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

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commercial treaty of January 23, 1860, between France and England one
of the articles provides that the _ad valorem_ duties which it imposes
shall be converted into specific duties within six months from its date,
and these are to be ascertained by making an average of the prices for
six months previous to that time. The reverse of the propositions would
be nearer to the truth, because a much larger amount of revenue would be
collected by merely converting the _ad valorem_ duties of a tariff into
equivalent specific duties. To this extent the revenue would be
increased, and in the same proportion the specific duty might be

Specific duties would secure to the American manufacturer the incidental
protection to which he is fairly entitled under a revenue tariff, and to
this surely no person would object. The framers of the existing tariff
have gone further, and in a liberal spirit have discriminated in favor
of large and useful branches of our manufactures, not by raising the
rate of duty upon the importation of similar articles from abroad, but,
what is the same in effect, by admitting articles free of duty which
enter into the composition of their fabrics.

Under the present system it has been often truly remarked that this
incidental protection decreases when the manufacturer needs it most and
increases when he needs it least, and constitutes a sliding scale which
always operates against him. The revenues of the country are subject to
similar fluctuations. Instead of approaching a steady standard, as would
be the case under a system of specific duties, they sink and rise with
the sinking and rising prices of articles in foreign countries. It would
not be difficult for Congress to arrange a system of specific duties
which would afford additional stability both to our revenue and our
manufactures and without injury or injustice to any interest of the
country. This might be accomplished by ascertaining the average value of
any given article for a series of years at the place of exportation and
by simply converting the rate of _ad valorem_ duty upon it which might
be deemed necessary for revenue purposes into the form of a specific
duty. Such an arrangement could not injure the consumer. If he should
pay a greater amount of duty one year, this would be counterbalanced by
a lesser amount the next, and in the end the aggregate would be the

I desire to call your immediate attention to the present condition
of the Treasury, so ably and clearly presented by the Secretary in
his report to Congress, and to recommend that measures be promptly
adopted to enable it to discharge its pressing obligations. The other
recommendations of the report are well worthy of your favorable

I herewith transmit to Congress the reports of the Secretaries of War,
of the Navy, of the Interior, and of the Postmaster-General. The
recommendations and suggestions which they contain are highly valuable
and deserve your careful attention.

The report of the Postmaster-General details the circumstances under
which Cornelius Vanderbilt, on my request, agreed in the month of July
last to carry the ocean mails between our Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
Had he not thus acted this important intercommunication must have been
suspended, at least for a season. The Postmaster-General had no power
to make him any other compensation than the postages on the mail matter
which he might carry. It was known at the time that these postages would
fall far short of an adequate compensation, as well as of the sum which
the same service had previously cost the Government. Mr. Vanderbilt, in
a commendable spirit, was willing to rely upon the justice of Congress
to make up the deficiency, and I therefore recommend that an
appropriation may be granted for this purpose.

I should do great injustice to the Attorney-General were I to omit
the mention of his distinguished services in the measures adopted and
prosecuted by him for the defense of the Government against numerous and
unfounded claims to land in California purporting to have been made by
the Mexican Government previous to the treaty of cession. The successful
opposition to these claims has saved the United States public property
worth many millions of dollars and to individuals holding title under
them to at least an equal amount.

It has been represented to me from sources which I deem reliable that
the inhabitants in several portions of Kansas have been reduced nearly
to a state of starvation on account of the almost total failure of their
crops, whilst the harvests in every other portion of the country have
been abundant. The prospect before them for the approaching winter is
well calculated to enlist the sympathies of every heart. The destitution
appears to be so general that it can not be relieved by private
contributions, and they are in such indigent circumstances as to be
unable to purchase the necessaries of life for themselves. I refer the
subject to Congress, If any constitutional measure for their relief can
be devised, I would recommend its adoption.

I cordially commend to your favorable regard the interests of the people
of this District. They are eminently entitled to your consideration,
especially since, unlike the people of the States, they can appeal to
no government except that of the Union.



WASHINGTON, _December 5, 1860_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I transmit, for the consideration of the Senate with a view to
ratification, a convention for the adjustment of claims of citizens of
the United States against the Government of the Republic of Costa Rica,
signed by the plenipotentiaries of the contracting parties at San Jose
on the 2d day of July last.


WASHINGTON, _December 5, 1860_.

_To the House of Representatives_:

In answer to the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 9th
of April last, requesting information concerning the African slave
trade, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the documents
by which it was accompanied.


WASHINGTON, _January 2, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I transmit to the Senate, for its consideration with a view to
ratification, a treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation, and for the
surrender of fugitive criminals, between the United States and the
Republic of Venezuela, signed at Caracas on the 27th of August last.

A similar treaty was concluded on the 10th July, 1856, was submitted
to the Senate, and was by a resolution of that body approved, with an
amendment, on the 10th March, 1857. Before this amendment could be laid
before the Government of Venezuela for acceptance a new minister of the
United States was accredited to that Government. Meantime the attention
of this Government had been drawn to the disadvantage which would result
to our citizens residing in Venezuela if the second article of the
treaty of 1856 were permitted to go into effect, the "pecuniary
equivalent" for exemption from military duty being an arbitrary and
generally an excessive sum. In view of this fact it was deemed
preferable to instruct our new minister to negotiate a new treaty which
should omit the objectionable second article and also the few words of
the twenty-eighth article which had been stricken out by the Senate.

With these changes, and with the addition of the last clause to the
twenty-seventh article, the treaty is the same as that already approved
by the Senate.


WASHINGTON CITY, _January 8, 1861_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives_:

At the opening of your present session I called your attention to the
dangers which threatened the existence of the Union. I expressed my
opinion freely concerning the original causes of those dangers, and
recommended such measures as I believed would have the effect of
tranquilizing the country and saving it from the peril in which it had
been needlessly and most unfortunately involved. Those opinions and
recommendations I do not propose now to repeat. My own convictions upon
the whole subject remain unchanged.

The fact that a great calamity was impending over the nation was even at
that time acknowledged by every intelligent citizen. It had already made
itself felt throughout the length and breadth of the land. The necessary
consequences of the alarm thus produced were most deplorable. The
imports fell off with a rapidity never known before, except in time
of war, in the history of our foreign commerce; the Treasury was
unexpectedly left without the means which it had reasonably counted upon
to meet the public engagements; trade was paralyzed; manufactures were
stopped; the best public securities suddenly sunk in the market; every
species of property depreciated more or less, and thousands of poor men
who depended upon their daily labor for their daily bread were turned
out of employment.

I deeply regret that I am not able to give you any information upon the
state of the Union which is more satisfactory than what I was then
obliged to communicate. On the contrary, matters are still worse at
present than they then were. When Congress met, a strong hope pervaded
the whole public mind that some amicable adjustment of the subject would
speedily be made by the representatives of the States and of the people
which might restore peace between the conflicting sections of the
country. That hope has been diminished by every hour of delay, and as
the prospect of a bloodless settlement fades away the public distress
becomes more and more aggravated. As evidence of this it is only
necessary to say that the Treasury notes authorized by the act of 17th
of December last were advertised according to the law and that no
responsible bidder offered to take any considerable sum at par at a
lower rate of interest than 12 per cent. From these facts it appears
that in a government organized like ours domestic strife, or even a
well-grounded fear of civil hostilities, is more destructive to our
public and private interests than the most formidable foreign war.

In my annual message I expressed the conviction, which I have long
deliberately held, and which recent reflection has only tended to deepen
and confirm, that no State has a right by its own act to secede from the
Union or throw off its federal obligations at pleasure. I also declared
my opinion to be that even if that right existed and should be exercised
by any State of the Confederacy the executive department of this
Government had no authority under the Constitution to recognize its
validity by acknowledging the independence of such State. This left me
no alternative, as the chief executive officer under the Constitution of
the United States, but to collect the public revenues and to protect the
public property so far as this might be practicable under existing laws.
This is still my purpose. My province is to execute and not to make the
laws. It belongs to Congress exclusively to repeal, to modify, or to
enlarge their provisions to meet exigencies as they may occur. I possess
no dispensing power.

I certainly had no right to make aggressive war upon any State, and
I am perfectly satisfied that the Constitution has wisely withheld that
power even from Congress. But the right and the duty to use military
force defensively against those who resist the Federal officers in the
execution of their legal functions and against those who assail the
property of the Federal Government is clear and undeniable.

But the dangerous and hostile attitude of the States toward each other
has already far transcended and cast in the shade the ordinary executive
duties already provided for by law, and has assumed such vast and
alarming proportions as to place the subject entirely above and beyond
Executive control. The fact can not be disguised that we are in the
midst of a great revolution. In all its various bearings, therefore,
I commend the question to Congress as the only human tribunal under
Providence possessing the power to meet the existing emergency. To
them exclusively belongs the power to declare war or to authorize
the employment of military force in all cases contemplated by the
Constitution, and they alone possess the power to remove grievances
which might lead to war and to secure peace and union to this distracted
country. On them, and on them alone, rests the responsibility.

The Union is a sacred trust left by our Revolutionary fathers to their
descendants, and never did any other people inherit so rich a legacy.
It has rendered us prosperous in peace and triumphant in war. The
national flag has floated in glory over every sea. Under its shadow
American citizens have found protection and respect in all lands beneath
the sun. If we descend to considerations of purely material interest,
when in the history of all time has a confederacy been bound together
by such strong ties of mutual interest? Each portion of it is dependent
on all and all upon each portion for prosperity and domestic security.
Free trade throughout the whole supplies the wants of one portion from
the productions of another and scatters wealth everywhere. The great
planting and farming States require the aid of the commercial and
navigating States to send their productions to domestic and foreign
markets and to furnish the naval power to render their transportation
secure against all hostile attacks.

Should the Union perish in the midst of the present excitement, we have
already had a sad foretaste of the universal suffering which would
result from its destruction. The calamity would be severe in every
portion of the Union and would be quite as great, to say the least, in
the Southern as in the Northern States. The greatest aggravation of the
evil, and that which would place us in the most unfavorable light both
before the world and posterity, is, as I am firmly convinced, that the
secession movement has been chiefly based upon a misapprehension at the
South of the sentiments of the majority in several of the Northern
States. Let the question be transferred from political assemblies to
the ballot box, and the people themselves would speedily redress the
serious grievances which the South have suffered. But, in Heaven's name,
let the trial be made before we plunge into armed conflict upon the
mere assumption that there is no other alternative. Time is a great
conservative power. Let us pause at this momentous point and afford the
people, both North and South, an opportunity for reflection. Would that
South Carolina had been convinced of this truth before her precipitate
action! I therefore appeal through you to the people of the country to
declare in their might that the Union must and shall be preserved by
all constitutional means. I most earnestly recommend that you devote
yourselves exclusively to the question how this can be accomplished
in peace. All other questions, when compared to this, sink into
insignificance. The present is no time for palliations. Action, prompt
action, is required. A delay in Congress to prescribe or to recommend
a distinct and practical proposition for conciliation may drive us to
a point from which it will be almost impossible to recede.

A common ground on which conciliation and harmony can be produced is
surely not unattainable. The proposition to compromise by letting the
North have exclusive control of the territory above a certain line
and to give Southern institutions protection below that line ought to
receive universal approbation. In itself, indeed, it may not be entirely
satisfactory, but when the alternative is between a reasonable
concession on both sides and a destruction of the Union it is an
imputation upon the patriotism of Congress to assert that its members
will hesitate for a moment.

Even now the danger is upon us. In several of the States which have not
yet seceded the forts, arsenals, and magazines of the United States have
been seized. This is by far the most serious step which has been taken
since the commencement of the troubles. This public property has long
been left without garrisons and troops for its protection, because no
person doubted its security under the flag of the country in any State
of the Union. Besides, our small Army has scarcely been sufficient to
guard our remote frontiers against Indian incursions. The seizure of
this property, from all appearances, has been purely aggressive, and not
in resistance to any attempt to coerce a State or States to remain in
the Union.

At the beginning of these unhappy troubles I determined that no act of
mine should increase the excitement in either section of the country. If
the political conflict were to end in a civil war, it was my determined
purpose not to commence it nor even to furnish an excuse for it by any
act of this Government. My opinion remains unchanged that justice as
well as sound policy requires us still to seek a peaceful solution of
the questions at issue between the North and the South. Entertaining
this conviction, I refrained even from sending reenforcements to Major
Anderson, who commanded the forts in Charleston Harbor, until an
absolute necessity for doing so should make itself apparent, lest it
might unjustly be regarded as a menace of military coercion, and thus
furnish, if not a provocation, at least a pretext for an outbreak on the
part of South Carolina. No necessity for these reenforcements seemed to
exist. I was assured by distinguished and upright gentlemen of South
Carolina that no attack upon Major Anderson was intended, but that, on
the contrary, it was the desire of the State authorities as much as it
was my own to avoid the fatal consequences which must eventually follow
a military collision.

And here I deem it proper to submit for your information copies of
a communication, dated December 28, 1860, addressed to me by R.W.
Barnwell, J.H. Adams, and James L. Orr, "commissioners" from South
Carolina, with the accompanying documents, and copies of my answer
thereto, dated December 31.

In further explanation of Major Anderson's removal from Fort Moultrie
to Fort Sumter, it is proper to state that after my answer to the South
Carolina "commissioners" the War Department received a letter from that
gallant officer, dated on the 27th of December, 1860, the day after this
movement, from which the following is an extract:

I will add as my opinion that many things convinced me that the
authorities of the State designed to proceed to a hostile act.

Evidently referring to the orders, dated December 11, of the late
Secretary of War.

Under this impression I could not hesitate that it was my solemn duty to
move my command from a fort which we could not probably have held longer
than forty-eight or sixty hours to this one, where my power of
resistance is increased to a very great degree.

It will be recollected that the concluding part of these orders was in
the following terms:

The smallness of your force will not permit you, perhaps, to occupy
more than one of the three forts, but an attack on or attempt to
take possession of either one of them will be regarded as an act of
hostility, and you may then put your command into either of them which
you may deem most proper to increase its power of resistance. You are
also authorized to take similar defensive steps whenever you have
tangible evidence of a design to proceed to a hostile act.

It is said that serious apprehensions are to some extent entertained (in
which I do not share) that the peace of this District may be disturbed
before the 4th of March next. In any event, it will be my duty to
preserve it, and this duty shall be performed.

In conclusion it may be permitted to me to remark that I have often
warned my countrymen of the dangers which now surround us. This may be
the last time I shall refer to the subject officially. I feel that my
duty has been faithfully, though it may be imperfectly, performed, and,
whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness
that I at least meant well for my country.


WASHINGTON, _January 15, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

In compliance with the resolution of the Senate passed on the 10th
instant, requesting me to inform that body, if not incompatible with the
public interest, "whether John B. Floyd, whose appointment as Secretary
of War was confirmed by the Senate on the 6th of March, 1857, still
continues to hold said office, and, if not, when and how said office
became vacant; and, further, to inform the Senate how and by whom the
duties of said office are now discharged, and, if an appointment of an
acting or provisional Secretary of War has been made, how, when, and by
what authority it was so made, and why the fact of said appointment has
not been communicated to the Senate," I have to inform the Senate that
John B. Floyd, the late Secretary of the War Department, resigned that
office on the 29th day of December last, and that on the 1st day of
January instant Joseph Holt was authorized by me to perform the duties
of the said office until a successor should be appointed or the vacancy
filled. Under this authority the duties of the War Department have been
performed by Mr. Holt from the day last mentioned to the present time.

The power to carry on the business of the Government by means of a
provisional appointment when a vacancy occurs is expressly given by the
act of February 13, 1795, which enacts--

That in case of vacancy in the office of Secretary of State,
Secretary of the Treasury, or of the Secretary of the Department
of War, or of any officer of either of the said Departments whose
appointment is not in the head thereof, whereby they can not perform
the duties of their respective offices, it shall be lawful for the
President of the United States, in case he shall think it necessary,
to authorize any person or persons, at his discretion, to perform the
duties of the said respective offices until a successor be appointed
or such vacancy be filled: _Provided_, That no one vacancy shall be
supplied in manner aforesaid for a longer period than six months.

It is manifest that if the power which this law gives had been withheld
the public interest would frequently suffer very serious detriment.
Vacancies may occur at any time in the most important offices which can
not be immediately and permanently filled in a manner satisfactory to
the appointing power. It was wise to make a provision which would enable
the President to avoid a total suspension of business in the interval,
and equally wise so to limit the Executive discretion as to prevent any
serious abuse of it. This is what the framers of the act of 1795 did,
and neither the policy nor the constitutional validity of their law has
been questioned for sixty-five years.

The practice of making such appointments, whether in a vacation or
during the session of Congress, has been constantly followed during
every Administration from the earliest period of the Government, and its
perfect lawfulness has never to my knowledge been questioned or denied.
Without going back further than the year 1829, and without taking into
the calculation any but the chief officers of the several Departments,
it will be found that provisional appointments to fill vacancies were
made to the number of 179 from the commencement of General Jackson's
Administration to the close of General Pierce's. This number would
probably be greatly increased if all the cases which occurred in the
subordinate offices and bureaus were added to the count. Some of them
were made while the Senate was in session; some which were made in
vacation were continued in force long after the Senate assembled.
Sometimes the temporary officer was the commissioned head of another
Department, sometimes a subordinate in the same Department. Sometimes
the affairs of the Navy Department have been directed _ad interim_ by a
commodore and those of the War Department by a general. In most, if not
all, of the cases which occurred previous to 1852 it is believed that
the compensation provided by law for the officer regularly commissioned
was paid to the person who discharged the duties _ad interim_. To give
the Senate a more detailed and satisfactory view of the subject, I send
the accompanying tabular statement, certified by the Secretary of State,
in which the instances are all set forth in which provisional as well as
permanent appointments were made to the highest executive offices from
1829 nearly to the present time, with their respective dates.

It must be allowed that these precedents, so numerous and so long
continued, are entitled to great respect, since we can scarcely suppose
that the wise and eminent men by whom they were made could have been
mistaken on a point which was brought to their attention so often. Still
less can it be supposed that any of them willfully violated the law or
the Constitution.

The lawfulness of the practice rests upon the exigencies of the public
service, which require that the movements of the Government shall not be
arrested by an accidental vacancy in one of the Departments; upon an act
of Congress expressly and plainly giving and regulating the power, and
upon long and uninterrupted usage of the Executive, which has never been
challenged as illegal by Congress.

This answers the inquiry of the Senate so far as it is necessary to show
"how and by whom the duties of said office are now discharged." Nor is
it necessary to explain further than I have done "how, when, and by what
authority" the provisional appointment has been made; but the resolution
makes the additional inquiry "_why_ the fact of said appointment has not
been communicated to the Senate,"

I take it for granted that the Senate did not mean to call for the
reasons upon which I acted in performing an Executive duty nor to demand
an account of the motives which governed me in an act which the law and
the Constitution left to my own discretion. It is sufficient, therefore,
for that part of the resolution to say that a provisional or temporary
appointment like that in question is not required by law to be
communicated to the Senate, and that there is no instance on record
where such communication ever has been made.


WASHINGTON, _January 22, 1861_.

_To the House of Representatives_:

I herewith transmit to the House of Representatives a communication from
the Secretary of the Navy, with accompanying reports, of the persons who
were sent to the Isthmus of Chiriqui to make the examinations required
by the fifth section of the act making appropriations for the naval
service, approved June 22, 1860.


WASHINGTON, _January 24, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

In compliance with the resolution of the Senate of the 19th instant,
requesting a copy of correspondence between the Department of State and
ministers of foreign powers at Washington in regard to foreign vessels
in Charleston, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the
documents by which it was accompanied.


WASHINGTON CITY, _January 28, 1861_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States_:

I deem it my duty to submit to Congress a series of resolutions adopted
by the legislature of Virginia on the 19th instant, having in view a
peaceful settlement of the exciting questions which now threaten the
Union. They were delivered to me on Thursday, the 24th instant, by
ex-President Tyler, who has left his dignified and honored retirement in
the hope that he may render service to his country in this its hour of
peril. These resolutions, it will be perceived, extend an invitation
"to all such States, whether slaveholding or nonslaveholding, as are
willing to unite with Virginia in an earnest effort to adjust the
present unhappy controversies in the spirit in which the Constitution
was originally formed, and consistently with its principles, so as to
afford to the people of the slaveholding States adequate guaranties
for the securities of their rights, to appoint commissioners to meet,
on the 4th day of February next, in the city of Washington, similar
commissioners appointed by Virginia, to consider and, if practicable,
agree upon some suitable adjustment."

I confess I hail this movement on the part of Virginia with great
satisfaction. From the past history of this ancient and renowned
Commonwealth we have the fullest assurance that what she has undertaken
she will accomplish if it can be done by able, enlightened, and
persevering efforts. It is highly gratifying to know that other
patriotic States have appointed and are appointing commissioners to meet
those of Virginia in council. When assembled, they will constitute a
body entitled in an eminent degree to the confidence of the country.

The general assembly of Virginia have also resolved--

That ex-President John Tyler is hereby appointed, by the concurrent
vote of each branch of the general assembly, a commissioner to the
President of the United States, and Judge John Robertson is hereby
appointed, by a like vote, a commissioner to the State of South
Carolina and the other States that have seceded or shall secede, with
instructions respectfully to request the President of the United States
and the authorities of such States to agree to abstain, pending the
proceedings contemplated by the action of this general assembly, from
any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of arms between the
States and the Government of the United States.

However strong may be my desire to enter into such an agreement, I am
convinced that I do not possess the power. Congress, and Congress alone,
under the war-making power, can exercise the discretion of agreeing to
abstain "from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of
arms" between this and any other government. It would therefore be a
usurpation for the Executive to attempt to restrain their hands by an
agreement in regard to matters over which he has no constitutional
control. If he were thus to act, they might pass laws which he should be
bound to obey, though in conflict with his agreement.

Under existing circumstances, my present actual power is confined within
narrow limits. It is my duty at all times to defend and protect the
public property within the seceding States so far as this may be
practicable, and especially to employ all constitutional means to
protect the property of the United States and to preserve the public
peace at this the seat of the Federal Government. If the seceding States
abstain "from any and all acts calculated to produce a collision of
arms," then the danger so much to be deprecated will no longer exist.
Defense, and not aggression, has been the policy of the Administration
from the beginning.

But whilst I can enter into no engagement such as that proposed, I
cordially commend to Congress, with much confidence that it will meet
their approbation, to abstain from passing any law calculated to produce
a collision of arms pending the proceedings contemplated by the action
of the general assembly of Virginia. I am one of those who will never
despair of the Republic. I yet cherish the belief that the American
people will perpetuate the Union of the States on some terms just and
honorable for all sections of the country. I trust that the mediation of
Virginia may be the destined means, under Providence, of accomplishing
this inestimable benefit. Glorious as are the memories of her past
history, such an achievement, both in relation to her own fame and the
welfare of the whole country, would surpass them all.


WASHINGTON, _January 30, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I have received the resolution of the Senate of the 24th instant,
requesting the return to that body of the convention between the United
States and the Republic of Venezuela on the subject of the Aves Island.
That instrument is consequently herewith returned. It was approved by
the Senate on the 24th June last with the following amendment:

Article III: Strike out this article, in the following words:

In consideration of the above agreement and indemnification, the
Government of the United States and the individuals in whose behalf they
have been made agree to desist from all further reclamation respecting
the island of Aves, abandoning to the Republic of Venezuela whatever
rights might pertain to them.

The amendment does not seem necessary to secure any right either of the
United States or of any American citizen claiming under them. Neither
the Government nor the citizens in whose behalf the convention has been
concluded have any further claims upon the island of Aves. Nor is it
known or believed that there are any claims against the Government of
Venezuela having any connection with that island other than those
provided for in this convention. I therefore recommend the
reconsideration of the subject.

No steps have yet been taken toward making known to the Venezuelan
Government the conditional approval of the convention by the Senate.
This might have been necessary if the instrument had stipulated for a
ratification in the usual form and it had been ratified accordingly.
Inasmuch, however, as the convention contains no such stipulation, and
as some of the installments had been paid according to its terms, it has
been deemed preferable to suspend further proceedings in regard to it,
especially as it was not deemed improbable that the Senate might request
it to be returned. This anticipation has been realized.


WASHINGTON, _February 5, 1861_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives_:

I have received from the governor of Kentucky certain resolutions
adopted by the general assembly of that Commonwealth, containing an
application to Congress for the call of a convention for proposing
amendments to the Constitution of the United States, with a request that
I should immediately place the same before that body. It affords me
great satisfaction to perform this duty, and I feel quite confident that
Congress will bestow upon these resolutions the careful consideration to
which they are eminently entitled on account of the distinguished and
patriotic source from which they proceed, as well as the great
importance of the subject which they involve.


WASHINGTON, _February 8, 1861_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives_:

I deemed it a duty to transmit to Congress with my message of the 8th of
January the correspondence which occurred in December last between the
"commissioners" of South Carolina and myself.

Since that period, on the 14th of January, Colonel Isaac W. Hayne, the
attorney-general of South Carolina, called and informed me that he was
the bearer of a letter from Governor Pickens to myself which he would
deliver the next day. He was, however, induced by the interposition of
Hon. Jefferson Davis and nine other Senators from the seceded and
seceding States not to deliver it on the day appointed, nor was it
communicated to me until the 31st of January, with his letter of that
date. Their letter to him urging this delay bears date January 15, and
was the commencement of a correspondence, the whole of which in my
possession I now submit to Congress. A reference to each letter of the
series in proper order accompanies this message.


WASHINGTON CITY, _February 12, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I herewith submit to the Senate, for their advice, the proceedings and
award of the commissioners under the convention between the United
States of America and the Republic of Paraguay, proclaimed by the
President on the 12th of March, 1860. It is decided by the award of
these commissioners that "the United States and Paraguay Navigation
Company have not proved or established any right to damages upon their
said claim against the Government of the Republic of Paraguay, and that
upon the proofs aforesaid the said Government is not responsible to the
said company in any damages or pecuniary compensation whatever in all
the premises."

The question arises, Had the commissioners authority under the
convention to make such an award, or were they not confined to the
assessment of damages which the company had sustained from the
Government of Paraguay?

Our relations with that Republic had for years been of a most
unsatisfactory character. They had been investigated by the preceding
and by the present Administration. The latter came to the conclusion
that both the interest and honor of the country required that our rights
against that Government for their attack on the _Water Witch_ and for
the injuries they had inflicted on this company should, if necessary, be
enforced. Accordingly, the President in his annual message of December,
1857, called the attention of Congress to the subject in the following

A demand for these purposes will be made in a firm but conciliatory
spirit. This will the more probably be granted if the Executive shall
have authority to use other means in the event of a refusal. This is
accordingly recommended.

After due deliberation, Congress, on the 2d of June, 1858, authorized
the President "to adopt such measures and use such force as in his
judgment may be necessary and advisable" in the premises. A commissioner
was accordingly appointed and a force fitted out and dispatched to
Paraguay for the purpose, if necessary, of enforcing atonement for these

The expedition appeared in the waters of the La Plata and our
commissioner succeeded in concluding a treaty and convention embracing
both branches of our demand. The convention of indemnity was signed on
the 4th of February, 1859. The preamble of this convention refers to the
interruption for a time of the good understanding and harmony between
the two nations which has rendered that distant armament necessary.
By the first article the Government of Paraguay "binds itself for the
responsibility in favor of the United States and Paraguay Navigation
Company which may result from the decree of commissioners" to be
appointed in the manner provided by article 2. This was in accordance
with the instructions to our commissioner, who was told that an
indispensable preliminary to the negotiation would, "of course, be an
acknowledgment on the part of the Paraguayan Government of its liability
to the company." The first paragraph of this second article clearly
specifies the object of the convention. This was not to ascertain
whether the claim was just, to enforce which we had sent a fleet to
Paraguay, but to constitute a commission to "determine," not the
existence, but "the amount, of said reclamations." The final paragraph
provides that "the two commissioners named in the said manner shall meet
in the city of Washington to investigate, adjust, and _determine the
amount_ of the claims of the above-mentioned company upon sufficient
proofs of the charges and defenses of the contending parties." By the
fifth article the Government of Paraguay "binds itself to pay to the
Government of the United States of America, in the city of Assumption,
Paraguay, thirty days after presentation to the Government of the
Republic, the draft which that of the United States of America shall
issue for the amount for which the two commissioners concurring, or
by the umpire, shall declare it responsible to the said company."

The act of Congress of May 16, 1860, employs the same language that
is used in the convention, "to investigate, adjust, and determine the
amount" of the claims against Paraguay. Congress, not doubting that an
award would be made in favor of the company for some certain amount
of damages, in the sixth section of the act referred to provides that
the money paid out of the Treasury for the expenses of the commission
"shall be retained by the United States out of the money" (not any
money) "that may, pursuant to the terms of said convention, be received
from Paraguay."

After all this had been done, after we had fitted out a warlike
expedition in part to obtain satisfaction for this very claim, after
these solemn acts had been performed by the two Republics, the
commissioners have felt themselves competent to decide that they could
go behind the action of the legislative and executive branches of this
Government and determine that there was no justice in the original
claim. A commissioner of Paraguay might have been a proper person to
act merely in assessing the amount of damages when an arbiter had been
provided to decide between him and the commissioner on the part of the
United States, but to have authorized him to decide upon the original
justice of the claim against his own Government would have been a
novelty. The American commissioner is as pure and honest a man as
I have ever known, but I think he took a wrong view of his powers
under the convention.

The principle of the liability of Paraguay having been established by
the highest political acts of the United States and that Republic in
their sovereign capacity, the commissioners, who would seem to have
misapprehended their powers, have investigated and undertaken to decide
whether the Government of the United States was right or wrong in
the authority which they gave to make war if necessary to secure the
indemnity. Governments may be, and doubtless often have been, wrong
in going to war to enforce claims; but after this has been done, and
the inquiry which led to the reclamations has been acknowledged by the
Government that inflicted it, it does not appear to me to be competent
for commissioners authorized to ascertain the indemnity for the injury
to go behind their authority and decide upon the original merits of the
claim for which the war was made. If a commissioner were appointed under
a convention to ascertain the damage sustained by an American citizen in
consequence of the capture of a vessel admitted by the foreign
government to be illegal, and he should go behind the convention and
decide that the original capture was a lawful prize, it would certainly
be regarded as an extraordinary assumption of authority.

The present appears to me to be a case of this character, and for these
reasons I have deemed it advisable to submit the whole subject for the
consideration of the Senate.


WASHINGTON, _February 21, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

The treaty concluded between Great Britain and the United States on
the 15th of June, 1846, provided in its first article that the line of
boundary between the territories of Her Britannic Majesty and those of
the United States from the point on the forty-ninth parallel of north
latitude up to which it had already been ascertained should be continued
westward along the said parallel "to the middle of the channel which
separates the continent from Vancouvers Island, and thence southerly
through the middle of said channel and of Fucas Straits to the Pacific
Ocean." When the commissioners appointed by the two Governments to
mark the boundary line came to that point of it which is required to
run southerly through the channel which divides the continent from
Vancouvers Island, they differed entirely in their opinions, not only
concerning the true point of deflection from the forty-ninth parallel,
but also as to the channel intended to be designated in the treaty.
After a long-continued and very able discussion of the subject, which
produced no result, they reported their disagreement to their respective
Governments. Since that time the two Governments, through their
ministers here and at London, have had a voluminous correspondence
on the point in controversy, each sustaining the view of its own
commissioner and neither yielding in any degree to the claims of the
other. In the meantime the unsettled condition of this affair has
produced some serious local disturbances, and on one occasion at least
has threatened to destroy the harmonious relations existing between
Great Britain and the United States. The island of San Juan will fall
to the United States if our construction of the treaty be right, while
if the British interpretation be adopted it will be on their side of
the line. That island is an important possession to this country, and
valuable for agricultural as well as military purposes. I am convinced
that it is ours by the treaty fairly and impartially construed. But
argument has been exhausted on both sides without increasing the
probability of final adjustment. On the contrary, each party seems now
to be more convinced than at first of the justice of its own demands.
There is but one mode left of settling the dispute, and that is by
submitting it to the arbitration of some friendly and impartial power.
Unless this be done, the two countries are exposed to the constant
danger of a collision which may end in war.

It is under these circumstances that the British Government, through its
minister here, has proposed the reference of the matter in controversy
to the King of Sweden and Norway, the King of the Netherlands, or to the
Republic of the Swiss Confederation. Before accepting this proposition
I have thought it right to take the advice of the Senate.

The precise questions which I submit are these: Will the Senate approve
a treaty referring to either of the sovereign powers above named the
dispute now existing between the Governments of the United States and
Great Britain concerning the boundary line between Vancouvers Island and
the American continent? In case the referee shall find himself unable to
decide where the line is by the description of it in the treaty of 15th
June, 1846, shall he be authorized to establish a line according to the
treaty as nearly as possible? Which of the three powers named by Great
Britain as an arbiter shall be chosen by the United States?

All important papers bearing on the questions are herewith communicated
in the originals. Their return to the Department of State is requested
when the Senate shall have disposed of the subject.


WASHINGTON, _February 23, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

In compliance with the resolutions of the Senate of the 17th and 18th
February, 1858, requesting information upon the subject of the Aves
Island, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the
documents which accompanied it.


WASHINGTON, _February 23, 1861_.


_President of the Senate_.

SIR: Herewith I inclose, for constitutional action of the Senate thereon
should it approve the same, supplemental articles of agreement made and
concluded with the authorities of the Delaware Indians on the 21st July
last, with a view to the abrogation of the sixth article of the treaty
of May 30, 1860.


WASHINGTON, _February 23, 1861_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

In answer to a resolution of the House of Representatives adopted on the
11th instant, respecting the seizure of the mint at New Orleans, with
a large amount of money therein, by the authorities of the State of
Louisiana, the refusal of the branch mint to pay drafts of the United
States, etc., I have to state that all the information within my
possession or power on these subjects was communicated to the House by
the Secretary of the Treasury on the 21st instant, and was prepared
under the resolution above referred to and a resolution of the same
date addressed to himself.


WASHINGTON, _February 26, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

In answer to the resolution of the Senate of the 25th instant,
requesting information relative to the extradition of one Anderson, a
man of color, charged with the commission of murder in the State of
Missouri, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the
documents by which it was accompanied. The dispatch of Mr. Dallas being
in the original, its return to the Department of State is requested.


WASHINGTON, _March 1, 1861_.

_To the House of Representatives_:

In answer to their resolution of the 11th instant [ultimo], "that the
President of the United States furnish to the House, if not incompatible
with the public service, the reasons that have induced him to assemble
so large a number of troops in this city, and why they are kept here;
and whether he has any information of a conspiracy upon the part of any
portion of the citizens of this country to seize upon the capital and
prevent the inauguration of the President elect," the President submits
that the number of troops assembled in this city is not large, as the
resolution presupposes, its total amount being 653 men exclusive of
the marines, who are, of course, at the navy-yard as their appropriate
station. These troops were ordered here to act as a _posse comitatus_,
in strict subordination to the civil authority, for the purpose of
preserving peace and order in the city of Washington should this be
necessary before or at the period of the inauguration of the President

Since the date of the resolution Hon. Mr. Howard, from the select
committee, has made a report to the House on this subject. It was
thoroughly investigated by the committee, and although they have
expressed the opinion that the evidence before them does not prove the
existence of a secret organization here or elsewhere hostile to the
Government that has for its object, upon its own responsibility, an
attack upon the capital or any of the public property here, or an
interruption of any of the functions of the Government, yet the House
laid upon the table by a very large majority a resolution expressing the
opinion "that the regular troops now in this city ought to be forthwith
removed therefrom." This of itself was a sufficient reason for not
withdrawing the troops.

But what was the duty of the President at the time the troops
were ordered to this city? Ought he to have waited before this
precautionary measure was adopted until he could obtain proof that
a secret organization existed to seize the capital? In the language
of the select committee, this was "in a time of high excitement
consequent upon revolutionary events transpiring all around us, the very
air filled with rumors and individuals indulging in the most extravagant
expressions of fears and threats." Under these and other circumstances,
which I need not detail, but which appear in the testimony before the
select committee, I was convinced that I ought to act. The safety of the
immense amount of public property in this city and that of the archives
of the Government, in which all the States, and especially the new
States in which the public lands are situated, have a deep interest; the
peace and order of the city itself and the security of the inauguration
of the President elect, were objects of such vast importance to the
whole country that I could not hesitate to adopt precautionary defensive
measures. At the present moment, when all is quiet, it is difficult to
realize the state of alarm which prevailed when the troops were first
ordered to this city. This almost instantly subsided after the arrival
of the first company, and a feeling of comparative peace and security
has since existed both in Washington and throughout the country. Had
I refused to adopt this precautionary measure, and evil consequences,
which many good men at the time apprehended, had followed, I should
never have forgiven myself.


WASHINGTON, _March 2, 1861_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I deem it proper to invite the attention of the Senate to the fact that
with this day expires the limitation of time for the exchange of the
ratifications of the treaty with Costa Rica of 2d July, 1860.

The minister of that Republic is disappointed in not having received
the copy intended for exchange, and the period will lapse without the
possibility of carrying out the provisions of the convention in this

I submit, therefore, the expediency of the passage of a resolution
authorizing the exchange of ratifications at such time as may be
convenient, the limitations of the ninth article to the contrary



WASHINGTON CITY, _January 25, 1861_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I return with my objections to the House, in which it originated, the
bill entitled "An act for the relief of Hockaday & Leggit," presented to
me on the 15th instant.

This bill appropriates $59,576 "to Hockaday & Leggit, in full payment
for damages sustained by them in reduction of pay for carrying the mails
on route No. 8911; and that said amount be paid to William Leggit for
and on account of Hockaday & Leggit, and for their benefit."

A bill containing the same language, with the single exception that the
sum appropriated therein was $40,000 instead of $59,576, passed both
Houses of Congress at their last session; but it was presented to me
at so late a period of the session that I could not examine its merits
before the time fixed for the adjournment, and it therefore, under
the Constitution, failed to become a law. The increase of the sum
appropriated in the present bill over that in the bill of the last
session, being within a fraction of $20,000, has induced me to examine
the question with some attention, and I find that the bill involves an
important principle, which if established by Congress may take large
sums out of the Treasury.

It appears that on the 1st day of April, 1858, John M. Hockaday entered
into a contract with the Postmaster-General for transporting the mail
on route No. 8911, from St. Joseph, Mo., by Fort Kearney, Nebraska
Territory, and Fort Leavenworth, to Salt Lake City, for the sum of
$190,000 per annum for a weekly service. The service was to commence on
the 1st day of May, 1858, and to terminate on the 30th November, 1860.
By this contract the Postmaster-General reserved to himself the right
"to reduce the service to semimonthly whenever the necessities of the
public and the condition of affairs in the Territory of Utah may not
require it more frequently." And again:

That the Postmaster-General may discontinue or curtail the service, in
whole or in part, in order to place on the route a greater degree of
service, or whenever the public interests require such discontinuance
for any other cause, he allowing one month's extra pay on the amount of
service dispensed with.

On the 11th April, 1859, the Postmaster-General curtailed the service,
which he had a clear right to do under the contract, to semimonthly,
with an annual deduction of $65,000, leaving the compensation $125,000
for twenty-four trips per year instead of $190,000 for fifty-two trips.
This curtailment was not to take effect till the 1st of July, 1859.

At the time the contract was made it was expected that the army in
Utah might be engaged in active operations, and hence the necessity of
frequent communications between the War Department and that Territory.
The reservation of the power to curtail the service to semimonthly trips
itself proves that the parties had in view the contingency of such
curtailment "whenever the necessities of the public and the condition of
affairs in the Territory of Utah may not require it more frequently."

Before the Postmaster-General ordered this curtailment he had an
interview with the Secretary of War upon the subject, in the course of
which the Secretary agreed that a weekly mail to St. Joseph and Salt
Lake City was no longer needed for the purposes of the Government--this,
evidently, because the trouble in Utah had ended.

Mr. Hockaday faithfully complied with his contract, and the full
compensation was paid, at the rate of $190,000 per annum, up to the
1st July, 1859, and "one month's extra pay on the amount of service
dispensed with," according to the contract.

Previous to that date, as has been already stated, on the 14th of
April, 1859, the Postmaster-General curtailed the service to twice per
month, and on the 11th May, 1859, Messrs. Hockaday & Co. assigned the
contract to Jones, Russell & Co. for a bonus of $50,000. Their property
connected with the route was to be appraised, which was effected, and
they received on this account about $94,000, making the whole amount
about $144,000.

There is no doubt that the contractors have sustained considerable loss
in the whole transaction. The amount I shall not pretend to decide,
whether $40,000 or $59,576, or any other sum.

It will be for Congress to consider whether the precedent established
by this bill will not in effect annul all restrictions contained in the
mail contracts enabling the Postmaster-General to reduce or curtail the
postal service according to the public exigencies as they may arise.
I have no other solicitude upon the subject. I am informed that there
are many cases in the Post-Office Department depending upon the same





Whereas objects of interest to the United Slates require that the Senate
should be convened at 12 o'clock on the 4th of March next to receive and
act upon such communications as may be made to it on the part of the

Now, therefore, I, James Buchanan, 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 the 4th day of March next, at 12 o'clock at 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 notice.


Given under my hand and the seal of the United States, at Washington,
the 11th day of February, A.D. 1861, and of the Independence of the
United States the eighty-fifth.


By the President:
_Secretary of State_.

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