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

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Martin Van Buren

March 4, 1837, to March 4, 1841

Martin Van Buren

Martin Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, Columbia County, N.Y., December
5, 1782. He was the eldest son of Abraham Van Buren, a small farmer, and
of Mary Hoes (originally spelled Goes), whose first husband was named
Van Alen. He studied the rudiments of English and Latin in the schools
of his native village. At the age of 14 years commenced reading law in
the office of Francis Sylvester, and pursued his legal novitiate for
seven years. Combining with his professional studies a fondness
for extemporaneous debate, he was early noted for his intelligent
observation of public events and for his interest in politics; was
chosen to participate in a nominating convention when only 18 years old.
In 1802 went to New York City and studied law with William P. Van Ness,
a friend of Aaron Burr; was admitted to the bar in 1803, returned to
Kinderhook, and associated himself in practice with his half-brother,
James I. Van Alen. He was a zealous adherent of Jefferson, and supported
Morgan Lewis for governor of New York in 1803 against Aaron Burr. In
February, 1807, he married Hannah Hoes, a distant kinswoman. In the
winter of 1806-7 removed to Hudson, the county seat of Columbia County,
and in the same year was admitted to practice in the supreme court.
In 1807 supported Daniel D. Tompkins for governor against Morgan Lewis,
the latter having come to be considered less true than the former to
the measures of Jefferson. In 1808 became surrogate of Columbia County,
displacing his halt-brother and partner, who belonged to the defeated
faction. In 1813, on a change of party predominance at Albany, his
half-brother was restored to the office. Early in 1811 he figured in the
councils of his party at a convention held in Albany, when the proposed
recharter of the United States Bank was the leading question of Federal
politics. Though Albert Gallatin, Secretary of the Treasury, had
recommended a recharter, the predominant sentiment of the Republican
party was adverse to the measure. Van Buren shared in this hostility,
and publicly lauded the "Spartan firmness" of George Clinton when as
Vice-President he gave his casting vote in the United States Senate
against the bank bill, February 20, 1811. In 1812 was elected to the
senate of New York from the middle district as a Clinton Republican,
defeating Edward P. Livingston; took his seat in November of that year,
and became thereby a member of the court of errors, then composed of
senators in connection with the chancellor and the supreme court. As
senator he strenuously opposed the charter of "The Bank of America,"
which was then seeking to establish itself in New York and to take the
place of the United States Bank. Though counted among the adherents
of Madison's Administration, and though committed to the policy of
declaring war against Great Britain, he sided with the Republican
members of the New York legislature in 1812, and supported De Witt
Clinton for the Presidency. In the following year, however, he dissolved
his political relations with Clinton and resumed the _entente
cordiale_ with Madison's Administration. In 1815, while still a
member of the senate, was appointed attorney-general of the State,
superseding the venerable Abraham Van Vechten. In 1816 was reelected to
the State senate, and, removing to Albany, formed a partnership with his
life-long friend, Benjamin F. Butler. In the same year was appointed
a regent of the University of New York. Supported De Witt Clinton for
governor of New York in 1817, but opposed his reelection in 1820. In
1819 was removed from the office of attorney-general. February 6, 1821,
was elected United States Senator. In the same year was chosen from
Otsego County as a member of the convention to revise the constitution
of the State. Took his seat in the United States Senate December 3,
1821, and was at once made a member of its Committees on the Judiciary
and Finance. For many years was chairman of the former. Supported
William H. Crawford for the Presidency in 1824. Was reelected to the
Senate in 1827, but soon resigned his seat to accept the office of
governor of New York, to which he was elected in 1828. Was a zealous
supporter of Andrew Jackson in the Presidential election of 1828, and in
1829 became premier of the new Administration. As Secretary of State he
brought to a favorable close the long-standing feud between the United
States and England with regard to the West India trade. Resigned his
Secretaryship in June, 1831, and was sent as minister to England. The
Senate refused in 1832 to confirm his nomination by the casting vote of
John C. Calhoun, the Vice-President. In 1832 was elected Vice-President
of the United States, and in 1833 came to preside over the body which
a year before had rejected him as a foreign minister. On May 20, 1835,
was formally nominated for the Presidency, and was elected in 1836 over
his three competitors, William H. Harrison, Hugh L. White, and Daniel
Webster, by a majority of 57 in the electoral college, but of only
25,000 in the popular vote. On May 5, 1840, was nominated for the
Presidency by the Democratic national convention at Baltimore, Md. At
the election on November 10 was defeated by William Henry Harrison, who
received 234 electoral votes and a popular majority of nearly 140,000.
Van Buren received but 60 votes in the electoral college. Retired to
his country seat, Lindenwald, in his native county. Was a candidate for
the Presidential nomination at the Democratic national convention at
Baltimore, Md., May 27, 1844, but was defeated by James K. Polk. Was
nominated for the Presidency by a Barnburner convention at Utica, N.Y.,
June 22, 1848, a nomination which he had declined by letter in advance.
He was also nominated for the Presidency by the Free Soil national
convention of Buffalo, August 9, 1848. At the election, November 7,
received only a popular vote of 291,263, and no electoral vote.
Supported Franklin Pierce for the Presidency in 1852 and James Buchanan
in 1856. In 1860 voted the fusion ticket of Breckinridge, Douglas, and
Bell in New York against Mr. Lincoln, but when the civil war began gave
to the Administration his zealous support. Died at Kinderhook July 24,
1862, and was buried there.


Fellow Citizens: The practice of all my predecessors imposes on me an
obligation I cheerfully fulfill--to accompany the first and solemn act
of my public trust with an avowal of the principles that will guide me
in performing it and an expression of my feelings on assuming a charge
so responsible and vast. In imitating their example I tread in the
footsteps of illustrious men, whose superiors it is our happiness
to believe are not found on the executive calendar of any country.
Among them we recognize the earliest and firmest pillars of the
Republic--those by whom our national independence was first declared,
him who above all others contributed to establish it on the field of
battle, and those whose expanded intellect and patriotism constructed,
improved, and perfected the inestimable institutions under which we
live. If such men in the position I now occupy felt themselves
overwhelmed by a sense of gratitude for this the highest of all marks of
their country's confidence, and by a consciousness of their inability
adequately to discharge the duties of an office so difficult and
exalted, how much more must these considerations affect one who can rely
on no such claims for favor or forbearance! Unlike all who have preceded
me, the Revolution that gave us existence as one people was achieved at
the period of my birth; and whilst I contemplate with grateful reverence
that memorable event, I feel that I belong to a later age and that I may
not expect my countrymen to weigh my actions with the same kind and
partial hand.

So sensibly, fellow-citizens, do these circumstances press themselves
upon me that I should not dare to enter upon my path of duty did I not
look for the generous aid of those who will be associated with me in
the various and coordinate branches of the Government; did I not repose
with unwavering reliance on the patriotism, the intelligence, and the
kindness of a people who never yet deserted a public servant honestly
laboring in their cause; and, above all, did I not permit myself humbly
to hope for the sustaining support of an ever-watchful and beneficent

To the confidence and consolation derived from these sources it would
be ungrateful not to add those which spring from our present fortunate
condition. Though not altogether exempt from embarrassments that
disturb our tranquillity at home and threaten it abroad, yet in all the
attributes of a great, happy, and flourishing people we stand without
a parallel in the world. Abroad we enjoy the respect and, with scarcely
an exception, the friendship of every nation; at home, while our
Government quietly but efficiently performs the sole legitimate end
of political institutions--in doing the greatest good to the greatest
number--we present an aggregate of human prosperity surely not elsewhere
to be found.

How imperious, then, is the obligation imposed upon every citizen, in
his own sphere of action, whether limited or extended, to exert himself
in perpetuating a condition of things so singularly happy! All the
lessons of history and experience must be lost upon us if we are content
to trust alone to the peculiar advantages we happen to possess. Position
and climate and the bounteous resources that nature has scattered with
so liberal a hand--even the diffused intelligence and elevated character
of our people--will avail us nothing if we fail sacredly to uphold those
political institutions that were wisely and deliberately formed with
reference to every circumstance that could preserve or might endanger
the blessings we enjoy. The thoughtful framers of our Constitution
legislated for our country as they found it. Looking upon it with the
eyes of statesmen and patriots, they saw all the sources of rapid and
wonderful prosperity; but they saw also that various habits, opinions,
and institutions peculiar to the various portions of so vast a region
were deeply fixed. Distinct sovereignties were in actual existence,
whose cordial union was essential to the welfare and happiness of
all. Between many of them there was, at least to some extent, a real
diversity of interests, liable to be exaggerated through sinister
designs; they differed in size, in population, in wealth, and in actual
and prospective resources and power; they varied in the character of
their industry and staple productions, and [in some] existed domestic
institutions which, unwisely disturbed, might endanger the harmony of
the whole. Most carefully were all these circumstances weighed, and the
foundations of the new Government laid upon principles of reciprocal
concession and equitable compromise. The jealousies which the smaller
States might entertain of the power of the rest were allayed by a rule
of representation confessedly unequal at the time, and designed forever
to remain so. A natural fear that the broad scope of general legislation
might bear upon and unwisely control particular interests was
counteracted by limits strictly drawn around the action of the Federal
authority, and to the people and the States was left unimpaired their
sovereign power over the innumerable subjects embraced in the internal
government of a just republic, excepting such only as necessarily
appertain to the concerns of the whole confederacy or its intercourse
as a united community with the other nations of the world.

This provident forecast has been verified by time. Half a century,
teeming with extraordinary events, and elsewhere producing astonishing
results, has passed along, but on our institutions it has left no
injurious mark. From a small community we have risen to a people
powerful in numbers and in strength; but with our increase has gone hand
in hand the progress of just principles. The privileges, civil and
religious, of the humblest individual are still sacredly protected at
home, and while the valor and fortitude of our people have removed far
from us the slightest apprehension of foreign power, they have not yet
induced us in a single instance to forget what is right. Our commerce
has been extended to the remotest nations; the value and even nature of
our productions have been greatly changed; a wide difference has arisen
in the relative wealth and resources of every portion of our country;
yet the spirit of mutual regard and of faithful adherence to existing
compacts has continued to prevail in our councils and never long been
absent from our conduct. We have learned by experience a fruitful
lesson--that an implicit and undeviating adherence to the principles
on which we set out can carry us prosperously onward through all the
conflicts of circumstances and vicissitudes inseparable from the lapse
of years.

The success that has thus attended our great experiment is in itself
a sufficient cause for gratitude, on account of the happiness it has
actually conferred and the example it has unanswerably given. But to
me, my fellow-citizens, looking forward to the far-distant future with
ardent prayers and confiding hopes, this retrospect presents a ground
for still deeper delight. It impresses on my mind a firm belief that
the perpetuity of our institutions depends upon ourselves; that if we
maintain the principles on which they were established they are destined
to confer their benefits on countless generations yet to come, and that
America will present to every friend of mankind the cheering proof
that a popular government, wisely formed, is wanting in no element of
endurance or strength. Fifty years ago its rapid failure was boldly
predicted. Latent and uncontrollable causes of dissolution were supposed
to exist even by the wise and good, and not only did unfriendly or
speculative theorists anticipate for us the fate of past republics, but
the fears of many an honest patriot overbalanced his sanguine hopes.
Look back on these forebodings, not hastily but reluctantly made, and
see how in every instance they have completely failed.

An imperfect experience during the struggles of the Revolution was
supposed to warrant the belief that the people would not bear the
taxation requisite to discharge an immense public debt already incurred
and to pay the necessary expenses of the Government. The cost of two
wars has been paid, not only without a murmur, but with unequaled
alacrity. No one is now left to doubt that every burden will be
cheerfully borne that may be necessary to sustain our civil institutions
or guard our honor or welfare. Indeed, all experience has shown that
the willingness of the people to contribute to these ends in cases of
emergency has uniformly outrun the confidence of their representatives.

In the early stages of the new Government, when all felt the imposing
influence as they recognized the unequaled services of the first
President, it was a common sentiment that the great weight of his
character could alone bind the discordant materials of our Government
together and save us from the violence of contending factions. Since his
death nearly forty years are gone. Party exasperation has been often
carried to its highest point; the virtue and fortitude of the people
have sometimes been greatly tried; yet our system, purified and enhanced
in value by all it has encountered, still preserves its spirit of free
and fearless discussion, blended with unimpaired fraternal feeling.

The capacity of the people for self-government, and their
willingness, from a high sense of duty and without those exhibitions
of coercive power so generally employed in other countries, to submit
to all needful restraints and exactions of municipal law, have also
been favorably exemplified in the history of the American States.
Occasionally, it is true, the ardor of public sentiment, outrunning the
regular progress of the judicial tribunals or seeking to reach cases
not denounced as criminal by the existing law, has displayed itself
in a manner calculated to give pain to the friends of free government
and to encourage the hopes of those who wish for its overthrow. These
occurrences, however, have been far less frequent in our country than
in any other of equal population on the globe, and with the diffusion of
intelligence it may well be hoped that they will constantly diminish in
frequency and violence. The generous patriotism and sound common sense
of the great mass of our fellow-citizens will assuredly in time produce
this result; for as every assumption of illegal power not only wounds
the majesty of the law, but furnishes a pretext for abridging the
liberties of the people, the latter have the most direct and permanent
interest in preserving the landmarks of social order and maintaining
on all occasions the inviolability of those constitutional and legal
provisions which they themselves have made.

In a supposed unfitness of our institutions for those hostile
emergencies which no country can always avoid their friends found a
fruitful source of apprehension, their enemies of hope. While they
foresaw less promptness of action than in governments differently
formed, they overlooked the far more important consideration that with
us war could never be the result of individual or irresponsible will,
but must be a measure of redress for injuries sustained, voluntarily
resorted to by those who were to bear the necessary sacrifice, who would
consequently feel an individual interest in the contest, and whose
energy would be commensurate with the difficulties to be encountered.
Actual events have proved their error; the last war, far from impairing,
gave new confidence to our Government, and amid recent apprehensions of
a similar conflict we saw that the energies of our country would not be
wanting in ample season to vindicate its rights. We may not possess, as
we should not desire to possess, the extended and ever-ready military
organization of other nations; we may occasionally suffer in the outset
for the want of it; but among ourselves all doubt upon this great point
has ceased, while a salutary experience will prevent a contrary opinion
from inviting aggression from abroad.

Certain danger was foretold from the extension of our territory, the
multiplication of States, and the increase of population. Our system
was supposed to be adapted only to boundaries comparatively narrow.
These have been widened beyond conjecture; the members of our
Confederacy are already doubled, and the numbers of our people are
incredibly augmented. The alleged causes of danger have long surpassed
anticipation, but none of the consequences have followed. The power and
influence of the Republic have risen to a height obvious to all mankind;
respect for its authority was not more apparent at its ancient than
it is at its present limits; new and inexhaustible sources of general
prosperity have been opened; the effects of distance have been averted
by the inventive genius of our people, developed and fostered by the
spirit of our institutions; and the enlarged variety and amount of
interests, productions, and pursuits have strengthened the chain of
mutual dependence and formed a circle of mutual benefits too apparent
ever to be overlooked.

In justly balancing the powers of the Federal and State authorities
difficulties nearly insurmountable arose at the outset, and subsequent
collisions were deemed inevitable. Amid these it was scarcely believed
possible that a scheme of government so complex in construction could
remain uninjured. From time to time embarrassments have certainly
occurred; but how just is the confidence of future safety imparted
by the knowledge that each in succession has been happily removed!
Overlooking partial and temporary evils as inseparable from the
practical operation of all human institutions, and looking only to the
general result, every patriot has reason to be satisfied. While the
Federal Government has successfully performed its appropriate functions
in relation to foreign affairs and concerns evidently national, that of
every State has remarkably improved in protecting and developing local
interests and individual welfare; and if the vibrations of authority
have occasionally tended too much toward one or the other, it is
unquestionably certain that the ultimate operation of the entire system
has been to strengthen all the existing institutions and to elevate our
whole country in prosperity and renown.

The last, perhaps the greatest, of the prominent sources of discord and
disaster supposed to lurk in our political condition was the institution
of domestic slavery. Our forefathers were deeply impressed with the
delicacy of this subject, and they treated it with a forbearance so
evidently wise that in spite of every sinister foreboding it never until
the present period disturbed the tranquillity of our common country.
Such a result is sufficient evidence of the justice and the patriotism
of their course; it is evidence not to be mistaken that an adherence to
it can prevent all embarrassment from this as well as from every other
anticipated cause of difficulty or danger. Have not recent events made
it obvious to the slightest reflection that the least deviation from
this spirit of forbearance is injurious to every interest, that of
humanity included? Amidst the violence of excited passions this generous
and fraternal feeling has been sometimes disregarded; and standing as
I now do before my countrymen, in this high place of honor and of trust,
I can not refrain from anxiously invoking my fellow-citizens never to
be deaf to its dictates. Perceiving before my election the deep interest
this subject was beginning to excite, I believed it a solemn duty fully
to make known my sentiments in regard to it, and now, when every motive
for misrepresentation has passed away, I trust that they will be
candidly weighed and understood. At least they will be my standard of
conduct in the path before me. I then declared that if the desire of
those of my countrymen who were favorable to my election was gratified
"I must go into the Presidential chair the inflexible and uncompromising
opponent of every attempt on the part of Congress to abolish slavery in
the District of Columbia against the wishes of the slaveholding States,
and also with a determination equally decided to resist the slightest
interference with it in the States where it exists." I submitted also to
my fellow-citizens, with fullness and frankness, the reasons which led
me to this determination. The result authorizes me to believe that they
have been approved and are confided in by a majority of the people of
the United States, including those whom they most immediately affect.
It now only remains to add that no bill conflicting with these views
can ever receive my constitutional sanction. These opinions have been
adopted in the firm belief that they are in accordance with the spirit
that actuated the venerated fathers of the Republic, and that succeeding
experience has proved them to be humane, patriotic, expedient,
honorable, and just. If the agitation of this subject was intended to
reach the stability of our institutions, enough has occurred to show
that it has signally failed, and that in this as in every other instance
the apprehensions of the timid and the hopes of the wicked for the
destruction of our Government are again destined to be disappointed.
Here and there, indeed, scenes of dangerous excitement have occurred,
terrifying instances of local violence have been witnessed, and a
reckless disregard of the consequences of their conduct has exposed
individuals to popular indignation; but neither masses of the people nor
sections of the country have been swerved from their devotion to the
bond of union and the principles it has made sacred. It will be ever
thus. Such attempts at dangerous agitation may periodically return,
but with each the object will be better understood. That predominating
affection for our political system which prevails throughout our
territorial limits, that calm and enlightened judgment which ultimately
governs our people as one vast body, will always be at hand to resist
and control every effort, foreign or domestic, which aims or would lead
to overthrow our institutions.

What can be more gratifying than such a retrospect as this? We look back
on obstacles avoided and dangers overcome, on expectations more than
realized and prosperity perfectly secured. To the hopes of the hostile,
the fears of the timid, and the doubts of the anxious actual experience
has given the conclusive reply. We have seen time gradually dispel every
unfavorable foreboding and our Constitution surmount every adverse
circumstance dreaded at the outset as beyond control. Present excitement
will at all times magnify present dangers, but true philosophy must
teach us that none more threatening than the past can remain to be
overcome; and we ought (for we have just reason) to entertain an abiding
confidence in the stability of our institutions and an entire conviction
that if administered in the true form, character, and spirit in which
they were established they are abundantly adequate to preserve to us and
our children the rich blessings already derived from them, to make our
beloved land for a thousand generations that chosen spot where happiness
springs from a perfect equality of political rights.

For myself, therefore, I desire to declare that the principle that
will govern me in the high duty to which my country calls me is a
strict adherence to the letter and spirit of the Constitution as it
was designed by those who framed it. Looking back to it as a sacred
instrument carefully and not easily framed; remembering that it was
throughout a work of concession and compromise; viewing it as limited
to national objects; regarding it as leaving to the people and the
States all power not explicitly parted with, I shall endeavor to
preserve, protect, and defend it by anxiously referring to its provision
for direction in every action. To matters of domestic concernment which
it has intrusted to the Federal Government and to such as relate to our
intercourse with foreign nations I shall zealously devote myself; beyond
those limits I shall never pass.

To enter on this occasion into a further or more minute exposition of my
views on the various questions of domestic policy would be as obtrusive
as it is probably unexpected. Before the suffrages of my countrymen were
conferred upon me I submitted to them, with great precision, my opinions
on all the most prominent of these subjects. Those opinions I shall
endeavor to carry out with my utmost ability.

Our course of foreign policy has been so uniform and intelligible as
to constitute a rule of Executive conduct which leaves little to my
discretion, unless, indeed, I were willing to run counter to the lights
of experience and the known opinions of my constituents. We sedulously
cultivate the friendship of all nations as the condition most compatible
with our welfare and the principles of our Government. We decline
alliances as adverse to our peace. We desire commercial relations on
equal terms, being ever willing to give a fair equivalent for advantages
received We endeavor to conduct our intercourse with openness and
sincerity, promptly avowing our objects and seeking to establish that
mutual frankness which is as beneficial in the dealings of nations as
of men. We have no disposition and we disclaim all right to meddle in
disputes, whether internal or foreign, that may molest other countries,
regarding them in their actual state as social communities, and
preserving a strict neutrality in all their controversies. Well knowing
the tried valor of our people and our exhaustless resources, we neither
anticipate nor fear any designed aggression; and in the consciousness of
our own just conduct we feel a security that we shall never be called
upon to exert our determination never to permit an invasion of our
rights without punishment or redress.

In approaching, then, in the presence of my assembled countrymen, to
make the solemn promise that yet remains, and to pledge myself that
I will faithfully execute the office I am about to fill, I bring with
me a settled purpose to maintain the institutions of my country, which
I trust will atone for the errors I commit.

In receiving from the people the sacred trust twice confided to my
illustrious predecessor, and which he has discharged so faithfully and
so well, I know that I can not expect to perform the arduous task with
equal ability and success. But united as I have been in his counsels, a
daily witness of his exclusive and unsurpassed devotion to his country's
welfare, agreeing with him in sentiments which his countrymen have
warmly supported, and permitted to partake largely of his confidence,
I may hope that somewhat of the same cheering approbation will be found
to attend upon my path. For him I but express with my own the wishes of
all, that he may yet long live to enjoy the brilliant evening of his
well-spent life; and for myself, conscious of but one desire, faithfully
to serve my country, I throw myself without fear on its justice and its
kindness. Beyond that I only look to the gracious protection of the
Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom
I fervently pray to look down upon us all. May it be among the
dispensations of His providence to bless our beloved country with honors
and with length of days. May her ways be ways of pleasantness and all
her paths be peace!

MARCH 4, 1837.


WASHINGTON, _March 6, 1837_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I nominate to the Senate Powhatan Ellis, of Mississippi, to be envoy
extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of the United States to the
United Mexican States, to be sent whenever circumstances will permit
a renewal of diplomatic intercourse honorably with that power.



[From Statutes at Large (Little & Brown), Vol. V, p. 802.]



Whereas by an act of Congress of the 7th of June, 1836, it was enacted
that when the Indian title to all the lands lying between the State of
Missouri and the Missouri River should be extinguished the jurisdiction
over said land should be ceded by the said act to the State of Missouri
and the western boundary of said State should be then extended to the
Missouri River, reserving to the United States the original right of
soil in said lands and of disposing of the same; and

Whereas it was in and by the said act provided that the same should not
take effect until the President should by proclamation declare that the
Indian title to said lands had been extinguished, nor until the State of
Missouri should have assented to the provisions of the said act; and

Whereas an act was passed by the general assembly of the State of
Missouri on the 16th of December, 1836, expressing the assent of the
said State to the provisions of the said act of Congress, a copy
of which act of the general assembly, duly authenticated, has been
officially communicated to this Government and is now on file in the
Department of State:

Now, therefore, I, Martin Van Buren, President of the United States of
America, do by this my proclamation declare and make known that the
Indian title to all the said lands lying between the State of Missouri
and the Missouri River has been extinguished and that the said act of
Congress of the 7th of June, 1836, takes effect from the date hereof.

Given under my hand, at the city of Washington, this 28th day of March,
A.D. 1837, and of the Independence of the United States of America the


By the President:
_Secretary of State_.

[From Statutes at Large (Little, Brown & Co.), Vol. XI, p. 783.]



Whereas great and weighty matters claiming the consideration of the
Congress of the United States form an extraordinary occasion for
convening them, I do by these presents appoint the first Monday of
September next for their meeting at the city of Washington, hereby
requiring the respective Senators and Representatives then and there to
assemble in Congress in order to receive such communications as may then
be made to them and to consult and determine on such measures as in
their wisdom may be deemed meet for the welfare of the United States.

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States to be
hereunto affixed, and signed the same with my hand.


Done at the city of Washington, the 15th day of May, A.D. 1837, and of
the Independence of the United States the sixty-first.


By the President:
_Secretary of State_.



Whereas by the third section of the act of Congress of the United States
of the 13th of July, 1832, entitled "An act concerning tonnage duty on
Spanish vessels," it is provided that whenever the President shall be
satisfied that the discriminating or countervailing duties of tonnage
levied by any foreign nation on the ships or vessels of the United
States shall have been abolished he may direct that the tonnage duty on
the vessels of such nation shall cease to be levied in the ports of the
United States; and

Whereas satisfactory evidence has lately been received from His Majesty
the King of Greece that the discriminating duties of tonnage levied by
said nation on the ships or vessels of the United States have been

Now, therefore, I, Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, do
hereby declare and proclaim that the tonnage duty on the vessels of the
Kingdom of Greece shall from this date cease to be levied in the ports
of the United States.

Given under my hand, at the city of Washington, the 14th day of June,
A.D. 1837, and of the Independence of the United States the sixty-first.


By the President:
_Secretary of State_.




_Washington, March 7, 1837_.


I. The Major-General Commanding in Chief has received from the War
Department the following order:

WASHINGTON, _March 6, 1837_.

General Andrew Jackson, ex-President of the United States, being about
to depart from this city for his home in Tennessee, and the state of his
health rendering it important that he should be accompanied by a medical
attendant, the President directs that the Surgeon-General of the Army
accompany the ex-President to Wheeling, in the State of Virginia, there
to be relieved, in case the ex-President's health shall be such as to
allow it, by some officer of the Medical Department, who will attend
the ex-President from that place to his residence.

In giving this order the President feels assured that this mark of
attention to the venerable soldier, patriot, and statesman now retiring
in infirm health from the cares of office to the repose of private life
will be as grateful to the feelings of the American people as it appears
to the President to be suitable in itself.


The Major-General Commanding in Chief will carry into effect the
foregoing directions of the President of the United States.


_Secretary of War ad interim_.

II. Pursuant to the above order, Surgeon-General Lawson will immediately
join the ex-President, and will accompany him as his medical attendant
to Wheeling, in the State of Virginia, and, at his discretion, to the
residence of the ex-President, at the Hermitage, near Nashville, in the
State of Tennessee.

III. Assistant Surgeon Reynolds will join the ex-President at Wheeling,
Va., and from that place, either alone or in conjunction with the
Surgeon-General, as the latter may direct, will proceed with the
ex-President to his residence in Tennessee.

IV. The officers above named, on the conclusion of the duties above
assigned to them, will repair to their respective stations.

By order of Alexander Macomb, Major-General Commanding in Chief:




WASHINGTON, _September 4, 1837_.

_Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives_:

The act of the 23d of June, 1836, regulating the deposits of the public
money and directing the employment of State, District, and Territorial
banks for that purpose, made it the duty of the Secretary of the Treasury
to discontinue the use of such of them as should at any time refuse to
redeem their notes in specie, and to substitute other banks, provided a
sufficient number could be obtained to receive the public deposits upon
the terms and conditions therein prescribed. The general and almost
simultaneous suspension of specie payments by the banks in May last
rendered the performance of this duty imperative in respect to those
which had been selected under the act, and made it at the same time
impracticable to employ the requisite number of others upon the
prescribed conditions. The specific regulations established by Congress
for the deposit and safe-keeping of the public moneys having thus
unexpectedly become inoperative, I felt it to be my duty to afford you
an early opportunity for the exercise of your supervisory powers over
the subject.

I was also led to apprehend that the suspension of specie payments,
increasing the embarrassments before existing in the pecuniary affairs
of the country, would so far diminish the public revenue that the
accruing receipts into the Treasury would not, with the reserved five
millions, be sufficient to defray the unavoidable expenses of the
Government until the usual period for the meeting of Congress, whilst
the authority to call upon the States for a portion of the sums
deposited with them was too restricted to enable the Department to
realize a sufficient amount from that source. These apprehensions have
been justified by subsequent results, which render it certain that this
deficiency will occur if additional means be not provided by Congress.

The difficulties experienced by the mercantile interest in meeting
their engagements induced them to apply to me previously to the actual
suspension of specie payments for indulgence upon their bonds for
duties, and all the relief authorized by law was promptly and cheerfully
granted. The dependence of the Treasury upon the avails of these bonds
to enable it to make the deposits with the States required by law led me
in the outset to limit this indulgence to the 1st of September, but it
has since been extended to the 1st of October, that the matter might be
submitted to your further direction.

Questions were also expected to arise in the recess in respect to the
October installment of those deposits requiring the interposition of

A provision of another act, passed about the same time, and intended to
secure a faithful compliance with the obligation of the United States to
satisfy all demands upon them in specie or its equivalent, prohibited
the offer of any bank note not convertible on the spot into gold or
silver at the will of the holder; and the ability of the Government,
with millions on deposit, to meet its engagements in the manner thus
required by law was rendered very doubtful by the event to which I have

Sensible that adequate provisions for these unexpected exigencies
could only be made by Congress; convinced that some of them would be
indispensably necessary to the public service before the regular period
of your meeting, and desirous also to enable you to exercise at the
earliest moment your full constitutional powers for the relief of
the country, I could not with propriety avoid subjecting you to the
inconvenience of assembling at as early a day as the state of the
popular representation would permit. I am sure that I have done but
justice to your feelings in believing that this inconvenience will be
cheerfully encountered in the hope of rendering your meeting conducive
to the good of the country.

During the earlier stages of the revulsion through which we have just
passed much acrimonious discussion arose and great diversity of opinion
existed as to its real causes. This was not surprising. The operations
of credit are so diversified and the influences which affect them so
numerous, and often so subtle, that even impartial and well-informed
persons are seldom found to agree in respect to them. To inherent
difficulties were also added other tendencies which were by no means
favorable to the discovery of truth. It was hardly to be expected that
those who disapproved the policy of the Government in relation to the
currency would, in the excited state of public feeling produced by the
occasion, fail to attribute to that policy any extensive embarrassment
in the monetary affairs of the country. The matter thus became connected
with the passions and conflicts of party; opinions were more or less
affected by political considerations, and differences were prolonged
which might otherwise have been determined by an appeal to facts, by the
exercise of reason, or by mutual concession. It is, however, a cheering
reflection that circumstances of this nature can not prevent a community
so intelligent as ours from ultimately arriving at correct conclusions.
Encouraged by the firm belief of this truth, I proceed to state my
views, so far as may be necessary to a clear understanding of the
remedies I feel it my duty to propose and of the reasons by which I have
been led to recommend them.

The history of trade in the United States for the last three or four
years affords the most convincing evidence that our present condition
is chiefly to be attributed to overaction in all the departments of
business--an over-action deriving, perhaps, its first impulses from
antecedent causes, but stimulated to its destructive consequences
by excessive issues of bank paper and by other facilities for the
acquisition and enlargement of credit. At the commencement of the year
1834 the banking capital of the United States, including that of the
national bank, then existing, amounted to about $200,000,000, the bank
notes then in circulation to about ninety-five millions, and the loans
and discounts of the banks to three hundred and twenty-four millions.
Between that time and the 1st of January, 1836, being the latest period
to which accurate accounts have been received, our banking capital was
increased to more than two hundred and fifty-one millions, our paper
circulation to more than one hundred and forty millions, and the loans
and discounts to more than four hundred and fifty-seven millions.
To this vast increase are to be added the many millions of credit
acquired by means of foreign loans, contracted by the States and State
institutions, and, above all, by the lavish accommodations extended
by foreign dealers to our merchants.

The consequences of this redundancy of credit and of the spirit of
reckless speculation engendered by it were a foreign debt contracted
by our citizens estimated in March last at more than $30,000,000; the
extension to traders in the interior of our country of credits for
supplies greatly beyond the wants of the people; the investment of
$39,500,000 in unproductive public lands in the years 1835 and 1836,
whilst in the preceding year the sales amounted to only four and a
half millions; the creation of debts, to an almost countless amount,
for real estate in existing or anticipated cities and villages,
equally unproductive, and at prices now seen to have been greatly
disproportionate to their real value; the expenditure of immense sums
in improvements which in many cases have been found to be ruinously
improvident; the diversion to other pursuits of much of the labor that
should have been applied to agriculture, thereby contributing to the
expenditure of large sums in the importation of grain from Europe--an
expenditure which, amounting in 1834 to about $250,000, was in the first
two quarters of the present year increased to more than $2,000,000; and
finally, without enumerating other injurious results, the rapid growth
among all classes, and especially in our great commercial towns, of
luxurious habits founded too often on merely fancied wealth, and
detrimental alike to the industry, the resources, and the morals of
our people.

It was so impossible that such a state of things could long continue
that the prospect of revulsion was present to the minds of considerate
men before it actually came. None, however, had correctly anticipated
its severity. A concurrence of circumstances inadequate of themselves to
produce such widespread and calamitous embarrassments tended so greatly
to aggravate them that they can not be overlooked in considering their
history. Among these may be mentioned, as most prominent, the great loss
of capital sustained by our commercial emporium in the fire of December,
1835--a loss the effects of which were underrated at the time because
postponed for a season by the great facilities of credit then existing;
the disturbing effects in our commercial cities of the transfers of
the public moneys required by the deposit law of June, 1836, and the
measures adopted by the foreign creditors of our merchants to reduce
their debts and to withdraw from the United States a large portion of
our specie.

However unwilling any of our citizens may heretofore have been to assign
to these causes the chief instrumentality in producing the present state
of things, the developments subsequently made and the actual condition
of other commercial countries must, as it seems to me, dispel all
remaining doubts upon the subject. It has since appeared that evils
similar to those suffered by ourselves have been experienced in Great
Britain, on the Continent, and, indeed, throughout the commercial world,
and that in other countries as well as in our own they have been
uniformly preceded by an undue enlargement of the boundaries of trade,
prompted, as with us, by unprecedented expansions of the systems of
credit. A reference to the amount of banking capital and the issues of
paper credits put in circulation in Great Britain, by banks and in other
ways, during the years 1834, 1835, and 1836 will show an augmentation
of the paper currency there as much disproportioned to the real wants
of trade as in the United States. With this redundancy of the paper
currency there arose in that country also a spirit of adventurous
speculation embracing the whole range of human enterprise. Aid was
profusely given to projected improvements; large investments were
made in foreign stocks and loans; credits for goods were granted with
unbounded liberality to merchants in foreign countries, and all the
means of acquiring and employing credit were put in active operation and
extended in their effects to every department of business and to every
quarter of the globe. The reaction was proportioned in its violence
to the extraordinary character of the events which preceded it. The
commercial community of Great Britain were subjected to the greatest
difficulties, and their debtors in this country were not only suddenly
deprived of accustomed and expected credits, but called upon for
payments which in the actual posture of things here could only be made
through a general pressure and at the most ruinous sacrifices.

In view of these facts it would seem impossible for sincere inquirers
after truth to resist the conviction that the causes of the revulsion
in both countries have been substantially the same. Two nations, the
most commercial in the world, enjoying but recently the highest degree
of apparent prosperity and maintaining with each other the closest
relations, are suddenly, in a time of profound peace and without any
great national disaster, arrested in their career and plunged into a
state of embarrassment and distress. In both countries we have witnessed
the same redundancy of paper money and other facilities of credit;
the same spirit of speculation; the same partial successes; the same
difficulties and reverses, and at length nearly the same overwhelming
catastrophe. The most material difference between the results in the
two countries has only been that with us there has also occurred an
extensive derangement in the fiscal affairs of the Federal and State
Governments, occasioned by the suspension of specie payments by the

The history of these causes and effects in Great Britain and the United
States is substantially the history of the revulsion in all other
commercial countries.

The present and visible effects of these circumstances on the operations
of the Government and on the industry of the people point out the
objects which call for your immediate attention.

They are, to regulate by law the safe-keeping, transfer, and
disbursement of the public moneys; to designate the funds to be received
and paid by the Government; to enable the Treasury to meet promptly
every demand upon it; to prescribe the terms of indulgence and the mode
of settlement to be adopted, as well in collecting from individuals the
revenue that has accrued as in withdrawing it from former depositories;
and to devise and adopt such further measures, within the constitutional
competency of Congress, as will be best calculated to revive the
enterprise and to promote the prosperity of the country.

For the deposit, transfer, and disbursement of the revenue national and
State banks have always, with temporary and limited exceptions, been
heretofore employed; but although advocates of each system are still to
be found, it is apparent that the events of the last few months have
greatly augmented the desire, long existing among the people of the
United States, to separate the fiscal operations of the Government from
those of individuals or corporations.

Again to create a national bank as a fiscal agent would be to
disregard the popular will, twice solemnly and unequivocally expressed.
On no question of domestic policy is there stronger evidence that the
sentiments of a large majority are deliberately fixed, and I can not
concur with those who think they see in recent events a proof that these
sentiments are, or a reason that they should be, changed.

Events similar in their origin and character have heretofore frequently
occurred without producing any such change, and the lessons of
experience must be forgotten if we suppose that the present overthrow of
credit would have been prevented by the existence of a national bank.
Proneness to excessive issues has ever been the vice of the banking
system--a vice as prominent in national as in State institutions. This
propensity is as subservient to the advancement of private interests
in the one as in the other, and those who direct them both, being
principally guided by the same views and influenced by the same motives,
will be equally ready to stimulate extravagance of enterprise by
improvidence of credit. How strikingly is this conclusion sustained
by experience! The Bank of the United States, with the vast powers
conferred on it by Congress, did not or could not prevent former and
similar embarrassments, nor has the still greater strength it has been
said to possess under its present charter enabled it in the existing
emergency to check other institutions or even to save itself. In Great
Britain, where it has been seen the same causes have been attended with
the same effects, a national bank possessing powers far greater than are
asked for by the warmest advocates of such an institution here has also
proved unable to prevent an undue expansion of credit and the evils that
flow from it. Nor can I find any tenable ground for the reestablishment
of a national bank in the derangement alleged at present to exist in the
domestic exchanges of the country or in the facilities it may be capable
of affording them. Although advantages of this sort were anticipated
when the first Bank of the United States was created, they were regarded
as an incidental accommodation, not one which the Federal Government was
bound or could be called upon to furnish. This accommodation is now,
indeed, after the lapse of not many years, demanded from it as among its
first duties, and an omission to aid and regulate commercial exchange
is treated as a ground of loud and serious complaint. Such results only
serve to exemplify the constant desire among some of our citizens to
enlarge the powers of the Government and extend its control to subjects
with which it should not interfere. They can never justify the creation
of an institution to promote such objects. On the contrary, they justly
excite among the community a more diligent inquiry into the character
of those operations of trade toward which it is desired to extend such
peculiar favors.

The various transactions which bear the name of domestic exchanges
differ essentially in their nature, operation, and utility. One class of
them consists of bills of exchange drawn for the purpose of transferring
actual capital from one part of the country to another, or to anticipate
the proceeds of property actually transmitted. Bills of this description
are highly useful in the movements of trade and well deserve all the
encouragement which can rightfully be given to them. Another class is
made up of bills of exchange not drawn to transfer actual capital nor
on the credit of property transmitted, but to create fictitious capital,
partaking at once of the character of notes discounted in bank and of
bank notes in circulation, and swelling the mass of paper credits to a
vast extent in the most objectionable manner. These bills have formed
for the last few years a large proportion of what are termed the
domestic exchanges of the country, serving as the means of usurious
profit and constituting the most unsafe and precarious paper in
circulation. This species of traffic, instead of being upheld, ought
to be discountenanced by the Government and the people.

In transferring its funds from place to place the Government is on the
same footing with the private citizen and may resort to the same legal
means. It may do so through the medium of bills drawn by itself or
purchased from others; and in these operations it may, in a manner
undoubtedly constitutional and legitimate, facilitate and assist
exchanges of individuals founded on real transactions of trade. The
extent to which this may be done and the best means of effecting it
are entitled to the fullest consideration. This has been bestowed by
the Secretary of the Treasury, and his views will be submitted to you
in his report.

But it was not designed by the Constitution that the Government should
assume the management of domestic or foreign exchange. It is indeed
authorized to regulate by law the commerce between the States and to
provide a general standard of value or medium of exchange in gold and
silver, but it is not its province to aid individuals in the transfer
of their funds otherwise than through the facilities afforded by the
Post-Office Department. As justly might it be called on to provide for
the transportation of their merchandise. These are operations of trade.
They ought to be conducted by those who are interested in them in the
same manner that the incidental difficulties of other pursuits are
encountered by other classes of citizens. Such aid has not been deemed
necessary in other countries. Throughout Europe the domestic as well as
the foreign exchanges are carried on by private houses, often, if not
generally, without the assistance of banks; yet they extend throughout
distinct sovereignties, and far exceed in amount the real exchanges of
the United States. There is no reason why our own may not be conducted
in the same manner with equal cheapness and safety. Certainly this might
be accomplished if it were favored by those most deeply interested; and
few can doubt that their own interest, as well as the general welfare of
the country, would be promoted by leaving such a subject in the hands of
those to whom it properly belongs. A system founded on private interest,
enterprise, and competition, without the aid of legislative grants or
regulations by law, would rapidly prosper; it would be free from the
influence of political agitation and extend the same exemption to
trade itself, and it would put an end to those complaints of neglect,
partiality, injustice, and oppression which are the unavoidable
results of interference by the Government in the proper concerns of
individuals. All former attempts on the part of the Government to carry
its legislation in this respect further than was designed by the
Constitution have in the end proved injurious, and have served only
to convince the great body of the people more and more of the certain
dangers of blending private interests with the operations of public
business; and there is no reason to suppose that a repetition of them
now would be more successful.

It can not be concealed that there exists in our community opinions and
feelings on this subject in direct opposition to each other. A large
portion of them, combining great intelligence, activity, and influence,
are no doubt sincere in their belief that the operations of trade ought
to be assisted by such a connection; they regard a national bank as
necessary for this purpose, and they are disinclined to every measure
that does not tend sooner or later to the establishment of such an
institution. On the other hand, a majority of the people are believed
to be irreconcilably opposed to that measure; they consider such a
concentration of power dangerous to their liberties, and many of them
regard it as a violation of the Constitution. This collision of opinion
has doubtless caused much of the embarrassment to which the commercial
transactions of the country have lately been exposed. Banking has become
a political topic of the highest interest, and trade has suffered in
the conflict of parties. A speedy termination of this state of things,
however desirable, is scarcely to be expected. We have seen for nearly
half a century that those who advocate a national bank, by whatever
motive they may be influenced, constitute a portion of our community too
numerous to allow us to hope for an early abandonment of their favorite
plan. On the other hand, they must indeed form an erroneous estimate
of the intelligence and temper of the American people who suppose that
they have continued on slight or insufficient grounds their persevering
opposition to such an institution, or that they can be induced by
pecuniary pressure or by any other combination of circumstances to
surrender principles they have so long and so inflexibly maintained.

My own views of the subject are unchanged. They have been repeatedly and
unreservedly announced to my fellow-citizens, who with full knowledge
of them conferred upon me the two highest offices of the Government.
On the last of these occasions I felt it due to the people to apprise
them distinctly that in the event of my election I would not be able to
cooperate in the reestablishment of a national bank. To these sentiments
I have now only to add the expression of an increased conviction that
the reestablishment of such a bank in any form, whilst it would not
accomplish the beneficial purpose promised by its advocates, would
impair the rightful supremacy of the popular will, injure the character
and diminish the influence of our political system, and bring once more
into existence a concentrated moneyed power, hostile to the spirit and
threatening the permanency of our republican institutions.

Local banks have been employed for the deposit and distribution of
the revenue at all times partially and on three different occasions
exclusively: First, anterior to the establishment of the first Bank of
the United States; secondly, in the interval between the termination of
that institution and the charter of its successor; and thirdly, during
the limited period which has now so abruptly closed. The connection thus
repeatedly attempted proved unsatisfactory on each successive occasion,
notwithstanding the various measures which were adopted to facilitate
or insure its success. On the last occasion, in the year 1833, the
employment of the State banks was guarded especially, in every way which
experience and caution could suggest. Personal security was required for
the safe-keeping and prompt payment of the moneys to be received, and
full returns of their condition were from time to time to be made by the
depositories. In the first stages the measure was eminently successful,
notwithstanding the violent opposition of the Bank of the United States
and the unceasing efforts made to overthrow it. The selected banks
performed with fidelity and without any embarrassment to themselves or
to the community their engagements to the Government, and the system
promised to be permanently useful; but when it became necessary, under
the act of June, 1836, to withdraw from them the public money for the
purpose of placing it in additional institutions or of transferring it
to the States, they found it in many cases inconvenient to comply with
the demands of the Treasury, and numerous and pressing applications were
made for indulgence or relief. As the installments under the deposit law
became payable their own embarrassments and the necessity under which
they lay of curtailing their discounts and calling in their debts
increased the general distress and contributed, with other causes, to
hasten the revulsion in which at length they, in common with the other
banks, were fatally involved.

Under these circumstances it becomes our solemn duty to inquire whether
there are not in any connection between the Government and banks of
issue evils of great magnitude, inherent in its very nature and against
which no precautions can effectually guard.

Unforeseen in the organization of the Government and forced on the
Treasury by early necessities, the practice of employing banks was in
truth from the beginning more a measure of emergency than of sound
policy. When we started into existence as a nation, in addition to the
burdens of the new Government we assumed all the large but honorable
load of debt which was the price of our liberty; but we hesitated to
weigh down the infant industry of the country by resorting to adequate
taxation for the necessary revenue. The facilities of banks, in return
for the privileges they acquired, were promptly offered, and perhaps too
readily received by an embarrassed Treasury. During the long continuance
of a national debt and the intervening difficulties of a foreign war the
connection was continued from motives of convenience; but these causes
have long since passed away. We have no emergencies that make banks
necessary to aid the wants of the Treasury; we have no load of national
debt to provide for, and we have on actual deposit a large surplus. No
public interest, therefore, now requires the renewal of a connection
that circumstances have dissolved. The complete organization of our
Government, the abundance of our resources, the general harmony which
prevails between the different States and with foreign powers, all
enable us now to select the system most consistent with the Constitution
and most conducive to the public welfare. Should we, then, connect the
Treasury for a fourth time with the local banks, it can only be under a
conviction that past failures have arisen from accidental, not inherent,

A danger difficult, if not impossible, to be avoided in such an
arrangement is made strikingly evident in the very event by which it has
now been defeated. A sudden act of the banks intrusted with the funds
of the people deprives the Treasury, without fault or agency of the
Government, of the ability to pay its creditors in the currency they
have by law a right to demand. This circumstance no fluctuation of
commerce could have produced if the public revenue had been collected
in the legal currency and kept in that form by the officers of the
Treasury. The citizen whose money was in bank receives it back since
the suspension at a sacrifice in its amount, whilst he who kept it in
the legal currency of the country and in his own possession pursues
without loss the current of his business. The Government, placed in the
situation of the former, is involved in embarrassments it could not have
suffered had it pursued the course of the latter. These embarrassments
are, moreover, augmented by those salutary and just laws which forbid it
to use a depreciated currency, and by so doing take from the Government
the ability which individuals have of accommodating their transactions
to such a catastrophe.

A system which can in a time of profound peace, when there is a large
revenue laid by, thus suddenly prevent the application and the use of
the money of the people in the manner and for the objects they have
directed can not be wise; but who can think without painful reflection
that under it the same unforeseen events might have befallen us in the
midst of a war and taken from us at the moment when most wanted the use
of those very means which were treasured up to promote the national
welfare and guard our national rights? To such embarrassments and to
such dangers will this Government be always exposed whilst it takes the
moneys raised for and necessary to the public service out of the hands
of its own officers and converts them into a mere right of action
against corporations intrusted with the possession of them. Nor can
such results be effectually guarded against in such a system without
investing the Executive with a control over the banks themselves,
whether State or national, that might with reason be objected to. Ours
is probably the only Government in the world that is liable in the
management of its fiscal concerns to occurrences like these.

But this imminent risk is not the only danger attendant on the surrender
of the public money to the custody and control of local corporations.
Though the object is aid to the Treasury, its effect may be to introduce
into the operations of the Government influences the most subtle,
founded on interests the most selfish.

The use by the banks, for their own benefit, of the money deposited with
them has received the sanction of the Government from the commencement
of this connection. The money received from the people, instead of
being kept till it is needed for their use, is, in consequence of this
authority, a fund on which discounts are made for the profit of those
who happen to be owners of stock in the banks selected as depositories.
The supposed and often exaggerated advantages of such a boon will always
cause it to be sought for with avidity. I will not stop to consider
on whom the patronage incident to it is to be conferred. Whether the
selection and control be trusted to Congress or to the Executive, either
will be subjected to appeals made in every form which the sagacity of
interest can suggest. The banks under such a system are stimulated to
make the most of their fortunate acquisition; the deposits are treated
as an increase of capital; loans and circulation are rashly augmented,
and when the public exigencies require a return it is attended with
embarrassments not provided for nor foreseen. Thus banks that thought
themselves most fortunate when the public funds were received find
themselves most embarrassed when the season of payment suddenly arrives.

Unfortunately, too, the evils of the system are not limited to the
banks. It stimulates a general rashness of enterprise and aggravates the
fluctuations of commerce and the currency. This result was strikingly
exhibited during the operations of the late deposit system, and
especially in the purchases of public lands. The order which ultimately
directed the payment of gold and silver in such purchases greatly
checked, but could not altogether prevent, the evil. Specie was indeed
more difficult to be procured than the notes which the banks could
themselves create at pleasure; but still, being obtained from them as a
loan and returned as a deposit, which they were again at liberty to use,
it only passed round the circle with diminished speed. This operation
could not have been performed had the funds of the Government gone into
the Treasury to be regularly disbursed, and not into banks to be loaned
out for their own profit while they were permitted to substitute for it
a credit in account.

In expressing these sentiments I desire not to undervalue the benefits
of a salutary credit to any branch of enterprise. The credit bestowed
on probity and industry is the just reward of merit and an honorable
incentive to further acquisition. None oppose it who love their country
and understand its welfare. But when it is unduly encouraged; when it
is made to inflame the public mind with the temptations of sudden and
unsubstantial wealth; when it turns industry into paths that lead sooner
or later to disappointment and distress, it becomes liable to censure
and needs correction. Far from helping probity and industry, the ruin to
which it leads falls most severely on the great laboring classes, who
are thrown suddenly out of employment, and by the failure of magnificent
schemes never intended to enrich them are deprived in a moment of their
only resource. Abuses of credit and excesses in speculation will happen
in despite of the most salutary laws; no government, perhaps, can
altogether prevent them, but surely every government can refrain from
contributing the stimulus that calls them into life.

Since, therefore, experience has shown that to lend the public money
to the local banks is hazardous to the operations of the Government, at
least of doubtful benefit to the institutions themselves, and productive
of disastrous derangement in the business and currency of the country,
is it the part of wisdom again to renew the connection?

It is true that such an agency is in many respects convenient to the
Treasury, but it is not indispensable. A limitation of the expenses
of the Government to its actual wants, and of the revenue to those
expenses, with convenient means for its prompt application to the
purposes for which it was raised, are the objects which we should seek
to accomplish. The collection, safe-keeping, transfer, and disbursement
of the public money can, it is believed, be well managed by officers of
the Government. Its collection, and to a great extent its disbursement
also, have indeed been hitherto conducted solely by them, neither
national nor State banks, when employed, being required to do more than
keep it safely while in their custody, and transfer and pay it in such
portions and at such times as the Treasury shall direct.

Surely banks are not more able than the Government to secure the money
in their possession against accident, violence, or fraud. The assertion
that they are so must assume that a vault in a bank is stronger than
a vault in the Treasury, and that directors, cashiers, and clerks not
selected by the Government nor under its control are more worthy of
confidence than officers selected from the people and responsible to the
Government--officers bound by official oaths and bonds for a faithful
performance of their duties, and constantly subject to the supervision
of Congress.

The difficulties of transfer and the aid heretofore rendered by banks
have been less than is usually supposed. The actual accounts show that
by far the larger portion of payments is made within short or convenient
distances from the places of collection; and the whole number of
warrants issued at the Treasury in the year 1834--a year the result of
which will, it is believed, afford a safe test for the future--fell
short of 5,000, or an average of less than 1 daily for each State; in
the city of New York they did not average more than 2 a day, and at the
city of Washington only 4.

The difficulties heretofore existing are, moreover, daily lessened by an
increase in the cheapness and facility of communication, and it may be
asserted with confidence that the necessary transfers, as well as the
safe-keeping and disbursements of the public moneys, can be with safety
and convenience accomplished through the agencies of Treasury officers.
This opinion has been in some degree confirmed by actual experience
since the discontinuance of the banks as fiscal agents in May last--a
period which from the embarrassments in commercial intercourse presented
obstacles as great as any that may be hereafter apprehended.

The manner of keeping the public money since that period is fully stated
in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury. That officer also
suggests the propriety of assigning by law certain additional duties to
existing establishments and officers, which, with the modifications and
safeguards referred to by him, will, he thinks, enable the Department
to continue to perform this branch of the public service without any
material addition either to their number or to the present expense. The
extent of the business to be transacted has already been stated; and in
respect to the amount of money with which the officers employed would be
intrusted at any one time, it appears that, assuming a balance of five
millions to be at all times kept in the Treasury, and the whole of it
left in the hands of the collectors and receivers, the proportion of
each would not exceed an average of $30,000; but that, deducting one
million for the use of the Mint and assuming the remaining four millions
to be in the hands of one-half of the present number of officers--a
supposition deemed more likely to correspond with the fact--the sum
in the hands of each would still be less than the amount of most of the
bonds now taken from the receivers of public money. Every apprehension,
however, on the subject, either in respect to the safety of the money
or the faithful discharge of these fiscal transactions, may, it appears
to me, be effectually removed by adding to the present means of
the Treasury the establishment by law at a few important points of
offices for the deposit and disbursement of such portions of the public
revenue as can not with obvious safety and convenience be left in the
possession of the collecting officers until paid over by them to the
public creditors. Neither the amounts retained in their hands nor
those deposited in the offices would in an ordinary condition of the
revenue be larger in most cases than those often under the control of
disbursing officers of the Army and Navy, and might be made entirely
safe by requiring such securities and exercising such controlling
supervision as Congress may by law prescribe. The principal officers
whose appointments would become necessary under this plan, taking the
largest number suggested by the Secretary of the Treasury, would not
exceed ten, nor the additional expenses, at the same estimate, $60,000
a year.

There can be no doubt of the obligation of those who are intrusted
with the affairs of Government to conduct them with as little cost to
the nation as is consistent with the public interest; and it is for
Congress, and ultimately for the people, to decide whether the benefits
to be derived from keeping our fiscal concerns apart and severing the
connection which has hitherto existed between the Government and banks
offer sufficient advantages to justify the necessary expenses. If the
object to be accomplished is deemed important to the future welfare of
the country, I can not allow myself to believe that the addition to
the public expenditure of comparatively so small an amount as will be
necessary to effect it will be objected to by the people.

It will be seen by the report of the Postmaster-General herewith
communicated that the fiscal affairs of that Department have been
successfully conducted since May last upon the principle of dealing
only in the legal currency of the United States, and that it needs no
legislation to maintain its credit and facilitate the management of its
concerns, the existing laws being, in the opinion of that officer, ample
for those objects.

Difficulties will doubtless be encountered for a season and increased
services required from the public functionaries; such are usually
incident to the commencement of every system, but they will be greatly
lessened in the progress of its operations.

The power and influence supposed to be connected with the custody and
disbursement of the public money are topics on which the public mind is
naturally, and with great propriety, peculiarly sensitive. Much has been
said on them in reference to the proposed separation of the Government
from the banking institutions; and surely no one can object to any
appeals or animadversions on the subject which are consistent with facts
and evince a proper respect for the intelligence of the people. If a
Chief Magistrate may be allowed to speak for himself on such a point,
I can truly say that to me nothing would be more acceptable than the
withdrawal from the Executive, to the greatest practicable extent, of
all concern in the custody and disbursement of the public revenue; not
that I would shrink from any responsibility cast upon me by the duties
of my office, but because it is my firm belief that its capacity for
usefulness is in no degree promoted by the possession of any patronage
not actually necessary to the performance of those duties. But under our
present form of government the intervention of the executive officers
in the custody and disbursement of the public money seems to be
unavoidable; and before it can be admitted that the influence and power
of the Executive would be increased by dispensing with the agency of
banks the nature of that intervention in such an agency must be
carefully regarded, and a comparison must be instituted between its
extent in the two cases.

The revenue can only be collected by officers appointed by the President
with the advice and consent of the Senate. The public moneys in the
first instance must therefore in all cases pass through hands selected
by the Executive. Other officers appointed in the same way, or, as in
some cases, by the President alone, must also be intrusted with them
when drawn for the purpose of disbursement. It is thus seen that even
when banks are employed the public funds must twice pass through the
hands of executive officers. Besides this, the head of the Treasury
Department, who also holds office at the pleasure of the President, and
some other officers of the same Department, must necessarily be invested
with more or less power in the selection, continuance, and supervision
of the banks that may be employed. The question is then narrowed to the
single point whether in the intermediate stage between the collection
and disbursement of the public money the agency of banks is necessary
to avoid a dangerous extension of the patronage and influence of the
Executive. But is it clear that the connection of the Executive with
powerful moneyed institutions, capable of ministering to the interests
of men in points where they are most accessible to corruption, is less
liable to abuse than his constitutional agency in the appointment and
control of the few public officers required by the proposed plan? Will
the public money when in their hands be necessarily exposed to any
improper interference on the part of the Executive? May it not be hoped
that a prudent fear of public jealousy and disapprobation in a matter so
peculiarly exposed to them will deter him from any such interference,
even if higher motives be found inoperative? May not Congress so
regulate by law the duty of those officers and subject it to such
supervision and publicity as to prevent the possibility of any serious
abuse on the part of the Executive? And is there equal room for such
supervision and publicity in a connection with banks, acting under the
shield of corporate immunities and conducted by persons irresponsible
to the Government and the people? It is believed that a considerate and
candid investigation of these questions will result in the conviction
that the proposed plan is far less liable to objection on the score of
Executive patronage and control than any bank agency that has been or
can be devised.

With these views I leave to Congress the measures necessary to regulate
in the present emergency the safe-keeping and transfer of the public
moneys. In the performance of constitutional duty I have stated to them
without reserve the result of my own reflections. The subject is of
great importance, and one on which we can scarcely expect to be as
united in sentiment as we are in interest. It deserves a full and
free discussion, and can not fail to be benefited by a dispassionate
comparison of opinions. Well aware myself of the duty of reciprocal
concession among the coordinate branches of the Government, I can
promise a reasonable spirit of cooperation, so far as it can be indulged
in without the surrender of constitutional objections which I believe
to be well founded. Any system that may be adopted should be subjected
to the fullest legal provision, so as to leave nothing to the Executive
but what is necessary to the discharge of the duties imposed on him;
and whatever plan may be ultimately established, my own part shall be
so discharged as to give to it a fair trial and the best prospect of

The character of the funds to be received and disbursed in the
transactions of the Government likewise demands your most careful

There can be no doubt that those who framed and adopted the
Constitution, having in immediate view the depreciated paper of the
Confederacy--of which $500 in paper were at times only equal to $1 in
coin--intended to prevent the recurrence of similar evils, so far at
least as related to the transactions of the new Government. They gave
to Congress express powers to coin money and to regulate the value
thereof and of foreign coin; they refused to give it power to establish
corporations--the agents then as now chiefly employed to create a paper
currency; they prohibited the States from making anything but gold
and silver a legal tender in payment of debts; and the First Congress
directed by positive law that the revenue should be received in nothing
but gold and silver.

Public exigency at the outset of the Government, without direct
legislative authority, led to the use of banks as fiscal aids to the
Treasury. In admitted deviation from the law, at the same period and
under the same exigency, the Secretary of the Treasury received their
notes in payment of duties. The sole ground on which the practice
thus commenced was then or has since been justified is the certain,
immediate, and convenient exchange of such notes for specie. The
Government did, indeed, receive the inconvertible notes of State banks
during the difficulties of war, and the community submitted without a
murmur to the unequal taxation and multiplied evils of which such a
course was productive. With the war this indulgence ceased, and the
banks were obliged again to redeem their notes in gold and silver. The
Treasury, in accordance with previous practice, continued to dispense
with the currency required by the act of 1789, and took the notes of
banks in full confidence of their being paid in specie on demand; and
Congress, to guard against the slightest violation of this principle,
have declared by law that if notes are paid in the transactions of the
Government it must be under such circumstances as to enable the holder
to convert them into specie without depreciation or delay.

Of my own duties under the existing laws, when the banks suspended
specie payments, I could not doubt. Directions were immediately given
to prevent the reception into the Treasury of anything but gold and
silver, or its equivalent, and every practicable arrangement was made
to preserve the public faith by similar or equivalent payments to
the public creditors. The revenue from lands had been for some time
substantially so collected under the order issued by directions of my
predecessor. The effects of that order had been so salutary and its
forecast in regard to the increasing insecurity of bank paper had become
so apparent that even before the catastrophe I had resolved not to
interfere with its operation. Congress is now to decide whether the
revenue shall continue to be so collected or not.

The receipt into the Treasury of bank notes not redeemed in specie on
demand will not, I presume, be sanctioned. It would destroy without the
excuse of war or public distress that equality of imposts and identity
of commercial regulation which lie at the foundation of our Confederacy,
and would offer to each State a direct temptation to increase its
foreign trade by depreciating the currency received for duties in its
ports. Such a proceeding would also in a great degree frustrate the
policy so highly cherished of infusing into our circulation a larger
proportion of the precious metals--a policy the wisdom of which none can
doubt, though there may be different opinions as to the extent to which
it should be carried. Its results have been already too auspicious and
its success is too closely interwoven with the future prosperity of
the country to permit us for a moment to contemplate its abandonment.
We have seen under its influence our specie augmented beyond eighty
millions, our coinage increased so as to make that of gold amount,
between August, 1834, and December, 1836, to $10,000,000, exceeding
the whole coinage at the Mint during the thirty-one previous years.

The prospect of further improvement continued without abatement until
the moment of the suspension of specie payments. This policy has now,
indeed, been suddenly checked, but is still far from being overthrown.
Amidst all conflicting theories, one position is undeniable--the
precious metals will invariably disappear when there ceases to be
a necessity for their use as a circulating medium. It was in strict
accordance with this truth that whilst in the month of May last they
were everywhere seen and were current for all ordinary purposes they
disappeared from circulation the moment the payment of specie was
refused by the banks and the community tacitly agreed to dispense with
its employment. Their place was supplied by a currency exclusively of
paper, and in many cases of the worst description. Already are the bank
notes now in circulation greatly depreciated, and they fluctuate in
value between one place and another, thus diminishing and making
uncertain the worth of property and the price of labor, and failing to
subserve, except at a heavy loss, the purposes of business. With each
succeeding day the metallic currency decreases; by some it is hoarded
in the natural fear that once parted with it can not be replaced, while
by others it is diverted from its more legitimate uses for the sake
of gain. Should Congress sanction this condition of things by making
irredeemable paper money receivable in payment of public dues, a
temporary check to a wise and salutary policy will in all probability
be converted into its absolute destruction.

It is true that bank notes actually convertible into specie may be
received in payment of the revenue without being liable to all these
objections, and that such a course may to some extent promote individual
convenience--an object always to be considered where it does not
conflict with the principles of our Government or the general welfare
of the country. If such notes only were received, and always under
circumstances allowing their early presentation for payment, and if at
short and fixed periods they were converted into specie to be kept by
the officers of the Treasury, some of the most serious obstacles to
their reception would perhaps be removed. To retain the notes in the
Treasury would be to renew under another form the loans of public money
to the banks, and the evils consequent thereon.

It is, however, a mistaken impression that any large amount of specie
is required for public payments. Of the seventy or eighty millions
now estimated to be in the country, ten millions would be abundantly
sufficient for that purpose provided an accumulation of a large amount
of revenue beyond the necessary wants of the Government be hereafter
prevented. If to these considerations be added the facilities which will
arise from enabling the Treasury to satisfy the public creditors by its
drafts or notes receivable in payment of the public dues, it may be
safely assumed that no motive of convenience to the citizen requires
the reception of bank paper.

To say that the refusal of paper money by the Government introduces an
unjust discrimination between the currency received by it and that used
by individuals in their ordinary affairs is, in my judgment, to view it
in a very erroneous light. The Constitution prohibits the States from
making anything but gold and silver a tender in the payment of debts,
and thus secures to every citizen a right to demand payment in the legal
currency. To provide by law that the Government will only receive its
dues in gold and silver is not to confer on it any peculiar privilege,
but merely to place it on an equality with the citizen by reserving to
it a right secured to him by the Constitution. It is doubtless for this
reason that the principle has been sanctioned by successive laws from
the time of the first Congress under the Constitution down to the last.
Such precedents, never objected to and proceeding from such sources,
afford a decisive answer to the imputation of inequality or injustice.

But in fact the measure is one of restriction, not of favor. To forbid
the public agent to receive in payment any other than a certain kind of
money is to refuse him a discretion possessed by every citizen. It may
be left to those who have the management of their own transactions to
make their own terms, but no such discretion should be given to him who
acts merely as an agent of the people--who is to collect what the law
requires and to pay the appropriations it makes. When bank notes are
redeemed on demand, there is then no discrimination in reality, for the
individual who receives them may at his option substitute the specie for
them; he takes them from convenience or choice. When they are not so
redeemed, it will scarcely be contended that their receipt and payment
by a public officer should be permitted, though none deny that right
to an individual; if it were, the effect would be most injurious to
the public, since their officer could make none of those arrangements
to meet or guard against the depreciation which an individual is at
liberty to do. Nor can inconvenience to the community be alleged as
an objection to such a regulation. Its object and motive are their
convenience and welfare.

If at a moment of simultaneous and unexpected suspension by the banks
it adds something to the many embarrassments of that proceeding, yet
these are far overbalanced by its direct tendency to produce a wider
circulation of gold and silver, to increase the safety of bank paper,
to improve the general currency, and thus to prevent altogether such
occurrences and the other and far greater evils that attend them.

It may indeed be questioned whether it is not for the interest of the
banks themselves that the Government should not receive their paper.
They would be conducted with more caution and on sounder principles.
By using specie only in its transactions the Government would create a
demand for it, which would to a great extent prevent its exportation,
and by keeping it in circulation maintain a broader and safer basis for
the paper currency. That the banks would thus be rendered more sound
and the community more safe can not admit of a doubt.

The foregoing views, it seems to me, do but fairly carry out the
provisions of the Federal Constitution in relation to the currency, as
far as relates to the public revenue. At the time that instrument was
framed there were but three or four banks in the United States, and had
the extension of the banking system and the evils growing out of it
been foreseen they would probably have been specially guarded against.
The same policy which led to the prohibition of bills of credit by the
States would doubtless in that event have also interdicted their issue
as a currency in any other form. The Constitution, however, contains no
such prohibition; and since the States have exercised for nearly half
a century the power to regulate the business of banking, it is not to
be expected that it will be abandoned. The whole matter is now under
discussion before the proper tribunal--the people of the States. Never
before has the public mind been so thoroughly awakened to a proper
sense of its importance; never has the subject in all its bearings
been submitted to so searching an inquiry. It would be distrusting the
intelligence and virtue of the people to doubt the speedy and efficient
adoption of such measures of reform as the public good demands. All
that can rightfully be done by the Federal Government to promote the
accomplishment of that important object will without doubt be performed.

In the meantime it is our duty to provide all the remedies against a
depreciated paper currency which the Constitution enables us to afford.
The Treasury Department on several former occasions has suggested the
propriety and importance of a uniform law concerning bankruptcies of
corporations and other bankers. Through the instrumentality of such a
law a salutary check may doubtless be imposed on the issues of paper
money and an effectual remedy given to the citizen in a way at once
equal in all parts of the Union and fully authorized by the

The indulgence granted by Executive authority in the payment of bonds
for duties has been already mentioned. Seeing that the immediate
enforcement of these obligations would subject a large and highly
respectable portion of our citizens to great sacrifices, and believing
that a temporary postponement could be made without detriment to other
interests and with increased certainty of ultimate payment, I did not
hesitate to comply with the request that was made of me. The terms
allowed are to the full extent as liberal as any that are to be found
in the practice of the executive department. It remains for Congress to
decide whether a further postponement may not with propriety be allowed;
and if so, their legislation upon the subject is respectfully invited.

The report of the Secretary of the Treasury will exhibit the condition
of these debts, the extent and effect of the present indulgence, the
probable result of its further extension on the state of the Treasury,
and every other fact necessary to a full consideration of the subject.
Similar information is communicated in regard to such depositories of
the public moneys as are indebted to the Government, in order that
Congress may also adopt the proper measures in regard to them.

The receipts and expenditures for the first half of the year and an
estimate of those for the residue will be laid before you by the
Secretary of the Treasury. In his report of December last it was
estimated that the current receipts would fall short of the expenditures
by about $3,000,000. It will be seen that the difference will be much
greater. This is to be attributed not only to the occurrence of greater
pecuniary embarrassments in the business of the country than those
which were then predicted, and consequently a greater diminution in
the revenue, but also to the fact that the appropriations exceeded by
nearly six millions the amount which was asked for in the estimates
then submitted. The sum necessary for the service of the year, beyond
the probable receipts and the amount which it was intended should be
reserved in the Treasury at the commencement of the year, will be about
six millions. If the whole of the reserved balance be not at once
applied to the current expenditures, but four millions be still kept
in the Treasury, as seems most expedient for the uses of the Mint and
to meet contingencies, the sum needed will be ten millions.

In making this estimate the receipts are calculated on the supposition
of some further extension of the indulgence granted in the payment of
bonds for duties, which will affect the amount of the revenue for the
present year to the extent of two and a half millions.

It is not proposed to procure the required amount by loans or increased
taxation. There are now in the Treasury $9,367,214, directed by the act
of the 23d of June, 1836, to be deposited with the States in October
next. This sum, if so deposited, will be subject under the law to be
recalled if needed to defray existing appropriations; and as it is now
evident that the whole, or the principal part, of it will be wanted
for that purpose, it appears most proper that the deposit should be
withheld. Until the amount can be collected from the banks, Treasury
notes may be temporarily issued, to be gradually redeemed as it is

I am aware that this course may be productive of inconvenience to many
of the States. Relying upon the acts of Congress which held out to
them the strong probability, if not the certainty, of receiving this
installment, they have in some instances adopted measures with which
its retention may seriously interfere. That such a condition of things
should have occurred is much to be regretted. It is not the least among
the unfortunate results of the disasters of the times; and it is for
Congress to devise a fit remedy, if there be one. The money being
indispensable to the wants of the Treasury, it is difficult to conceive
upon what principle of justice or expediency its application to that
object can be avoided. To recall any portion of the sums already
deposited with the States would be more inconvenient and less efficient.
To burden the country with increased taxation when there is in fact a
large surplus revenue would be unjust and unwise; to raise moneys by
loans under such circumstances, and thus to commence a new national
debt, would scarcely be sanctioned by the American people.

The plan proposed will be adequate to all our fiscal operations during
the remainder of the year. Should it be adopted, the Treasury, aided by
the ample resources of the country, will be able to discharge punctually
every pecuniary obligation. For the future all that is needed will be
that caution and forbearance in appropriations which the diminution of
the revenue requires and which the complete accomplishment or great
forwardness of many expensive national undertakings renders equally
consistent with prudence and patriotic liberality.

The preceding suggestions and recommendations are submitted in the
belief that their adoption by Congress will enable the executive
department to conduct our fiscal concerns with success so far as their
management has been committed to it. Whilst the objects and the means
proposed to attain them are within its constitutional powers and
appropriate duties, they will at the same time, it is hoped, by their
necessary operation, afford essential aid in the transaction of
individual concerns, and thus yield relief to the people at large in
a form adapted to the nature of our Government. Those who look to the
action of this Government for specific aid to the citizen to relieve
embarrassments arising from losses by revulsions in commerce and credit
lose sight of the ends for which it was created and the powers with
which it is clothed. It was established to give security to us all
in our lawful and honorable pursuits, under the lasting safeguard of
republican institutions. It was not intended to confer special favors on
individuals or on any classes of them, to create systems of agriculture,
manufactures, or trade, or to engage in them either separately or in
connection with individual citizens or organized associations. If
its operations were to be directed for the benefit of any one class,
equivalent favors must in justice be extended to the rest, and the
attempt to bestow such favors with an equal hand, or even to select
those who should most deserve them, would never be successful.

All communities are apt to look to government for too much. Even in
our own country, where its powers and duties are so strictly limited,
we are prone to do so, especially at periods of sudden embarrassment
and distress. But this ought not to be. The framers of our excellent
Constitution and the people who approved it with calm and sagacious
deliberation acted at the time on a sounder principle. They wisely
judged that the less government interferes with private pursuits the
better for the general prosperity. It is not its legitimate object to
make men rich or to repair by direct grants of money or legislation in
favor of particular pursuits losses not incurred in the public service.
This would be substantially to use the property of some for the benefit
of others. But its real duty--that duty the performance of which makes
a good government the most precious of human blessings--is to enact and
enforce a system of general laws commensurate with, but not exceeding,
the objects of its establishment, and to leave every citizen and every
interest to reap under its benign protection the rewards of virtue,
industry, and prudence.

I can not doubt that on this as on all similar occasions the Federal
Government will find its agency most conducive to the security and
happiness of the people when limited to the exercise of its conceded
powers. In never assuming, even for a well-meant object, such powers as
were not designed to be conferred upon it, we shall in reality do most
for the general welfare. To avoid every unnecessary interference with
the pursuits of the citizen will result in more benefit than to adopt
measures which could only assist limited interests, and are eagerly,
but perhaps naturally, sought for under the pressure of temporary
circumstances. If, therefore, I refrain from suggesting to Congress any
specific plan for regulating the exchanges of the country, relieving
mercantile embarrassments, or interfering with the ordinary operations
of foreign or domestic commerce, it is from a conviction that such
measures are not within the constitutional province of the General
Government, and that their adoption would not promote the real and
permanent welfare of those they might be designed to aid.

The difficulties and distresses of the times, though unquestionably
great, are limited in their extent, and can not be regarded as affecting
the permanent prosperity of the nation. Arising in a great degree from
the transactions of foreign and domestic commerce, it is upon them
that they have chiefly fallen. The great agricultural interest has in
many parts of the country suffered comparatively little, and, as if
Providence intended to display the munificence of its goodness at the
moment of our greatest need, and in direct contrast to the evils
occasioned by the waywardness of man, we have been blessed throughout
our extended territory with a season of general health and of uncommon
fruitfulness. The proceeds of our great staples will soon furnish the
means of liquidating debts at home and abroad, and contribute equally
to the revival of commercial activity and the restoration of commercial
credit. The banks, established avowedly for its support, deriving their
profits from it, and resting under obligations to it which can not be
overlooked, will feel at once the necessity and justice of uniting their
energies with those of the mercantile interest.

The suspension of specie payments at such a time and under such
circumstances as we have lately witnessed could not be other than a
temporary measure, and we can scarcely err in believing that the period
must soon arrive when all that are solvent will redeem their issues
in gold and silver. Dealings abroad naturally depend on resources and
prosperity at home. If the debt of our merchants has accumulated or
their credit is impaired, these are fluctuations always incident to
extensive or extravagant mercantile transactions. But the ultimate
security of such obligations does not admit of question. They are
guaranteed by the resources of a country the fruits of whose industry
afford abundant means of ample liquidation, and by the evident interest
of every merchant to sustain a credit hitherto high by promptly applying
these means for its preservation.

I deeply regret that events have occurred which require me to ask your
consideration of such serious topics. I could have wished that in making
my first communication to the assembled representatives of my country
I had nothing to dwell upon but the history of her unalloyed prosperity.
Since it is otherwise, we can only feel more deeply the responsibility
of the respective trusts that have been confided to us, and under the
pressure of difficulties unite in invoking the guidance and aid of the
Supreme Ruler of Nations and in laboring with zealous resolution to
overcome the difficulties by which we are environed.

It is under such circumstances a high gratification to know by
long experience that we act for a people to whom the truth, however
unpromising, can always be spoken with safety; for the trial of whose
patriotism no emergency is too severe, and who are sure never to
desert a public functionary honestly laboring for the public good.
It seems just that they should receive without delay any aid in their
embarrassments which your deliberations can afford. Coming directly from
the midst of them, and knowing the course of events in every section of
our country, from you may best be learnt as well the extent and nature
of these embarrassments as the most desirable measures of relief.

I am aware, however, that it is not proper to detain you at present
longer than may be demanded by the special objects for which you are
convened. To them, therefore, I have confined my communication; and
believing it will not be your own wish now to extend your deliberations
beyond them, I reserve till the usual period of your annual meeting that
general information on the state of the Union which the Constitution
requires me to give.



WASHINGTON, _September 7, 1837_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I transmit, for the consideration of the Senate with a view to its
ratification, a general convention of peace, friendship, commerce,
and navigation between the United States and the Peru-Bolivian
Confederation, signed at Lima on the 30th of November, 1836, by Samuel
Larned, the charge d'affaires of the United States, and J. Garcia del
Rio, minister of state in the department of finance of the North
Peruvian State.


WASHINGTON, _September 19, 1837_.


SIR: I have the honor to inclose a report of the Secretary of War, on
the subject of the resolution of the Senate of the 2d of March, 1837.[1]

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,


[Footnote 1: Whether the works at Black Rock raise the waters of Lake
Erie to the injury of property on its southern and western shores.]

WASHINGTON, _September 26, 1837_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I herewith transmit to the House of Representatives a report from the
Secretary of State, accompanied by copies of the correspondence
requested by their resolution of the 13th instant.



_Washington, September 25, 1837_.

The Secretary of State, to whom was referred the resolution of the House
of Representatives dated the 13th instant, requesting the President to
communicate to that body, "so far as the public interest will permit,
the correspondence between the Government of the United States and that
of Great Britain relating to the northeastern boundary of the United
States since the message of the late President to the Senate of the
United States of the 15th of June, 1836, and all the correspondence
which has taken place since that period between the Government of the
United States and the governor of the State of Maine on the subject
of alleged aggressions upon the rights of Maine by the British
authorities," has the honor respectfully to submit to the President
copies of the letters and documents requested by that resolution.



_Augusta, March 30, 1837_.

SIR: In compliance with a request of the legislature of this State,
I have the honor to transmit to you the accompanying report and

I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant,



_MARCH 29, 1837_.

The joint select committee who had under consideration the order
relating to the expediency of calling the attention of Congress to the
subject of fortifying our maritime and interior frontier have attended
to that duty, and ask leave to present the following report:

One object of the federal compact is "to provide for the common defense
and general welfare."

In accordance with these objects of the compact, the General Government
has from time to time made liberal appropriations for fortifying and
defending the several States along our extended maritime frontier west
and south of the western boundary line of this State. East of that line
a mere trifle has as yet been appropriated for these objects.

Maine has a maritime frontier of about 500 miles in extent, following
the indentations of her shores, and our interior frontier, bounding on
New Brunswick on the east and the Canadas on the north, is about 600
miles in extent.

Considering this great extent of seacoast, her numerous excellent
harbors, her noble rivers and great advantages for shipbuilding, and
her proximity to the fishing grounds, probably no State in the Union
possesses the natural advantages for carrying on this branch of industry
that Maine does.

It is a fact worthy of consideration that all maritime nations have
looked to their fisheries as the nursery of hardy seamen for the
merchant service in time of peace and for the navy in time of war, and
as a great question of national policy (aside from the inducement to
encourage this branch of business as an unfailing source of natural
wealth) it is deemed worthy of the fostering care of all commercial

Already the navigation of Maine is estimated at more than 300,000 tons,
and exceeded by only two States in the Union, and her increase annually
of tonnage is greater than that of any other State.

The abundance of building materials, believed to be inexhaustible, her
great conveniences for shipbuilding along her extended seacoast, her
numerous bays, rivers, and harbors, render it highly probable that the
day is not far distant when the maritime interests of Maine will exceed
that of any of her sister States; and if reliance can be placed upon the
statements of a scientific engineer of high respectability and standing,
who has during the past year, under the direction of the government of
this State and our parent Commonwealth, made a geological survey of
a portion of our State, it may be doubted whether the same extent of
territory on the continent contains more real value viewed in all its
bearings (the facilities of quarrying, manufacturing, exporting, and
its influence upon the great interests of the State and nation) than is
contained in our inexhaustible quarries of granite, lime, marble, slate,
etc., mines and minerals in which large and profitable investments are
already made. Some of these branches of business have been carried on
for many years, and others to a large extent are commencing under the
most favorable auspices.

These, together with our agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing
interests, our immense forests of invaluable timber, with a water power
of vast extent and value, giving us the means of laying the seaports
of the Union under a contribution for ages to come, and warranting the
belief that our present shipping interest will be sustained and employed
and a great increase required.

About one-third of the most valuable portion of our territory is claimed
by Great Britain, and the history of this protracted controversy from
its commencement to the present time is such as to awaken general
anxiety. We are admonished by recent events that we have not yet reached
the termination of our toils and embarrassments, and they have awakened
the painful apprehension that our just rights may not be secured by
honorable negotiation or patient submission to unprovoked injuries.
These considerations, in the opinion of your committee, call loudly for
the interposition of the General Government, and require at their hands
all needful preparation for possible contingencies. The late Governor
Lincoln nearly ten years since called the attention of the Government
to the importance of erecting a strong fortification in some eligible
position on the confines of that portion of our territory to which
an adverse claim is set up by Great Britain. In the opinion of your
committee, the subject has lost none of its interest since that
period, but, on the contrary, the events to which we have alluded
give to it vastly augmented importance; and to our view, irrespective
of any conditions growing out of the present controversy, a strong
fortification upon the northeastern boundary of the United States,
situated far in the interior and upon the confines of a foreign country,
and surrounded by millions of acres of fertile land, destined soon to
be peopled with a numerous population of hardy yeomanry, is of high

Our isolated situation, being the northeastern boundary of the
nation, with an interior frontier upward of 600 miles upon a foreign
country and a large proportion of our territory lying between two
Provinces of Great Britain and so situated as to render it greatly to
the advantage of that nation to possess it; the inflexible determination
which she manifests to pursue the course which interest dictates should
not be forgotten; the extent of our seacoast; the exposed situation of
our seaport towns, lying within a few hours' sail of the British naval
depot in the neighborhood of Maine; the disastrous consequences of our
defenseless situation during the last war; the great and increasing
maritime interests which we have at stake without one single point where
a ship, if dependent upon the United States fortifications, would be
safe from the attacks of a frigate--these and the consideration that
little, comparatively, has yet been done for Maine seem to our view to
constitute irresistible reasons why Maine should no longer be forgotten
or neglected in the common defense of the country.

Through all the long-protracted struggles, difficulties, and
embarrassments of our infant Republic this portion of our Union has
never been urgent or importunate in pressing its claims, but has
submitted patiently to the force of circumstances which rendered it

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