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

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I transmit a letter from the Secretary of War ad interim, accompanied by
various documents, in relation to a survey recently made of the mouths
of the Mississippi River under a law of the last session of Congress.


WASHINGTON, _March 3, 1837_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

In the month of October last, the office of Secretary of War being
vacant, I appointed Benjamin F. Butler, of the State of New York, to
perform the duties thereof during the pleasure of the President, but
with the expectation that the office would be otherwise filled, on the
nomination of my successor, immediately on the commencement of his term
of service. This expectation I have reason to believe will be fulfilled,
but as it is necessary in the present state of the public service that
the vacancy should actually occur, and as it is doubtful whether Mr.
Butler can act under his present appointment after the expiration of
the present session of the Senate, I hereby nominate the said Benjamin
F. Butler to be Secretary of War of the United States, to hold the said
office during the pleasure of the President until a successor duly
appointed shall accept such office and enter on the duties thereof.


WASHINGTON, _March 3, 1837_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

In my message to Congress of the 21st of December last I laid before
that body, without reserve, my views concerning the recognition of the
independence of Texas, with a report of the agent employed by the
Executive to obtain information in respect to the condition of that
country. Since that time the subject has been repeatedly discussed in
both branches of the Legislature. These discussions have resulted in the
insertion of a clause in the general appropriation law passed by both
Houses providing for the outfit and salary of a diplomatic agent to be
sent to the Republic of Texas whenever the President of the United
States may receive satisfactory evidence that Texas is an independent
power and shall deem it expedient to appoint such minister, and in the
adoption of a resolution by the Senate, the constitutional advisers of
the Executive on the diplomatic intercourse of the United States with
foreign powers, expressing the opinion that "the State of Texas having
established and maintained an independent government capable of
performing those duties, foreign and domestic, which appertain to
independent governments, and it appearing that there is no longer any
reasonable prospect of the successful prosecution of the war by Mexico
against said State, it is expedient and proper and in conformity with
the laws of nations and the practice of this Government in like cases
that the independent political existence of said State be acknowledged
by the Government of the United States." Regarding these proceedings
as a virtual decision of the question submitted by me to Congress,
I think it my duty to acquiesce therein, and therefore I nominate Alcee
La Branche, of Louisiana, to be charge d'affaires to the Republic
of Texas.



[Footnote 29: Pocket veto. This message was never sent to Congress, but
was deposited in the Department of State.]

MARCH 3, 1837--11.45 p.m.

The bill from the Senate entitled "An act designating and limiting the
funds receivable for the revenues of the United States" came to my hands
yesterday at 2 o'clock p. m. On perusing it I found its provisions so
complex and uncertain that I deemed it necessary to obtain the opinion
of the Attorney-General of the United States on several important
questions touching its construction and effect before I could decide
on the disposition to be made of it. The Attorney-General took up the
subject immediately, and his reply was reported to me this day at 5
o'clock p. m., and is hereunto annexed. As this officer, after a careful
and laborious examination of the bill and a distinct expression of his
opinion on the points proposed to him still came to the conclusion
that the construction of the bill, should it become a law, would yet
be a subject of much perplexity and doubt (a view of the bill entirely
coincident with my own), and as I can not think it proper, in a matter
of such vital interest and of such constant application, to approve a
bill so liable to diversity of interpretations, and more especially as
I have not had time, amid the duties constantly pressing on me, to give
the subject that deliberate consideration which its importance demands,
I am constrained to retain the bill, without acting definitively
thereon; and to the end that my reasons for this step may be fully
understood I shall cause this paper, with the opinion of the
Attorney-General and the bill in question, to be deposited in the
Department of State.



_March 3, 1837_.


SIR: I have had the honor to receive the several questions proposed to
me by you on the bill which has just passed the two Houses of Congress,
entitled "An act designating and limiting the funds receivable for
the revenues of the United States," and which is now before you for
consideration. These questions may be arranged under three general
heads, and in that order I shall proceed to reply to them.

I. Will the proposed bill, if approved, repeal or alter the laws now in
force designating the currency required to be received in payment of the
public dues, for lands or otherwise?

Will it compel the Treasury officers to receive the notes of
specie-paying banks having the characteristics described in its first
and second sections?

In what respect does it differ from and how far will it change the joint
resolution of April 30, 1816?

_Answer_. In order to a correct reply to this question, and indeed to
any other question arising on this obscurely penned bill, we must first
obtain a general view of all its provisions.

The first section requires the Secretary of the Treasury to take
measures for collecting the public revenue, first, in the legal currency
of the United States (i.e., gold and silver), or, second, in the notes
of such specie-paying banks as shall from time to time conform to
certain conditions in regard to small bills, described in the section.
This section does not expressly give the Secretary power to direct that
any particular notes _shall_ be received for lands or for duties, but it
_forbids_ the receipt of any paper currency other than such bank notes
as are described in the section; and it requires the Secretary to adopt
measures, in his discretion, to effectuate that prohibition.

The second section extends the prohibition still further, by forbidding
the receipt of any notes which the banks in which they are to be
deposited shall not, under the supervision and control of the Secretary
of the Treasury, agree to pass to the credit of the United States as
_cash_; to which is added a proviso authorizing the Secretary to
withdraw the public deposits from any bank which shall refuse to receive
as cash from the United States any notes receivable under the law which
such bank receives in the ordinary course of business on general

The third and last section allows the receipt, as heretofore, of land
scrip and Treasury certificates for public lands, and forbids the
Secretary of the Treasury to make any discrimination in the funds
receivable (other than such as results from the receipt of land scrip
or Treasury certificates) between the different branches of the public

From this analysis of the bill it appears that, so far as regards bank
notes, the bill designates and limits then: receivableness for the
revenues of the United States, first, by forbidding the receipts of any
except such as have all the characteristics described in the first and
second sections of the bill, and, secondly, by restraining the Secretary
of the Treasury from making any discrimination in this respect between
the different branches of the public revenue. In this way the bill
performs, to a certain extent, the office of "designating and limiting
the funds receivable for the revenues of the United States," as
mentioned in its title; but it would seem from what has been stated
that it is only in this way that any such office is performed. This
impression will be fully confirmed as we proceed.

The bill, should it be approved, will be supplementary to the laws now
in force relating to the same subject, but as it contains no repealing
clause no provision of those former laws, except such as may be plainly
repugnant to the present bill, will be repealed by it.

The existing laws embraced in the above question, and applicable to the
subject, are:

_First. As to duties on goods imported_.--The seventy-fourth section
of the collection law of the 2d of March, 1799, the first of which,
reenacting in this respect the act of the 31st of July, 1789, provides
"that all duties and fees to be collected shall be _payable in money of
the United States or in foreign gold and silver coins_ at the following
rates," etc. The residue of the section, as to rates, has been altered
by subsequent laws, and the clause quoted was varied during the
existence of the Bank of the United States, the notes of which were
expressly made receivable in all payments to the United States, and
during the existence of the act making Treasury notes receivable by
such act; but in no other respects has it ever been repealed.

_Second. As to public lands.--_The general land law of the 10th of May,
1800, section 5, provided that no lands should be sold, "at either
public or private sale, for less than $2 per acre, and payment may be
made for the same by all purchasers _either in specie or in evidences of
the public debt of the United States,_ at the rates prescribed" by a
prior law. This provision was varied by the acts relative to Treasury
notes and the Bank of the United States in like manner as above
mentioned. The second section of the general land law of the 24th of
April, 1820, abrogated the allowance of credits on the sale of public
lands after the its day of July then next; required every purchaser at
public sale to make complete payment on the day of purchase, and the
purchaser at private sale to produce to the register a receipt from the
Treasurer of the United States or from the receiver of the district for
the amount of the purchase money. The proviso to the fourth section of
the same law enacted, in respect to reverted lands and lands remaining
unsold, that they should not be sold for less price than $1.25 per acre,
"nor on any other terms than that of _cash_ payment." This latter act
has been further modified by the allowing Virginia land scrip to be
received in payment for public lands.

_Third. As to both duties and lands_.--The joint resolution of the 30th
of April, 1816, provides that the Secretary of the Treasury "be required
and directed to adopt such measures as he may deem necessary to cause,
as soon as may be, all duties, taxes, debts, or sums of money accruing
or becoming payable to the United States to be collected and paid in the
legal currency of the United States, or Treasury notes, or notes of the
Bank of the United States, _as by law provided and declared_, or in
notes of banks which are payable and paid on demand in the said legal
currency of the United States, and that from and after the 20th day of
February next no such duties, taxes, debts, or sums of money accruing or
becoming payable to the United States as aforesaid ought to be collected
or received otherwise than in the legal currency of the United States,
or Treasury notes, or notes of the Bank of the United States, or in
notes of banks which are payable and paid on demand in the legal
currency of the United States." According to the opinion given by me as
a member of your Cabinet in the month of July last, and to which I still
adhere, this resolution was mandatory only as it respected the legal
currency of the United States, Treasury notes, and notes of the Bank
of the United States, and in respect to the notes of the State banks,
though payable and paid in specie, was permissive merely in the
discretion of the Secretary; and in accordance with this opinion has
been the practical construction given to the resolution by the Treasury
Department. It is known to you, however, that distinguished names have
been vouched for the opinion that the resolution was mandatory as to the
notes of all specie-paying banks; that the debtor had the right, at his
option, to make payment in such notes, and that if tendered by him the
Treasury officers had no discretion to refuse them.

It is thus seen that the laws now in force, so far as they _positively
enjoin_ the receipt of any particular currency in payment of public
dues, are confined to gold and silver, except that in certain cases
Virginia land scrip and Treasury certificates are directed to be
received on the sale of public lands. In my opinion, there is nothing in
the bill before me repugnant to those laws. The bill does not _expressly
_ declare and enact that any particular species of currency _shall be
receivable _in payment of the public revenue. On the contrary, as the
provisions of the first and second sections are chiefly of a _negative_
character, I think they do not take away the power of the Secretary,
previously possessed under the acts of Congress, and as the agent of
the President, to _forbid_ the receipt of any bank notes which are not
by some act of Congress expressly made absolutely receivable in payment
of the public dues.

The above view will, I think, be confirmed by a closer examination
of the bill. It sets out with the assumption that there is a currency
established by law (i. e., gold and silver); and it further assumes that
the public revenue of all descriptions ought to be collected exclusively
in such legal currency, or in bank notes of a certain character; and
therefore it provides that the Secretary of the Treasury _shall_ take
measures to effect a collection of the revenue "in the legal currency
of the United States, _or_ in notes of banks which are payable and paid
on demand in the said legal currency," under certain restrictions,
afterwards mentioned in the act.

The question then arises: Are bank notes having the requisite
characteristics placed by the clause just quoted on the same footing
with the legal currency, so as to make it the duty of the Secretary of
the Treasury to allow the receipt of them when tendered by the debtor?
In my judgment, such is not the effect of the provision.

If Congress had intended to make so important an alteration of the
existing law as to compel the receiving officers to take payment in the
bank notes described in the bill, the natural phraseology would have
been, "in the legal currency of the United States _and_ in notes of
banks which are payable and paid in the legal currency," etc. And it is
reasonable to presume that Congress would have used such, phraseology,
or would have gone on to make a distinct provision expressly declaring
that such bank notes _should be receivable, _as was done in the bank
charters of 1790 and 1816, and as was also done by the acts relative to
evidences of debt, Treasury notes, and Virginia land scrip. The form of
one of these provisions (the fourteenth section of the act incorporating
the late Bank of the United States) will illustrate the idea I desire
to present:

"SEC. 14. _And be it further enacted, _That the bills or notes of the
said corporation, originally made payable, or which shall have become
payable, on demand, _shall be receivable _in all payments to the United
States, unless otherwise directed by act of Congress."

The difference between the language there used and that employed in the
present bill is too obvious to require comment. It is true that the word
"or," when it occurs in wills and agreements, is sometimes construed to
mean "and," in order to give effect to the plain intent of the parties;
and such a construction of the word may sometimes be given when it
occurs in statutes, where the general intent of the lawmakers evidently
requires it. But this construction of the word in the present case is
not only unnecessary, but, in my opinion, repugnant to the whole scope
of the bill, which, so far from commanding the public officers to
receive bank notes in cases not required by the existing laws,
introduces several new prohibitions on the receipt of such notes.

Nor do I think this one of those cases in which a choice is given to the
debtor to pay in one or other of two descriptions of currency, both of
which are receivable by law. Such a choice was given by the land law of
the 10th of May, 1800, section 5, between specie and the evidences of
the public debt of the United States then receivable by law, and also
by the joint resolution of the 30th of April, 1816, between "the legal
currency of the United States, or Treasury notes, or notes of the Bank
of the United States, as by law provided and declared." The option given
by that resolution continued in force so long as the laws providing and
declaring that Treasury notes and notes of the Bank of the United States
should be receivable in payments to the United States, and ceased when
those laws expired. The distinction between that description of paper
currency which is by law expressly made receivable in payment of public
dues, and the notes of the State banks, which were only _permitted_ to
be received, is plainly marked in the resolution of 1816. While the
former are placed on the same footing with the legal currency, because
by previous laws it had been so "_provided and declared_" the latter
were left to be received or not received, at the discretion of the
Secretary of the Treasury, except that he was restricted from allowing
any to be received which were not payable and paid on demand in the
legal currency. The bank notes spoken of in the bill before me, having
never been made receivable by law, must be regarded as belonging to the
latter class, and not to the former; and there can therefore be no
greater obligation under the present bill, should it become a law, to
receive them in payment than there was to receive the paper of the
State banks under the resolution of 1816.

As to the difference between this bill and the joint resolution of 1816,
the bill differs from that resolution in the following particulars:

First. It says nothing of Treasury notes and the notes of the Bank of
the United States, which by the resolution of 1816 are recognized as
having been made receivable by laws then in force in payment of public
dues of all descriptions.

Second. It abridges the discretion left with the Secretary of the
Treasury by that resolution, by positively forbidding the receipt of
bank notes not having the characteristics described in the first and
second sections of the bill; whereas the receipt of some of the notes so
forbidden might, under the resolution of 1816, have been allowed by the

Third. It forbids the making of any discrimination in respect to the
receipt of bank notes between the different branches of the public
revenue; whereas the Secretary of the Treasury, under the resolution of
1816, was subject to no such restraint, and had the power to make the
discrimination forbidden by the bill, except as to the notes of the Bank
of the United States and Treasury notes.

This bill, if approved, will change the resolution of 1816, so far
as it now remains in force, in the second and third particulars just
mentioned, but in my opinion, as already suggested, will change it in
no other respect.

II. What is the extent of the supervision and control allowed by this
bill to the Secretary of the Treasury over the notes to be received by
the deposit banks?

And does it allow him to direct what particular notes shall or shall not
be received for lands or for duties?

_Answer_. After maturely considering, so far as time has been
allowed me, the several provisions of the bill, I think the following
conclusions may fairly be drawn from them when taken in connection with
the laws now in force, and above referred to, and that should it become
a law they will probably express its legal effect.

First. That the Secretary of the Treasury _can not direct _the receipt
of any notes except such as are issued by banks which conform to the
first section of the law and such as will be passed by the proper
deposit bank to the credit of the United States as _cash_.

Second. That he _may direct_ the receipt of notes issued by banks which
conform to the first section, provided the deposit bank in which the
notes are to be deposited shall agree to credit them as cash.

Third. That if the deposit bank in which the money is to be deposited
shall refuse to receive as cash the notes designated by the Secretary,
and which such bank receives in the ordinary course of business on
general deposit, he may withdraw the public deposits and select another
depository which will agree to receive them.

Fourth. That if he can not find a depository which will so agree, then
that the Secretary can not direct or authorize the receipt of any notes
except such as the deposit bank primarily entitled to the deposits will
agree to receive and deposit as cash.

Fifth. That although a deposit bank might be willing to receive from
the collectors and receivers, and to credit as _cash_, notes of certain
banks which conform to the first section, yet, for the reasons before
stated, I am of opinion that the Secretary is not _obliged_ to allow the
receipt of such notes.

Sixth. The Secretary is forbidden to make any discrimination in
_the funds receivable _"between the different branches of the public
revenue," and therefore, though he may forbid the receipt of the notes
of any particular bank or class of banks not excluded by the bill, and
may forbid the receipt of notes of denominations larger than those named
in the bill, yet when he issues any such prohibition it must apply to
_all_ the branches of the public revenue.

Seventh. If I am right in the foregoing propositions, the result will be
that the proposed law will leave in the Secretary of the Treasury power
to _prohibit_ the receipt of particular _notes provided his prohibition
apply to both lands and duties, _and power to _direct_ what particular
notes allowed by the law shall be received _provided he can find a
deposit bank which will agree to receive and [credit] them as cash_.

III. Are the deposit banks the sole judges under this bill of what
notes they will receive, or are they bound to receive the notes of every
specie-paying bank, chartered or unchartered, wherever situated, in any
part of the United States?

_Answer_. In my opinion the deposit banks, under the bill in question,
will be the sole judges of the notes to be received by them from any
collector or receiver of public money, and they will not be bound to
receive the notes of any other bank whose notes they may choose to
reject, provided they apply the same rule to the United States which
they apply to their own depositors. In other words, the general rule as
to what notes are to be received as cash, prescribed by each deposit
bank for the regulation of its ordinary business, must be complied with
by the collectors and receivers whose moneys are to be deposited with
that bank. But it will not therefore follow that those officers will be
bound to receive what the bank generally receives, because, as already
stated, they may refuse of their own accord, or under the direction of
the Secretary of the Treasury, any bank notes not expressly directed by
act of Congress to be received in payment of the public dues.

I have thus answered the several questions proposed on the bill before
me; and though I have been necessarily obliged to examine the subject
with much haste, I have no other doubts as to the soundness of the
construction above given than such as belong to discussions of this
nature and to a proper sense of the fallibility of human judgment. It
is, however, my duty to remind you that very different opinions were
expressed in the course of the debates on the proposed law by some of
the members who took part therein. It would seem from these debates that
the bill, in some instances at least, was supported under the impression
that it would compel the Treasury officers to receive all bank notes
possessing all the characteristics described in the first and second
sections, and that the Secretary of the Treasury would have no power
to forbid their receipt. It must be confessed that the language is
sufficiently ambiguous to give some plausibility to such a construction,
and that it seems to derive some support from the refusal of the House
of Representatives to consider an amendment reported by the Committee of
Ways and Means of that House, which would substantially have given the
bill, in explicit terms, the interpretation I have put on it, and have
removed the uncertainty which now pervades it. Under these circumstances
it may reasonably be expected that the true meaning of the bill, should
it be passed into a law, will become a subject of discussion and
controversy, and probably remain involved in much perplexity and doubt
until it shall have been settled by a judicial decision. How far these
latter considerations are to be regarded by you in your decision on the
bill is a question which belongs to another place, and on which,
therefore, I forbear to enlarge in this communication. I have the honor
to be, sir, with high respect, your obedient servant,


AN ACT designating and limiting the funds receivable for the revenues of
the United States.

_Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United
States of America in Congress assembled_. That the Secretary of the
Treasury be, and hereby is, required to adopt such measures as he may
deem necessary to effect a collection of the public revenue of the
United States, whether arising from duties, taxes, debts, or sales of
lands, in the manner and on the principles herein provided; that is,
that no such duties, taxes, debts, or sums of money, payable for lands,
shall be collected or received otherwise than in the legal currency of
the United States, or in notes of banks which are payable and paid on
demand in the said legal currency of the United States under the
following restrictions and conditions in regard to such notes, to wit:
From and after the passage of this act the notes of no bank which shall
issue or circulate bills or notes of a less denomination than five
dollars shall be received on account of the public dues; and from and
after the thirtieth day of December, eighteen hundred and thirty-nine,
the notes of no bank which shall issue or circulate bills or notes of a
less denomination than ten dollars shall be so receivable; and from and
after the thirtieth day of December, one thousand eight hundred and
forty-one, the like prohibition shall be extended to the notes of all
banks issuing bills or notes of a less denomination than twenty dollars.

SEC. 2. _And be it further enacted, _That no notes shall be received by
the collectors or receivers of the public money which the banks in which
they are to be deposited shall not, under the supervision and control of
the Secretary of the Treasury, agree to pass to the credit of the United
States as cash: _Provided_, That if any deposit bank shall refuse to
receive and pass to the credit of the United States as cash any notes
receivable under the provisions of this act, which said bank, in the
ordinary course of business, receives on general deposit, the Secretary
of the Treasury is hereby authorized to withdraw the public deposits
from said bank.

SEC. 3. _And be it further enacted, _That this act shall not be so
construed as to prohibit receivers or collectors of the dues of the
Government from receiving for the public lands any kind of land scrip
or Treasury certificates now authorized by law, but the same shall
hereafter be received for the public lands in the same way and manner
as has heretofore been practiced; and it shall not be lawful for the
Secretary of the Treasury to make any discrimination in the funds
receivable between the different branches of the public revenue,
except as is provided in this section.


_Speaker of the House of Representatives_.


_President of the Senate pro tempore_.

I certify that this act did originate in the Senate.




[From Senate Journal, Twenty-fourth Congress, second session, p. 355.]

DECEMBER 20, 1836.

_The President of the United States to ------, Senator for the State
of ------_.

By virtue of the power vested in me by the Constitution, I hereby
convene the Senate of the United States to meet in the Senate Chamber on
the 4th day of March next, at 10 o'clock in the forenoon, to receive any
communication the President of the United States may think it his duty
to make.




_February 15, 1837_.


_President of the Court of Inquiry, etc._

SIR: I have the honor to inclose a copy of the opinion of the President
of the United States on the proceedings of the court of inquiry of which
you are president, relative to the campaign against the Creek Indians,
and, in compliance with the direction at the close thereof, to transmit
herewith those proceedings, with the documentary evidence referred to
therein, for the further action of the court.

Very respectfully, your most obedient servant,


_Secretary of War ad interim_.

P.S.--The proceedings and a portion of the documents accompany this.
The balance of the documents (except Nos. 204 and 209, which will be
sent to-morrow) are in a separate package, and sent by the same mail.

WASHINGTON, _February 14, 1837_.

The President has carefully examined the proceedings of the court of
inquiry recently held at the city of Frederick, by virtue of Orders
Nos. 65 and 68, so far as the same relate to the causes of the delay in
opening and prosecuting the campaign in Georgia and Alabama against the
hostile Creek Indians in the year 1836, and has maturely considered the
opinion of the court on this part of the subject referred to it.

The order constituting the court directs it, among other things--

To inquire and examine into the causes of the delay in opening and
prosecuting the campaign in Georgia and Alabama against the hostile
Creek Indians in the year 1836, and into every subject connected with
the military operations in the campaign aforesaid, and, after fully
investigating the same, to report the facts, together with its opinion
on the whole subject, for the information of the President.

It appears from the proceedings that after the testimony of nine
witnesses had been received by the court, and after more than one
hundred documents bearing on the subject had also been produced in
evidence, and after Major-General Scott had addressed the court on the
subject, the court proceeded to pronounce its opinion, as follows:

Upon a careful examination of the abundant testimony taken in the
foregoing case the court is of opinion that no delay which it was
practicable to have avoided was made by Major-General Scott in opening
the campaign against the Creek Indians. On the contrary, it appears
that he took the earliest measures to provide arms, munitions, and
provisions for his forces, who were found almost wholly destitute; and
as soon as arms could be put into the hands of the volunteers they
were, in succession, detached and placed in position to prevent the
enemy from retiring upon Florida, and whence they could move against
the main body of the enemy as soon as equipped for offensive

From the testimony of the governor of Georgia, of Major-General
Sanford, commander of the Georgia volunteers, and many other witnesses
of high rank and standing who were acquainted with the topography of
the country and the position and strength of the enemy, the court is
of opinion that the plan of campaign adopted by Major-General Scott
was well calculated to lead to successful results, and that it was
prosecuted by him, as far as practicable, with zeal and ability, until
recalled from the command upon representations made by Major-General
Jesup, his second in command, from Fort Mitchell, in a letter bearing
date the 20th of June, 1836, addressed to F.P. Blair, esq., at
Washington, marked "private," containing a request that it be shown to
the President; which letter was exposed and brought to light by the
dignified and magnanimous act of the President in causing it to be
placed on file in the Department of War as an official document, and
which forms part of the proceedings. (See Document No. 214.) Conduct
so extraordinary and inexplicable on the part of Major-General Jesup,
in reference to the character of said letter, should, in the opinion
of the court, be investigated.

The foregoing opinion is not accompanied by any report of the _facts_
in the case, as required by the order constituting the court; on the
contrary, the facts are left to be gathered from the mass of oral and
documentary evidence contained in the proceedings, and thus a most
important part of the duty assigned to the court remains unexecuted.
Had the court stated the facts of the case as established to its
satisfaction by the evidence before it, the President, on comparing
such state of facts found by the court with its opinion, would have
distinctly understood the views entertained by the court in respect to
the degree of promptitude and energy which ought to be displayed in a
campaign against Indians--and one which the President's examination of
the evidence has not supplied, inasmuch as he has no means of knowing
whether the conclusions drawn by him from the evidence agree with those
of the court.

The opinion of the court is also argumentative, and wanting in
requisite precision, inasmuch as it states that "no delay _which it
was practicable to have avoided was made by Major-General Scott_ in
opening the campaign against the Creek Indians," etc.; thus leaving it
to be inferred, but not distinctly finding, that there was some delay,
and that it was made by some person other than Major-General Scott,
without specifying in what such delay consisted, when it occurred, how
long it continued, nor by whom it was occasioned. Had the court found
a state of facts, as required by the order constituting it, the
uncertainty now existing in this part of the opinion would have been
obviated and the justice of the opinion itself readily determined.

That part of the opinion of the court which animadverts on the letter
addressed by Major-General Jesup to F.P. Blair, esq., bearing date the
20th of June, 1836, and which presents the same as a subject demanding
investigation, appears to the President to be wholly unauthorized by the
order constituting the court, and by which its jurisdiction was confined
to an inquiry into the causes of the delay in opening and prosecuting
the campaign against the hostile Creeks and into such subjects as were
connected with the military operations in that campaign. The causes of
the recall of Major-General Scott from the command and the propriety
or impropriety of the conduct of General Jesup in writing the letter
referred to were not submitted to the court as subjects of inquiry. The
court itself appears to have been of this opinion, inasmuch as no notice
was given to General Jesup of the pendency of the proceedings, nor had
he any opportunity to cross-examine and interrogate the witnesses, nor
to be heard in respect to his conduct in the matter remarked on by the

For the several reasons above assigned, the President disapproves the
opinion of the court, and remits to it the proceedings in question, to
the end that the court may resume the consideration of the evidence and
from the same, and from such further evidence as shall be taken (in
case the court shall deem it necessary to take further evidence), may
ascertain and report with distinctness and precision, especially as to
time, place, distances, and other circumstances, all the facts touching
the opening and prosecuting of the campaign in Georgia and Alabama
against the hostile Creek Indians in the year 1836, and the military
operations in the said campaign, and touching the delay, if any there
was, in the opening or prosecuting of said campaign, and the causes of
such delay; and to the end, also, that the court, whilst confining its
opinion to the subject-matters submitted to it, may fully and distinctly
express its opinion on those matters for the information of the

The Secretary of War _ad interim _will cause the proceedings of the
court on the subject of the campaign against the Creek Indians, with the
documentary evidence referred to therein and a copy of the foregoing
opinion, to be transmitted to Major-General Alexander Macomb, president
of the court, for the proper action thereon.


WASHINGTON, _February 18, 1837_.

The proceedings of the court of inquiry recently assembled and
still sitting at Frederick by virtue of Orders Nos. 65 and 68, so
far as the same relate to the causes of the failure of the campaign
of Major-General Scott against the Seminole Indians in 1836, were
heretofore submitted to the President, and the examination thereof
suspended in consequence of the necessary connection between the case
of Major-General Scott and that of Major-General Gaines, also referred
to the same court, and not yet reported on. Certain other proceedings
of the same court having been since examined by the President, and
having been found defective, and therefore remitted to the court for
reconsideration, the President has deemed it proper, in order to
expedite the matter, to look into the first-mentioned proceedings for
the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the like defects existed
therein. On this inspection of the record he perceives that the court
has not reported, except in a few instances, the facts of the case, as
required by the order constituting the court, and in those instances the
facts found by the court are stated in a very general form and without
sufficient minuteness and precision; and he therefore remits the said
proceedings to the court, to the end that the court may resume the
consideration of the evidence, and from the same, and from such further
evidence as may be taken (in case the court shall deem it necessary to
take further evidence), may ascertain and report with distinctness
and precision all the facts touching the subject to be inquired of,
established to the satisfaction of the court by the evidence before it,
and especially the times when and places where the several occurrences
which are deemed material by the court in the formation of its opinion
actually took place, with the amount of force on both sides at the
different periods of time embraced in the transactions, and the
positions thereof, and such other circumstances as are deemed material
by the court; together with its opinion on the whole subject, for the
information of the President.

The Secretary of War _ad interim_ will cause the proceedings of the
court in the case of Major-General Scott, first above mentioned, with
the documentary evidence referred to therein and a copy hereof, to be
transmitted to Major-General Alexander Macomb, president of the court,
for the proper action thereon.



MARCH 4, 1837.

FELLOW-CITIZENS: Being about to retire finally from public life, I beg
leave to offer you my grateful thanks for the many proofs of kindness
and confidence which I have received at your hands. It has been
my fortune in the discharge of public duties, civil and military,
frequently to have found myself in difficult and trying situations,
where prompt decision and energetic action were necessary, and where the
interest of the country required that high responsibilities should be
fearlessly encountered; and it is with the deepest emotions of gratitude
that I acknowledge the continued and unbroken confidence with which you
have sustained me in every trial. My public life has been a long one,
and I can not hope that it has at all times been free from errors; but
I have the consolation of knowing that if mistakes have been committed
they have not seriously injured the country I so anxiously endeavored to
serve, and at the moment when I surrender my last public trust I leave
this great people prosperous and happy, in the full enjoyment of liberty
and peace, and honored and respected by every nation of the world.

If my humble efforts have in any degree contributed to preserve to you
these blessings, I have been more than rewarded by the honors you have
heaped upon me, and, above all, by the generous confidence with which
you have supported me in every peril, and with which you have continued
to animate and cheer my path to the closing hour of my political life.
The time has now come when advanced age and a broken frame warn me to
retire from public concerns, but the recollection of the many favors
you have bestowed upon me is engraven upon my heart, and I have felt
that I could not part from your service without making this public
acknowledgment of the gratitude I owe you. And if I use the occasion
to offer to you the counsels of age and experience, you will, I trust,
receive them with the same indulgent kindness which you have so often
extended to me, and will at least see in them an earnest desire to
perpetuate in this favored land the blessings of liberty and equal law.

We have now lived almost fifty years under the Constitution framed by
the sages and patriots of the Revolution. The conflicts in which the
nations of Europe were engaged during a great part of this period, the
spirit in which they waged war against each other, and our intimate
commercial connections with every part of the civilized world rendered
it a time of much difficulty for the Government of the United States.
We have had our seasons of peace and of war, with all the evils which
precede or follow a state of hostility with powerful nations. We
encountered these trials with our Constitution yet in its infancy, and
under the disadvantages which a new and untried government must always
feel when it is called upon to put forth its whole strength without the
lights of experience to guide it or the weight of precedents to justify
its measures. But we have passed triumphantly through all these
difficulties. Our Constitution is no longer a doubtful experiment,
and at the end of nearly half a century we find that it has preserved
unimpaired the liberties of the people, secured the rights of property,
and that our country has improved and is flourishing beyond any former
example in the history of nations.

In our domestic concerns there is everything to encourage us, and if
you are true to yourselves nothing can impede your march to the highest
point of national prosperity. The States which had so long been retarded
in their improvement by the Indian tribes residing in the midst of
them are at length relieved from the evil, and this unhappy race--the
original dwellers in our land--are now placed in a situation where we
may well hope that they will share in the blessings of civilization
and be saved from that degradation and destruction to which they were
rapidly hastening while they remained in the States; and while the
safety and comfort of our own citizens have been greatly promoted by
their removal, the philanthropist will rejoice that the remnant of that
ill-fated race has been at length placed beyond the reach of injury or
oppression, and that the paternal care of the General Government will
hereafter watch over them and protect them.

If we turn to our relations with foreign powers, we find our condition
equally gratifying. Actuated by the sincere desire to do justice to
every nation and to preserve the blessings of peace, our intercourse
with them has been conducted on the part of this Government in the
spirit of frankness; and I take pleasure in saying that it has generally
been met in a corresponding temper. Difficulties of old standing have
been surmounted by friendly discussion and the mutual desire to be just,
and the claims of our citizens, which had been long withheld, have at
length been acknowledged and adjusted and satisfactory arrangements made
for their final payment; and with a limited, and I trust a temporary,
exception, our relations with every foreign power are now of the most
friendly character, our commerce continually expanding, and our flag
respected in every quarter of the world.

These cheering and grateful prospects and these multiplied favors we
owe, under Providence, to the adoption of the Federal Constitution. It
is no longer a question whether this great country can remain happily
united and flourish under our present form of government. Experience,
the unerring test of all human undertakings, has shown the wisdom and
foresight of those who formed it, and has proved that in the union of
these States there is a sure foundation for the brightest hopes of
freedom and for the happiness of the people. At every hazard and by
every sacrifice this Union must be preserved.

The necessity of watching with jealous anxiety for the preservation of
the Union was earnestly pressed upon his fellow-citizens by the Father
of his Country in his Farewell Address. He has there told us that "while
experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will
always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter
may endeavor to weaken its bands;" and he has cautioned us in the
strongest terms against the formation of parties on geographical
discriminations, as one of the means which might disturb our Union
and to which designing men would be likely to resort.

The lessons contained in this invaluable legacy of Washington to his
countrymen should be cherished in the heart of every citizen to the
latest generation; and perhaps at no period of time could they be more
usefully remembered than at the present moment; for when we look upon
the scenes that are passing around us and dwell upon the pages of his
parting address, his paternal counsels would seem to be not merely
the offspring of wisdom and foresight, but the voice of prophecy,
foretelling events and warning us of the evil to come. Forty years have
passed since this imperishable document was given to his countrymen. The
Federal Constitution was then regarded by him as an experiment--and he
so speaks of it in his Address--but an experiment upon the success of
which the best hopes of his country depended; and we all know that he
was prepared to lay down his life, if necessary, to secure to it a full
and a fair trial. The trial has been made. It has succeeded beyond the
proudest hopes of those who framed it. Every quarter of this widely
extended nation has felt its blessings and shared in the general
prosperity produced by its adoption. But amid this general prosperity
and splendid success the dangers of which he warned us are becoming
every day more evident, and the signs of evil are sufficiently apparent
to awaken the deepest anxiety in the bosom of the patriot. We behold
systematic efforts publicly made to sow the seeds of discord between
different parts of the United States and to place party divisions
directly upon geographical distinctions; to excite the _South_ against
the _North_ and the _North_ against the _South_, and to force into the
controversy the most delicate and exciting topics--topics upon which it
is impossible that a large portion of the Union can ever speak without
strong emotion. Appeals, too, are constantly made to sectional interests
in order to influence the election of the Chief Magistrate, as if it
were desired that he should favor a particular quarter of the country
instead of fulfilling the duties of his station with impartial justice
to all; and the possible dissolution of the Union has at length become
an ordinary and familiar subject of discussion. Has the warning voice of
Washington been forgotten, or have designs already been formed to sever
the Union? Let it not be supposed that I impute to all of those who have
taken an active part in these unwise and unprofitable discussions a want
of patriotism or of public virtue. The honorable feeling of State
pride and local attachments finds a place in the bosoms of the most
enlightened and pure. But while such men are conscious of their own
integrity and honesty of purpose, they ought never to forget that the
citizens of other States are their political brethren, and that however
mistaken they may be in their views, the great body of them are equally
honest and upright with themselves. Mutual suspicions and reproaches may
in time create mutual hostility, and artful and designing men will
always be found who are ready to foment these fatal divisions and to
inflame the natural jealousies of different sections of the country.
The history of the world is full of such examples, and especially the
history of republics.

What have you to gain by division and dissension? Delude not yourselves
with the belief that a breach once made may be afterwards repaired.
If the Union is once severed, the line of separation will grow wider
and wider, and the controversies which are now debated and settled
in the halls of legislation will then be tried in fields of battle and
determined by the sword. Neither should you deceive yourselves with
the hope that the first line of separation would be the permanent one,
and that nothing but harmony and concord would be found in the new
associations formed upon the dissolution of this Union. Local interests
would still be found there, and unchastened ambition. And if the
recollection of common dangers, in which the people of these United
States stood side by side against the common foe, the memory of
victories won by their united valor, the prosperity and happiness they
have enjoyed under the present Constitution, the proud name they bear as
citizens of this great Republic--if all these recollections and proofs
of common interest are not strong enough to bind us together as one
people, what tie will hold united the new divisions of empire when these
bonds have been broken and this Union dissevered? The first line of
separation would not last for a single generation; new fragments would
be torn off, new leaders would spring up, and this great and glorious
Republic would soon be broken into a multitude of petty States, without
commerce, without credit, jealous of one another, armed for mutual
aggression, loaded with taxes to pay armies and leaders, seeking aid
against each other from foreign powers, insulted and trampled upon by
the nations of Europe, until, harassed with conflicts and humbled and
debased in spirit, they would be ready to submit to the absolute
dominion of any military adventurer and to surrender their liberty for
the sake of repose. It is impossible to look on the consequences that
would inevitably follow the destruction of this Government and not feel
indignant when we hear cold calculations about the value of the Union
and have so constantly before us a line of conduct so well calculated
to weaken its ties.

There is too much at stake to allow pride or passion to influence your
decision. Never for a moment believe that the great body of the citizens
of any State or States can deliberately intend to do wrong. They may,
under the influence of temporary excitement or misguided opinions,
commit mistakes; they may be misled for a time by the suggestions of
self-interest; but in a community so enlightened and patriotic as the
people of the United States argument will soon make them sensible of
their errors, and when convinced they will be ready to repair them. If
they have no higher or better motives to govern them, they will at least
perceive that their own interest requires them to be just to others, as
they hope to receive justice at their hands.

But in order to maintain the Union unimpaired it is absolutely necessary
that the laws passed by the constituted authorities should be faithfully
executed in every part of the country, and that every good citizen
should at all times stand ready to put down, with the combined force
of the nation, every attempt at unlawful resistance, under whatever
pretext it may be made or whatever shape it may assume. Unconstitutional
or oppressive laws may no doubt be passed by Congress, either from
erroneous views or the want of due consideration; if they are within
the reach of judicial authority, the remedy is easy and peaceful; and
if, from the character of the law, it is an abuse of power not within
the control of the judiciary, then free discussion and calm appeals to
reason and to the justice of the people will not fail to redress the
wrong. But until the law shall be declared void by the courts or
repealed by Congress no individual or combination of individuals can be
justified in forcibly resisting its execution. It is impossible that any
government can continue to exist upon any other principles. It would
cease to be a government and be unworthy of the name if it had not the
power to enforce the execution of its own laws within its own sphere
of action.

It is true that cases may be imagined disclosing such a settled purpose
of usurpation and oppression on the part of the Government as would
justify an appeal to arms. These, however, are extreme cases, which we
have no reason to apprehend in a government where the power is in the
hands of a patriotic people. And no citizen who loves his country would
in any case whatever resort to forcible resistance unless he clearly saw
that the time had come when a freeman should prefer death to submission;
for if such a struggle is once begun, and the citizens of one section
of the country arrayed in arms against those of another in doubtful
conflict, let the battle result as it may, there will be an end of the
Union and with it an end to the hopes of freedom. The victory of the
injured would not secure to them the blessings of liberty; it would
avenge their wrongs, but they would themselves share in the common ruin.

But the Constitution can not be maintained nor the Union preserved,
in opposition to public feeling, by the mere exertion of the coercive
powers confided to the General Government. The foundations must be
laid in the affections of the people, in the security it gives to life,
liberty, character, and property in every quarter of the country, and in
the fraternal attachment which the citizens of the several States bear
to one another as members of one political family, mutually contributing
to promote the happiness of each other. Hence the citizens of every
State should studiously avoid everything calculated to wound the
sensibility or offend the just pride of the people of other States, and
they should frown upon any proceedings within their own borders likely
to disturb the tranquillity of their political brethren in other
portions of the Union. In a country so extensive as the United States,
and with pursuits so varied, the internal regulations of the several
States must frequently differ from one another in important particulars,
and this difference is unavoidably increased by the varying principles
upon which the American colonies were originally planted--principles
which had taken deep root in their social relations before the
Revolution, and therefore of necessity influencing their policy
since they became free and independent States. But each State has the
unquestionable right to regulate its own internal concerns according to
its own pleasure, and while it does not interfere with the rights of
the people of other States or the rights of the Union, every State must
be the sole judge of the measures proper to secure the safety of its
citizens and promote their happiness; and all efforts on the part of
people of other States to cast odium upon their institutions, and all
measures calculated to disturb their rights of property or to put in
jeopardy their peace and internal tranquillity, are in direct opposition
to the spirit in which the Union was formed, and must endanger its
safety. Motives of philanthropy may be assigned for this unwarrantable
interference, and weak men may persuade themselves for a moment that
they are laboring in the cause of humanity and asserting the rights of
the human race; but everyone, upon sober reflection, will see that
nothing but mischief can come from these improper assaults upon the
feelings and rights of others. Rest assured that the men found busy in
this work of discord are not worthy of your confidence, and deserve
your strongest reprobation.

In the legislation of Congress also, and in every measure of the General
Government, justice to every portion of the United States should be
faithfully observed. No free government can stand without virtue in the
people and a lofty spirit of patriotism, and if the sordid feelings of
mere selfishness shall usurp the place which ought to be filled by
public spirit, the legislation of Congress will soon be converted
into a scramble for personal and sectional advantages. Under our free
institutions the citizens of every quarter of our country are capable of
attaining a high degree of prosperity and happiness without seeking to
profit themselves at the expense of others; and every such attempt must
in the end fail to succeed, for the people in every part of the United
States are too enlightened not to understand their own rights and
interests and to detect and defeat every effort to gain undue advantages
over them; and when such designs are discovered it naturally provokes
resentments which can not always be easily allayed. Justice--full and
ample justice--to every portion of the United States should be the
ruling principle of every freeman, and should guide the deliberations
of every public body, whether it be State or national.

It is well known that there have always been those amongst us who wish
to enlarge the powers of the General Government, and experience would
seem to indicate that there is a tendency on the part of this Government
to overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution. Its
legitimate authority is abundantly sufficient for all the purposes for
which it was created and its powers being expressly enumerated, there
can be no justification for claiming anything beyond them. Every attempt
to exercise power beyond these limits should be promptly and firmly
opposed, for one evil example will lead to other measures still more
mischievous; and if the principle of constructive powers or supposed
advantages or temporary circumstances shall ever be permitted to justify
the assumption of a power not given by the Constitution, the General
Government will before long absorb all the powers of legislation, and
you will have in effect but one consolidated government. From the
extent of our country, its diversified interests, different pursuits,
and different habits, it is too obvious for argument that a single
consolidated government would be wholly inadequate to watch over and
protect its interests; and every friend of our free institutions should
be always prepared to maintain unimpaired and in full vigor the rights
and sovereignty of the States and to confine the action of the General
Government strictly to the sphere of its appropriate duties.

There is, perhaps, no one of the powers conferred on the Federal
Government so liable to abuse as the taxing power. The most productive
and convenient sources of revenue were necessarily given to it, that it
might be able to perform the important duties imposed upon it; and the
taxes which it lays upon commerce being concealed from the real payer in
the price of the article, they do not so readily attract the attention
of the people as smaller sums demanded from them directly by the
taxgatherer. But the tax imposed on goods enhances by so much the price
of the commodity to the consumer, and as many of these duties are
imposed on articles of necessity which are daily used by the great body
of the people, the money raised by these imposts is drawn from their
pockets. Congress has no right under the Constitution to take money from
the people unless it is required to execute some one of the specific
powers intrusted to the Government; and if they raise more than is
necessary for such purposes, it is an abuse of the power of taxation,
and unjust and oppressive. It may indeed happen that the revenue will
sometimes exceed the amount anticipated when the taxes were laid. When,
however, this is ascertained, it is easy to reduce them, and in such a
case it is unquestionably the duty of the Government to reduce them, for
no circumstances can justify it in assuming a power not given to it by
the Constitution nor in taking away the money of the people when it is
not needed for the legitimate wants of the Government.

Plain as these principles appear to be, you will yet find there is a
constant effort to induce the General Government to go beyond the limits
of its taxing power and to impose unnecessary burdens upon the people.
Many powerful interests are continually at work to procure heavy duties
on commerce and to swell the revenue beyond the real necessities of the
public service, and the country has already felt the injurious effects
of their combined influence. They succeeded in obtaining a tariff of
duties bearing most oppressively on the agricultural and laboring
classes of society and producing a revenue that could not be usefully
employed within the range of the powers conferred upon Congress, and
in order to fasten upon the people this unjust and unequal system of
taxation extravagant schemes of internal improvement were got up in
various quarters to squander the money and to purchase support. Thus
one unconstitutional measure was intended to be upheld by another, and
the abuse of the power of taxation was to be maintained by usurping
the power of expending the money in internal improvements. You can
not have forgotten the severe and doubtful struggle through which we
passed when the executive department of the Government by its veto
endeavored to arrest this prodigal scheme of injustice and to bring
back the legislation of Congress to the boundaries prescribed by the
Constitution. The good sense and practical judgment of the people
when the subject was brought before them sustained the course of the
Executive, and this plan of unconstitutional expenditures for the
purposes of corrupt influence is, I trust, finally overthrown.

The result of this decision has been felt in the rapid extinguishment of
the public debt and the large accumulation of a surplus in the Treasury,
notwithstanding the tariff was reduced and is now very far below the
amount originally contemplated by its advocates. But, rely upon it, the
design to collect an extravagant revenue and to burden you with taxes
beyond the economical wants of the Government is not yet abandoned. The
various interests which have combined together to impose a heavy tariff
and to produce an overflowing Treasury are too strong and have too
much at stake to surrender the contest. The corporations and wealthy
individuals who are engaged in large manufacturing establishments desire
a high tariff to increase their gains. Designing politicians will
support it to conciliate their favor and to obtain the means of profuse
expenditure for the purpose of purchasing influence in other quarters;
and since the people have decided that the Federal Government can not be
permitted to employ its income in internal improvements, efforts will be
made to seduce and mislead the citizens of the several States by holding
out to them the deceitful prospect of benefits to be derived from a
surplus revenue collected by the General Government and annually divided
among the States; and if, encouraged by these fallacious hopes, the
States should disregard the principles of economy which ought to
characterize every republican government, and should indulge in lavish
expenditures exceeding their resources, they will before long find
themselves oppressed with debts which they are unable to pay, and the
temptation will become irresistible to support a high tariff in order
to obtain a surplus for distribution. Do not allow yourselves, my
fellow-citizens, to be misled on this subject. The Federal Government
can not collect a surplus for such purposes without violating the
principles of the Constitution and assuming powers which have not been
granted. It is, moreover, a system of injustice, and if persisted in
will inevitably lead to corruption, and must end in ruin. The surplus
revenue will be drawn from the pockets of the people--from the farmer,
the mechanic, and the laboring classes of society; but who will receive
it when distributed among the States, where it is to be disposed of by
leading State politicians, who have friends to favor and political
partisans to gratify? It will certainly not be returned to those who
paid it and who have most need of it and are honestly entitled to
it. There is but one safe rule, and that is to confine the General
Government rigidly within the sphere of its appropriate duties. It
has no power to raise a revenue or impose taxes except for the purposes
enumerated in the Constitution, and if its income is found to exceed
these wants it should be forthwith reduced and the burden of the people
so far lightened.

In reviewing the conflicts which have taken place between different
interests in the United States and the policy pursued since the adoption
of our present form of Government, we find nothing that has produced
such deep-seated evil as the course of legislation in relation to the
currency. The Constitution of the United States unquestionably intended
to secure to the people a circulating medium of gold and silver. But the
establishment of a national bank by Congress, with the privilege of
issuing paper money receivable in the payment of the public dues, and
the unfortunate course of legislation in the several States upon the
same subject, drove from general circulation the constitutional currency
and substituted one of paper in its place.

It was not easy for men engaged in the ordinary pursuits of business,
whose attention had not been particularly drawn to the subject, to
foresee all the consequences of a currency exclusively of paper, and we
ought not on that account to be surprised at the facility with which
laws were obtained to carry into effect the paper system. Honest and
even enlightened men are sometimes misled by the specious and plausible
statements of the designing. But experience has now proved the mischiefs
and dangers of a paper currency, and it rests with you to determine
whether the proper remedy shall be applied.

The paper system being founded on public confidence and having of itself
no intrinsic value, it is liable to great and sudden fluctuations,
thereby rendering property insecure and the wages of labor unsteady and
uncertain. The corporations which create the paper money can not be
relied upon to keep the circulating medium uniform in amount. In times
of prosperity, when confidence is high, they are tempted by the prospect
of gain or by the influence of those who hope to profit by it to extend
their issues of paper beyond the bounds of discretion and the reasonable
demands of business; and when these issues have been pushed on from day
to day, until public confidence is at length shaken, then a reaction
takes place, and they immediately withdraw the credits they have given,
suddenly curtail their issues, and produce an unexpected and ruinous
contraction of the circulating medium, which is felt by the whole
community. The banks by this means save themselves, and the mischievous
consequences of their imprudence or cupidity are visited upon the
public. Nor does the evil stop here. These ebbs and flows in the
currency and these indiscreet extensions of credit naturally engender
a spirit of speculation injurious to the habits and character of
the people. We have already seen its effects in the wild spirit of
speculation in the public lands and various kinds of stock which within
the last year or two seized upon such a multitude of our citizens and
threatened to pervade all classes of society and to withdraw their
attention from the sober pursuits of honest industry. It is not by
encouraging this spirit that we shall best preserve public virtue
and promote the true interests of our country; but if your currency
continues as exclusively paper as it now is, it will foster this eager
desire to amass wealth without labor; it will multiply the number of
dependents on bank accommodations and bank favors; the temptation to
obtain money at any sacrifice will become stronger and stronger, and
inevitably lead to corruption, which will find its way into your public
councils and destroy at no distant day the purity of your Government.
Some of the evils which arise from this system of paper press with
peculiar hardship upon the class of society least able to bear it.
A portion of this currency frequently becomes depreciated or worthless,
and all of it is easily counterfeited in such a manner as to require
peculiar skill and much experience to distinguish the counterfeit from
the genuine note. These frauds are most generally perpetrated in the
smaller notes, which are used in the daily transactions of ordinary
business, and the losses occasioned by them are commonly thrown upon the
laboring classes of society, whose situation and pursuits put it out of
their power to guard themselves from these impositions, and whose daily
wages are necessary for their subsistence. It is the duty of every
government so to regulate its currency as to protect this numerous
class, as far as practicable, from the impositions of avarice and
fraud. It is more especially the duty of the United States, where the
Government is emphatically the Government of the people, and where this
respectable portion of our citizens are so proudly distinguished from
the laboring classes of all other nations by their independent spirit,
their love of liberty, their intelligence, and their high tone of moral
character. Their industry in peace is the source of our wealth and their
bravery in war has covered us with glory; and the Government of the
United States will but ill discharge its duties if it leaves them a prey
to such dishonest impositions. Yet it is evident that their interests
can not be effectually protected unless silver and gold are restored
to circulation.

These views alone of the paper currency are sufficient to call for
immediate reform; but there is another consideration which should still
more strongly press it upon your attention.

Recent events have proved that the paper-money system of this country
may be used as an engine to undermine your free institutions, and that
those who desire to engross all power in the hands of the few and to
govern by corruption or force are aware of its power and prepared to
employ it. Your banks now furnish your only circulating medium, and
money is plenty or scarce according to the quantity of notes issued by
them. While they have capitals not greatly disproportioned to each
other, they are competitors in business, and no one of them can exercise
dominion over the rest; and although in the present state of the
currency these banks may and do operate injuriously upon the habits of
business, the pecuniary concerns, and the moral tone of society, yet,
from their number and dispersed situation, they can not combine for the
purposes of political influence, and whatever may be the dispositions
of some of them their power of mischief must necessarily be confined
to a narrow space and felt only in their immediate neighborhoods.

But when the charter for the Bank of the United States was obtained
from Congress it perfected the schemes of the paper system and gave
to its advocates the position they have struggled to obtain from the
commencement of the Federal Government to the present hour. The immense
capital and peculiar privileges bestowed upon it enabled it to exercise
despotic sway over the other banks in every part of the country. From
its superior strength it could seriously injure, if not destroy, the
business of any one of them which might incur its resentment; and
it openly claimed for itself the power of regulating the currency
throughout the United States. In other words, it asserted (and it
undoubtedly possessed) the power to make money plenty or scarce at its
pleasure, at any time and in any quarter of the Union, by controlling
the issues of other banks and permitting an expansion or compelling
a general contraction of the circulating medium, according to its own
will. The other banking institutions were sensible of its strength, and
they soon generally became its obedient instruments, ready at all times
to execute its mandates; and with the banks necessarily went also that
numerous class of persons in our commercial cities who depend altogether
on bank credits for their solvency and means of business, and who are
therefore obliged, for their own safety, to propitiate the favor of
the money power by distinguished zeal and devotion in its service.
The result of the ill-advised legislation which established this great
monopoly was to concentrate the whole moneyed power of the Union, with
its boundless means of corruption and its numerous dependents, under the
direction and command of one acknowledged head, thus organizing this
particular interest as one body and securing to it unity and concert of
action throughout the United States, and enabling it to bring forward
upon any occasion its entire and undivided strength to support or defeat
any measure of the Government. In the hands of this formidable power,
thus perfectly organized, was also placed unlimited dominion over the
amount of the circulating medium, giving it the power to regulate the
value of property and the fruits of labor in every quarter of the Union,
and to bestow prosperity or bring ruin upon any city or section of the
country as might best comport with its own interest or policy.

We are not left to conjecture how the moneyed power, thus organized and
with such a weapon in its hands, would be likely to use it. The distress
and alarm which pervaded and agitated the whole country when the Bank
of the United States waged war upon the people in order to compel them
to submit to its demands can not yet be forgotten. The ruthless and
unsparing temper with which whole cities and communities were oppressed,
individuals impoverished and ruined, and a scene of cheerful prosperity
suddenly changed into one of gloom and despondency ought to be indelibly
impressed on the memory of the people of the United States. If such was
its power in a time of peace, what would it not have been in a season
of war, with an enemy at your doors? No nation but the freemen of the
United States could have come out victorious from such a contest; yet,
if you had not conquered, the Government would have passed from the
hands of the many to the hands of the few, and this organized money
power from its secret conclave would have dictated the choice of your
highest officers and compelled you to make peace or war, as best suited
their own wishes. The forms of your Government might for a time have
remained, but its living spirit would have departed from it.

The distress and sufferings inflicted on the people by the bank are some
of the fruits of that system of policy which is continually striving to
enlarge the authority of the Federal Government beyond the limits fixed
by the Constitution. The powers enumerated in that instrument do not
confer on Congress the right to establish such a corporation as the Bank
of the United States, and the evil consequences which followed may warn
us of the danger of departing from the true rule of construction and of
permitting temporary circumstances or the hope of better promoting the
public welfare to influence in any degree our decisions upon the extent
of the authority of the General Government. Let us abide by the
Constitution as it is written, or amend it in the constitutional mode
if it is found to be defective.

The severe lessons of experience will, I doubt not, be sufficient to
prevent Congress from again chartering such a monopoly, even if the
Constitution did not present an insuperable objection to it. But you
must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people
is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to
secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your
States as well as in the Federal Government. The power which the moneyed
interest can exercise, when concentrated under a single head and with
our present system of currency, was sufficiently demonstrated in the
struggle made by the Bank of the United States. Defeated in the General
Government, the same class of intriguers and politicians will now resort
to the States and endeavor to obtain there the same organization which
they failed to perpetuate in the Union; and with specious and deceitful
plans of public advantages and State interests and State pride they will
endeavor to establish in the different States one moneyed institution
with overgrown capital and exclusive privileges sufficient to enable it
to control the operations of the other banks. Such an institution will
be pregnant with the same evils produced by the Bank of the United
States, although its sphere of action is more confined, and in the State
in which it is chartered the money power will be able to embody its
whole strength and to move together with undivided force to accomplish
any object it may wish to attain. You have already had abundant evidence
of its power to inflict injury upon the agricultural, mechanical, and
laboring classes of society, and over those whose engagements in trade
or speculation render them dependent on bank facilities the dominion of
the State monopoly will be absolute and their obedience unlimited. With
such a bank and a paper currency the money power would in a few years
govern the State and control its measures, and if a sufficient number of
States can be induced to create such establishments the time will soon
come when it will again take the field against the United States and
succeed in perfecting and perpetuating its organization by a charter
from Congress.

It is one of the serious evils of our present system of banking that it
enables one class of society--and that by no means a numerous one--by
its control over the currency, to act injuriously upon the interests
of all the others and to exercise more than its just proportion of
influence in political affairs. The agricultural, the mechanical, and
the laboring classes have little or no share in the direction of the
great moneyed corporations, and from their habits and the nature of
their pursuits they are incapable of forming extensive combinations to
act together with united force. Such concert of action may sometimes be
produced in a single city or in a small district of country by means of
personal communications with each other, but they have no regular or
active correspondence with those who are engaged in similar pursuits
in distant places; they have but little patronage to give to the press,
and exercise but a small share of influence over it; they have no crowd
of dependents about them who hope to grow rich without labor by their
countenance and favor, and who are therefore always ready to execute
their wishes. The planter, the farmer, the mechanic, and the laborer all
know that their success depends upon their own industry and economy, and
that they must not expect to become suddenly rich by the fruits of their
toil. Yet these classes of society form the great body of the people of
the United States; they are the bone and sinew of the country--men who
love liberty and desire nothing but equal rights and equal laws, and
who, moreover, hold the great mass of our national wealth, although it
is distributed in moderate amounts among the millions of freemen who
possess it. But with overwhelming numbers and wealth on their side they
are in constant danger of losing their fair influence in the Government,
and with difficulty maintain their just rights against the incessant
efforts daily made to encroach upon them. The mischief springs from the
power which the moneyed interest derives from a paper currency which
they are able to control, from the multitude of corporations with
exclusive privileges which they have succeeded in obtaining in the
different States, and which are employed altogether for their benefit;
and unless you become more watchful in your States and check this spirit
of monopoly and thirst for exclusive privileges you will in the end find
that the most important powers of Government have been given or bartered
away, and the control over your dearest interests has passed into the
hands of these corporations.

The paper-money system and its natural associations--monopoly and
exclusive privileges--have already struck their roots too deep in the
soil, and it will require all your efforts to check its further growth
and to eradicate the evil. The men who profit by the abuses and desire
to perpetuate them will continue to besiege the halls of legislation in
the General Government as well as in the States, and will seek by every
artifice to mislead and deceive the public servants. It is to yourselves
that you must look for safety and the means of guarding and perpetuating
your free institutions. In your hands is rightfully placed the
sovereignty of the country, and to you everyone placed in authority
is ultimately responsible. It is always in your power to see that the
wishes of the people are carried into faithful execution, and their
will, when once made known, must sooner or later be obeyed; and
while the people remain, as I trust they ever will, uncorrupted and
incorruptible, and continue watchful and jealous of their rights, the
Government is safe, and the cause of freedom will continue to triumph
over all its enemies.

But it will require steady and persevering exertions on your part to rid
yourselves of the iniquities and mischiefs of the paper system and to
check the spirit of monopoly and other abuses which have sprung up with
it, and of which it is the main support. So many interests are united
to resist all reform on this subject that you must not hope the conflict
will be a short one nor success easy. My humble efforts have not
been spared during my administration of the Government to restore the
constitutional currency of gold and silver, and something, I trust, has
been done toward the accomplishment of this most desirable object; but
enough yet remains to require all your energy and perseverance. The
power, however, is in your hands, and the remedy must and will be
applied if you determine upon it.

While I am thus endeavoring to press upon your attention the principles
which I deem of vital importance in the domestic concerns of the
country, I ought not to pass over without notice the important
considerations which should govern your policy toward foreign powers.
It is unquestionably our true interest to cultivate the most friendly
understanding with every nation and to avoid by every honorable means
the calamities of war, and we shall best attain this object by frankness
and sincerity in our foreign intercourse, by the prompt and faithful
execution of treaties, and by justice and impartiality in our conduct
to all. But no nation, however desirous of peace, can hope to escape
occasional collisions with other powers, and the soundest dictates of
policy require that we should place ourselves in a condition to assert
our rights if a resort to force should ever become necessary. Our local
situation, our long line of seacoast, indented by numerous bays, with
deep rivers opening into the interior, as well as our extended and still
increasing commerce, point to the Navy as our natural means of defense.
It will in the end be found to be the cheapest and most effectual, and
now is the time, in a season of peace and with an overflowing revenue,
that we can year after year add to its strength without increasing the
burdens of the people. It is your true policy, for your Navy will not
only protect your rich and flourishing commerce in distant seas, but
will enable you to reach and annoy the enemy and will give to defense
its greatest efficiency by meeting danger at a distance from home. It
is impossible by any line of fortifications to guard every point from
attack against a hostile force advancing from the ocean and selecting
its object, but they are indispensable to protect cities from
bombardment, dockyards and naval arsenals from destruction, to give
shelter to merchant vessels in time of war and to single ships or
weaker squadrons when pressed by superior force. Fortifications of this
description can not be too soon completed and armed and placed in a
condition of the most perfect preparation. The abundant means we now
possess can not be applied in any manner more useful to the country, and
when this is done and our naval force sufficiently strengthened and our
militia armed we need not fear that any nation will wantonly insult us
or needlessly provoke hostilities. We shall more certainly preserve
peace when it is well understood that we are prepared for war.

In presenting to you, my fellow-citizens, these parting counsels, I
have brought before you the leading principles upon which I endeavored
to administer the Government in the high office with which you twice
honored me. Knowing that the path of freedom is continually beset by
enemies who often assume the disguise of friends, I have devoted the
last hours of my public life to warn you of the dangers. The progress of
the United States under our free and happy institutions has surpassed
the most sanguine hopes of the founders of the Republic. Our growth
has been rapid beyond all former example in numbers, in wealth, in
knowledge, and all the useful arts which contribute to the comforts and
convenience of man, and from the earliest ages of history to the present
day there never have been thirteen millions of people associated in one
political body who enjoyed so much freedom and happiness as the people
of these United States. You have no longer any cause to fear danger from
abroad; your strength and power are well known throughout the civilized
world, as well as the high and gallant bearing of your sons. It is
from within, among yourselves--from cupidity, from corruption, from
disappointed ambition and inordinate thirst for power--that factions
will be formed and liberty endangered. It is against such designs,
whatever disguise the actors may assume, that you have especially to
guard yourselves. You have the highest of human trusts committed to your
care. Providence has showered on this favored land blessings without
number, and has chosen you as the guardians of freedom, to preserve it
for the benefit of the human race. May He who holds in His hands the
destinies of nations make you worthy of the favors He has bestowed and
enable you, with pure hearts and pure hands and sleepless vigilance, to
guard and defend to the end of time the great charge He has committed
to your keeping.

My own race is nearly run; advanced age and failing health warn me that
before long I must pass beyond the reach of human events and cease to
feel the vicissitudes of human affairs. I thank God that my life has
been spent in a land of liberty and that He has given me a heart to love
my country with the affection of a son. And filled with gratitude for
your constant and unwavering kindness, I bid you a last and affectionate


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