the
addition of the late acquisitions, the United States are now estimated
to be nearly as large as the whole of Europe. It is estimated by the
Superintendent of the Coast Survey in the accompanying report that the
extent of the seacoast of Texas on the Gulf of Mexico is upward of 400
miles; of the coast of Upper California on the Pacific, of 970 miles,
and of Oregon, including the Straits of Fuca, of 650 miles, making the
whole extent of seacoast on the Pacific 1,620 miles and the whole extent
on both the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico 2,020 miles. The length of
the coast on the Atlantic from the northern limits of the United States
around the capes of Florida to the Sabine, on the eastern boundary of
Texas, is estimated to be 3,100 miles; so that the addition of seacoast,
including Oregon, is very nearly two-thirds as great as all we possessed
before, and, excluding Oregon, is an addition of 1,370 miles, being
nearly equal to one-half of the extent of coast which we possessed
before these acquisitions. We have now three great maritime fronts--on
the Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific--making in the whole
an extent of seacoast exceeding 5,000 miles. This is the extent of the
seacoast of the United States, not including bays, sounds, and small
irregularities of the main shore and of the sea islands. If these be
included, the length of the shore line of coast, as estimated by the
Superintendent of the Coast Survey in his report, would be 33,063 miles.

It would be difficult to calculate the value of these immense additions
to our territorial possessions. Texas, lying contiguous to the western
boundary of Louisiana, embracing within its limits a part of the
navigable tributary waters of the Mississippi and an extensive seacoast,
could not long have remained in the hands of a foreign power without
endangering the peace of our southwestern frontier. Her products in the
vicinity of the tributaries of the Mississippi must have sought a market
through these streams, running into and through our territory, and the
danger of irritation and collision of interests between Texas as a
foreign state and ourselves would have been imminent, while the
embarrassments in the commercial intercourse between them must have been
constant and unavoidable. Had Texas fallen into the hands or under the
influence and control of a strong maritime or military foreign power, as
she might have done, these dangers would have been still greater. They
have been avoided by her voluntary and peaceful annexation to the United
States. Texas, from her position, was a natural and almost indispensable
part of our territories. Fortunately, she has been restored to our
country, and now constitutes one of the States of our Confederacy, "upon
an equal footing with the original States." The salubrity of climate,
the fertility of soil, peculiarly adapted to the production of some of
our most valuable staple commodities, and her commercial advantages must
soon make her one of our most populous States.

New Mexico, though situated in the interior and without a seacoast, is
known to contain much fertile land, to abound in rich mines of the
precious metals, and to be capable of sustaining a large population.
From its position it is the intermediate and connecting territory
between our settlements and our possessions in Texas and those on the
Pacific Coast.

Upper California, irrespective of the vast mineral wealth recently
developed there, holds at this day, in point of value and importance,
to the rest of the Union the same relation that Louisiana did when that
fine territory was acquired from France forty-five years ago. Extending
nearly ten degrees of latitude along the Pacific, and embracing the only
safe and commodious harbors on that coast for many hundred miles, with
a temperate climate and an extensive interior of fertile lands, it is
scarcely possible to estimate its wealth until it shall be brought under
the government of our laws and its resources fully developed. From its
position it must command the rich commerce of China, of Asia, of the
islands of the Pacific, of western Mexico, of Central America, the South
American States, and of the Russian possessions bordering on that ocean.
A great emporium will doubtless speedily arise on the Californian coast
which may be destined to rival in importance New Orleans itself. The
depot of the vast commerce which must exist on the Pacific will probably
be at some point on the Bay of San Francisco, and will occupy the same
relation to the whole western coast of that ocean as New Orleans does to
the valley of the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. To this depot our
numerous whale ships will resort with their cargoes to trade, refit,
and obtain supplies. This of itself will largely contribute to build
up a city, which would soon become the center of a great and rapidly
increasing commerce. Situated on a safe harbor, sufficiently capacious
for all the navies as well as the marine of the world, and convenient to
excellent timber for shipbuilding, owned by the United States, it must
become our great Western naval depot.

It was known that mines of the precious metals existed to a considerable
extent in California at the time of its acquisition. Recent discoveries
render it probable that these mines are more extensive and valuable than
was anticipated. The accounts of the abundance of gold in that territory
are of such an extraordinary character as would scarcely command belief
were they not corroborated by the authentic reports of officers in the
public service who have visited the mineral district and derived the
facts which they detail from personal observation. Reluctant to credit
the reports in general circulation as to the quantity of gold, the
officer commanding our forces in California visited the mineral district
in July last for the purpose of obtaining accurate information on the
subject. His report to the War Department of the result of his
examination and the facts obtained on the spot is herewith laid before
Congress. When he visited the country there were about 4,000 persons
engaged in collecting gold. There is every reason to believe that the
number of persons so employed has since been augmented. The explorations
already made warrant the belief that the supply is very large and that
gold is found at various places in an extensive district of country.

Information received from officers of the Navy and other sources, though
not so full and minute, confirms the accounts of the commander of our
military force in California. It appears also from these reports that
mines of quicksilver are found in the vicinity of the gold region. One
of them is now being worked, and is believed to be among the most
productive in the world.

The effects produced by the discovery of these rich mineral deposits and
the success which has attended the labors of those who have resorted to
them have produced a surprising change in the state of affairs in
California. Labor commands a most exorbitant price, and all other
pursuits but that of searching for the precious metals are abandoned.
Nearly the whole of the male population of the country have gone to the
gold districts. Ships arriving on the coast are deserted by their crews
and their voyages suspended for want of sailors. Our commanding officer
there entertains apprehensions that soldiers can not be kept in the
public service without a large increase of pay. Desertions in his
command have become frequent, and he recommends that those who shall
withstand the strong temptation and remain faithful should be rewarded.

This abundance of gold and the all-engrossing pursuit of it have already
caused in California an unprecedented rise in the price of all the
necessaries of life.

That we may the more speedily and fully avail ourselves of the
undeveloped wealth of these mines, it is deemed of vast importance
that a branch of the Mint of the United States be authorized to be
established at your present session in California. Among other signal
advantages which would result from such an establishment would be that
of raising the gold to its par value in that territory. A branch mint of
the United States at the great commercial depot on the west coast would
convert into our own coin not only the gold derived from our own rich
mines, but also the bullion and specie which our commerce may bring from
the whole west coast of Central and South America. The west coast of
America and the adjacent interior embrace the richest and best mines of
Mexico, New Granada, Central America, Chili, and Peru. The bullion and
specie drawn from these countries, and especially from those of western
Mexico and Peru, to an amount in value of many millions of dollars, are
now annually diverted and carried by the ships of Great Britain to her
own ports, to be recoined or used to sustain her national bank, and thus
contribute to increase her ability to command so much of the commerce of
the world. If a branch mint be established at the great commercial point
upon that coast, a vast amount of bullion and specie would flow thither
to be recoined, and pass thence to New Orleans, New York, and other
Atlantic cities. The amount of our constitutional currency at home would
be greatly increased, while its circulation abroad would be promoted. It
is well known to our merchants trading to China and the west coast of
America that great inconvenience and loss are experienced from the fact
that our coins are not current at their par value in those countries.

The powers of Europe, far removed from the west coast of America by
the Atlantic Ocean, which intervenes, and by a tedious and dangerous
navigation around the southern cape of the continent of America, can
never successfully compete with the United States in the rich and
extensive commerce which is opened to us at so much less cost by the
acquisition of California.

The vast importance and commercial advantages of California have
heretofore remained undeveloped by the Government of the country of
which it constituted a part. Now that this fine province is a part of
our country, all the States of the Union, some more immediately and
directly than others, are deeply interested in the speedy development of
its wealth and resources. No section of our country is more interested
or will be more benefited than the commercial, navigating, and
manufacturing interests of the Eastern States. Our planting and farming
interests in every part of the Union will be greatly benefited by it.
As our commerce and navigation are enlarged and extended, our exports of
agricultural products and of manufactures will be increased, and in the
new markets thus opened they can not fail to command remunerating and
profitable prices.

The acquisition of California and New Mexico, the settlement of the
Oregon boundary, and the annexation of Texas, extending to the Rio
Grande, are results which, combined, are of greater consequence and will
add more to the strength and wealth of the nation than any which have
preceded them since the adoption of the Constitution.

But to effect these great results not only California, but New Mexico,
must be brought under the control of regularly organized governments.
The existing condition of California and of that part of New Mexico
lying west of the Rio Grande and without the limits of Texas imperiously
demands that Congress should at its present session organize Territorial
governments over them.

Upon the exchange of ratifications of the treaty of peace with Mexico,
on the 30th of May last, the temporary governments which had been
established over New Mexico and California by our military and naval
commanders by virtue of the rights of war ceased to derive any
obligatory force from that source of authority, and having been ceded
to the United States, all government and control over them under the
authority of Mexico had ceased to exist. Impressed with the necessity
of establishing Territorial governments over them, I recommended the
subject to the favorable consideration of Congress in my message
communicating the ratified treaty of peace, on the 6th of July last, and
invoked their action at that session. Congress adjourned without making
any provision for their government. The inhabitants by the transfer
of their country had become entitled to the benefit of our laws and
Constitution, and yet were left without any regularly organized
government. Since that time the very limited power possessed by the
Executive has been exercised to preserve and protect them from the
inevitable consequences of a state of anarchy. The only government which
remained was that established by the military authority during the war.
Regarding this to be a _de facto_ government, and that by the presumed
consent of the inhabitants it might be continued temporarily, they were
advised to conform and submit to it for the short intervening period
before Congress would again assemble and could legislate on the subject.
The views entertained by the Executive on this point are contained in a
communication of the Secretary of State dated the 7th of October last,
which was forwarded for publication to California and New Mexico,
a copy of which is herewith transmitted. The small military force of
the Regular Army which was serving within the limits of the acquired
territories at the close of the war was retained in them, and additional
forces have been ordered there for the protection of the inhabitants and
to preserve and secure the rights and interests of the United States.

No revenue has been or could be collected at the ports in California,
because Congress failed to authorize the establishment of custom-houses
or the appointment of officers for that purpose.

The Secretary of the Treasury, by a circular letter addressed to
collectors of the customs on the 7th day of October last, a copy of
which is herewith transmitted, exercised all the power with which he
was invested by law.

In pursuance of the act of the 14th of August last, extending the
benefit of our post-office laws to the people of California, the
Postmaster-General has appointed two agents, who have proceeded, the
one to California and the other to Oregon, with authority to make the
necessary arrangements for carrying its provisions into effect.

The monthly line of mail steamers from Panama to Astoria has been
required to "stop and deliver and take mails at San Diego, Monterey, and
San Francisco." These mail steamers, connected by the Isthmus of Panama
with the line of mail steamers on the Atlantic between New York and
Chagres, will establish a regular mail communication with California.

It is our solemn duty to provide with the least practicable delay for
New Mexico and California regularly organized Territorial governments.
The causes of the failure to do this at the last session of Congress are
well known and deeply to be regretted. With the opening prospects of
increased prosperity and national greatness which the acquisition of
these rich and extensive territorial possessions affords, how irrational
it would be to forego or to reject these advantages by the agitation of
a domestic question which is coeval with the existence of our Government
itself, and to endanger by internal strifes, geographical divisions, and
heated contests for political power, or for any other cause, the harmony
of the glorious Union of our confederated States--that Union which binds
us together as one people, and which for sixty years has been our shield
and protection against every danger. In the eyes of the world and of
posterity how trivial and insignificant will be all our internal
divisions and struggles compared with the preservation of this Union
of the States in all its vigor and with all its countless blessings!
No patriot would foment and excite geographical and sectional divisions.
No lover of his country would deliberately calculate the value of the
Union. Future generations would look in amazement upon the folly of such
a course. Other nations at the present day would look upon it with
astonishment, and such of them as desire to maintain and perpetuate
thrones and monarchical or aristocratical principles will view it with
exultation and delight, because in it they will see the elements of
faction, which they hope must ultimately overturn our system. Ours is
the great example of a prosperous and free self-governed republic,
commanding the admiration and the imitation of all the lovers of freedom
throughout the world. How solemn, therefore, is the duty, how impressive
the call upon us and upon all parts of our country, to cultivate a
patriotic spirit of harmony, of good-fellowship, of compromise and
mutual concession, in the administration of the incomparable system of
government formed by our fathers in the midst of almost insuperable
difficulties, and transmitted to us with the injunction that we should
enjoy its blessings and hand it down unimpaired to those who may come
after us.

In view of the high and responsible duties which we owe to ourselves and
to mankind, I trust you may be able at your present session to approach
the adjustment of the only domestic question which seriously threatens,
or probably ever can threaten, to disturb the harmony and successful
operations of our system.

The immensely valuable possessions of New Mexico and California are
already inhabited by a considerable population. Attracted by their great
fertility, their mineral wealth, their commercial advantages, and the
salubrity of the climate, emigrants from the older States in great
numbers are already preparing to seek new homes in these inviting
regions. Shall the dissimilarity of the domestic institutions in the
different States prevent us from providing for them suitable
governments? These institutions existed at the adoption of the
Constitution, but the obstacles which they interposed were overcome
by that spirit of compromise which is now invoked. In a conflict of
opinions or of interests, real or imaginary, between different sections
of our country, neither can justly demand all which it might desire to
obtain. Each, in the true spirit of our institutions, should concede
something to the other.

Our gallant forces in the Mexican war, by whose patriotism and
unparalleled deeds of arms we obtained these possessions as an indemnity
for our just demands against Mexico, were composed of citizens who
belonged to no one State or section of our Union. They were men from
slave-holding and nonslaveholding States, from the North and the South,
from the East and the West. They were all companions in arms and
fellow-citizens of the same common country, engaged in the same common
cause. When prosecuting that war they were brethren and friends, and
shared alike with each other common toils, dangers, and sufferings. Now,
when their work is ended, when peace is restored, and they return again
to their homes, put off the habiliments of war, take their places in
society, and resume their pursuits in civil life, surely a spirit of
harmony and concession and of equal regard for the rights of all and of
all sections of the Union ought to prevail in providing governments for
the acquired territories--the fruits of their common service. The whole
people of the United States, and of every State, contributed to defray
the expenses of that war, and it would not be just for any one section
to exclude another from all participation in the acquired territory.
This would not be in consonance with the just system of government which
the framers of the Constitution adopted.

The question is believed to be rather abstract than practical, whether
slavery ever can or would exist in any portion of the acquired territory
even if it were left to the option of the slaveholding States
themselves. From the nature of the climate and productions in much the
larger portion of it it is certain it could never exist, and in the
remainder the probabilities are it would not. But however this may be,
the question, involving, as it does, a principle of equality of rights
of the separate and several States as equal copartners in the
Confederacy, should not be disregarded.

In organizing governments over these territories no duty imposed on
Congress by the Constitution requires that they should legislate on the
subject of slavery, while their power to do so is not only seriously
questioned, but denied by many of the soundest expounders of that
instrument. Whether Congress shall legislate or not, the people of
the acquired territories, when assembled in convention to form State
constitutions, will possess the sole and exclusive power to determine
for themselves whether slavery shall or shall not exist within their
limits. If Congress shall abstain from interfering with the question,
the people of these territories will be left free to adjust it as they
may think proper when they apply for admission as States into the Union.
No enactment of Congress could restrain the people of any of the
sovereign States of the Union, old or new, North or South, slaveholding
or nonslaveholding, from determining the character of their own domestic
institutions as they may deem wise and proper. Any and all the States
possess this right, and Congress can not deprive them of it. The people
of Georgia might if they chose so alter their constitution as to abolish
slavery within its limits, and the people of Vermont might so alter
their constitution as to admit slavery within its limits. Both States
would possess the right, though, as all know, it is not probable that
either would exert it.

It is fortunate for the peace and harmony of the Union that this
question is in its nature temporary and can only continue for the brief
period which will intervene before California and New Mexico may be
admitted as States into the Union. From the tide of population now
flowing into them it is highly probable that this will soon occur.

Considering the several States and the citizens of the several States as
equals and entitled to equal rights under the Constitution, if this were
an original question it might well be insisted on that the principle of
noninterference is the true doctrine and that Congress could not, in the
absence of any express grant of power, interfere with their relative
rights. Upon a great emergency, however, and under menacing dangers
to the Union, the Missouri compromise line in respect to slavery was
adopted. The same line was extended farther west in the acquisition of
Texas. After an acquiescence of nearly thirty years in the principle of
compromise recognized and established by these acts, and to avoid the
danger to the Union which might follow if it were now disregarded,
I have heretofore expressed the opinion that that line of compromise
should be extended on the parallel of 36 deg. 30' from the western boundary
of Texas, where it now terminates, to the Pacific Ocean. This is the
middle ground of compromise, upon which the different sections of the
Union may meet, as they have heretofore met. If this be done, it is
confidently believed a large majority of the people of every section of
the country, however widely their abstract opinions on the subject of
slavery may differ, would cheerfully and patriotically acquiesce in it,
and peace and harmony would again fill our borders.

The restriction north of the line was only yielded to in the case of
Missouri and Texas upon a principle of compromise, made necessary for
the sake of preserving the harmony and possibly the existence of the

It was upon these considerations that at the close of your last session
I gave my sanction to the principle of the Missouri compromise line by
approving and signing the bill to establish "the Territorial government
of Oregon." From a sincere desire to preserve the harmony of the Union,
and in deference for the acts of my predecessors, I felt constrained
to yield my acquiescence to the extent to which they had gone in
compromising this delicate and dangerous question. But if Congress shall
now reverse the decision by which the Missouri compromise was effected,
and shall propose to extend the restriction over the whole territory,
south as well as north of the parallel of 36 deg. 30', it will cease to be
a compromise, and must be regarded as an original question.

If Congress, instead of observing the course of noninterference, leaving
the adoption of their own domestic institutions to the people who may
inhabit these territories, or if, instead of extending the Missouri
compromise line to the Pacific, shall prefer to submit the legal and
constitutional questions which may arise to the decision of the judicial
tribunals, as was proposed in a bill which passed the Senate at your
last session, an adjustment may be effected in this mode. If the whole
subject be referred to the judiciary, all parts of the Union should
cheerfully acquiesce in the final decision of the tribunal created by
the Constitution for the settlement of all questions which may arise
under the Constitution, treaties, and laws of the United States.

Congress is earnestly invoked, for the sake of the Union, its harmony,
and our continued prosperity as a nation, to adjust at its present
session this, the only dangerous question which lies in our path, if
not in some one of the modes suggested, in some other which may be

In anticipation of the establishment of regular governments over the
acquired territories, a joint commission of officers of the Army and
Navy has been ordered to proceed to the coast of California and Oregon
for the purpose of making reconnoissances and a report as to the proper
sites for the erection of fortifications or other defensive works on
land and of suitable situations for naval stations. The information
which may be expected from a scientific and skillful examination of the
whole face of the coast will be eminently useful to Congress when they
come to consider the propriety of making appropriations for these great
national objects. Proper defenses on land will be necessary for the
security and protection of our possessions, and the establishment of
navy-yards and a dock for the repair and construction of vessels will
be important alike to our Navy and commercial marine. Without such
establishments every vessel, whether of the Navy or of the merchant
service, requiring repair must at great expense come round Cape Horn to
one of our Atlantic yards for that purpose. With such establishments
vessels, it is believed, may be built or repaired as cheaply in
California as upon the Atlantic coast. They would give employment
to many of our enterprising shipbuilders and mechanics and greatly
facilitate and enlarge our commerce in the Pacific.

As it is ascertained that mines of gold, silver, copper, and quicksilver
exist in New Mexico and California, and that nearly all the lands where
they are found belong to the United States, it is deemed important to
the public interest that provision be made for a geological and
mineralogical examination of these regions. Measures should be adopted
to preserve the mineral lands, especially such as contain the precious
metals, for the use of the United States, or, if brought into market, to
separate them from the farming lands and dispose of them in such manner
as to secure a large return of money to the Treasury and at the same
time to lead to the development of their wealth by individual
proprietors and purchasers. To do this it will be necessary to provide
for an immediate survey and location of the lots. If Congress should
deem it proper to dispose of the mineral lands, they should be sold in
small quantities and at a fixed minimum price.

I recommend that surveyors-general's offices be authorized to be
established in New Mexico and California and provision made for
surveying and bringing the public lands into market at the earliest
practicable period. In disposing of these lands, I recommend that the
right of preemption be secured and liberal grants made to the early
emigrants who have settled or may settle upon them.

It will be important to extend our revenue laws over these territories,
and especially over California, at an early period. There is already a
considerable commerce with California, and until ports of entry shall be
established and collectors appointed no revenue can be received.

If these and other necessary and proper measures be adopted for the
development of the wealth and resources of New Mexico and California and
regular Territorial governments be established over them, such will
probably be the rapid enlargement of our commerce and navigation and
such the addition to the national wealth that the present generation may
live to witness the controlling commercial and monetary power of the
world transferred from London and other European emporiums to the city
of New York.

The apprehensions which were entertained by some of our statesmen in the
earlier periods of the Government that our system was incapable of
operating with sufficient energy and success over largely extended
territorial limits, and that if this were attempted it would fall to
pieces by its own weakness, have been dissipated by our experience. By
the division of power between the States and Federal Government the
latter is found to operate with as much energy in the extremes as in the
center. It is as efficient in the remotest of the thirty States which
now compose the Union as it was in the thirteen States which formed our
Constitution. Indeed, it may well be doubted whether if our present
population had been confined within the limits of the original thirteen
States the tendencies to centralization and consolidation would not have
been such as to have encroached upon the essential reserved rights of
the States, and thus to have made the Federal Government a widely
different one, practically, from what it is in theory and was intended
to be by its framers. So far from entertaining apprehensions of the
safety of our system by the extension of our territory, the belief is
confidently entertained that each new State gives strength and an
additional guaranty for the preservation of the Union itself.

In pursuance of the provisions of the thirteenth article of the treaty
of peace, friendship, limits, and settlement with the Republic of
Mexico, and of the act of July 29, 1848, claims of our citizens, which
had been "already liquidated and decided, against the Mexican Republic"
amounting, with the interest thereon, to $2,023,832.51 have been
liquidated and paid. There remain to be paid of these claims $74,192.26.

Congress at its last session having made no provision for executing the
fifteenth article of the treaty, by which the United States assume to
make satisfaction for the "unliquidated claims" of our citizens against
Mexico to "an amount not exceeding three and a quarter millions of
dollars," the subject is again recommended to your favorable

The exchange of ratifications of the treaty with Mexico took place on
the 30th of May, 1848. Within one year after that time the commissioner
and surveyor which each Government stipulates to appoint are required
to meet "at the port of San Diego and proceed to run and mark the said
boundary in its whole course to the mouth of the Rio Bravo del Norte."
It will be seen from this provision that the period within which a
commissioner and surveyor of the respective Governments are to meet at
San Diego will expire on the 30th of May, 1849. Congress at the close of
its last session made an appropriation for "the expenses of running and
marking the boundary line" between the two countries, but did not fix
the amount of salary which should be paid to the commissioner and
surveyor to be appointed on the part of the United States. It is
desirable that the amount of compensation which they shall receive
should be prescribed by law, and not left, as at present, to Executive

Measures were adopted at the earliest practicable period to organize the
"Territorial government of Oregon," as authorized by the act of the 14th
of August last. The governor and marshal of the Territory, accompanied
by a small military escort, left the frontier of Missouri in September
last, and took the southern route, by the way of Santa Fe and the river
Gila, to California, with the intention of proceeding thence in one of
our vessels of war to their destination. The governor was fully advised
of the great importance of his early arrival in the country, and it is
confidently believed he may reach Oregon in the latter part of the
present month or early in the next. The other officers for the Territory
have proceeded by sea.

In the month of May last I communicated information to Congress that
an Indian war had broken out in Oregon, and recommended that authority
be given to raise an adequate number of volunteers to proceed without
delay to the assistance of our fellow-citizens in that Territory. The
authority to raise such a force not having been granted by Congress,
as soon as their services could be dispensed with in Mexico orders were
issued to the regiment of mounted riflemen to proceed to Jefferson
Barracks, in Missouri, and to prepare to march to Oregon as soon as
the necessary provision could be made. Shortly before it was ready to
march it was arrested by the provision of the act passed by Congress
on the last day of the last session, which directed that all the
noncommissioned officers, musicians, and privates of that regiment who
had been in service in Mexico should, upon their application, be
entitled to be discharged. The effect of this provision was to disband
the rank and file of the regiment, and before their places could be
filled by recruits the season had so far advanced that it was
impracticable for it to proceed until the opening of the next spring.

In the month of October last the accompanying communication was received
from the governor of the temporary government of Oregon, giving
information of the continuance of the Indian disturbances and of the
destitution and defenseless condition of the inhabitants. Orders were
immediately transmitted to the commander of our squadron in the Pacific
to dispatch to their assistance a part of the naval forces on that
station, to furnish them with arms and ammunition, and to continue to
give them such aid and protection as the Navy could afford until the
Army could reach the country.

It is the policy of humanity, and one which has always been pursued by
the United States, to cultivate the good will of the aboriginal tribes
of this continent and to restrain them from making war and indulging in
excesses by mild means rather than by force. That this could have been
done with the tribes in Oregon had that Territory been brought under the
government of our laws at an earlier period, and had other suitable
measures been adopted by Congress, such as now exist in our intercourse
with the other Indian tribes within our limits, can not be doubted.
Indeed, the immediate and only cause of the existing hostility of the
Indians of Oregon is represented to have been the long delay of the
United States in making to them some trifling compensation, in such
articles as they wanted, for the country now occupied by our emigrants,
which the Indians claimed and over which they formerly roamed. This
compensation had been promised to them by the temporary government
established in Oregon, but its fulfillment had been postponed from time
to time for nearly two years, whilst those who made it had been
anxiously waiting for Congress to establish a Territorial government
over the country. The Indians became at length distrustful of their good
faith and sought redress by plunder and massacre, which finally led to
the present difficulties. A few thousand dollars in suitable presents,
as a compensation for the country which had been taken possession of by
our citizens, would have satisfied the Indians and have prevented the
war. A small amount properly distributed, it is confidently believed,
would soon restore quiet. In this Indian war our fellow-citizens of
Oregon have been compelled to take the field in their own defense, have
performed valuable military services, and been subjected to expenses
which have fallen heavily upon them. Justice demands that provision
should be made by Congress to compensate them for their services and to
refund to them the necessary expenses which they have incurred.

I repeat the recommendation heretofore made to Congress, that provision
be made for the appointment of a suitable number of Indian agents to
reside among the tribes of Oregon, and that a small sum be appropriated
to enable these agents to cultivate friendly relations with them. If
this be done, the presence of a small military force will be all that is
necessary to keep them in check and preserve peace. I recommend that
similar provisions be made as regards the tribes inhabiting northern
Texas, New Mexico, California, and the extensive region lying between
our settlements in Missouri and these possessions, as the most effective
means of preserving peace upon our borders and within the recently
acquired territories.

The Secretary of the Treasury will present in his annual report a highly
satisfactory statement of the condition of the finances.

The imports for the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last were of
the value of $154,977,876, of which the amount exported was $21,128,010,
leaving $133,849,866 in the country for domestic use. The value of the
exports for the same period was $154,032,131, consisting of domestic
productions amounting to $132,904,121 and $21,128,010 of foreign
articles. The receipts into the Treasury for the same period, exclusive
of loans, amounted to $35,436,750.59, of which there was derived from
customs $31,757,070.96, from sales of public lands $3,328,642.56, and
from miscellaneous and incidental sources $351,037.07.

It will be perceived that the revenue from customs for the last fiscal
year exceeded by $757,070.96 the estimate of the Secretary of the
Treasury in his last annual report, and that the aggregate receipts
during the same period from customs, lands, and miscellaneous sources
also exceeded the estimate by the sum of $536,750.59, indicating,
however, a very near approach in the estimate to the actual result.

The expenditures during the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June last,
including those for the war and exclusive of payments of principal and
interest for the public debt, were $42,811,970.03.

It is estimated that the receipts into the Treasury for the fiscal year
ending on the 30th of June, 1849, including the balance in the Treasury
on the 1st of July last, will amount to the sum of $57,048,969.90, of
which $32,000,000, it is estimated, will be derived from customs,
$3,000,000 from the sales of the public lands, and $1,200,000 from
miscellaneous and incidental sources, including the premium upon the
loan, and the amount paid and to be paid into the Treasury on account of
military contributions in Mexico, and the sales of arms and vessels and
other public property rendered unnecessary for the use of the Government
by the termination of the war, and $20,695,435.30 from loans already
negotiated, including Treasury notes funded, which, together with the
balance in the Treasury on the 1st of July last, make the sum estimated.

The expenditures for the same period, including the necessary payment on
account of the principal and interest of the public debt, and the
principal and interest of the first installment due to Mexico on the
30th of May next, and other expenditures growing out of the war to be
paid during the present year, will amount, including the reimbursement
of Treasury notes, to the sum of $54,195,275.06, leaving an estimated
balance in the Treasury on the 1st of July, 1849, of $2,853,694.84.

The Secretary of the Treasury will present, as required by law, the
estimate of the receipts and expenditures for the next fiscal year. The
expenditures as estimated for that year are $33,213,152.73, including
$3,799,102.18 for the interest on the public debt and $3,540,000 for the
principal and interest due to Mexico on the 30th of May, 1850, leaving
the sum of $25,874,050.35, which, it is believed, will be ample for the
ordinary peace expenditures.

The operations of the tariff act of 1846 have been such during the past
year as fully to meet the public expectation and to confirm the opinion
heretofore expressed of the wisdom of the change in our revenue system
which was effected by it. The receipts under it into the Treasury for
the first fiscal year after its enactment exceeded by the sum of
$5,044,403.09 the amount collected during the last fiscal year under the
tariff act of 1842, ending the 30th of June, 1846. The total revenue
realized from the commencement of its operation, on the 1st of December,
1846, until the close of the last quarter, on the 30th of September
last, being twenty-two months, was $56,654,563.79, being a much larger
sum than was ever before received from duties during any equal period
under the tariff acts of 1824, 1828, 1832, and 1842. Whilst by the
repeal of highly protective and prohibitory duties the revenue has been
increased, the taxes on the people have been diminished. They have been
relieved from the heavy amounts with which they were burthened under
former laws in the form of increased prices or bounties paid to favored
classes and pursuits.

The predictions which were made that the tariff act of 1846 would reduce
the amount of revenue below that collected under the act of 1842, and
would prostrate the business and destroy the prosperity of the country,
have not been verified. With an increased and increasing revenue, the
finances are in a highly flourishing condition. Agriculture, commerce,
and navigation are prosperous; the prices of manufactured fabrics and of
other products are much less injuriously affected than was to have been
anticipated from the unprecedented revulsions which during the last and
the present year have overwhelmed the industry and paralyzed the credit
and commerce of so many great and enlightened nations of Europe.

Severe commercial revulsions abroad have always heretofore operated to
depress and often to affect disastrously almost every branch of American
industry. The temporary depression of a portion of our manufacturing
interests is the effect of foreign causes, and is far less severe than
has prevailed on all former similar occasions.

It is believed that, looking to the great aggregate of all our
interests, the whole country was never more prosperous than at the
present period, and never more rapidly advancing in wealth and
population. Neither the foreign war in which we have been involved, nor
the loans which have absorbed so large a portion of our capital, nor the
commercial revulsion in Great Britain in 1847, nor the paralysis of
credit and commerce throughout Europe in 1848, have affected injuriously
to any considerable extent any of the great interests of the country or
arrested our onward march to greatness, wealth, and power.

Had the disturbances in Europe not occurred, our commerce would
undoubtedly have been still more extended, and would have added still
more to the national wealth and public prosperity. But notwithstanding
these disturbances, the operations of the revenue system established
by the tariff act of 1846 have been so generally beneficial to the
Government and the business of the country that no change in its
provisions is demanded by a wise public policy, and none is recommended.

The operations of the constitutional treasury established by the act of
the 6th of August, 1846, in the receipt, custody, and disbursement of
the public money have continued to be successful. Under this system the
public finances have been carried through a foreign war, involving the
necessity of loans and extraordinary expenditures and requiring distant
transfers and disbursements, without embarrassment, and no loss has
occurred of any of the public money deposited under its provisions.
Whilst it has proved to be safe and useful to the Government, its
effects have been most beneficial upon the business of the country. It
has tended powerfully to secure an exemption from that inflation and
fluctuation of the paper currency so injurious to domestic industry
and rendering so uncertain the rewards of labor, and, it is believed,
has largely contributed to preserve the whole country from a serious
commercial revulsion, such as often occurred under the bank deposit
system. In the year 1847 there was a revulsion in the business of Great
Britain of great extent and intensity, which was followed by failures
in that Kingdom unprecedented in number and amount of losses. This is
believed to be the first instance when such disastrous bankruptcies,
occurring in a country with which we have such extensive commerce,
produced little or no injurious effect upon our trade or currency.
We remained but little affected in our money market, and our business
and industry were still prosperous and progressive.

During the present year nearly the whole continent of Europe has been
convulsed by civil war and revolutions, attended by numerous
bankruptcies, by an unprecedented fall in their public securities, and
an almost universal paralysis of commerce and industry; and yet,
although our trade and the prices of our products must have been
somewhat unfavorably affected by these causes, we have escaped a
revulsion, our money market is comparatively easy, and public and
private credit have advanced and improved.

It is confidently believed that we have been saved from their effect by
the salutary operation of the constitutional treasury. It is certain
that if the twenty-four millions of specie imported into the country
during the fiscal year ending on the 30th of June, 1847, had gone into
the banks, as to a great extent it must have done, it would in the
absence of this system have been made the basis of augmented bank paper
issues, probably to an amount not less than $60,000,000 or $70,000,000,
producing, as an inevitable consequence of an inflated currency,
extravagant prices for a time and wild speculation, which must have been
followed, on the reflux to Europe the succeeding year of so much of that
specie, by the prostration of the business of the country, the
suspension of the banks, and most extensive bankruptcies. Occurring, as
this would have done, at a period when the country was engaged in a
foreign war, when considerable loans of specie were required for distant
disbursements, and when the banks, the fiscal agents of the Government
and the depositories of its money, were suspended, the public credit
must have sunk, and many millions of dollars, as was the case during the
War of 1812, must have been sacrificed in discounts upon loans and upon
the depreciated paper currency which the Government would have been
compelled to use.

Under the operations of the constitutional treasury not a dollar has
been lost by the depreciation of the currency. The loans required to
prosecute the war with Mexico were negotiated by the Secretary of the
Treasury above par, realizing a large premium to the Government. The
restraining effect of the system upon the tendencies to excessive paper
issues by banks has saved the Government from heavy losses and thousands
of our business men from bankruptcy and ruin. The wisdom of the system
has been tested by the experience of the last two years, and it is
the dictate of sound policy that it should remain undisturbed. The
modifications in some of the details of this measure, involving none of
its essential principles, heretofore recommended, are again presented
for your favorable consideration.

In my message of the 6th of July last, transmitting to Congress the
ratified treaty of peace with Mexico, I recommended the adoption of
measures for the speedy payment of the public debt. In reiterating that
recommendation I refer you to the considerations presented in that
message in its support. The public debt, including that authorized to be
negotiated in pursuance of existing laws, and including Treasury notes,
amounted at that time to $65,778,450.41.

Funded stock of the United States amounting to about half a million of
dollars has been purchased, as authorized by law, since that period, and
the public debt has thus been reduced, the details of which will be
presented in the annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury.

The estimates of expenditures for the next fiscal year, submitted by
the Secretary of the Treasury, it is believed will be ample for all
necessary purposes. If the appropriations made by Congress shall not
exceed the amount estimated, the means in the Treasury will be
sufficient to defray all the expenses of the Government, to pay off the
next installment of $3,000,000 to Mexico, which will fall due on the
30th of May next, and still a considerable surplus will remain, which
should be applied to the further purchase of the public stock and
reduction of the debt. Should enlarged appropriations be made, the
necessary consequence will be to postpone the payment of the debt.
Though our debt, as compared with that of most other nations, is small,
it is our true policy, and in harmony with the genius of our
institutions, that we should present to the world the rare spectacle of
a great Republic, possessing vast resources and wealth, wholly exempt
from public indebtedness. This would add still more to our strength,
and give to us a still more commanding position among the nations of
the earth.

The public expenditures should be economical, and be confined to such
necessary objects as are clearly within the powers of Congress. All such
as are not absolutely demanded should be postponed, and the payment of
the public debt at the earliest practicable period should be a cardinal
principle of our public policy.

For the reason assigned in my last annual message, I repeat the
recommendation that a branch of the Mint of the United States be
established at the city of New York. The importance of this measure is
greatly increased by the acquisition of the rich mines of the precious
metals in New Mexico and California, and especially in the latter.

I repeat the recommendation heretofore made in favor of the graduation
and reduction of the price of such of the public lands as have been long
offered in the market and have remained unsold, and in favor of
extending the rights of preemption to actual settlers on the unsurveyed
as well as the surveyed lands.

The condition and operations of the Army and the state of other branches
of the public service under the supervision of the War Department are
satisfactorily presented in the accompanying report of the Secretary of

On the return of peace our forces were withdrawn from Mexico, and the
volunteers and that portion of the Regular Army engaged for the war were
disbanded. Orders have been issued for stationing the forces of our
permanent establishment at various positions in our extended country
where troops may be required. Owing to the remoteness of some of these
positions, the detachments have not yet reached their destination.
Notwithstanding the extension of the limits of our country and the
forces required in the new territories, it is confidently believed that
our present military establishment is sufficient for all exigencies so
long as our peaceful relations remain undisturbed.

Of the amount of military contributions collected in Mexico, the sum of
$769,650 was applied toward the payment of the first installment due
under the treaty with Mexico. The further sum of $346,369.30 has been
paid into the Treasury, and unexpended balances still remain in the
hands of disbursing officers and those who were engaged in the
collection of these moneys. After the proclamation of peace no further
disbursements were made of any unexpended moneys arising from this
source. The balances on hand were directed to be paid into the Treasury,
and individual claims on the fund will remain unadjusted until Congress
shall authorize their settlement and payment. These claims are not
considerable in number or amount.

I recommend to your favorable consideration the suggestions of the
Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy in regard to legislation
on this subject.

Our Indian relations are presented in a most favorable view in the
report from the War Department. The wisdom of our policy in regard to
the tribes within our limits is clearly manifested by their improved and
rapidly improving condition.

A most important treaty with the Menomonies has been recently negotiated
by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs in person, by which all their land
in the State of Wisconsin--being about 4,000,000 acres--has been ceded
to the United States. This treaty will be submitted to the Senate for
ratification at an early period of your present session.

Within the last four years eight important treaties have been negotiated
with different Indian tribes, and at a cost of $1,842,000; Indian lands
to the amount of more than 18,500,000 acres have been ceded to the
United States, and provision has been made for settling in the country
west of the Mississippi the tribes which occupied this large extent of
the public domain. The title to all the Indian lands within the several
States of our Union, with the exception of a few small reservations, is
now extinguished, and a vast region opened for settlement and

The accompanying report of the Secretary of the Navy gives a
satisfactory exhibit of the operations and condition of that branch of
the public service.

A number of small vessels, suitable for entering the mouths of rivers,
were judiciously purchased during the war, and gave great efficiency to
the squadron in the Gulf of Mexico. On the return of peace, when no
longer valuable for naval purposes, and liable to constant
deterioration, they were sold and the money placed in the Treasury.

The number of men in the naval service authorized by law during the war
has been reduced by discharges below the maximum fixed for the peace
establishment. Adequate squadrons are maintained in the several quarters
of the globe where experience has shown their services may be most
usefully employed, and the naval service was never in a condition of
higher discipline or greater efficiency.

I invite attention to the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy
on the subject of the Marine Corps. The reduction of the Corps at the
end of the war required that four officers of each of the three lower
grades should be dropped from the rolls. A board of officers made the
selection, and those designated were necessarily dismissed, but without
any alleged fault. I concur in opinion with the Secretary that the
service would be improved by reducing the number of landsmen and
increasing the marines. Such a measure would justify an increase of
the number of officers to the extent of the reduction by dismissal,
and still the Corps would have fewer officers than a corresponding
number of men in the Army.

The contracts for the transportation of the mail in steamships,
convertible into war steamers, promise to realize all the benefits to
our commerce and to the Navy which were anticipated. The first steamer
thus secured to the Government was launched in January, 1847. There are
now seven, and in another year there will probably be not less than
seventeen afloat. While this great national advantage is secured, our
social and commercial intercourse is increased and promoted with
Germany, Great Britain, and other parts of Europe, with all the
countries on the west coast of our continent, especially with Oregon and
California, and between the northern and southern sections of the United
States. Considerable revenue may be expected from postages, but the
connected line from New York to Chagres, and thence across the Isthmus
to Oregon, can not fail to exert a beneficial influence, not now to be
estimated, on the interests of the manufactures, commerce, navigation,
and currency of the United States. As an important part of the system,
I recommend to your favorable consideration the establishment of the
proposed line of steamers between New Orleans and Vera Cruz. It promises
the most happy results in cementing friendship between the two Republics
and extending reciprocal benefits to the trade and manufactures of both.

The report of the Postmaster-General will make known to you the
operations of that Department for the past year.

It is gratifying to find the revenues of the Department, under the rates
of postage now established by law, so rapidly increasing. The gross
amount of postages during the last fiscal year amounted to $4,371,077,
exceeding the annual average received for the nine years immediately
preceding the passage of the act of the 3d of March, 1845, by the sum of
$6,453, and exceeding the amount received for the year ending the 30th
of June, 1847, by the sum of $425,184.

The expenditures for the year, excluding the sum of $94,672, allowed by
Congress at its last session to individual claimants, and including the
sum of $100,500, paid for the services of the line of steamers between
Bremen and New York, amounted to $4,198,845, which is less than the
annual average for the nine years previous to the act of 1845 by

The mail routes on the 30th day of June last were 163,208 miles in
extent, being an increase during the last year of 9,390 miles. The mails
were transported over them during the same time 41,012,579 miles, making
an increase of transportation for the year of 2,124,680 miles, whilst
the expense was less than that of the previous year by $4,235.

The increase in the mail transportation within the last three years has
been 5,378,310 miles, whilst the expenses were reduced $456,738, making
an increase of service at the rate of 15 per cent and a reduction in the
expenses of more than 15 per cent.

During the past year there have been employed, under contracts with the
Post-Office Department, two ocean steamers in conveying the mails
monthly between New York and Bremen, and one, since October last,
performing semimonthly service between Charleston and Havana; and a
contract has been made for the transportation of the Pacific mails
across the Isthmus from Chagres to Panama.

Under the authority given to the Secretary of the Navy, three ocean
steamers have been constructed and sent to the Pacific, and are expected
to enter upon the mail service between Panama and Oregon and the
intermediate ports on the 1st of January next; and a fourth has been
engaged by him for the service between Havana and Chagres, so that a
regular monthly mail line will be kept up after that time between the
United States and our territories on the Pacific.

Notwithstanding this great increase in the mail service, should the
revenue continue to increase the present year as it did in the last,
there will be received near $450,000 more than the expenditures.

These considerations have satisfied the Postmaster-General that, with
certain modifications of the act of 1845, the revenue may be still
further increased and a reduction of postages made to a uniform rate of
5 cents, without an interference with the principle, which has been
constantly and properly enforced, of making that Department sustain

A well-digested cheap-postage system is the best means of diffusing
intelligence among the people, and is of so much importance in a country
so extensive as that of the United States that I recommend to your
favorable consideration the suggestions of the Postmaster-General for
its improvement.

Nothing can retard the onward progress of our country and prevent us
from assuming and maintaining the first rank among nations but a
disregard of the experience of the past and a recurrence to an unwise
public policy. We have just closed a foreign war by an honorable
peace--a war rendered necessary and unavoidable in vindication of the
national rights and honor. The present condition of the country is
similar in some respects to that which existed immediately after the
close of the war with Great Britain in 1815, and the occasion is deemed
to be a proper one to take a retrospect of the measures of public policy
which followed that war. There was at that period of our history a
departure from our earlier policy. The enlargement of the powers of the
Federal Government by _construction_, which obtained, was not warranted
by any just interpretation of the Constitution. A few years after the
close of that war a series of measures was adopted which, united and
combined, constituted what was termed by their authors and advocates the
"American system."

The introduction of the new policy was for a time favored by the
condition of the country, by the heavy debt which had been contracted
during the war, by the depression of the public credit, by the deranged
state of the finances and the currency, and by the commercial and
pecuniary embarrassment which extensively prevailed. These were not the
only causes which led to its establishment. The events of the war with
Great Britain and the embarrassments which had attended its prosecution
had left on the minds of many of our statesmen the impression that our
Government was not strong enough, and that to wield its resources
successfully in great emergencies, and especially in war, more power
should be concentrated in its hands. This increased power they did not
seek to obtain by the legitimate and prescribed mode--an amendment of
the Constitution--but by _construction_. They saw Governments in the Old
World based upon different orders of society, and so constituted as to
throw the whole power of nations into the hands of a few, who taxed and
controlled the many without responsibility or restraint. In that
arrangement they conceived the strength of nations in war consisted.
There was also something fascinating in the ease, luxury, and display of
the higher orders, who drew their wealth from the toil of the laboring
millions. The authors of the system drew their ideas of political
economy from what they had witnessed in Europe, and particularly in
Great Britain. They had viewed the enormous wealth concentrated in few
hands and had seen the splendor of the overgrown establishments of an
aristocracy which was upheld by the restrictive policy. They forgot to
look down upon the poorer classes of the English population, upon whose
daily and yearly labor the great establishments they so much admired
were sustained and supported. They failed to perceive that the scantily
fed and half-clad operatives were not only in abject poverty, but were
bound in chains of oppressive servitude for the benefit of favored
classes, who were the exclusive objects of the care of the Government.

It was not possible to reconstruct society in the United States upon the
European plan. Here there was a written Constitution, by which orders
and titles were not recognized or tolerated. A system of measures was
therefore devised, calculated, if not intended, to withdraw power
gradually and silently from the States and the mass of the people, and
by _construction_ to approximate our Government to the European models,
substituting an aristocracy of wealth for that of orders and titles.

Without reflecting upon the dissimilarity of our institutions and of the
condition of our people and those of Europe, they conceived the vain
idea of building up in the United States a system similar to that which
they admired abroad. Great Britain had a national bank of large capital,
in whose hands was concentrated the controlling monetary and financial
power of the nation--an institution wielding almost kingly power, and
exerting vast influence upon all the operations of trade and upon the
policy of the Government itself. Great Britain had an enormous public
debt, and it had become a part of her public policy to regard this
as a "public blessing." Great Britain had also a restrictive policy,
which placed fetters and burdens on trade and trammeled the productive
industry of the mass of the nation. By her combined system of policy the
landlords and other property holders were protected and enriched by the
enormous taxes which were levied upon the labor of the country for their
advantage. Imitating this foreign policy, the first step in establishing
the new system in the United States was the creation of a national bank.
Not foreseeing the dangerous power and countless evils which such an
institution might entail on the country, nor perceiving the connection
which it was designed to form between the bank and the other branches of
the miscalled "American system," but feeling the embarrassments of the
Treasury and of the business of the country consequent upon the war,
some of our statesmen who had held different and sounder views were
induced to yield their scruples and, indeed, settled convictions of its
unconstitutionality, and to give it their sanction as an expedient which
they vainly hoped might produce relief. It was a most unfortunate error,
as the subsequent history and final catastrophe of that dangerous and
corrupt institution have abundantly proved. The bank, with its numerous
branches ramified into the States, soon brought many of the active
political and commercial men in different sections of the country into
the relation of debtors to it and dependents upon it for pecuniary
favors, thus diffusing throughout the mass of society a great number of
individuals of power and influence to give tone to public opinion and
to act in concert in cases of emergency. The corrupt power of such a
political engine is no longer a matter of speculation, having been
displayed in numerous instances, but most signally in the political
struggles of 1832, 1833, and 1834 in opposition to the public will
represented by a fearless and patriotic President.

But the bank was but one branch of the new system. A public debt of more
than $120,000,000 existed, and it is not to be disguised that many of
the authors of the new system did not regard its speedy payment as
essential to the public prosperity, but looked upon its continuance as
no national evil. Whilst the debt existed it furnished aliment to the
national bank and rendered increased taxation necessary to the amount of
the interest, exceeding $7,000,000 annually.

This operated in harmony with the next branch of the new system, which
was a high protective tariff. This was to afford bounties to favored
classes and particular pursuits at the expense of all others. A
proposition to tax the whole people for the purpose of enriching a few
was too monstrous to be openly made. The scheme was therefore veiled
under the plausible but delusive pretext of a measure to protect "home
industry," and many of our people were for a time led to believe that a
tax which in the main fell upon labor was for the benefit of the laborer
who paid it. This branch of the system involved a partnership between
the Government and the favored classes, the former receiving the
proceeds of the tax imposed on articles imported and the latter the
increased price of similar articles produced at home, caused by such
tax. It is obvious that the portion to be received by the favored
classes would, as a general rule, be increased in proportion to the
increase of the rates of tax imposed and diminished as those rates were
reduced to the revenue standard required by the wants of the Government.
The rates required to produce a sufficient revenue for the ordinary
expenditures of Government for necessary purposes were not likely to
give to the private partners in this scheme profits sufficient to
satisfy their cupidity, and hence a variety of expedients and pretexts
were resorted to for the purpose of enlarging the expenditures and
thereby creating a necessity for keeping up a high protective tariff.
The effect of this policy was to interpose artificial restrictions upon
the natural course of the business and trade of the country, and to
advance the interests of large capitalists and monopolists at the
expense of the great mass of the people, who were taxed to increase
their wealth.

Another branch of this system was a comprehensive scheme of internal
improvements, capable of indefinite enlargement and sufficient to
swallow up as many millions annually as could be exacted from the
foreign commerce of the country. This was a convenient and necessary
adjunct of the protective tariff. It was to be the great absorbent of
any surplus which might at any time accumulate in the Treasury and of
the taxes levied on the people, not for necessary revenue purposes, but
for the avowed object of affording protection to the favored classes.

Auxiliary to the same end, if it was not an essential part of the system
itself, was the scheme, which at a later period obtained, for distributing
the proceeds of the sales of the public lands among the States. Other
expedients were devised to take money out of the Treasury and prevent
its coming in from any other source than the protective tariff. The
authors and supporters of the system were the advocates of the largest
expenditures, whether for necessary or useful purposes or not, because
the larger the expenditures the greater was the pretext for high taxes
in the form of protective duties.

These several measures were sustained by popular names and plausible
arguments, by which thousands were deluded. The bank was represented to
be an indispensable fiscal agent for the Government; was to equalize
exchanges and to regulate and furnish a sound currency, always and
everywhere of uniform value. The protective tariff was to give
employment to "American labor" at advanced prices; was to protect
"home industry" and furnish a steady market for the farmer. Internal
improvements were to bring trade into every neighborhood and enhance the
value of every man's property. The distribution of the land money was to
enrich the States, finish their public works, plant schools throughout
their borders, and relieve them from taxation. But the fact that for
every dollar taken out of the Treasury for these objects a much larger
sum was transferred from the pockets of the people to the favored
classes was carefully concealed, as was also the tendency, if not the
ultimate design, of the system to build up an aristocracy of wealth, to
control the masses of society, and monopolize the political power of the

The several branches of this system were so intimately blended
together that in their operation each sustained and strengthened the
others. Their joint operation was to add new burthens of taxation and to
encourage a largely increased and wasteful expenditure of public money.
It was the interest of the bank that the revenue collected and the
disbursements made by the Government should be large, because, being the
depository of the public money, the larger the amount the greater would
be the bank profits by its use. It was the interest of the favored
classes, who were enriched by the protective tariff, to have the rates
of that protection as high as possible, for the higher those rates the
greater would be their advantage. It was the interest of the people
of all those sections and localities who expected to be benefited by
expenditures for internal improvements that the amount collected should
be as large as possible, to the end that the sum disbursed might also be
the larger. The States, being the beneficiaries in the distribution of
the land money, had an interest in having the rates of tax imposed by
the protective tariff large enough to yield a sufficient revenue from
that source to meet the wants of the Government without disturbing
or taking from them the land fund; so that each of the branches
constituting the system had a common interest in swelling the public
expenditures. They had a direct interest in maintaining the public debt
unpaid and increasing its amount, because this would produce an annual
increased drain upon the Treasury to the amount of the interest and
render augmented taxes necessary. The operation and necessary effect of
the whole system were to encourage large and extravagant expenditures,
and thereby to increase the public patronage, and maintain a rich and
splendid government at the expense of a taxed and impoverished people.

It is manifest that this scheme of enlarged taxation and expenditures,
had it continued to prevail, must soon have converted the Government of
the Union, intended by its framers to be a plain, cheap, and simple
confederation of States, united together for common protection and
charged with a few specific duties, relating chiefly to our foreign
affairs, into a consolidated empire, depriving the States of their
reserved rights and the people of their just power and control in the
administration of their Government. In this manner the whole form and
character of the Government would be changed, not by an amendment of the
Constitution, but by resorting to an unwarrantable and unauthorized
construction of that instrument.

The indirect mode of levying the taxes by a duty on imports prevents
the mass of the people from readily perceiving the amount they pay, and
has enabled the few who are thus enriched, and who seek to wield the
political power of the country, to deceive and delude them. Were the
taxes collected by a direct levy upon the people, as is the case in the
States, this could not occur.

The whole system was resisted from its inception by many of our
ablest statesmen, some of whom doubted its constitutionality and its
expediency, while others believed it was in all its branches a flagrant
and dangerous infraction of the Constitution.

That a national bank, a protective tariff--levied not to raise the
revenue needed, but for protection merely--internal improvements, and
the distribution of the proceeds of the sale of the public lands are
measures without the warrant of the Constitution would, upon the
maturest consideration, seem to be clear. It is remarkable that no one
of these measures, involving such momentous consequences, is authorized
by any express grant of power in the Constitution. No one of them is
"incident to, as being necessary and proper for the execution of, the
specific powers" granted by the Constitution. The authority under which
it has been attempted to justify each of them is derived from inferences
and constructions of the Constitution which its letter and its whole
object and design do not warrant. Is it to be conceived that such
immense powers would have been left by the framers of the Constitution
to mere inferences and doubtful constructions? Had it been intended to
confer them on the Federal Government, it is but reasonable to conclude
that it would have been done by plain and unequivocal grants. This was
not done; but the whole structure of which the "American system"
consisted was reared on no other or better foundation than forced
implications and inferences of power, which its authors assumed might
be deduced by construction from the Constitution.

But it has been urged that the national bank, which constituted so
essential a branch of this combined system of measures, was not a new
measure, and that its constitutionality had been previously sanctioned,
because a bank had been chartered in 1791 and had received the official
signature of President Washington. A few facts will show the just weight
to which this precedent should be entitled as bearing upon the question
of constitutionality.

Great division of opinion upon the subject existed in Congress. It is
well known that President Washington entertained serious doubts both as
to the constitutionality and expediency of the measure, and while the
bill was before him for his official approval or disapproval so great
were these doubts that he required "the opinion in writing" of the
members of his Cabinet to aid him in arriving at a decision. His Cabinet
gave their opinions and were divided upon the subject, _General
Hamilton_ being in favor of and _Mr. Jefferson_ and _Mr. Randolph_ being
opposed to the constitutionality and expediency of the bank. It is well
known also that President Washington retained the bill from Monday, the
14th, when it was presented to him, until Friday, the 25th of February,
being the last moment permitted him by the Constitution to deliberate,
when he finally yielded to it his reluctant assent and gave it his
signature. It is certain that as late as the 23d of February, being the
ninth day after the bill was presented to him, he had arrived at no
satisfactory conclusion, for on that day he addressed a note to General
Hamilton in which he informs him that "this bill was presented to me by
the joint committee of Congress at 12 o'clock on Monday, the 14th
instant," and he requested his opinion "to what precise period, by legal
interpretation of the Constitution, can the President retain it in his
possession before it becomes a law by the lapse of ten days." If the
proper construction was that the day on which the bill was presented to
the President and the day on which his action was had upon it were both
to be counted inclusive, then the time allowed him within which it would
be competent for him to return it to the House in which it originated
with his objections would expire on Thursday, the 24th of February.
General Hamilton on the same day returned an answer, in which he states:

I give it as my opinion that you have ten days exclusive of that on
which the bill was delivered to you and Sundays; hence, in the present
case if it is returned on Friday it will be in time.

By this construction, which the President adopted, he gained another day
for deliberation, and it was not until the 25th of February that he
signed the bill, thus affording conclusive proof that he had at last
obtained his own consent to sign it not without great and almost
insuperable difficulty. Additional light has been recently shed upon the
serious doubts which he had on the subject, amounting at one time to a
conviction that it was his duty to withhold his approval from the bill.
This is found among the manuscript papers of _Mr. Madison_, authorized
to be purchased for the use of the Government by an act of the last
session of Congress, and now for the first time accessible to the
public. From these papers it appears that President Washington, while he
yet held the bank bill in his hands, actually requested _Mr. Madison_,
at that time a member of the House of Representatives, to prepare the
draft of a veto message for him. _Mr. Madison_, at his request, did
prepare the draft of such a message, and sent it to him on the 21st of
February, 1791. A copy of this original draft, in Mr. Madison's own
handwriting, was carefully preserved by him, and is among the papers
lately purchased by Congress. It is preceded by a note, written on the
same sheet, which is also in Mr. Madison's handwriting, and is as

_February 21, 1791_.--Copy of a paper made out and sent to the
President, _at his request,_ to be ready in case his judgment should
finally decide against the bill for incorporating a national bank,
the bill being then before him.

Among the objections assigned in this paper to the bill, and which were
submitted for the consideration of the President, are the following:

I object to the bill, because it is an essential principle of the
Government that powers not delegated by the Constitution can not be
rightfully exercised; because the power proposed by the bill to be
exercised is not expressly delegated, and because I can not satisfy
myself that it results from any express power by fair and safe rules
of interpretation.

The weight of the precedent of the bank of 1791 and the sanction of
the great name of Washington, which has been so often invoked in its
support, are greatly weakened by the development of these facts.

The experiment of that bank satisfied the country that it ought not to
be continued, and at the end of twenty years Congress refused to
recharter it. It would have been fortunate for the country, and saved
thousands from bankruptcy and ruin, had our public men of 1816 resisted
the temporary pressure of the times upon our financial and pecuniary
interests and refused to charter the second bank. Of this the country
became abundantly satisfied, and at the close of its twenty years'
duration, as in the case of the first bank, it also ceased to exist.
Under the repeated blows of _President Jackson_ it reeled and fell, and
a subsequent attempt to charter a similar institution was arrested by
the _veto_ of President Tyler.

_Mr. Madison_, in yielding his signature to the charter of 1816, did so
upon the ground of the respect due to precedents; and, as he
subsequently declared--

The Bank of the United States, though on the original question held
to be unconstitutional, received the Executive signature.

It is probable that neither the bank of 1791 nor that of 1816 would have
been chartered but for the embarrassments of the Government in its
finances, the derangement of the currency, and the pecuniary pressure
which existed, the first the consequence of the War of the Revolution
and the second the consequence of the War of 1812. Both were resorted to
in the delusive hope that they would restore public credit and afford
relief to the Government and to the business of the country.

Those of our public men who opposed the whole "American system"
at its commencement and throughout its progress foresaw and predicted
that it was fraught with incalculable mischiefs and must result in
serious injury to the best interests of the country. For a series of
years their wise counsels were unheeded, and the system was established.
It was soon apparent that its practical operation was unequal and unjust
upon different portions of the country and upon the people engaged
in different pursuits. All were equally entitled to the favor and
protection of the Government. It fostered and elevated the money power
and enriched the favored few by taxing labor, and at the expense of the
many. Its effect was to "make the rich richer and the poor poorer." Its
tendency was to create distinctions in society based on wealth and to
give to the favored classes undue control and sway in our Government. It
was an organized money power, which resisted the popular will and sought
to shape and control the public policy.

Under the pernicious workings of this combined system of measures the
country witnessed alternate seasons of temporary apparent prosperity,
of sudden and disastrous commercial revulsions, of unprecedented
fluctuation of prices and depression of the great interests of
agriculture, navigation, and commerce, of general pecuniary suffering,
and of final bankruptcy of thousands. After a severe struggle of more
than a quarter of a century, the system was overthrown.

The bank has been succeeded by a practical system of finance, conducted
and controlled solely by the Government. The constitutional currency has
been restored, the public credit maintained unimpaired even in a period
of a foreign war, and the whole country has become satisfied that banks,
national or State, are not necessary as fiscal agents of the Government.
Revenue duties have taken the place of the protective tariff. The
distribution of the money derived from the sale of the public lands has
been abandoned and the corrupting system of internal improvements, it is
hoped, has been effectually checked.

It is not doubted that if this whole train of measures, designed to take
wealth from the many and bestow it upon the few, were to prevail the
effect would be to change the entire character of the Government. One
only danger remains. It is the seductions of that branch of the system
which consists in internal improvements, holding out, as it does,
inducements to the people of particular sections and localities to
embark the Government in them without stopping to calculate the
inevitable consequences. This branch of the system is so intimately
combined and linked with the others that as surely as an effect is
produced by an adequate cause, if it be resuscitated and revived and
firmly established it requires no sagacity to foresee that it will
necessarily and speedily draw after it the reestablishment of a national
bank, the revival of a protective tariff, the distribution of the land
money, and not only the postponement to the distant future of the
payment of the present national debt, but its annual increase.

I entertain the solemn conviction that if the internal-improvement
branch of the "American system" be not firmly resisted at this time the
whole series of measures composing it will be speedily reestablished and
the country be thrown back from its present high state of prosperity,
which the existing policy has produced, and be destined again to witness
all the evils, commercial revulsions, depression of prices, and
pecuniary embarrassments through which we have passed during the last
twenty-five years.

To guard against consequences so ruinous is an object of high national
importance, involving, in my judgment, the continued prosperity of the

I have felt it to be an imperative obligation to withhold my
constitutional sanction from two bills which had passed the two Houses
of Congress, involving the principle of the internal-improvement branch
of the "American system" and conflicting in their provisions with the
views here expressed.

This power, conferred upon the President by the Constitution, I have on
three occasions during my administration of the executive department of
the Government deemed it my duty to exercise, and on this last occasion
of making to Congress an annual communication "of the state of the
Union" it is not deemed inappropriate to review the principles and
considerations which have governed my action. I deem this the more
necessary because, after the lapse of nearly sixty years since the
adoption of the Constitution, the propriety of the exercise of this
undoubted constitutional power by the President has for the first time
been drawn seriously in question by a portion of my fellow-citizens.

The Constitution provides that--

Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the
Senate shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of
the United States. If he approve he _shall_ sign it, but if not he
_shall_ return it with his objections to that House in which it shall
have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their
Journal and proceed to reconsider it.

The preservation of the Constitution from infraction is the President's
highest duty. He is bound to discharge that duty at whatever hazard of
incurring the displeasure of those who may differ with him in opinion.
He is bound to discharge it as well by his obligations to the people who
have clothed him with his exalted trust as by his oath of office, which
he may not disregard. Nor are the obligations of the President in any
degree lessened by the prevalence of views different from his own in one
or both Houses of Congress. It is not alone hasty and inconsiderate
legislation that he is required to check; but if at any time Congress
shall, after apparently full deliberation, resolve on measures which he
deems subversive of the Constitution or of the vital interests of the
country, it is his solemn duty to stand in the breach and resist them.
The President is bound to approve or disapprove every bill which passes
Congress and is presented to him for his signature. The Constitution
makes this his duty, and he can not escape it if he would. He has no
election. In deciding upon any bill presented to him he must exercise
his own best judgment. If he can not approve, the Constitution commands
him to return the bill to the House in which it originated with his
objections, and if he fail to do this within ten days (Sundays excepted)
it shall become a law without his signature. Right or wrong, he may be
overruled by a vote of two-thirds of each House, and in that event the
bill becomes a law without his sanction. If his objections be not thus
overruled, the subject is only postponed, and is referred to the States
and the people for their consideration and decision. The President's
power is negative merely, and not affirmative. He can enact no law. The
only effect, therefore, of his withholding his approval of a bill passed
by Congress is to suffer the existing laws to remain unchanged, and the
delay occasioned is only that required to enable the States and the
people to consider and act upon the subject in the election of public
agents who will carry out their wishes and instructions. Any attempt to
coerce the President to yield his sanction to measures which he can not
approve would be a violation of the spirit of the Constitution, palpable
and flagrant, and if successful would break down the independence of the
executive department and make the President, elected by the people and
clothed by the Constitution with power to defend their rights, the mere
instrument of a majority of Congress. A surrender on his part of the
powers with which the Constitution has invested his office would effect
a practical alteration of that instrument without resorting to the
prescribed process of amendment.

With the motives or considerations which may induce Congress to pass any
bill the President can have nothing to do. He must presume them to be as
pure as his own, and look only to the practical effect of their measures
when compared with the Constitution or the public good.

But it has been urged by those who object to the exercise of this
undoubted constitutional power that it assails the representative
principle and the capacity of the people to govern themselves; that
there is greater safety in a numerous representative body than in the
single Executive created by the Constitution, and that the Executive
veto is a "one-man power," despotic in its character. To expose the
fallacy of this objection it is only necessary to consider the frame and
true character of our system. Ours is not a consolidated empire, but a
confederated union. The States before the adoption of the Constitution
were coordinate, coequal, and separate independent sovereignties, and by
its adoption they did not lose that character. They clothed the Federal
Government with certain powers and reserved all others, including their
own sovereignty, to themselves. They guarded their own rights as States
and the rights of the people by the very limitations which they
incorporated into the Federal Constitution, whereby the different
departments of the General Government were checks upon each other. That
the majority should govern is a general principle controverted by none,
but they must govern according to the Constitution, and not according to
an undefined and unrestrained discretion, whereby they may oppress the

The people of the United States are not blind to the fact that they may
be temporarily misled, and that their representatives, legislative and
executive, may be mistaken or influenced in their action by improper
motives. They have therefore interposed between themselves and the laws
which may be passed by their public agents various representations, such
as assemblies, senates, and governors in their several States, a House
of Representatives, a Senate, and a President of the United States. The
people can by their own direct agency make no law, nor can the House of
Representatives, immediately elected by them, nor can the Senate, nor
can both together without the concurrence of the President or a vote of
two-thirds of both Houses.

Happily for themselves, the people in framing our admirable system of
government were conscious of the infirmities of their representatives,
and in delegating to them the power of legislation they have fenced them
around with checks to guard against the effects of hasty action, of
error, of combination, and of possible corruption. Error, selfishness,
and faction have often sought to rend asunder this web of checks and
subject the Government to the control of fanatic and sinister
influences, but these efforts have only satisfied the people of the
wisdom of the checks which they have imposed and of the necessity of
preserving them unimpaired.

The true theory of our system is not to govern by the acts or decrees
of any one set of representatives. The Constitution interposes checks
upon all branches of the Government, in order to give time for error to
be corrected and delusion to pass away; but if the people settle down
into a firm conviction different from that of their representatives they
give effect to their opinions by changing their public servants. The
checks which the people imposed on their public servants in the adoption
of the Constitution are the best evidence of their capacity for
self-government. They know that the men whom they elect to public
stations are of like infirmities and passions with themselves, and not
to be trusted without being restricted by coordinate authorities and
constitutional limitations. Who that has witnessed the legislation of
Congress for the last thirty years will say that he knows of no instance
in which measures not demanded by the public good have been carried? Who
will deny that in the State governments, by combinations of individuals
and sections, in derogation of the general interest, banks have been
chartered, systems of internal improvements adopted, and debts entailed
upon the people repressing their growth and impairing their energies for
years to come?

After so much experience it can not be said that absolute unchecked
power is safe in the hands of any one set of representatives, or that
the capacity of the people for self-government, which is admitted in its
broadest extent, is a conclusive argument to prove the prudence, wisdom,
and integrity of their representatives.

The people, by the Constitution, have commanded the President, as
much as they have commanded the legislative branch of the Government,
to execute their will. They have said to him in the Constitution, which
they require he shall take a solemn oath to support, that if Congress
pass any bill which he can not approve "he shall return it to the House
in which it originated with his objections." In withholding from it
his approval and signature he is executing the will of the people,
constitutionally expressed, as much as the Congress that passed it.
No bill is presumed to be in accordance with the popular will until it
shall have passed through all the branches of the Government required
by the Constitution to make it a law. A bill which passes the House of
Representatives may be rejected by the Senate, and so a bill passed by
the Senate may be rejected by the House. In each case the respective
Houses exercise the veto power on the other.

Congress, and each House of Congress, hold under the Constitution a
check upon the President, and he, by the power of the qualified veto, a
check upon Congress. When the President recommends measures to Congress,
he avows in the most solemn form his opinions, gives his voice in their
favor, and pledges himself in advance to approve them if passed by
Congress. If he acts without due consideration, or has been influenced
by improper or corrupt motives, or if from any other cause Congress,
or either House of Congress, shall differ with him in opinion, they
exercise their _veto_ upon his recommendations and reject them; and
there is no appeal from their decision but to the people at the ballot
box. These are proper checks upon the Executive, wisely interposed by
the Constitution. None will be found to object to them or to wish them
removed. It is equally important that the constitutional checks of the
Executive upon the legislative branch should be preserved.

If it be said that the Representatives in the popular branch of Congress
are chosen directly by the people, it is answered, the people elect the
President. If both Houses represent the States and the people, so does
the President. The President represents in the executive department the
whole people of the United States, as each member of the legislative
department represents portions of them.

The doctrine of restriction upon legislative and executive power, while
a well-settled public opinion is enabled within a reasonable time to
accomplish its ends, has made our country what it is, and has opened to
us a career of glory and happiness to which all other nations have been

In the exercise of the power of the veto the President is responsible
not only to an enlightened public opinion, but to the people of the
whole Union, who elected him, as the representatives in the legislative
branches who differ with him in opinion are responsible to the people
of particular States or districts, who compose their respective
constituencies. To deny to the President the exercise of this power
would be to repeal that provision of the Constitution which confers it
upon him. To charge that its exercise unduly controls the legislative
will is to complain of the Constitution itself.

If the Presidential veto be objected to upon the ground that it checks
and thwarts the popular will, upon the same principle the equality of
representation of the States in the Senate should be stricken out of
the Constitution. The vote of a Senator from Delaware has equal weight
in deciding upon the most important measures with the vote of a Senator
from New York, and yet the one represents a State containing, according
to the existing apportionment of Representatives in the House of
Representatives, but one thirty-fourth part of the population of the
other. By the constitutional composition of the Senate a majority of
that body from the smaller States represent less than one-fourth of the
people of the Union. There are thirty States, and under the existing
apportionment of Representatives there are 230 Members in the House
of Representatives. Sixteen of the smaller States are represented in
that House by but 50 Members, and yet the Senators from these States
constitute a majority of the Senate. So that the President may recommend
a measure to Congress, and it may receive the sanction and approval of
more than three-fourths of the House of Representatives and of all the
Senators from the large States, containing more than three-fourths of
the whole population of the United States, and yet the measure may be
defeated by the votes of the Senators from the smaller States. None, it
is presumed, can be found ready to change the organization of the Senate
on this account, or to strike that body practically out of existence by
requiring that its action shall be conformed to the will of the more
numerous branch.

Upon the same principle that the _veto_ of the President should be
practically abolished the power of the Vice-President to give the
casting vote upon an equal division of the Senate should be abolished
also. The Vice-President exercises the _veto_ power as effectually by
rejecting a bill by his casting vote as the President does by refusing
to approve and sign it. This power has been exercised by the
Vice-President in a few instances, the most important of which was the
rejection of the bill to recharter the Bank of the United States in
1811. It may happen that a bill may be passed by a large majority of the
House of Representatives, and may be supported by the Senators from the
larger States, and the Vice-President may reject it by giving his vote
with the Senators from the smaller States; and yet none, it is presumed,
are prepared to deny to him the exercise of this power under the

But it is, in point of fact, untrue that an act passed by Congress
is conclusive evidence that it is an emanation of the popular will.
A majority of the whole number elected to each House of Congress
constitutes a quorum, and a majority of that quorum is competent to pass
laws. It might happen that a quorum of the House of Representatives,
consisting of a single member more than half of the whole number elected
to that House, might pass a bill by a majority of a single vote, and in
that case a fraction more than one-fourth of the people of the United
States would be represented by those who voted for it. It might happen
that the same bill might be passed by a majority of one of a quorum of
the Senate, composed of Senators from the fifteen smaller States and a
single Senator from a sixteenth State; and if the Senators voting for it
happened to be from the eight of the smallest of these States, it would
be passed by the votes of Senators from States having but fourteen
Representatives in the House of Representatives, and containing less
than one-sixteenth of the whole population of the United States. This
extreme case is stated to illustrate the fact that the mere passage of
a bill by Congress is no conclusive evidence that those who passed it
represent the majority of the people of the United States or truly
reflect their will. If such an extreme case is not likely to happen,
cases that approximate it are of constant occurrence. It is believed
that not a single law has been passed since the adoption of the
Constitution upon which all the members elected to both Houses have been
present and voted. Many of the most important acts which have passed
Congress have been carried by a close vote in thin Houses. Many
instances of this might be given. Indeed, our experience proves that
many of the most important acts of Congress are postponed to the last
days, and often the last hours, of a session, when they are disposed of
in haste, and by Houses but little exceeding the number necessary to
form a quorum.

Besides, in most of the States the members of the House of
Representatives are chosen by pluralities, and not by majorities of all
the voters in their respective districts, and it may happen that a
majority of that House may be returned by a less aggregate vote of the
people than that received by the minority.

If the principle insisted on be sound, then the Constitution should be
so changed that no bill shall become a law unless it is voted for by
members representing in each House a majority of the whole people of the
United States. We must remodel our whole system, strike down and abolish
not only the salutary checks lodged in the executive branch, But must
strike out and abolish those lodged in the Senate also, and thus
practically invest the whole power of the Government in a majority of
a single assembly--a majority uncontrolled and absolute, and which may
become despotic. To conform to this doctrine of the right of majorities
to rule, independent of the checks and limitations of the Constitution,
we must revolutionize our whole system; we must destroy the
constitutional compact by which the several States agreed to form a
Federal Union and rush into consolidation, which must end in monarchy or
despotism. No one advocates such a proposition, and yet the doctrine
maintained, if carried out, must lead to this result.

One great object of the Constitution in conferring upon the President
a qualified negative upon the legislation of Congress was to protect
minorities from injustice and oppression by majorities. The equality of
their representation in the Senate and the veto power of the President
are the constitutional guaranties which the smaller States have that
their rights will be respected. Without these guaranties all their
interests would be at the mercy of majorities in Congress representing
the larger States. To the smaller and weaker States, therefore, the
preservation of this power and its exercise upon proper occasions
demanding it is of vital importance. They ratified the Constitution and
entered into the Union, securing to themselves an equal representation
with the larger States in the Senate; and they agreed to be bound by all
laws passed by Congress upon the express condition, and none other, that
they should be approved by the President or passed, his objections to
the contrary notwithstanding, by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses.
Upon this condition they have a right to insist as a part of the compact
to which they gave their assent.

A bill might be passed by Congress against the will of the whole people
of a particular State and against the votes of its Senators and all its
Representatives. However prejudicial it might be to the interests of
such State, it would be bound by it if the President shall approve it or
it shall be passed by a vote of two-thirds of both Houses; but it has
a right to demand that the President shall exercise his constitutional
power and arrest it if his judgment is against it. If he surrender this
power, or fail to exercise it in a case where he can not approve, it
would make his formal approval a mere mockery, and would be itself a
violation of the Constitution, and the dissenting State would become
bound by a law which had not been passed according to the sanctions of
the Constitution.

The objection to the exercise of the _veto_ power is founded upon an
idea respecting the popular will, which, if carried out, would
annihilate State sovereignty and substitute for the present Federal
Government a consolidation directed by a supposed numerical majority.
A revolution of the Government would be silently effected and the
States would be subjected to laws to which they had never given their
constitutional consent.

The Supreme Court of the United States is invested with the power to
declare, and has declared, acts of Congress passed with the concurrence
of the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the approval of the
President to be unconstitutional and void, and yet none, it is presumed,
can be found who will be disposed to strip this highest judicial
tribunal under the Constitution of this acknowledged power--a power
necessary alike to its independence and the rights of individuals.

For the same reason that the Executive veto should, according to the
doctrine maintained, be rendered nugatory, and be practically expunged
from the Constitution, this power of the court should also be rendered
nugatory and be expunged, because it restrains the legislative and
Executive will, and because the exercise of such a power by the court
may be regarded as being in conflict with the capacity of the people to
govern themselves. Indeed, there is more reason for striking this power
of the court from the Constitution than there is that of the qualified
veto of the President, because the decision of the court is final, and
can never be reversed even though both Houses of Congress and the

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