Part 1 out of 9
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Garcia and the Online Distributed
A COMPILATION OF THE MESSAGES AND PAPERS OF THE PRESIDENTS
BY JAMES D. RICHARDSON
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Chester A. Arthur
September 19, 1881, to March 4, 1885
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Chester A. Arthur
Chester Alan Arthur was born in Fairfield, Franklin County, Vt., October
5, 1830. He was the eldest son of Rev. William Arthur and Malvina Stone.
His father, a Baptist minister, was born in Ireland and emigrated to
the United States. Chester prepared for college at Union Village in
Greenwich and at Schenectady, N.Y., and in 1845 entered the sophomore
class of Union College. While in his sophomore year taught school for a
term at Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County, and a second term at the same
place during his last year in college. Joined the Psi Upsilon Society,
and was one of six in a class of one hundred who were elected members
of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the condition of admission being high
scholarship. After his graduation in 1848, at the age of 18, attended a
law school at Ballston Spa, N.Y.; returned to Lansingburg, N.Y., where
his father then resided, and continued his legal studies. Was principal
of an academy at North Pownal, Bennington County, Vt., in 1851. In
1853 entered the law office of Erastus D. Culver in New York City as
a student; was admitted to the bar during the same year, and at once
became a member of the firm of Culver, Parker & Arthur. Having formed
from early associations sentiments of hostility to slavery, as a law
student and after his admission to the bar became an earnest advocate
for the slaves. Became a Henry Clay Whig, and cast his first vote
in 1852 for Winfield Scott for President. Participated in the first
Republican State convention, at Saratoga, and took an active part
in the Fremont campaign of 1856. October 29, 1859, married Ellen Lewis
Herndon, of Fredericksburg, Va. January 1, 1861, was appointed on
Governor Edwin D. Morgan's staff as engineer in chief, with the rank
of brigadier-general. Had previously taken part in the organization
of the State militia, and had been judge-advocate of the Second
Brigade. When the civil war began, in April, 1861, he became acting
quartermaster-general, and as such began in New York City the work of
preparing and forwarding the State's quota of troops. Was called to
Albany in December for consultation concerning the defenses of New York
Harbor. Summoned a board of engineers on December 24, of which he became
a member, and on January 18, 1862, submitted an elaborate report on the
condition of the national forts both on the seacoast and on the inland
border of the State. Was appointed inspector-general February 10, 1862,
with the rank of brigadier-general, and in May inspected the New York
troops at Fredericksburg and on the Chickahominy. In June, 1862,
Governor Morgan ordered his return from the Army of the Potomac, and he
acted as secretary of the meeting of the governors of the loyal States
which was held June 28 in New York City. At Governor Morgan's request,
General Arthur resumed his former work, resigned as inspector-general,
and on July 10 was appointed quartermaster-general. Retired from the
office December 31, 1862, when Horatio Seymour succeeded Governor
Morgan. Between 1862 and 1872 was engaged in continuous and active law
practice--in partnership with Henry G. Gardner from 1862 till 1867, then
for five years alone, and on January 1, 1872, formed the firm of Arthur,
Phelps & Knevals. Was for a short time counsel for the department of
assessments and taxes, but resigned the place. Continued during all this
period to take an active part in politics. Was chairman in 1868 of the
Central Grant Club of New York, and became chairman of the executive
committee of the Republican State committee in 1879. Was appointed
collector of the port of New York by President Grant on November 20,
1871; was reappointed on December 17, 1875, and confirmed by the Senate
on the same day without reference to a committee, a courtesy never
before extended to an appointee who had not been a Senator; retained the
office until July 11, 1878, when he was suspended by President Hayes. On
retiring from the office of collector resumed the practice of law with
the firm of Arthur, Phelps, Knevals & Ransom. Advocated in 1880 the
nomination of General Grant to succeed President Hayes. Was a delegate
at large to the Chicago convention, which met June 2, 1880. After the
nomination of General Garfield for the Presidency a general desire arose
in the convention to nominate for Vice-President some advocate of
General Grant and a resident of New York State. The New York delegation
indicated their preference for General Arthur, and he was nominated on
the first ballot. Was elected Vice-President November 2, 1880; took the
oath of office March 4, 1881, and presided over the extraordinary
session of the Senate that then began, which was very exciting. That
body being equally divided, he was frequently called upon to exercise
the right of casting the controlling vote. President Garfield was shot
July 2, 1881, and died September 19. His Cabinet announced his death to
the Vice-President, then in New York, and at their suggestion he took
the oath as President on the 20th at his residence in New York City
before Judge John R. Brady, of the New York supreme court. On the 22d
the oath was formally administered again in the Vice-President's room
in the Capitol at Washington by Chief Justice Waite. President Arthur's
name was presented to the Republican Presidential convention which met
at Chicago June 3, 1884. On the first ballot he received 278 votes
against 540 for all others, 276 on the second, 274 on the third, and 207
on the fourth, which resulted in the nomination of James G. Blaine. In
the canvass which ensued Mr. Arthur rendered all possible assistance to
the Republican cause and candidates. Died suddenly at his residence in
New York City November 18, 1886, and was buried in Rural Cemetery at
For the fourth time in the history of the Republic its Chief Magistrate
has been removed by death. All hearts are filled with grief and horror
at the hideous crime which has darkened our land, and the memory of the
murdered President, his protracted sufferings, his unyielding fortitude,
the example and achievements of his life, and the pathos of his death
will forever illumine the pages of our history.
For the fourth time the officer elected by the people and ordained by
the Constitution to fill a vacancy so created is called to assume the
Executive chair. The wisdom of our fathers, foreseeing even the most
dire possibilities, made sure that the Government should never be
imperiled because of the uncertainty of human life. Men may die, but
the fabrics of our free institutions remain unshaken. No higher or more
assuring proof could exist of the strength and permanence of popular
government than the fact that though the chosen of the people be struck
down his constitutional successor is peacefully installed without shock
or strain except the sorrow which mourns the bereavement. All the noble
aspirations of my lamented predecessor which found expression in his
life, the measures devised and suggested during his brief Administration
to correct abuses, to enforce economy, to advance prosperity, and to
promote the general welfare, to insure domestic security and maintain
friendly and honorable relations with the nations of the earth, will be
garnered in the hearts of the people; and it will be my earnest endeavor
to profit, and to see that the nation shall profit, by his example and
Prosperity blesses our country. Our fiscal policy is fixed by law,
is well grounded and generally approved. No threatening issue mars
our foreign intercourse, and the wisdom, integrity, and thrift of our
people may be trusted to continue undisturbed the present assured
career of peace, tranquillity, and welfare. The gloom and anxiety which
have enshrouded the country must make repose especially welcome now.
No demand for speedy legislation has been heard; no adequate occasion
is apparent for an unusual session of Congress. The Constitution defines
the functions and powers of the executive as clearly as those of either
of the other two departments of the Government, and he must answer for
the just exercise of the discretion it permits and the performance of the
duties it imposes. Summoned to these high duties and responsibilities
and profoundly conscious of their magnitude and gravity, I assume the
trust imposed by the Constitution, relying for aid on divine guidance
and the virtue, patriotism, and intelligence of the American people.
SEPTEMBER 22, 1881.
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Whereas in His inscrutable wisdom it has pleased God to remove from us
the illustrious head of the nation, James A. Garfield, late President of
the United States; and
Whereas it is fitting that the deep grief which fills all hearts should
manifest itself with one accord toward the throne of infinite grace,
and that we should bow before the Almighty and seek from Him that
consolation in our affliction and that sanctification of our loss which
He is able and willing to vouchsafe:
Now, therefore, in obedience to sacred duty and in accordance with the
desire of the people, I, Chester A. Arthur, President of the United
States of America, do hereby appoint Monday next, the 26th day of
September--on which day the remains of our honored and beloved dead
will be consigned to their last resting place on earth--to be observed
throughout the United States as a day of humiliation and mourning; and
I earnestly recommend all the people to assemble on that day in their
respective places of divine worship, there to render alike their tribute
of sorrowful submission to the will of Almighty God and of reverence and
love for the memory and character of our late Chief Magistrate.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the United States to be affixed,
Done at the city of Washington, the 22d day of September, A.D. 1881, and
of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
By the President:
JAMES G. BLAINE,
_Secretary of State._
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
Whereas objects of interest to the United States require that the Senate
should be convened at an early day to receive and act upon such
communications as may be made to it on the part of the Executive:
Now, therefore, I, Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States,
have considered it to be my duty to issue this my proclamation,
declaring that an extraordinary occasion requires the Senate of the
United States to convene for the transaction of business at the Capitol,
in the city of Washington, on Monday, the 10th day of October next, at
12 o'clock noon on that day, of which all who shall at that time be
entitled to act as members of that body are hereby required to take
Given under my hand and the seal of the United States, at Washington,
the 23d day of September, A.D. 1881, and of the Independence of the
United States the one hundred and sixth.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
By the President:
JAMES G. BLAINE,
_Secretary of State._
WASHINGTON, _October 26, 1881_.
_To the Senate of the United States:_
I transmit herewith to the Senate a communication from the Secretary of
State, submitting the text, in the English and French languages, of the
proceedings of the International Sanitary Conference, provided for by
the joint resolution of the Senate and House of Representatives of the
United States of America, held at Washington in the early part of 1881.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
_To the Senate_.
I transmit herewith the report of the Secretary of State in answer to
the resolution of the Senate of October 14, with accompanying
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
OCTOBER 24, 1881.
[Footnote 1: letter of instruction to United States ministers in Europe
relative to protecting the rights and interests of the United States in
the projected interoceanic canal at Panama.]
WASHINGTON, _October 26, 1881_.
_To the Senate of the United States_:
I transmit to the Senate, for its consideration with a view to
ratification, a convention between the United States and His Majesty the
King of Roumania, defining the rights, immunities, and privileges of
consular officers, signed on the 17th day of June, 1881.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.
It has long been the pious custom of our people, with the closing of the
year, to look back upon the blessings brought to them in the changing
course of the seasons and to return solemn thanks to the all-giving
source from whom they flow. And although at this period, when the
falling leaf admonishes us that the time of our sacred duty is at hand,
our nation still lies in the shadow of a great bereavement, and the
mourning which has filled our hearts still finds its sorrowful
expression toward the God before whom we but lately bowed in grief and
supplication, yet the countless benefits which have showered upon us
during the past twelvemonth call for our fervent gratitude and make it
fitting that we should rejoice with thankfulness that the Lord in His
infinite mercy has most signally favored our country and our people.
Peace without and prosperity within have been vouchsafed to us, no
pestilence has visited our shores, the abundant privileges of freedom
which our fathers left us in their wisdom are still our increasing
heritage; and if in parts of our vast domain sore affliction has visited
our brethren in their forest homes, yet even this calamity has been
tempered and in a manner sanctified by the generous compassion for the
sufferers which has been called forth throughout our land. For all these
things it is meet that the voice of the nation should go up to God in
Wherefore I, Chester A. Arthur, President of the United States, do
recommend that all the people observe Thursday, the 24th day of November
instant, as a day of national thanksgiving and prayer, by ceasing, so
far as may be, from their secular labors and meeting in their several
places of worship, there to join in ascribing honor and praise to
Almighty God, whose goodness has been so manifest in our history and in
our lives, and offering earnest prayers that His bounties may continue
to us and to our children.
In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of
the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this 4th day of November, A.D. 1881, and
of the Independence of the United States the one hundred and sixth.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
By the President:
JAMES G. BLAINE,
_Secretary of State_.
[Footnote 2: Read by the Secretary of State before the people assembled
to celebrate the Yorktown Centennial.]
YORKTOWN, VA., _October 19, 1881_.
In recognition of the friendly relations so long and so happily
subsisting between Great Britain and the United States, in the trust and
confidence of peace and good will between the two countries for all the
centuries to come, and especially as a mark of the profound respect
entertained by the American people for the illustrious sovereign and
gracious lady who sits upon the British throne
_It is hereby ordered_, That at the close of the ceremonies
commemorative of the valor and success of our forefathers in their
patriotic struggle for independence the British flag shall be saluted by
the forces of the Army and Navy of the United States now at Yorktown.
The Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy will give orders
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
By the President:
JAMES G. BLAINE,
_Secretary of State_.
FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE.
WASHINGTON, _December 6, 1881_.
_To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States_:
An appalling calamity has befallen the American people since their
chosen representatives last met in the halls where you are now
assembled. We might else recall with unalloyed content the rare
prosperity with which throughout the year the nation has been blessed.
Its harvests have been plenteous; its varied industries have thriven;
the health of its people has been preserved; it has maintained with
foreign governments the undisturbed relations of amity and peace. For
these manifestations of His favor we owe to Him who holds our destiny
in His hands the tribute of our grateful devotion.
To that mysterious exercise of His will which has taken from us the
loved and illustrious citizen who was but lately the head of the nation
we bow in sorrow and submission.
The memory of his exalted character, of his noble achievements, and of
his patriotic life will be treasured forever as a sacred possession of
the whole people.
The announcement of his death drew from foreign governments and peoples
tributes of sympathy and sorrow which history will record as signal
tokens of the kinship of nations and the federation of mankind.
The feeling of good will between our own Government and that of Great
Britain was never more marked than at present. In recognition of this
pleasing fact I directed, on the occasion of the late centennial
celebration at Yorktown, that a salute be given to the British flag.
Save for the correspondence to which I shall refer hereafter in relation
to the proposed canal across the Isthmus of Panama, little has occurred
worthy of mention in the diplomatic relations of the two countries.
Early in the year the Fortune Bay claims were satisfactorily settled by
the British Government paying in full the sum of L15,000, most of which
has been already distributed. As the terms of the settlement included
compensation for injuries suffered by our fishermen at Aspee Bay, there
has been retained from the gross award a sum which is deemed adequate
for those claims.
The participation of Americans in the exhibitions at Melbourne and
Sydney will be approvingly mentioned in the reports of the two
exhibitions, soon to be presented to Congress. They will disclose the
readiness of our countrymen to make successful competition in distant
fields of enterprise.
Negotiations for an international copyright convention are in hopeful
The surrender of Sitting Bull and his forces upon the Canadian frontier
has allayed apprehension, although bodies of British Indians still cross
the border in quest of sustenance. Upon this subject a correspondence
has been opened which promises an adequate understanding. Our troops
have orders to avoid meanwhile all collisions with alien Indians.
The presence at the Yorktown celebration of representatives of the
French Republic and descendants of Lafayette and of his gallant
compatriots who were our allies in the Revolution has served to
strengthen the spirit of good will which has always existed between
the two nations.
You will be furnished with the proceedings of the Bimetallic Conference
held during the summer at the city of Paris. No accord was reached, but
a valuable interchange of views was had, and the conference will next
year be renewed.
At the Electrical Exhibition and Congress, also held at Paris, this
country was creditably represented by eminent specialists, who, in the
absence of an appropriation, generously lent their efficient aid at the
instance of the State Department. While our exhibitors in this almost
distinctively American field of achievement have won several valuable
awards, I recommend that Congress provide for the repayment of the
personal expenses incurred in the public interest by the honorary
commissioners and delegates.
No new questions respecting the status of our naturalized citizens
in Germany have arisen during the year, and the causes of complaint,
especially in Alsace and Lorraine, have practically ceased through
the liberal action of the Imperial Government in accepting our
often-expressed views on the subject. The application of the treaty of
1868 to the lately acquired Rhenish provinces has received very earnest
attention, and a definite and lasting agreement on this point is
confidently expected. The participation of the descendants of Baron von
Steuben in the Yorktown festivities, and their subsequent reception by
their American kinsmen, strikingly evinced the ties of good will which
unite the German people and our own.
Our intercourse with Spain has been friendly. An agreement concluded in
February last fixes a term for the labors of the Spanish and American
Claims Commission. The Spanish Government has been requested to pay the
late awards of that Commission, and will, it is believed, accede to the
request as promptly and courteously as on former occasions.
By recent legislation onerous fines have been imposed upon American
shipping in Spanish and colonial ports for slight irregularities in
manifests. One case of hardship is specially worthy of attention. The
bark _Masonic_, bound for Japan, entered Manila in distress, and is
there sought to be confiscated under Spanish revenue laws for an alleged
shortage in her transshipped cargo. Though efforts for her relief have
thus far proved unavailing, it is expected that the whole matter will be
adjusted in a friendly spirit.
The Senate resolutions of condolence on the assassination of the Czar
Alexander II were appropriately communicated to the Russian Government,
which in turn has expressed its sympathy in our late national
bereavement. It is desirable that our cordial relations with Russia
should be strengthened by proper engagements assuring to peaceable
Americans who visit the Empire the consideration which is due to them as
citizens of a friendly state. This is especially needful with respect to
American Israelites, whose classification with the native Hebrews has
evoked energetic remonstrances from this Government.
A supplementary consular agreement with Italy has been sanctioned and
proclaimed, which puts at rest conflicts of jurisdiction in the case of
crimes on shipboard.
Several important international conferences have been held in Italy
during the year. At the Geographical Congress of Venice, the Beneficence
Congress of Milan, and the Hygienic Congress of Turin this country was
represented by delegates from branches of the public service or by
private citizens duly accredited in an honorary capacity. It is hoped
that Congress will give such prominence to the results of their
participation as they may seem to deserve.
The abolition of all discriminating duties against such colonial
productions of the Dutch East Indies as are imported hither from Holland
has been already considered by Congress. I trust that at the present
session the matter may be favorably concluded.
The insecurity of life and property in many parts of Turkey has given
rise to correspondence with the Porte looking particularly to the better
protection of American missionaries in the Empire. The condemned
murderer of the eminent missionary Dr. Justin W. Parsons has not yet
been executed, although this Government has repeatedly demanded that
exemplary justice be done.
The Swiss Government has again solicited the good offices of our
diplomatic and consular agents for the protection of its citizens in
countries where it is not itself represented. This request has, within
proper limits, been granted.
Our agents in Switzerland have been instructed to protest against the
conduct of the authorities of certain communes in permitting the
emigration to this country of criminals and other objectionable persons.
Several such persons, through the cooperation of the commissioners of
emigration at New York, have been sent back by the steamers which
brought them. A continuance of this course may prove a more effectual
remedy than diplomatic remonstrance.
Treaties of commerce and navigation and for the regulation of consular
privileges have been concluded with Roumania and Servia since their
admission into the family of European States.
As is natural with contiguous states having like institutions and
like aims of advancement and development, the friendship of the United
States and Mexico has been constantly maintained. This Government has
lost no occasion of encouraging the Mexican Government to a beneficial
realization of the mutual advantages which will result from more
intimate commercial intercourse and from the opening of the rich
interior of Mexico to railway enterprise. I deem it important that means
be provided to restrain the lawlessness unfortunately so common on the
frontier and to suppress the forays of the reservation Indians on either
side of the Rio Grande.
The neighboring States of Central America have preserved internal peace,
and their outward relations toward us have been those of intimate
friendship. There are encouraging signs of their growing disposition to
subordinate their local interests to those which are common to them by
reason of their geographical relations.
The boundary dispute between Guatemala and Mexico has afforded this
Government an opportunity to exercise its good offices for preventing a
rupture between those States and for procuring a peaceable solution of
the question. I cherish strong hope that in view of our relations of
amity with both countries our friendly counsels may prevail.
A special envoy of Guatemala has brought to me the condolences of his
Government and people on the death of President Garfield.
The Costa Rican Government lately framed an engagement with Colombia for
settling boy arbitration the boundary question between those countries,
providing that the post of arbitrator should be offered successively to
the King of the Belgians, the King of Spain, and the President of the
Argentine Confederation. The King of the Belgians has declined to act,
but I am not as yet advised of the action of the King of Spain. As we
have certain interests in the disputed territory which are protected by
our treaty engagements with one of the parties, it is important that the
arbitration should not without our consent affect our rights, and this
Government has accordingly thought proper to make its views known to the
parties to the agreement, as well as to intimate them to the Belgian and
The questions growing out of the proposed interoceanic waterway across
the Isthmus of Panama are of grave national importance. This Government
has not been unmindful of the solemn obligations imposed upon it by its
compact of 1846 with Colombia, as the independent and sovereign mistress
of the territory crossed by the canal, and has sought to render them
effective by fresh engagements with the Colombian Republic looking to
their practical execution. The negotiations to this end, after they had
reached what appeared to be a mutually satisfactory solution here, were
met in Colombia by a disavowal of the powers which its envoy had assumed
and by a proposal for renewed negotiation on a modified basis.
Meanwhile this Government learned that Colombia had proposed to the
European powers to join in a guaranty of the neutrality of the proposed
Panama canal--a guaranty which would be in direct contravention of our
obligation as the sole guarantor of the integrity of Colombian territory
and of the neutrality of the canal itself. My lamented predecessor felt
it his duty to place before the European powers the reasons which make
the prior guaranty of the United States indispensable, and for which the
interjection of any foreign guaranty might be regarded as a superfluous
and unfriendly act.
Foreseeing the probable reliance of the British Government on the
provisions of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty of 1850 as affording room for a
share in the guaranties which the United States covenanted with Colombia
four years before, I have not hesitated to supplement the action of my
predecessor by proposing to Her Majesty's Government the modification of
that instrument and the abrogation of such clauses thereof as do not
comport with the obligations of the United States toward Colombia or
with the vital needs of the two friendly parties to the compact.
This Government sees with great concern the continuance of the hostile
relations between Chile, Bolivia, and Peru. An early peace between these
Republics is much to be desired, not only that they may themselves be
spared further misery and bloodshed, but because their continued
antagonism threatens consequences which are, in my judgment, dangerous
to the interests of republican government on this continent and
calculated to destroy the best elements of our free and peaceful
As in the present excited condition of popular feeling in these
countries there has been serious misapprehension of the position of the
United States, and as separate diplomatic intercourse with each through
independent ministers is sometimes subject, owing to the want of prompt
reciprocal communication, to temporary misunderstanding, I have deemed
it judicious at the present time to send a special envoy accredited to
all and each of them, and furnished with general instructions which
will, I trust, enable him to bring these powers into friendly relations.
The Government of Venezuela maintains its attitude of warm friendship
and continues with great regularity its payment of the monthly quota of
the diplomatic debt. Without suggesting the direction in which Congress
should act, I ask its attention to the pending questions affecting the
distribution of the sums thus far received.
The relations between Venezuela and France growing out of the same
debt have been for some time past in an unsatisfactory state, and
this Government, as the neighbor and one of the largest creditors of
Venezuela, has interposed its influence with the French Government with
the view of producing a friendly and honorable adjustment.
I regret that the commercial interests between the United States and
Brazil, from which great advantages were hoped a year ago, have suffered
from the withdrawal of the American lines of communication between the
Brazilian ports and our own.
Through the efforts of our minister resident at Buenos Ayres and the
United States minister at Santiago, a treaty has been concluded between
the Argentine Republic and Chile, disposing of the long-pending
Patagonian boundary question. It is a matter of congratulation that our
Government has been afforded the opportunity of successfully exerting
its good influence for the prevention of disagreements between these
Republics of the American continent.
I am glad to inform you that the treaties lately negotiated with China
have been duly ratified on both sides and the exchange made at Peking.
Legislation is necessary to carry their provisions into effect. The
prompt and friendly spirit with which the Chinese Government, at the
request of the United States, conceded the modification of existing
treaties should secure careful regard for the interests and
susceptibilities of that Government in the enactment of any laws
relating to Chinese immigration.
Those clauses of the treaties which forbid the participation of citizens
or vessels of the United States in the opium trade will doubtless
receive your approval. They will attest the sincere interest which our
people and Government feel in the commendable efforts of the Chinese
Government to put a stop to this demoralizing and destructive traffic.
In relation both to China and Japan some changes are desirable in our
present system of consular jurisdiction. I hope at some future time to
lay before you a scheme for its improvement in the entire East.
The intimacy between our own country and Japan, the most advanced of the
Eastern nations, continues to be cordial. I am advised that the Emperor
contemplates the establishment of full constitutional government, and
that he has already summoned a parliamentary congress for the purpose
of effecting the change. Such a remarkable step toward complete
assimilation with the Western system can not fail to bring Japan into
closer and more beneficial relationship with ourselves as the chief
A question has arisen in relation to the exercise in that country of
the judicial functions conferred upon our ministers and consuls. The
indictment, trial, and conviction in the consular court at Yokohama of
John Ross, a merchant seaman on board an American vessel, have made it
necessary for the Government to institute a careful examination into
the nature and methods of this jurisdiction.
It appeared that Ross was regularly shipped under the flag of the United
States, but was by birth a British subject. My predecessor felt it his
duty to maintain the position that during his service as a regularly
shipped seaman on board an American merchant vessel Ross was subject to
the laws of that service and to the jurisdiction of the United States
I renew the recommendation which has been heretofore urged by the
Executive upon the attention of Congress, that after the deduction of
such amount as may be found due to American citizens the balance of the
indemnity funds heretofore obtained from China and Japan, and which are
now in the hands of the State Department, be returned to the Governments
of those countries.
The King of Hawaii, in the course of his homeward return after a journey
around the world, has lately visited this country. While our relations
with that Kingdom are friendly, this Government has viewed with concern
the efforts to seek replenishment of the diminishing population of the
islands from outward sources, to a degree which may impair the native
sovereignty and independence, in which the United States was among the
first to testify a lively interest.
Relations of unimpaired amity have been maintained throughout the year
with the respective Governments of Austria-Hungary, Belgium, Denmark,
Hayti, Paraguay and Uruguay, Portugal, and Sweden and Norway. This may
also be said of Greece and Ecuador, although our relations with those
States have for some years been severed by the withdrawal of
appropriations for diplomatic representatives at Athens and Quito. It
seems expedient to restore those missions, even on a reduced scale, and
I decidedly recommend such a course with respect to Ecuador, which is
likely within the near future to play an important part among the
nations of the Southern Pacific.
At its last extra session the Senate called for the text of the Geneva
convention for the relief of the wounded in war. I trust that this
action foreshadows such interest in the subject as will result in the
adhesion of the United States to that humane and commendable engagement.
I invite your attention to the propriety of adopting the new code of
international rules for the prevention of collisions on the high seas
and of conforming the domestic legislation of the United States thereto,
so that no confusion may arise from the application of conflicting rules
in the case of vessels of different nationalities meeting in tidal
waters. These international rules differ but slightly from our own. They
have been adopted by the Navy Department for the governance of the war
ships of the United States on the high seas and in foreign waters, and,
through the action of the State Department in disseminating the rules
and in acquainting shipmasters with the option of conforming to them
without the jurisdictional waters of the United States, they are now
very generally known and obeyed.
The State Department still continues to publish to the country the trade
and manufacturing reports received from its officers abroad. The success
of this course warrants its continuance and such appropriation as may be
required to meet the rapidly increasing demand for these publications.
With special reference to the Atlanta Cotton Exposition, the October
number of the reports was devoted to a valuable collection of papers on
the cotton-goods trade of the world.
The International Sanitary Conference for which, in 1879, Congress made
provision assembled in this city early in January last, and its sessions
were prolonged until March. Although it reached no specific conclusions
affecting the future action of the participant powers, the interchange
of views proved to be most valuable. The full protocols of the sessions
have been already presented to the Senate.
As pertinent to this general subject, I call your attention to the
operations of the National Board of Health. Established by act of
Congress approved March 3, 1879, its sphere of duty was enlarged by the
act of June 2 in the same year. By the last-named act the board was
required to institute such measures as might be deemed necessary for
preventing the introduction of contagious or infectious diseases from
foreign countries into the United States or from one State into another.
The execution of the rules and regulations prepared by the board and
approved by my predecessor has done much to arrest the progress of
epidemic disease, and has thus rendered substantial service to the
The International Sanitary Conference, to which I have referred, adopted
a form of a bill of health to be used by all vessels seeking to enter
the ports of the countries whose representatives participated in its
deliberations. This form has since been prescribed by the National Board
of Health and incorporated with its rules and regulations, which have
been approved by me in pursuance of law.
The health of the people is of supreme importance. All measures looking
to their protection against the spread of contagious diseases and to the
increase of our sanitary knowledge for such purposes deserve attention
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury presents in detail a highly
satisfactory exhibit of the state of the finances and the condition of
the various branches of the public service administered by that
The ordinary revenues from all sources for the fiscal year ending June
30, 1881, were:
From customs $198,159,676.02
From internal revenue 135,264,385.51
From sales of public lands 2,201,863.17
From tax on circulation and deposits of national banks 8,116,115.72
From repayment of interest by Pacific Railway companies 810,833.80
From sinking fund for Pacific Railway companies 805,180.54
From customs fees, fines, penalties, etc. 1,225,514.86
From fees--consular, letters patent, and lands 2,244,983.98
From proceeds of sales of Government property 262,174.00
From profits on coinage 3,468,485.61
From revenues of the District of Columbia 2,016,199.23
From miscellaneous sources 6,206,880.13
Total ordinary receipts 360,782,292.57
The ordinary expenditures for the same period were:
For civil expenses $17,941,177.19
For foreign intercourse 1,093,954.92
For Indians 6,514,161.09
For pensions 50,059,279.62
For the military establishment, including river
and harbor improvements and arsenals 40,466,460.55
For the naval establishment, including vessels,
machinery, and improvements at navy-yards 15,686,671.66
For miscellaneous expenditures, including public
buildings, light-houses, and collecting the revenue 41,837,280.57
For expenditures on account of the District of Columbia 3,543,912.03
For interest on the public debt 82,508,741.18
For premium on bonds purchased 1,061,248.78
Total ordinary expenditures 260,712,887.59
Leaving a surplus revenue of $100,069,404.98, which was applied as
To the redemption of--
Bonds for the sinking fund $74,371,200.00
Fractional currency for the sinking fund 109,001.05
Loan of February, 1861 7,418,000.00
Ten-forties of 1864 2,016,150.00
Five-twenties of 1862 18,300.00
Five-twenties of 1864 3,400.00
Five-twenties of 1865 37,300.00
Consols of 1865 143,150.00
Consols of 1867 959,150.00
Consols of 1868 337,400.00
Texan indemnity stock 1,000.00
Old demand, compound-interest, and other notes 18,330.00
And to the increase of cash in the Treasury 14,637,023.93
The requirements of the sinking fund for the year amounted to
$90,786,064.02, which sum included a balance of $49,817,128.78, not
provided for during the previous fiscal year. The sum of $74,480,201.05
was applied to this fund, which left a deficit of $16,305,873.47. The
increase of the revenues for 1881 over those of the previous year was
$29,352,901.10. It is estimated that the receipts during the present
fiscal year will reach $400,000,000 and the expenditures $270,000,000,
leaving a surplus of $130,000,000 applicable to the sinking fund and the
redemption of the public debt.
I approve the recommendation of the Secretary of the Treasury that
provision be made for the early retirement of silver certificates and
that the act requiring their issue be repealed. They were issued in
pursuance of the policy of the Government to maintain silver at or near
the gold standard, and were accordingly made receivable for all customs,
taxes, and public dues. About sixty-six millions of them are now
outstanding. They form an unnecessary addition to the paper currency,
a sufficient amount of which may be readily supplied by the national
In accordance with the act of February 28, 1878, the Treasury Department
has monthly caused at least two millions in value of silver bullion to
be coined into standard silver dollars. One hundred and two millions of
these dollars have been already coined, while only about thirty-four
millions are in circulation.
For the reasons which he specifies, I concur in the Secretary's
recommendation that the provision for coinage of a fixed amount each
month be repealed, and that hereafter only so much be coined as shall be
necessary to supply the demand.
The Secretary advises that the issue of gold certificates should not
for the present be resumed, and suggests that the national banks may
properly be forbidden by law to retire their currency except upon
reasonable notice of their intention so to do. Such legislation would
seem to be justified by the recent action of certain banks on the
occasion referred to in the Secretary's report.
Of the fifteen millions of fractional currency still outstanding, only
about eighty thousand has been redeemed the past year. The suggestion
that this amount may properly be dropped from future statements of the
public debt seems worthy of approval.
So also does the suggestion of the Secretary as to the advisability of
relieving the calendar of the United States courts in the southern
district of New York by the transfer to another tribunal of the numerous
suits there pending against collectors.
The revenue from customs for the past fiscal year was $198,159,676.02,
an increase of $11,637,611.42 over that of the year preceding. One
hundred and thirty-eight million ninety-eight thousand five hundred and
sixty-two dollars and thirty-nine cents of this amount was collected at
the port of New York, leaving $50,251,113.63 as the amount collected
at all the other ports of the country. Of this sum $47,977,137.63 was
collected on sugar, melado, and molasses; $27,285,624.78 on wool and its
manufactures; $21,462,534.34 on iron and steel and manufactures thereof;
$19,038,665.81 on manufactures of silk; $10,825,115.21 on manufactures
of cotton, and $6,469,643.04 on wines and spirits, making a total
revenue from these sources of $133,058,720.81.
The expenses of collection for the past year were $6,419,345.20, an
increase over the preceding year of $387,410.04. Notwithstanding the
increase in the revenue from customs over the preceding year, the gross
value of the imports, including free goods, decreased over $25,000,000.
The most marked decrease was in the value of unmanufactured wool,
$14,023,682, and in that of scrap and pig iron, $12,810,671. The value
of imported sugar, on the other hand, showed an increase of $7,457,474;
of steel rails, $4,345,521; of barley, $2,154,204, and of steel in bars,
ingots, etc., $1,620,046.
Contrasted with the imports during the last fiscal year, the exports
were as follows:
Domestic merchandise $883,925,947
Foreign merchandise 18,451,399
Imports of merchandise 642,664,628
Excess of exports over imports of merchandise 259,712,718
Aggregate of exports and imports 1,545,041,974
Compared with the previous year, there was an increase of $66,738,688
in the value of exports of merchandise and a decrease of $25,290,118
in the value of imports. The annual average of the excess of imports
of merchandise over exports thereof for ten years previous to June
30, 1873, was $104,706,922, but for the last six years there has
been an excess of exports over imports of merchandise amounting to
$1,180,668,105, an annual average of $196,778,017. The specie value
of the exports of domestic merchandise was $376,616,473 in 1870 and
$883,925,947 in 1881, an increase of $507,309,474, or 135 per cent.
The value of imports was $435,958,408 in 1870 and $642,664,628 in 1881,
an increase of $206,706,220, or 47 per cent.
During each year from 1862 to 1879, inclusive, the exports of specie
exceeded the imports. The largest excess of such exports over imports
was reached during the year 1864, when it amounted to $92,280,929. But
during the year ended June 30, 1880, the imports of coin and bullion
exceeded the exports by $75,891,391, and during the last fiscal year
the excess of imports over exports was $91,168,650.
In the last annual report of the Secretary of the Treasury the attention
of Congress was called to the fact that $469,651,050 in 5 per cent bonds
and $203,573,750 in 6 per cent bonds would become redeemable during the
year, and Congress was asked to authorize the refunding of these bonds
at a lower rate of interest. The bill for such refunding having failed
to become a law, the Secretary of the Treasury in April last notified
the holders of the $195,690,400 6 per cent bonds then outstanding that
the bonds would be paid at par on the 1st day of July following, or that
they might be "continued" at the pleasure of the Government, to bear
interest at the rate of 3-1/2 per cent per annum.
Under this notice $178,055,150 of the 6 per cent bonds were continued at
the lower rate and $17,635,250 were redeemed.
In the month of May a like notice was given respecting the redemption
or continuance of the $439,841,350 of 5 per cent bonds then outstanding,
and of these $401,504,900 were continued at 3-1/3 per cent per annum and
The 6 per cent bonds of the loan of February 8, 1861, and of the Oregon
war debt, amounting together to $14,125,800, having matured during the
year, the Secretary of the Treasury gave notice of his intention to
redeem the same, and such as have been presented have been paid from the
surplus revenues. There have also been redeemed at par $16,179,100 of
the 3-1/2 per cent "continued" bonds, making a total of bonds redeemed
or which have ceased to bear interest during the year of $123,969,650.
The reduction of the annual interest on the public debt through these
transactions is as follows:
By reduction of interest to 3-1/2 per cent. $10,473,952.25
By redemption of bonds 6,352,340.00
The 3-1/2 per cent bonds, being payable at the pleasure of the
Government, are available for the investment of surplus revenues without
the payment of premiums.
Unless these bonds can be funded at a much lower rate of interest than
they now bear, I agree with the Secretary of the Treasury that no
legislation respecting them is desirable.
It is a matter for congratulation that the business of the country
has been so prosperous during the past year as to yield by taxation
a large surplus of income to the Government. If the revenue laws remain
unchanged, this surplus must year by year increase, on account of the
reduction of the public debt and its burden of interest and because
of the rapid increase of our population. In 1860, just prior to the
institution of our internal-revenue system, our population but slightly
exceeded 30,000,000; by the census of 1880 it is now found to exceed
50,000,000. It is estimated that even if the annual receipts and
expenditures should continue as at present the entire debt could be
paid in ten years.
In view, however, of the heavy load of taxation which our people have
already borne, we may well consider whether it is not the part of wisdom
to reduce the revenues, even if we delay a little the payment of the
It seems to me that the time has arrived when the people may justly
demand some relief from their present onerous burden, and that by due
economy in the various branches of the public service this may readily
I therefore concur with the Secretary in recommending the abolition
of all internal-revenue taxes except those upon tobacco in its various
forms and upon distilled spirits and fermented liquors, and except also
the special tax upon the manufacturers of and dealers in such articles.
The retention of the latter tax is desirable as affording the officers
of the Government a proper supervision of these articles for the
prevention of fraud. I agree with the Secretary of the Treasury that the
law imposing a stamp tax upon matches, proprietary articles, playing
cards, checks, and drafts may with propriety be repealed, and the law
also by which banks and bankers are assessed upon their capital and
deposits. There seems to be a general sentiment in favor of this course.
In the present condition of our revenues the tax upon deposits is
especially unjust. It was never imposed in this country until it was
demanded by the necessities of war, and was never exacted, I believe, in
any other country even in its greatest exigencies. Banks are required to
secure their circulation by pledging with the Treasurer of the United
States bonds of the General Government. The interest upon these bonds,
which at the time when the tax was imposed was 6 per cent, is now in
most instances 3-1/2 per cent. Besides, the entire circulation was
originally limited by law and no increase was allowable. When the
existing banks had practically a monopoly of the business, there was
force in the suggestion that for the franchise to the favored grantees
the Government might very properly exact a tax on circulation; but for
years the system has been free and the amount of circulation regulated
by the public demand.
The retention of this tax has been suggested as a means of reimbursing
the Government for the expense of printing and furnishing the
circulating notes. If the tax should be repealed, it would certainly
seem proper to require the national banks to pay the amount of such
expense to the Comptroller of the Currency.
It is perhaps doubtful whether the immediate reduction of the rate of
taxation upon liquors and tobacco is advisable, especially in view of
the drain upon the Treasury which must attend the payment of arrears of
pensions. A comparison, however, of the amount of taxes collected under
the varying rates of taxation which have at different times prevailed
suggests the intimation that some reduction may soon be made without
material diminution of the revenue.
The tariff laws also need revision; but, that a due regard may be paid
to the conflicting interests of our citizens, important changes should
be made with caution. If a careful revision can not be made at this
session, a commission such as was lately approved by the Senate and is
now recommended by the Secretary of the Treasury would doubtless lighten
the labors of Congress whenever this subject shall be brought to its
The accompanying report of the Secretary of War will make known to you
the operations of that Department for the past year.
He suggests measures for promoting the efficiency of the Army without
adding to the number of its officers, and recommends the legislation
necessary to increase the number of enlisted men to 30,000, the maximum
allowed by law.
This he deems necessary to maintain quietude on our ever-shifting
frontier; to preserve peace and suppress disorder and marauding in new
settlements; to protect settlers and their property against Indians, and
Indians against the encroachments of intruders; and to enable peaceable
immigrants to establish homes in the most remote parts of our country.
The Army is now necessarily scattered over such a vast extent of
territory that whenever an outbreak occurs reenforcements must be
hurried from many quarters, over great distances, and always at heavy
cost for transportation of men, horses, wagons, and supplies.
I concur in the recommendations of the Secretary for increasing the Army
to the strength of 30,000 enlisted men.
It appears by the Secretary's report that in the absence of disturbances
on the frontier the troops have been actively employed in collecting the
Indians hitherto hostile and locating them on their proper reservations;
that Sitting Bull and his adherents are now prisoners at Fort Randall;
that the Utes have been moved to their new reservation in Utah; that
during the recent outbreak of the Apaches it was necessary to reenforce
the garrisons in Arizona by troops withdrawn from New Mexico; and that
some of the Apaches are now held prisoners for trial, while some have
escaped, and the majority of the tribe are now on their reservation.
There is need of legislation to prevent intrusion upon the lands set
apart for the Indians. A large military force, at great expense, is
now required to patrol the boundary line between Kansas and the Indian
Territory. The only punishment that can at present be inflicted is the
forcible removal of the intruder and the imposition of a pecuniary fine,
which in most cases it is impossible to collect. There should be a
penalty by imprisonment in such cases.
The separate organization of the Signal Service is urged by the
Secretary of War, and a full statement of the advantages of such
permanent organization is presented in the report of the Chief Signal
Officer. A detailed account of the useful work performed by the Signal
Corps and the Weather Bureau is also given in that report.
I ask attention to the statements of the Secretary of War regarding the
requisitions frequently made by the Indian Bureau upon the Subsistence
Department of the Army for the casual support of bands and tribes of
Indians whose appropriations are exhausted. The War Department should
not be left, by reason of inadequate provision for the Indian Bureau,
to contribute for the maintenance of Indians.
The report of the Chief of Engineers furnishes a detailed account of the
operations for the improvement of rivers and harbors.
I commend to your attention the suggestions contained in this report in
regard to the condition of our fortifications, especially our coast
defenses, and recommend an increase of the strength of the Engineer
Battalion, by which the efficiency of our torpedo system would be
I also call your attention to the remarks upon the improvement of the
South Pass of the Mississippi River, the proposed free bridge over the
Potomac River at Georgetown, the importance of completing at an early
day the north wing of the War Department building, and other
recommendations of the Secretary of War which appear in his report.
The actual expenditures of that Department for the fiscal year ending
June 30, 1881, were $42,122,201.39. The appropriations for the year 1882
were $44,889,725.42. The estimates for 1883 are $44,541,276.91.
The report of the Secretary of the Navy exhibits the condition of
that branch of the service and presents valuable suggestions for its
improvement. I call your especial attention also to the appended report
of the Advisory Board which he convened to devise suitable measures for
increasing the efficiency of the Navy, and particularly to report as to
the character and number of vessels necessary to place it upon a footing
commensurate with the necessities of the Government.
I can not too strongly urge upon you my conviction that every
consideration of national safety, economy, and honor imperatively
demands a thorough rehabilitation of our Navy.
With a full appreciation of the fact that compliance with the
suggestions of the head of that Department and of the Advisory Board
must involve a large expenditure of the public moneys, I earnestly
recommend such appropriations as will accomplish an end which seems to
me so desirable.
Nothing can be more inconsistent with true public economy than
withholding the means necessary to accomplish the objects intrusted by
the Constitution to the National Legislature. One of those objects, and
one which is of paramount importance, is declared by our fundamental law
to be the provision for the "common defense." Surely nothing is more
essential to the defense of the United States and of all our people
than the efficiency of our Navy.
We have for many years maintained with foreign governments the relations
of honorable peace, and that such relations may be permanent is desired
by every patriotic citizen of the Republic. But if we heed the teachings
of history we shall not forget that in the life of every nation
emergencies may arise when a resort to arms can alone save it from
No danger from abroad now threatens this people, nor have we any cause
to distrust the friendly professions of other governments. But for
avoiding as well as for repelling dangers that may threaten us in the
future we must be prepared to enforce any policy which we think wise to
We must be ready to defend our harbors against aggression; to protect,
by the distribution of our ships of war over the highways of commerce,
the varied interests of our foreign trade and the persons and property
of our citizens abroad; to maintain everywhere the honor of our flag and
the distinguished position which we may rightfully claim among the
nations of the world.
The report of the Postmaster-General is a gratifying exhibit of the
growth and efficiency of the postal service.
The receipts from postage and other ordinary sources during the past
fiscal year were $36,489,816.58. The receipts from the money-order
business were $295,581.39, making a total of $36,785,397.97. The
expenditure for the fiscal year was $39,251,736.46. The deficit supplied
out of the general Treasury was $2,481,129.35, or 6.3 per cent of the
amount expended. The receipts were $3,469,918.63 in excess of those of
the previous year, and $4,575,397.97 in excess of the estimate made two
years ago, before the present period of business prosperity had fairly
The whole number of letters mailed in this country in the last fiscal
year exceeded 1,000,000,000.
The registry system is reported to be in excellent condition, having
been remodeled during the past four years with good results. The amount
of registration fees collected during the last fiscal year was
$712,882.20, an increase over the fiscal year ending June 30, 1877, of
The entire number of letters and packages registered during the year was
8,338,919, of which only 2,061 were lost or destroyed in transit.
The operations of the money-order system are multiplying yearly under
the impulse of immigration, of the rapid development of the newer States
and Territories, and the consequent demand for additional means of
intercommunication and exchange.
During the past year 338 additional money-order offices have been
established, making a total of 5,499 in operation at the date of this
During the year the domestic money orders aggregated in value
A modification of the system is suggested, reducing the fees for money
orders not exceeding $5 from 10 cents to 5 cents and making the maximum
limit $100 in place of $50.
Legislation for the disposition of unclaimed money orders in the
possession of the Post-Office Department is recommended, in view of the
fact that their total value now exceeds $1,000,000.
The attention of Congress is again invited to the subject of
establishing a system of savings depositories in connection with the
The statistics of mail transportation show that during the past year
railroad routes have been increased in length 6,249 miles and in cost
$1,114,382, while steamboat routes have been decreased in length 2,182
miles and in cost $134,054. The so-called star routes have been
decreased in length 3,949 miles and in cost $364,144.
Nearly all of the more expensive routes have been superseded by railroad
service. The cost of the star service must therefore rapidly decrease in
the Western States and Territories.
The Postmaster-General, however, calls attention to the constantly
increasing cost of the railway mail service as a serious difficulty in
the way of making the Department self-sustaining.
Our postal intercourse with foreign countries has kept pace with the
growth of the domestic service. Within the past year several countries
and colonies have declared their adhesion to the Postal Union. It now
includes all those which have an organized postal service except
Bolivia, Costa Rica, New Zealand, and the British colonies in Australia.
As has been already stated, great reductions have recently been made
in the expense of the star-route service. The investigations of the
Department of Justice and the Post-Office Department have resulted in
the presentation of indictments against persons formerly connected with
that service, accusing them of offenses against the United States. I
have enjoined upon the officials who are charged with the conduct of the
cases on the part of the Government, and upon the eminent counsel who
before my accession to the Presidency were called to their assistance,
the duty of prosecuting with the utmost vigor of the law all persons who
may be found chargeable with frauds upon the postal service.
The Acting Attorney-General calls attention to the necessity of
modifying the present system of the courts of the United States--a
necessity due to the large increase of business, especially in the
Supreme Court. Litigation in our Federal tribunals became greatly
expanded after the close of the late war. So long as that expansion
might be attributable to the abnormal condition in which the community
found itself immediately after the return of peace, prudence required
that no change be made in the constitution of our judicial tribunals.
But it has now become apparent that an immense increase of litigation
has directly resulted from the wonderful growth and development of the
country. There is no ground for belief that the business of the United
States courts will ever be less in volume than at present. Indeed, that
it is likely to be much greater is generally recognized by the bench and
In view of the fact that Congress has already given much consideration
to this subject, I make no suggestion as to detail, but express the hope
that your deliberations may result in such legislation as will give
early relief to our overburdened courts.
The Acting Attorney-General also calls attention to the disturbance
of the public tranquillity during the past year in the Territory of
Arizona. A band of armed desperadoes known as "Cowboys," probably
numbering from fifty to one hundred men, have been engaged for months in
committing acts of lawlessness and brutality which the local authorities
have been unable to repress. The depredations of these "Cowboys" have
also extended into Mexico, which the marauders reach from the Arizona
frontier. With every disposition to meet the exigencies of the case,
I am embarrassed by lack of authority to deal with them effectually.
The punishment of crimes committed within Arizona should ordinarily,
of course, be left to the Territorial authorities; but it is worthy
consideration whether acts which necessarily tend to embroil the United
States with neighboring governments should not be declared crimes
against the United States. Some of the incursions alluded to may perhaps
be within the scope of the law (U.S. Revised Statutes, sec. 5286)
forbidding "military expeditions or enterprises" against friendly
states; but in view of the speedy assembling of your body I have
preferred to await such legislation as in your wisdom the occasion may
seem to demand.
It may perhaps be thought proper to provide that the setting on foot
within our own territory of brigandage and armed marauding expeditions
against friendly nations and their citizens shall be punishable as an
offense against the United States.
I will add that in the event of a request from the Territorial
government for protection by the United States against "domestic
violence" this Government would be powerless to render assistance.
The act of 1795, chapter 36, passed at a time when Territorial
governments received little attention from Congress, enforced this duty
of the United States only as to the State governments. But the act of
1807, chapter 39, applied also to Territories. This law seems to have
remained in force until the revision of the statutes, when the provision
for the Territories was dropped. I am not advised whether this
alteration was intentional or accidental; but as it seems to me that the
Territories should be offered the protection which is accorded to the
States by the Constitution, I suggest legislation to that end.
It seems to me, too, that whatever views may prevail as to the policy
of recent legislation by which the Army has ceased to be a part of the
_posse comitatus_, an exception might well be made for permitting
the military to assist the civil Territorial authorities in enforcing
the laws of the United States. This use of the Army would not seem to
be within the alleged evil against which that legislation was aimed.
From sparseness of population and other circumstances it is often quite
impracticable to summon a civil posse in places where officers of
justice require assistance and where a military force is within easy
The report of the Secretary of the Interior, with accompanying
documents, presents an elaborate account of the business of that
Department. A summary of it would be too extended for this place. I ask
your careful attention to the report itself.
Prominent among the matters which challenge the attention of Congress at
its present session is the management of our Indian affairs. While this
question has been a cause of trouble and embarrassment from the infancy
of the Government, it is but recently that any effort has been made for
its solution at once serious, determined, consistent, and promising
It has been easier to resort to convenient makeshifts for tiding over
temporary difficulties than to grapple with the great permanent problem,
and accordingly the easier course has almost invariably been pursued.
It was natural, at a time when the national territory seemed almost
illimitable and contained many millions of acres far outside the bounds
of civilized settlements, that a policy should have been initiated which
more than aught else has been the fruitful source of our Indian
I refer, of course, to the policy of dealing with the various Indian
tribes as separate nationalities, of relegating them by treaty
stipulations to the occupancy of immense reservations in the West, and
of encouraging them to live a savage life, undisturbed by any earnest
and well-directed efforts to bring them under the influences of
The unsatisfactory results which have sprung from this policy are
becoming apparent to all.
As the white settlements have crowded the borders of the reservations,
the Indians, sometimes contentedly and sometimes against their will,
have been transferred to other hunting grounds, from which they have
again been dislodged whenever their new-found homes have Keen desired
by the adventurous settlers.
These removals and the frontier collisions by which they have often been
preceded have led to frequent and disastrous conflicts between the
It is profitless to discuss here which of them has been chiefly
responsible for the disturbances whose recital occupies so large a space
upon the pages of our history.
We have to deal with the appalling fact that though thousands of lives
have been sacrificed and hundreds of millions of dollars expended in the
attempt to solve the Indian problem, it has until within the past few
years seemed scarcely nearer a solution than it was half a century ago.
But the Government has of late been cautiously but steadily feeling its
way to the adoption of a policy which has already produced gratifying
results, and which, in my judgment, is likely, if Congress and the
Executive accord in its support, to relieve us ere long from the
difficulties which have hitherto beset us.
For the success of the efforts now making to introduce among the Indians
the customs and pursuits of civilized life and gradually to absorb them
into the mass of our citizens, sharing their rights and holden to their
responsibilities, there is imperative need for legislative action.
My suggestions in that regard will be chiefly such as have been already
called to the attention of Congress and have received to some extent its
First. I recommend the passage of an act making the laws of the various
States and Territories applicable to the Indian reservations within
their borders and extending the laws of the State of Arkansas to the
portion of the Indian Territory not occupied by the Five Civilized
The Indian should receive the protection of the law. He should be
allowed to maintain in court his rights of person and property. He has
repeatedly begged for this privilege. Its exercise would be very
valuable to him in his progress toward civilization.
Second. Of even greater importance is a measure which has been
frequently recommended by my predecessors in office, and in furtherance
of which several bills have been from time to time introduced in both
Houses of Congress. The enactment of a general law permitting the
allotment in severalty, to such Indians, at least, as desire it, of a
reasonable quantity of land secured to them by patent, and for their own
protection made inalienable for twenty or twenty-five years, is demanded
for their present welfare and their permanent advancement.
In return for such considerate action on the part of the Government,
there is reason to believe that the Indians in large numbers would be
persuaded to sever they tribal relations and to engage at once in
agricultural pursuits. Many of them realize the fact that their hunting
days are over and that it is now for their best interests to conform
their manner of life to the new order of things. By no greater
inducement than the assurance of permanent title to the soil can they
be led to engage in the occupation of tilling it.
The well-attested reports of their increasing interest in husbandry
justify the hope and belief that the enactment of such a statute as I
recommend would be at once attended with gratifying results. A resort
to the allotment system would have a direct and powerful influence in
dissolving the tribal bond, which is so prominent a feature of savage
life, and which tends so strongly to perpetuate it.
Third. I advise a liberal appropriation for the support of Indian
schools, because of my confident belief that such a course is consistent
with the wisest economy.
Even among the most uncultivated Indian tribes there is reported to be
a general and urgent desire on the part of the chiefs and older members
for the education of their children. It is unfortunate, in view of this
fact, that during the past year the means which have been at the command
of the Interior Department for the purpose of Indian instruction have
proved to be utterly inadequate.
The success of the schools which are in operation at Hampton, Carlisle,
and Forest Grove should not only encourage a more generous provision for
the support of those institutions, but should prompt the establishment
of others of a similar character.
They are doubtless much more potent for good than the day schools upon
the reservation, as the pupils are altogether separated from the
surroundings of savage life and brought into constant contact with
There are many other phases of this subject which are of great interest,
but which can not be included within the becoming limits of this
communication. They are discussed ably in the reports of the Secretary
of the Interior and the Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
For many years the Executive, in his annual message to Congress, has
urged the necessity of stringent legislation for the suppression of
polygamy in the Territories, and especially in the Territory of Utah.
The existing statute for the punishment of this odious crime, so
revolting to the moral and religious sense of Christendom, has been
persistently and contemptuously violated ever since its enactment.
Indeed, in spite of commendable efforts on the part of the authorities
who represent the United States in that Territory, the law has in very
rare instances been enforced, and, for a cause to which reference will
presently be made, is practically a dead letter.
The fact that adherents of the Mormon Church, which rests upon polygamy
as its corner stone, have recently been peopling in large numbers Idaho,
Arizona, and other of our Western Territories is well calculated to
excite the liveliest interest and apprehension. It imposes upon Congress
and the Executive the duty of arraying against this barbarous system all
the power which under the Constitution and the law they can wield for
Reference has been already made to the obstacles which the United States
officers have encountered in their efforts to punish violations of law.
Prominent among these obstacles is the difficulty of procuring legal
evidence sufficient to warrant a conviction even in the case of the most
Your attention is called to a recent opinion of the Supreme Court of the
United States, explaining its judgment of reversal in the case of Miles,
who had been convicted of bigamy in Utah. The court refers to the fact
that the secrecy attending the celebration of marriages in that
Territory makes the proof of polygamy very difficult, and the propriety
is suggested of modifying the law of evidence which now makes a wife
incompetent to testify against her husband.
This suggestion is approved. I recommend also the passage of an act
providing that in the Territories of the United States the fact that
a woman has been married to a person charged with bigamy shall not
disqualify her as a witness upon his trial for that offense. I further
recommend legislation by which any person solemnizing a marriage in any
of the Territories shall be required, under stringent penalties for
neglect or refusal, to file a certificate of such marriage in the
supreme court of the Territory.
Doubtless Congress may devise other practicable measures for obviating
the difficulties which have hitherto attended the efforts to suppress
this iniquity. I assure you of my determined purpose to cooperate with
you in any lawful and discreet measures which may be proposed to that
Although our system of government does not contemplate that the nation
should provide or support a system for the education of our people, no
measures calculated to promote that general intelligence and virtue upon
which the perpetuity of our institutions so greatly depends have ever
been regarded with indifference by Congress or the Executive.
A large portion of the public domain has been from time to time devoted
to the promotion of education.
There is now a special reason why, by setting apart the proceeds of its
sales of public lands or by some other course, the Government should aid
the work of education. Many who now exercise the right of suffrage are
unable to read the ballot which they cast. Upon many who had just
emerged from a condition of slavery were suddenly devolved the
responsibilities of citizenship in that portion of the country most
impoverished by war. I have been pleased to learn from the report of the
Commissioner of Education that there has lately been a commendable
increase of interest and effort for their instruction; but all that can
be done by local legislation and private generosity should be
supplemented by such aid as can be constitutionally afforded by the
I would suggest that if any fund be dedicated to this purpose it may be
wisely distributed in the different States according to the ratio of
illiteracy, as by this means those localities which are most in need of
such assistance will reap its special benefits.
The report of the Commissioner of Agriculture exhibits the results of
the experiments in which that Department has been engaged during the
past year and makes important suggestions in reference to the
agricultural development of the country.
The steady increase of our population and the consequent addition to
the number of those engaging in the pursuit of husbandry are giving
to this Department a growing dignity and importance. The Commissioner's
suggestions touching its capacity for greater usefulness deserve
attention, as it more and more commends itself to the interests which
it was created to promote.
It appears from the report of the Commissioner of Pensions that since
1860 789,063 original pension claims have been filed; 450,949 of these
have been allowed and inscribed on the pension roll; 72,539 have been
rejected and abandoned, being 13+ per cent of the whole number of claims
There are now pending for settlement 265,575 original pension claims,
227,040 of which were filed prior to July 1, 1880. These, when allowed,
will involve the payment of arrears from the date of discharge in case
of an invalid and from date of death or termination of a prior right in
all other cases.
From all the data obtainable it is estimated that 15 per cent of the
number of claims now pending will be rejected or abandoned. This would
show the probable rejection of 34,040 cases and the probable admission
of about 193,000 claims, all of which involve the payment of arrears of
With the present force employed, the number of adjudications remaining
the same and no new business intervening, this number of claims
(193,000) could be acted upon in a period of six years; and taking
January 1, 1884, as a near period from which to estimate in each case
an average amount of arrears, it is found that every case allowed would
require for the first payment upon it the sum of $1,350. Multiplying
this amount by the whole number of probable admissions gives
$250,000,000 as the sum required for first payment. This represents the
sum which must be paid upon claims which were filed before July 1, 1880,
and are now pending and entitled to the benefits of the arrears act.
From this amount ($250,000,000) may be deducted from ten to fifteen
millions for cases where, the claimant dying, there is no person who
under the law would be entitled to succeed to the pension, leaving
$235,000,000 as the probable amount to be paid.
In these estimates no account has been taken of the 38,500 cases filed
since June 30, 1880, and now pending, which must receive attention as
current business, but which do not involve the payment of any arrears
beyond the date of filing the claim. Of this number it is estimated that
86 per cent will be allowed.
As has been stated, with the present force of the Pension Bureau (675
clerks) it is estimated that it will take six years to dispose of the
claims now pending.
It is stated by the Commissioner of Pensions that by an addition of 250
clerks (increasing the adjudicating force rather than the mechanical)
double the amount of work could be accomplished, so that these cases
could be acted upon within three years.
Aside from the considerations of justice which, may be urged for a
speedy settlement of the claims now on the files of the Pension Office,
it is no less important on the score of economy, inasmuch as fully
one-third of the clerical force of the office is now wholly occupied in
giving attention to correspondence with the thousands of claimants whose
cases have been on the files for the past eighteen years. The fact that
a sum so enormous must be expended by the Government to meet demands for
arrears of pensions is an admonition to Congress and the Executive to
give cautious consideration to any similar project in the future. The
great temptation to the presentation of fictitious claims afforded by
the fact that the average sum obtained upon each application is $1,300
leads me to suggest the propriety of making some special appropriation
for the prevention of fraud.
I advise appropriations for such internal improvements as the wisdom of
Congress may deem to be of public importance. The necessity of improving
the navigation of the Mississippi River justifies a special allusion to
that subject. I suggest the adoption of some measure for the removal of
obstructions which now impede the navigation of that great channel of
In my letter accepting the nomination for the Vice-Presidency I stated
that in my judgment--
No man should be the incumbent of an office the duties of which he is
for any cause unfit to perform; who is lacking in the ability, fidelity,
or integrity which a proper administration of such office demands. This
sentiment would doubtless meet with general acquiescence, but opinion
has been widely divided upon the wisdom and practicability of the
various reformatory schemes which have been suggested and of certain
proposed regulations governing appointments to public office.
The efficiency of such regulations has been distrusted mainly because
they have seemed to exalt mere educational and abstract tests above
general business capacity and even special fitness for the particular
work in hand. It seems to me that the rules which should be applied to
the management of the public service may properly conform in the main
to such as regulate the conduct of successful private business:
Original appointments should be based upon ascertained fitness.
The tenure of office should be stable.
Positions of responsibility should, so far as practicable, be filled by
the promotion of worthy and efficient officers.
The investigation of all complaints and the punishment of all official
misconduct should be prompt and thorough.
The views expressed in the foregoing letter are those which will govern
my administration of the executive office. They are doubtless shared by
all intelligent and patriotic citizens, however divergent in their
opinions as to the best methods of putting them into practical
For example, the assertion that "original appointments should be based
upon ascertained fitness" is not open to dispute.
But the question how in practice such fitness can be most effectually
ascertained is one which has for years excited interest and discussion.
The measure which, with slight variations in its details, has lately
been urged upon the attention of Congress and the Executive has as
its principal feature the scheme of competitive examination. Save for
certain exceptions, which need not here be specified, this plan would
allow admission to the service only in its lowest grade, and would
accordingly demand that all vacancies in higher positions should be
filled by promotion alone. In these particulars it is in conformity
with the existing civil-service system of Great Britain; and indeed the
success which has attended that system in the country of its birth is
the strongest argument which has been urged for its adoption here.
The fact should not, however, be overlooked that there are certain
features of the English system which have not generally been received
with favor in this country, even among the foremost advocates of
Among them are:
1. A tenure of office which is substantially a life tenure.
2. A limitation of the maximum age at which an applicant can enter
the service, whereby all men in middle life or older are, with some
exceptions, rigidly excluded.
3. A retiring allowance upon going out of office.
These three elements are as important factors of the problem as any of
the others. To eliminate them from the English system would effect a
most radical change in its theory and practice.
The avowed purpose of that system is to induce the educated young men of
the country to devote their lives to public employment by an assurance
that having once entered upon it they need never leave it, and that
after voluntary retirement they shall be the recipients of an annual
pension. That this system as an entirety has proved very successful in
Great Britain seems to be generally conceded even by those who once
opposed its adoption.
To a statute which should incorporate all its essential features I
should feel bound to give my approval; but whether it would be for the
best interests of the public to fix upon an expedient for immediate and
extensive application which embraces certain features of the English
system, but excludes or ignores others of equal importance, may be
seriously doubted, even by those who are impressed, as I am myself, with
the grave importance of correcting the evils which inhere in the present
methods of appointment.
If, for example, the English rule which shuts out persons above the age
of 25 years from a large number of public employments is not to be made
an essential part of our own system, it is questionable whether the
attainment of the highest number of marks at a competitive examination
should be the criterion by which all applications for appointment should
be put to test. And under similar conditions it may also be questioned
whether admission to the service should be strictly limited to its
There are very many characteristics which go to make a model civil
servant. Prominent among them are probity, industry, good sense, good
habits, good temper, patience, order, courtesy, tact, self-reliance,
manly deference to superior officers, and manly consideration for
inferiors. The absence of these traits is not supplied by wide knowledge
of books, or by promptitude in answering questions, or by any other
quality likely to be brought to light by competitive examination.
To make success in such a contest, therefore, an indispensable condition
of public employment would very likely result in the practical exclusion
of the older applicants, even though they might possess qualifications
far superior to their younger and more brilliant competitors.
These suggestions must not be regarded as evincing any spirit of
opposition to the competitive plan, which has been to some extent
successfully employed already, and which may hereafter vindicate the
claim of its most earnest supporters; but it ought to be seriously
considered whether the application of the same educational standard to
persons of mature years and to young men fresh from school and college
would not be likely to exalt mere intellectual proficiency above other
qualities of equal or greater importance.
Another feature of the proposed system is the selection by promotion of
all officers of the Government above the lowest grade, except such as
would fairly be regarded as exponents of the policy of the Executive
and the principles of the dominant party.
To afford encouragement to faithful public servants by exciting in their
minds the hope of promotion if they are found to merit it is much to be
But would it be wise to adopt a rule so rigid as to permit no other mode
of supplying the intermediate walks of the service?
There are many persons who fill subordinate positions with great credit,
but lack those qualities which are requisite for higher posts of duty;
and, besides, the modes of thought and action of one whose service in
a governmental bureau has been long continued are often so cramped by
routine procedure as almost to disqualify him from instituting changes
required by the public interests. An infusion of new blood from time to
time into the middle ranks of the service might be very beneficial in
The subject under discussion is one of grave importance. The evils which
are complained of can not be eradicated at once; the work must be
The present English system is a growth of years, and was not created by
a single stroke of executive or legislative action.
Its beginnings are found in an order in council promulgated in 1855, and
it was after patient and cautious scrutiny of its workings that fifteen
years later it took its present shape.
Five years after the issuance of the order in council, and at a time
when resort had been had to competitive examinations as an experiment
much more extensively than has yet been the case in this country, a
select committee of the House of Commons made a report to that House
which, declaring its approval of the competitive plan, deprecated,
nevertheless, any precipitancy in its general adoption as likely to
endanger its ultimate success.
During this tentative period the results of the two methods of pass
examination and competitive examination were closely watched and
compared. It may be that before we confine ourselves upon this important
question within the stringent bounds of statutory enactment we may
profitably await the result of further inquiry and experiment.
The submission of a portion of the nominations to a central board of
examiners selected solely for testing the qualifications of applicants
may perhaps, without resort to the competitive test, put an end to the
mischiefs which attend the present system of appointment, and it may be
feasible to vest in such a board a wide discretion to ascertain the
characteristics and attainments of candidates in those particulars which
I have already referred to as being no less important than mere
If Congress should deem it advisable at the present session to establish
competitive tests for admission to the service, no doubts such as have
been suggested shall deter me from giving the measure my earnest
And I urgently recommend, should there be a failure to pass any other
act upon this subject, that an appropriation of $25,000 per year may be
made for the enforcement of section 1753 of the Revised Statutes.
With the aid thus afforded me I shall strive to execute the provisions
of that law according to its letter and spirit.
I am unwilling, in justice to the present civil servants of the
Government, to dismiss this subject without declaring my dissent from
the severe and almost indiscriminate censure with which they have been
recently assailed. That they are as a class indolent, inefficient, and
corrupt is a statement which has been often made and widely credited;
but when the extent, variety, delicacy, and importance of their duties
are considered the great majority of the employees of the Government
are, in my judgment, deserving of high commendation.
The continuing decline of the merchant marine of the United States is
greatly to be deplored. In view of the fact that we furnish so large
a proportion of the freights of the commercial world and that our
shipments are steadily and rapidly increasing, it is cause of surprise
that not only is our navigation interest diminishing, but it is less
than when our exports and imports were not half so large as now,
either in bulk or value. There must be some peculiar hindrance to the
development of this interest, or the enterprise and energy of American
mechanics and capitalists would have kept this country at least abreast
of our rivals in the friendly contest for ocean supremacy.
The substitution of iron for wood and of steam for sail have wrought
great revolutions in the carrying trade of the world; but these changes
could not have been adverse to America if we had given to our navigation
interests a portion of the aid and protection which have been so wisely
bestowed upon our manufactures. I commend the whole subject to the
wisdom of Congress, with the suggestion that no question of greater
magnitude or farther reaching importance can engage their attention.
In 1875 the Supreme Court of the United States declared unconstitutional
the statutes of certain States which imposed upon shipowners or
consignees a tax of $1.50 for each passenger arriving from a foreign
country, or in lieu thereof required a bond to indemnify the State and
local authorities against expense for the future relief or support of
such passenger. Since this decision the expense attending the care and
supervision of immigrants has fallen on the States at whose ports they
have landed. As a large majority of such immigrants, immediately upon
their arrival, proceed to the inland States and the Territories to seek
permanent homes, it is manifestly unjust to impose upon the State whose
shores they first reach, the burden which it now bears. For this reason,
and because of the national importance of the subject, I recommend
legislation regarding the supervision and transitory care of immigrants
at the ports of debarkation.
I regret to state that the people of Alaska have reason to complain
that they are as yet unprovided with any form of government by which
life or property can be protected. While the extent of its population
does not justify the application of the costly machinery of Territorial
administration, there is immediate necessity for constituting such a
form of government as will promote the education of the people and
secure the administration of justice.
The Senate at its last session passed a bill providing for the
construction of a building for the Library of Congress, but it failed
to become a law. The provision of suitable protection for this great
collection of books and for the copyright department connected with it
has become a subject of national importance and should receive prompt
The report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia herewith
transmitted will inform you fully of the condition of the affairs of
They urge the vital importance of legislation for the reclamation and
improvement of the marshes and for the establishment of the harbor lines
along the Potomac River front.
It is represented that in their present condition these marshes
seriously affect the health of the residents of the adjacent parts of
the city, and that they greatly mar the general aspect of the park in
which stands the Washington Monument. This improvement would add to
that park and to the park south of the Executive Mansion a large area
of valuable land, and would transform what is now believed to be a
dangerous nuisance into an attractive landscape extending to the river
They recommend the removal of the steam railway lines from the surface
of the streets of the city and the location of the necessary depots in
such places as may be convenient for the public accommodation, and they
call attention to the deficiency of the water supply, which seriously
affects the material prosperity of the city and the health and comfort
of its inhabitants.
I commend these subjects to your favorable consideration.
The importance of timely legislation with respect to the ascertainment
and declaration of the vote for Presidential electors was sharply called
to the attention of the people more than four years ago.
It is to be hoped that some well-defined measure may be devised before
another national election which will render unnecessary a resort to any
expedient of a temporary character for the determination of questions
upon contested returns.
Questions which concern the very existence of the Government and the
liberties of the people were suggested by the prolonged illness of the
late President and his consequent incapacity to perform the functions
of his office.
It is provided by the second article of the Constitution, in the fifth
clause of its first section, that "in case of the removal of the
President from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to
discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall
devolve on the Vice-President,"
What is the intendment of the Constitution in its specification of
"inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office" as one
of the contingencies which calls the Vice-President to the exercise of
Is the inability limited in its nature to long-continued intellectual
incapacity, or has it a broader import?
What must be its extent and duration?
How must its existence be established?
Has the President whose inability is the subject of inquiry any voice
in determining whether or not it exists, or is the decision of that
momentous and delicate question confided to the Vice-President, or is
it contemplated by the Constitution that Congress should provide by law
precisely what should constitute inability and how and by what tribunal
or authority it should be ascertained?
If the inability proves to be temporary in its nature, and during its
continuance the Vice-President lawfully exercises the functions of the
Executive, by what tenure does he hold his office?
Does he continue as President for the remainder of the four years' term?
Or would the elected President, if his inability should cease in the
interval, be empowered to resume his office?
And if, having such lawful authority, he should exercise it, would the
Vice-President be thereupon empowered to resume his powers and duties
I can not doubt that these important questions will receive your early
and thoughtful consideration.
Deeply impressed with the gravity of the responsibilities which have so
unexpectedly devolved upon me, it will be my constant purpose to
cooperate with you in such measures as will promote the glory of the
country and the prosperity of its people.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
_Washington, December 12, 1881_.
_To the Senate of the United States_:
I transmit herewith, in response to the resolution of the Senate of the
17th of May last, a report of the Secretary of State, with accompanying
papers, touching the Geneva convention for the relief of the wounded in
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, _December 15, 1881_.
_To the Senate and House of Representatives:_
I transmit herewith a communication from the Secretary of the Interior,
with accompanying papers, in reference to the applications of the
Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central and the St. Louis and San Francisco
Railway companies for a right of way across the lands of the Choctaw
Nation in the Indian Territory for the building of a proposed railroad
and telegraph line.
The matter is commended to the careful attention of Congress.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
EXECUTIVE MANSION, _December 15, 1881_.
_To the Senate of the United States:_
I transmit herewith, in response to a resolution of the Senate of the
12th instant, a report from the Secretary of State, with an accompanying
paper, touching the proposed modification of the Clayton-Bulwer treaty
of April 19, 1850, between the United States and Great Britain.
CHESTER A. ARTHUR.
WASHINGTON, _December 15, 1881_.
_To the Senate of the United States:_