State of the Union Addresses of John Quincy Adams: State of the Union speeches (1825-1828) (1825)
State of the Union Address: December 6, 1825
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
In taking a general survey of the concerns of our beloved country, with reference to subjects interesting to the common welfare, the first sentiment which impresses itself upon the mind is of gratitude to the Omnipotent Disposer of All Good for the continuance of the signal blessings of His providence, and especially for that health which to an unusual extent has prevailed within our borders, and for that abundance which in the vicissitudes of the seasons has been scattered with profusion over our land. Nor ought we less to ascribe to Him the glory that we are permitted to enjoy the bounties of His hand in peace and tranquillity--in peace with all the other nations of the earth, in tranquillity among our selves. There has, indeed, rarely been a period in the history of civilized man in which the general condition of the Christian nations has been marked so extensively by peace and prosperity.
Europe, with a few partial and unhappy exceptions, has enjoyed ten years of peace, during which all her Governments, what ever the theory of their constitutions may have been, are successively taught to feel that the end of their institution is the happiness of the people, and that the exercise of power among men can be justified only by the blessings it confers upon those over whom it is extended.
During the same period our intercourse with all those nations has been pacific and friendly; it so continues. Since the close of your last session no material variation has occurred in our relations with any one of them. In the commercial and navigation system of Great Britain important changes of municipal regulation have recently been sanctioned by acts of Parliament, the effect of which upon the interests of other nations, and particularly upon ours, has not yet been fully developed. In the recent renewal of the diplomatic missions on both sides between the two Governments assurances have been given and received of the continuance and increase of the mutual confidence and cordiality by which the adjustment of many points of difference had already been effected, and which affords the surest pledge for the ultimate satisfactory adjustment of those which still remain open or may hereafter arise.
The policy of the United States in their commercial intercourse with other nations has always been of the most liberal character. In the mutual exchange of their respective productions they have abstained altogether from prohibitions; they have interdicted themselves the power of laying taxes upon exports, and when ever they have favored their own shipping by special preferences or exclusive privileges in their own ports it has been only with a view to countervail similar favors and exclusions granted by the nations with whom we have been engaged in traffic to their own people or shipping, and to the disadvantage of ours. Immediately after the close of the last war a proposal was fairly made by the act of Congress of March 3rd, 1815, to all the maritime nations to lay aside the system of retaliating restrictions and exclusions, and to place the shipping of both parties to the common trade on a footing of equality in respect to the duties of tonnage and impost. This offer was partially and successively accepted by Great Britain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Hanseatic cities, Prussia, Sardinia, the Duke of Oldenburg, and Russia. It was also adopted, under certain modifications, in our late commercial convention with France, and by the act of Congress of January 1st, 1824, it has received a new confirmation with all the nations who had acceded to it, and has been offered again to all those who are or may here after be willing to abide in reciprocity by it. But all these regulations, whether established by treaty or by municipal enactments, are still subject to one important restriction.
The removal of discriminating duties of tonnage and of impost is limited to articles of the growth, produce, or manufacture of the country to which the vessel belongs or to such articles as are most usually first shipped from her ports. It will deserve the serious consideration of Congress whether even this remnant of restriction may not be safely abandoned, and whether the general tender of equal competition made in the act of January 8th, 1824, maynot be extended to include all articles of merchandise not prohibited, of what country so ever they may be the produce or manufacture. Propositions of this effect have already been made to us by more than one European Government, and it is probable that if once established by legislation or compact with any distinguished maritime state it would recommend itself by the experience of its advantages to the general accession of all.
The convention of commerce and navigation between the United States and France, concluded on June 24th, 1822, was, in the understanding and intent of both parties, as appears upon its face, only a temporary arrangement of the points of difference between them of the most immediate and pressing urgency. It was limited in the first instance to two years from January 10th, 1822, but with a proviso that it should further continue in force 'til the conclusion of a general and definitive treaty of commerce, unless terminated by a notice, six months in advance, of either of the parties to the other. Its operation so far as it extended has been mutually advantageous, and it still continues in force by common consent. But it left unadjusted several objects of great interest to the citizens and subjects of both countries, and particularly a mass of claims to considerable amount of citizens of the United States upon the Government of France of indemnity for property taken or destroyed under circumstances of the most aggravated and outrageous character. In the long period during which continual and earnest appeals have been made to the equity and magnanimity of France in behalf of these claims their justice has not been, as it could not be, denied.
It was hoped that the accession of a new Sovereign to the throne would have afforded a favorable opportunity for presenting them to the consideration of his Government. They have been presented and urged hither to without effect. The repeated and earnest representations of our minister at the Court of France remain as yet even without an answer. Were the demands of nations upon the justice of each other susceptible of adjudication by the sentence of an impartial tribunal, those to which I now refer would long since have been settled and adequate indemnity would have been obtained.
There are large amounts of similar claims upon the Netherlands, Naples, and Denmark. For those upon Spain prior to 1819 indemnity was, after many years of patient forbearance, obtained; and those upon Sweden have been lately compromised by a private settlement, in which the claimants themselves have acquiesced. The Governments of Denmark and of Naples have been recently reminded of those yet existing against them, nor will any of them be forgotten while a hope may be indulged of obtaining justice by the means within the constitutional power of the Executive, and without resorting to those means of self-redress which, as well as the time, circumstances, and occasion which may require them, are within the exclusive competency of the Legislature.
It is with great satisfaction that I am enabled to bear witness to the liberal spirit with which the Republic of Colombia has made satisfaction for well-established claims of a similar character, and among the documents now communicated to Congress will be distinguished a treaty of commerce and navigation with that Republic, the ratifications of which have been exchanged since the last recess of the Legislature. The negotiation of similar treaties with all of the independent South American States has been contemplated and may yet be accomplished. The basis of them all, as proposed by the United States, has been laid in two principles--the one of entire and unqualified reciprocity, the other the mutual obligation of the parties to place each other permanently upon the footing of the most favored nation. These principles are, indeed, indispensable to the effectual emancipation of the American hemisphere from the thralldom of colonizing monopolies and exclusions, an event rapidly realizing in the progress of human affairs, and which the resistance still opposed in certain parts of Europe to the acknowledgment of the Southern American Republics as independent States will, it is believed, contribute more effectually to accomplish. The time has been, and that not remote, when some of those States might, in their anxious desire to obtain a nominal recognition, have accepted of a nominal independence, clogged with burdensome conditions, and exclusive commercial privileges granted to the nation from which they have separated to the disadvantage of all others. They are all now aware that such concessions to any European nation would be incompatible with that independence which they have declared and maintained.
Among the measures which have been suggested to them by the new relations with one another, resulting from the recent changes in their condition, is that of assembling at the Isthmus of Panama a congress, at which each of them should be represented, to deliberate upon objects important to the welfare of all. The Republics of Colombia, of Mexico, and of Central America have already deputed plenipotentiaries to such a meeting, and they have invited the United States to be also represented there by their ministers. The invitation has been accepted, and ministers on the part of the United States will be commissioned to attend at those deliberations, and to take part in them so far as may be compatible with that neutrality from which it is neither our intention nor the desire of the other American States that we should depart.
The commissioners under the 7th article of the treaty of Ghent have so nearly completed their arduous labors that, by the report recently received from the agent on the part of the United States, there is reason to expect that the commission will be closed at their next session, appointed for May 22 of the ensuing year.
The other commission, appointed to ascertain the indemnities due for slaves carried away from the United States after the close of the late war, have met with some difficulty, which has delayed their progress in the inquiry. A reference has been made to the British Government on the subject, which, it may be hoped, will tend to hasten the decision of the commissioners, or serve as a substitute for it.
Among the powers specifically granted to Congress by the Constitution are those of establishing uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States and of providing for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the services of the United States. The magnitude and complexity of the interests affected by legislation upon these subjects may account for the fact that, long and often as both of them have occupied the attention and animated the debates of Congress, no systems have yet been devised for fulfilling to the satisfaction of the community the duties prescribed by these grants of power.
To conciliate the claim of the individual citizen to the enjoyment of personal liberty, with the effective obligation of private contracts, is the difficult problem to be solved by a law of bankruptcy. These are objects of the deepest interest to society, affecting all that is precious in the existence of multitudes of persons, many of them in the classes essentially dependent and helpless, of the age requiring nurture, and of the sex entitled to protection from the free agency of the parent and the husband. The organization of the militia is yet more indispensable to the liberties of the country. It is only by an effective militia that we can at once enjoy the repose of peace and bid defiance to foreign aggression; it is by the militia that we are constituted an armed nation, standing in perpetual panoply of defense in the presence of all the other nations of the earth. To this end it would be necessary, if possible, so to shape its organization as to give it a more united and active energy. There are laws establishing an uniform militia throughout the United States and for arming and equipping its whole body. But it is a body of dislocated members, without the vigor of unity and having little of uniformity but the name. To infuse into this most important institution the power of which it is susceptible and to make it available for the defense of the Union at the shortest notice and at the smallest expense possible of time, of life, and of treasure are among the benefits to be expected from the persevering deliberations of Congress.
Among the unequivocal indications of our national prosperity is the flourishing state of our finances. The revenues of the present year, from all their principal sources, will exceed the anticipations of the last. The balance in the Treasury on the first of January last was a little short of $2,000,000, exclusive of $2,500,000, being the moiety of the loan of $5,000,000 authorized by the act of May 26th, 1824. The receipts into the Treasury from the first of January to the 30th of September, exclusive of the other moiety of the same loan, are estimated at $16,500,000, and it is expected that those of the current quarter will exceed $5,000,000, forming an aggregate of receipts of nearly $22,000,000, independent of the loan. The expenditures of the year will not exceed that sum more than $2,000,000. By those expenditures nearly $8,000,000 of the principal of the public debt that have been discharged.
More than $1,500,000 has been devoted to the debt of gratitude to the warriors of the Revolution; a nearly equal sum to the construction of fortifications and the acquisition of ordnance and other permanent preparations of national defense; $500,000 to the gradual increase of the Navy; an equal sum for purchases of territory from the Indians and payment of annuities to them; and upward of $1,000,000 for objects of internal improvement authorized by special acts of the last Congress. If we add to these $4,000,000 for payment of interest upon the public debt, there remains a sum of $7,000,000, which have defrayed the whole expense of the administration of Government in its legislative, executive, and judiciary departments, including the support of the military and naval establishments and all the occasional contingencies of a government coextensive with the Union.
The amount of duties secured on merchandise imported since the commencement of the year is about $25,500,000, and that which will accrue during the current quarter is estimated at $5,500,000; from these $31,000,000, deducting the draw-backs, estimated at less than $7,000,000, a sum exceeding $24,000,000 will constitute the revenue of the year, and will exceed the whole expenditures of the year. The entire amount of the public debt remaining due on the first of January next will be short of $81,000,000.
By an act of Congress of the 3d of March last a loan of $12,000,000 was authorized at 4.5%, or an exchange of stock to that amount of 4.5% for a stock of 6%, to create a fund for extinguishing an equal amount of the public debt, bearing an interest of 6%, redeemable in 1826. An account of the measures taken to give effect to this act will be laid before you by the Secretary of the Treasury. As the object which it had in view has been but partially accomplished, it will be for the consideration of Congress whether the power with which it clothed the Executive should not be renewed at an early day of the present session, and under what modifications.
The act of Congress of the 3d of March last, directing the Secretary of the Treasury to subscribe, in the name and for the use of the United States, for 1,500 shares of the capital stock of the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Company, has been executed by the actual subscription for the amount specified; and such other measures have been adopted by that officer, under the act, as the fulfillment of its intentions requires. The latest accounts received of this important undertaking authorize the belief that it is in successful progress.
The payments into the Treasury from the proceeds of the sales of the public lands during the present year were estimated at $1,000,000. The actual receipts of the first two quarters have fallen very little short of that sum; it is not expected that the second half of the year will be equally productive, but the income of the year from that source may now be safely estimated at $1,500,000. The act of Congress of May 18th, 1824, to provide for the extinguishment of the debt due to the United States by the purchasers of public lands, was limited in its operation of relief to the purchaser to the 10th of April last. Its effect at the end of the quarter during which it expired was to reduce that debt from $10,000,000 to $7,000,000 By the operation of similar prior laws of relief, from and since that of March 2d, 1821, the debt had been reduced from upward of $22,000,000 to $10,000,000.
It is exceedingly desirable that it should be extinguished altogether; and to facilitate that consummation I recommend to Congress the revival for one year more of the act of May 18th, 1824, with such provisional modification as may be necessary to guard the public interests against fraudulent practices in the resale of the relinquished land.
The purchasers of public lands are among the most useful of our fellow citizens, and since the system of sales for cash alone has been introduced great indulgence has been justly extended to those who had previously purchased upon credit. The debt which had been contracted under the credit sales had become unwieldy, and its extinction was alike advantageous to the purchaser and to the public. Under the system of sales, matured as it has been by experience, and adapted to the exigencies of the times, the lands will continue as they have become, an abundant source of revenue; and when the pledge of them to the public creditor shall have been redeemed by the entire discharge of the national debt, the swelling tide of wealth with which they replenish the common Treasury may be made to reflow in unfailing streams of improvement from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
The condition of the various branches of the public service resorting from the Department of War, and their administration during the current year, will be exhibited in the report of the Secretary of War and the accompanying documents herewith communicated. The organization and discipline of the Army are effective and satisfactory. To counteract the prevalence of desertion among the troops it has been suggested to withhold from the men a small portion of their monthly pay until the period of their discharge; and some expedient appears to be necessary to preserve and maintain among the officers so much of the art of horsemanship as could scarcely fail to be found wanting on the possible sudden eruption of a war, which should take us unprovided with a single corps of cavalry.
The Military Academy at West Point, under the restrictions of a severe but paternal superintendence, recommends itself more and more to the patronage of the nation, and the numbers of meritorious officers which it forms and introduces to the public service furnishes the means of multiplying the undertakings of the public improvements to which their acquirements at that institution are peculiarly adapted. The school of artillery practice established at Fortress Monroe Hampton, Virginia is well suited to the same purpose, and may need the aid of further legislative provision to the same end. The reports of the various officers at the head of the administrative branches of the military service, connected with the quartering, clothing, subsistence, health, and pay of the Army, exhibit the assiduous vigilance of those officers in the performance of their respective duties, and the faithful accountability which has pervaded every part of the system.
Our relations with the numerous tribes of aboriginal natives of this country, scattered over its extensive surface and so dependent even for their existence upon our power, have been during the present year highly interesting. An act of Congress of May 25th, 1824, made an appropriation to defray the expenses of making treaties of trade and friendship with the Indian tribes beyond the Mississippi. An act of March 3d, 1825, authorized treaties to be made with the Indians for their consent to the making of a road from the frontier of Missouri to that of New Mexico, and another act of the same date provided for defraying the expenses of holding treaties with the Sioux, Chippeways, Menomenees, Sauks, Foxes, etc., for the purpose of establishing boundaries and promoting peace between said tribes.
The first and last objects of these acts have been accomplished, and the second is yet in a process of execution. The treaties which since the last session of Congress have been concluded with the several tribes will be laid before the Senate for their consideration conformably to the Constitution. They comprise large and valuable acquisitions of territory, and they secure an adjustment of boundaries and give pledges of permanent peace between several tribes which had been long waging bloody wars against each other.
On the 12th of February last a treaty was signed at the Indian Springs between commissioners appointed on the part of the United States and certain chiefs and individuals of the Creek Nation of Indians, which was received at the seat of Government only a very few days before the close of the last session of Congress and of the late Administration. The advice and consent of the Senate was given to it on the 3d of March, too late for it to receive the ratification of the then President of the United States; it was ratified on the 7th of March, under the unsuspecting impression that it had been negotiated in good faith and in the confidence inspired by the recommendation of the Senate. The subsequent transactions in relation to this treaty will form the subject of a separate communication.
The appropriations made by Congress for public works, as well in the construction of fortifications as for purposes of internal improvement, so far as they have been expended, have been faithfully applied. Their progress has been delayed by the want of suitable officers for superintending them. An increase of both the corps of engineers, military and topographical, was recommended by my predecessor at the last session of Congress. The reasons upon which that recommendation was founded subsist in all their force and have acquired additional urgency since that time. The Military Academy at West Point will furnish from the cadets there officers well qualified for carrying this measure into effect.
The Board of Engineers for Internal Improvement, appointed for carrying into execution the act of Congress of April 30th, 1824, "to procure the necessary surveys, plans, and estimates on the subject of roads and canals", have been actively engaged in that service from the close of the last session of Congress. They have completed the surveys necessary for ascertaining the practicability of a canal from the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River, and are preparing a full report on that subject, which, when completed, will be laid before you. The same observation is to be made with regard to the two other objects of national importance upon which the Board have been occupied, namely, the accomplishment of a national road from this city to New Orleans, and the practicability of uniting the waters of Lake Memphramagog with Connecticut River and the improvement of the navigation of that river. The surveys have been made and are nearly completed. The report may be expected at an early period during the present session of Congress.
The acts of Congress of the last session relative to the surveying, marking, or laying out roads in the Territories of Florida, Arkansas, and Michigan, from Missouri to Mexico, and for the continuation of the Cumberland road, are, some of them, fully executed, and others in the process of execution. Those for completing or commencing fortifications have been delayed only so far as the Corps of Engineers has been inadequate to furnish officers for the necessary superintendence of the works. Under the act confirming the statutes of Virginia and Maryland incorporating the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Company, three commissioners on the part of the United States have been appointed for opening books and receiving subscriptions, in concert with a like number of commissioners appointed on the part of each of those States. A meeting of the commissioners has been postponed, to await the definitive report of the board of engineers.
The light-houses and monuments for the safety of our commerce and mariners, the works for the security of Plymouth Beach and for the preservation of the islands in Boston Harbor, have received the attention required by the laws relating to those objects respectively. The continuation of the Cumberland road, the most important of them all, after surmounting no inconsiderable difficulty in fixing upon the direction of the road, has commenced under the most promising of auspices, with the improvements of recent invention in the mode of construction, and with advantage of a great reduction in the comparative cost of the work.
The operation of the laws relating to the Revolutionary pensioners may deserve the renewed consideration of Congress. The act of March 18th, 1818, while it made provision for many meritorious and indigent citizens who had served in the War of Independence, opened a door to numerous abuses and impositions. To remedy this the act of May 1st, 1820, exacted proofs of absolute indigence, which many really in want were unable and all susceptible of that delicacy which is allied to many virtues must be deeply reluctant to give. The result has been that some among the least deserving have been retained, and some in whom the requisites both of worth and want were combined have been stricken from the list. As the numbers of these venerable relics of an age gone by diminish; as the decays of body, mind, and estate of those that survive must in the common course of nature increase, should not a more liberal portion of indulgence be dealt out to them? May not the want in most instances be inferred from the demand when the service can be proved, and may not the last days of human infirmity be spared the mortification of purchasing a pittance of relief only by the exposure of its own necessities? I submit to Congress the expediency of providing for individual cases of this description by special enactment, or of revising the act of May 1st, 1820, with a view to mitigate the rigor of its exclusions in favor of persons to whom charity now bestowed can scarcely discharge the debt of justice.
The portion of the naval force of the Union in actual service has been chiefly employed on three stations--the Mediterranean, the coasts of South America bordering on the Pacific Ocean, and the West Indies. An occasional cruiser has been sent to range along the African shores most polluted by the traffic of slaves; one armed vessel has been stationed on the coast of our eastern boundary, to cruise along the fishing grounds in Hudsons Bay and on the coast of Labrador, and the first service of a new frigate has been performed in restoring to his native soil and domestic enjoyments the veteran hero whose youthful blood and treasure had freely flowed in the cause of our country's independence, and whose whole life has been a series of services and sacrifices to the improvement of his fellow men.
The visit of General Lafayette, alike honorable to himself and to our country, closed, as it had commenced, with the most affecting testimonials of devoted attachment on his part, and of unbounded gratitude of this people to him in return. It will form here-after a pleasing incident in the annals of our Union, giving to real history the intense interest of romance and signally marking the unpurchasable tribute of a great nation's social affections to the disinterested champion of the liberties of human-kind.
The constant maintenance of a small squadron in the Mediterranean is a necessary substitute for the humiliating alternative of paying tribute for the security of our commerce in that sea, and for a precarious peace, at the mercy of every caprice of four Barbary States, by whom it was liable to be violated. An additional motive for keeping a respectable force stationed there at this time is found in the maritime war raging between the Greeks and the Turks, and in which the neutral navigation of this Union is always in danger of outrage and depredation. A few instances have occurred of such depredations upon our merchant vessels by privateers or pirates wearing the Grecian flag, but without real authority from the Greek or any other Government. The heroic struggles of the Greeks themselves, in which our warmest sympathies as free men and Christians have been engaged, have continued to be maintained with vicissitudes of success adverse and favorable.
Similar motives have rendered expedient the keeping of a like force on the coasts of Peru and Chile on the Pacific. The irregular and convulsive character of the war upon the shores has been extended to the conflicts upon the ocean. An active warfare has been kept up for years with alternate success, though generally to the advantage of the American patriots. But their naval forces have not always been under the control of their own Governments. Blockades, unjustifiable upon any acknowledged principles of international law, have been proclaimed by officers in command, and though disavowed by the supreme authorities, the protection of our own commerce against them has been made cause of complaint and erroneous imputations against some of the most gallant officers of our Navy. Complaints equally groundless have been made by the commanders of the Spanish royal forces in those seas; but the most effective protection to our commerce has been the flag and the firmness of our own commanding officers.
The cessation of the war by the complete triumph of the patriot cause has removed, it is hoped, all cause of dissension with one party and all vestige of force of the other. But an unsettled coast of many degrees of latitude forming a part of our own territory and a flourishing commerce and fishery extending to the islands of the Pacific and to China still require that the protecting power of the Union should be displayed under its flag as well upon the ocean as upon the land.
The objects of the West India Squadron have been to carry into execution the laws for the suppression of the African slave trade; for the protection of our commerce against vessels of piratical character, though bearing commissions from either of the belligerent parties; for its protection against open and unequivocal pirates. These objects during the present year have been accomplished more effectually than at any former period. The African slave trade has long been excluded from the use of our flag, and if some few citizens of our country have continued to set the laws of the Union as well as those of nature and humanity at defiance by persevering in that abominable traffic, it has been only by sheltering themselves under the banners of other nations less earnest for the total extinction of the trade of ours.
The active, persevering, and unremitted energy of Captain Warrington and of the officers and men under his command on that trying and perilous service have been crowned with signal success, and are entitled to the approbation of their country. But experience has shown that not even a temporary suspension or relaxation from assiduity can be indulged on that station without reproducing piracy and murder in all their horrors; nor is it probably that for years to come our immensely valuable commerce in those seas can navigate in security without the steady continuance of an armed force devoted to its protection.
It were, indeed, a vain and dangerous illusion to believe that in the present or probable condition of human society a commerce so extensive and so rich as ours could exist and be pursued in safety without the continual support of a military marine--the only arm by which the power of this Confederacy can be estimated or felt by foreign nations, and the only standing military force which can never be dangerous to our own liberties at home. A permanent naval peace establishment, therefore, adapted to our present condition, and adaptable to that gigantic growth with which the nation is advancing in its career, is among the subjects which have already occupied the foresight of the last Congress, and which will deserve your serious deliberations. Our Navy, commenced at an early period of our present political organization upon a scale commensurate with the incipient energies, the scanty resources, and the comparative indigence of our infancy, was even then found adequate to cope with all the powers of Barbary, save the first, and with one of the principle maritime powers of Europe.
At a period of further advancement, but with little accession of strength, it not only sustained with honor the most unequal of conflicts, but covered itself and our country with unfading glory. But it is only since the close of the late war that by the numbers and force of the ships of which it was composed it could deserve the name of a navy. Yet it retains nearly the same organization as when it consisted only of five frigates. The rules and regulations by which it is governed earnestly call for revision, and the want of a naval school of instruction, corresponding with the Military Academy at West Point, for the formation of scientific and accomplished officers, is felt with daily increasing aggravation.
The act of Congress of May 26th, 1824, authorizing an examination and survey of the harbor of Charleston, in South Carolina, of St. Marys, in Georgia, and of the coast of Florida, and for other purposes, has been executed so far as the appropriation would admit. Those of the 3d of March last, authorizing the establishment of a navy yard and depot on the coast of Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico, and authorizing the building of ten sloops of war, and for other purposes, are in the course of execution, for the particulars of which and other objects connected with this Department I refer to the report of the Secretary of the Navy, herewith communicated.
A report from the Post Master General is also submitted, exhibiting the present flourishing condition of that Department. For the first time for many years the receipts for the year ending on the first of July last exceeded the expenditures during the same period to the amount of more than $45,000. Other facts equally creditable to the administration of this Department are that in two years from July 1st, 1823, an improvement of more than $185,000 in its pecuniary affairs has been realized; that in the same interval the increase of the transportation of the mail has exceeded 1,500,000 miles annually, and that 1,040 new post offices have been established. It hence appears that under judicious management the income from this establishment may be relied on as fully adequate to defray its expenses, and that by the discontinuance of post roads altogether unproductive, others of more useful character may be opened, 'til the circulation of the mail shall keep pace with the spread of our population, and the comforts of friendly correspondence, the exchanges of internal traffic, and the lights of the periodical press shall be distributed to the remotest corners of the Union, at a charge scarcely perceptible to any individual, and without the cost of a dollar to the public Treasury.
Upon this first occasion of addressing the Legislature of the Union, with which I have been honored, in presenting to their view the execution so far as it has been effected of the measures sanctioned by them for promoting the internal improvement of our country, I can not close the communication without recommending to their calm and persevering consideration the general principle in a more enlarged extent. The great object of the institution of civil government is the improvement of the condition of those who are parties to the social compact, and no government, in what ever form constituted, can accomplish the lawful ends of its institution but in proportion as it improves the condition of those over whom it is established. Roads and canals, by multiplying and facilitating the communications and intercourse between distant regions and multitudes of men, are among the most important means of improvement. But moral, political, intellectual improvement are duties assigned by the Author of Our Existence to social no less than to individual man.
For the fulfillment of those duties governments are invested with power, and to the attainment of the end--the progressive improvement of the condition of the governed--the exercise of delegated powers is a duty as sacred and indispensable as the usurpation of powers not granted is criminal and odious.
Among the first, perhaps the very first, instrument for the improvement of the condition of men is knowledge, and to the acquisition of much of the knowledge adapted to the wants, the comforts, and enjoyments of human life public institutions and seminaries of learning are essential. So convinced of this was the first of my predecessors in this office, now first in the memory, as, living, he was first in the hearts, of our country-men, that once and again in his addresses to the Congresses with whom he cooperated in the public service he earnestly recommended the establishment of seminaries of learning, to prepare for all the emergencies of peace and war--a national university and a military academy. With respect to the latter, had he lived to the present day, in turning his eyes to the institution at West Point he would have enjoyed the gratification of his most earnest wishes; but in surveying the city which has been honored with his name he would have seen the spot of earth which he had destined and bequeathed to the use and benefit of his country as the site for a university still bare and barren.
In assuming her station among the civilized nations of the earth it would seem that our country had contracted the engagement to contribute her share of mind, of labor, and of expense to the improvement of those parts of knowledge which lie beyond the reach of individual acquisition, and particularly to geographical and astronomical science. Looking back to the history only of the half century since the declaration of our independence, and observing the generous emulation with which the Governments of France, Great Britain, and Russia have devoted the genius, the intelligence, the treasures of their respective nations to the common improvement of the species in these branches of science, is it not incumbent upon us to inquire whether we are not bound by obligations of a high and honorable character to contribute our portion of energy and exertion to the common stock? The voyages of discovery prosecuted in the course of that time at the expense of those nations have not only redounded to their glory, but to the improvement of human knowledge.
We have been partakers of that improvement and owe for it a sacred debt, not only of gratitude, but of equal or proportional exertion in the same common cause. Of the cost of these undertakings, if the mere expenditures of outfit, equipment, and completion of the expeditions were to be considered the only charges, it would be unworthy of a great and generous nation to take a second thought. One hundred expeditions of circumnavigation like those of Cook and La Prouse would not burden the exchequer of the nation fitting them out so much as the ways and means of defraying a single campaign in war. But if we take into account the lives of those benefactors of man-kind of which their services in the cause of their species were the purchase, how shall the cost of those heroic enterprises be estimated, and what compensation can be made to them or to their countries for them? Is it not by bearing them in affectionate remembrance? Is it not still more by imitating their example--by enabling country-men of our own to pursue the same career and to hazard their lives in the same cause?
In inviting the attention of Congress to the subject of internal improvements upon a view thus enlarged it is not my desire to recommend the equipment of an expedition for circumnavigating the globe for purposes of scientific research and inquiry. We have objects of useful investigation nearer home, and to which our cares may be more beneficially applied. The interior of our own territories has yet been very imperfectly explored. Our coasts along many degrees of latitude upon the shores of the Pacific Ocean, though much frequented by our spirited commercial navigators, have been barely visited by our public ships. The River of the West, first fully discovered and navigated by a country-man of our own, still bears the name of the ship in which he ascended its waters, and claims the protection of our armed national flag at its mouth. With the establishment of a military post there or at some other point of that coast, recommended by my predecessor and already matured in the deliberations of the last Congress, I would suggest the expediency of connecting the equipment of a public ship for the exploration of the whole north-west coast of this continent.
The establishment of an uniform standard of weights and measures was one of the specific objects contemplated in the formation of our Constitution, and to fix that standard was on of the powers delegated by express terms in that instrument to Congress. The Governments of Great Britain and France have scarcely ceased to be occupied with inquiries and speculations on the same subject since the existence of our Constitution, and with them it has expanded into profound, laborious, and expensive researches into the figure of the earth and the comparative length of the pendulum vibrating seconds in various latitudes from the equator to the pole. These researches have resulted in the composition and publication of several works highly interesting to the cause of science. The experiments are yet in the process of performance. Some of them have recently been made on our own shores, within the walls of one of our own colleges, and partly by one of our own fellow citizens. It would be honorable to our country if the sequel of the same experiments should be countenanced by the patronage of our Government, as they have hitherto been by those of France and Britain.
Connected with the establishment of an university, or separate from it, might be undertaken the erection of an astronomical observatory, with provision for the support of an astronomer, to be in constant attendance of observation upon the phenomena of the heavens, and for the periodical publication of his observances. It is with no feeling of pride as an American that the remark may be made that on the comparatively small territorial surface of Europe there are existing upward of 130 of these light-houses of the skies, while throughout the whole American hemisphere there is not one. If we reflect a moment upon the discoveries which in the last four centuries have been made in the physical constitution of the universe by the means of these buildings and of observers stationed in them, shall we doubt of their usefulness to every nation? And while scarcely a year passes over our heads without bringing some new astronomical discovery to light, which we must fain receive at second hand from Europe, are we not cutting ourselves off from the means of returning light for light while we have neither observatory nor observer upon our half of the globe and the earth revolves in perpetual darkness to our unsearching eyes?
When, on October 25th, 1791, the first President of the United States announced to Congress the result of the first enumeration of the inhabitants of this Union, he informed them that the returns gave the pleasing assurance that the population of the United States bordered on 4,000,000 persons. At the distance of 30 years from that time the last enumeration, five years since completed, presented a population bordering on 10,000,000. Perhaps of all the evidence of a prosperous and happy condition of human society the rapidity of the increase of population is the most unequivocal. But the demonstration of our prosperity rests not alone upon this indication.
Our commerce, our wealth, and the extent of our territories have increased in corresponding proportions, and the number of independent communities associated in our Federal Union has since that time nearly doubled. The legislative representation of the States and people in the two Houses of Congress has grown with the growth of their constituent bodies. The House, which then consisted of 65 members, now numbers upward of 200. The Senate, which consisted of 26 members, has now 48. But the executive and, still more, the judiciary departments are yet in a great measure confined to their primitive organization, and are now not adequate to the urgent wants of a still growing community.
The naval armaments, which at an early period forced themselves upon the necessities of the Union, soon led to the establishment of a Department of the Navy. But the Departments of Foreign Affairs and of the Interior, which early after the formation of the Government had been united in one, continue so united to this time, to the unquestionable detriment of the public service. The multiplication of our relations with the nations and Governments of the Old World has kept pace with that of our population and commerce, while within the last ten years a new family of nations in our own hemisphere has arisen among the inhabitants of the earth, with whom our intercourse, commercial and political, would of itself furnish occupation to an active and industrious department.
The constitution of the judiciary, experimental and imperfect as it was even in the infancy of our existing Government, is yet more inadequate to the administration of national justice at our present maturity. Nine years have elapsed since a predecessor in this office, now not the last, the citizen who, perhaps, of all others throughout the Union contributed most to the formation and establishment of our Constitution, in his valedictory address to Congress, immediately preceding his retirement from public life, urgently recommended the revision of the judiciary and the establishment of an additional executive department. The exigencies of the public service and its unavoidable deficiencies, as now in exercise, have added yearly cumulative weight to the considerations presented by him as persuasive to the measure, and in recommending it to your deliberations I am happy to have the influence of this high authority in aid of the undoubting convictions of my own experience.
The laws relating to the administration of the Patent Office are deserving of much consideration and perhaps susceptible of some improvement. The grant of power to regulate the action of Congress upon this subject has specified both the end to be obtained and the means by which it is to be effected, "to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries". If an honest pride might be indulged in the reflection that on the records of that office are already found inventions the usefulness of which has scarcely been transcended in the annals of human ingenuity, would not its exultation be allayed by the inquiry whether the laws have effectively insured to the inventors the reward destined to them by the Constitution--even a limited term of exclusive right to their discoveries?
On December 24th, 1799, it was resolved by Congress that a marble monument should be erected by the United States in the Capitol at the city of Washington; that the family of General Washington should be requested to permit his body to be deposited under it, and that the monument be so designed as to commemorate the great events of his military and political life. In reminding Congress of this resolution and that the monument contemplated by it remains yet without execution, I shall indulge only the remarks that the works at the Capitol are approaching to completion; that the consent of the family, desired by the resolution, was requested and obtained; that a monument has been recently erected in this city over the remains of another distinguished patriot of the Revolution, and that a spot has been reserved within the walls where you are deliberating for the benefit of this and future ages, in which the mortal remains may be deposited of him whose spirit hovers over you and listens with delight to every act of the representatives of his nation which can tend to exalt and adorn his and their country.
The Constitution under which you are assembled is a charter of limited powers. After full and solemn deliberation upon all or any of the objects which, urged by an irresistible sense of my own duty, I have recommended to your attention should you come to the conclusion that, however desirable in themselves, the enactment of laws for effecting them would transcend the powers committed to you by that venerable instrument which we are all bound to support, let no consideration induce you to assume the exercise of powers not granted to you by the people.
But if the power to exercise exclusive legislation in all cases what so ever over the District of Columbia; if the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; if the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several States and with the Indian tribes, to fix the standard of weights and measures, to establish post offices and post roads, to declare war, to raise and support armies, to provide and maintain a navy, to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States, and to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying these powers into execution--if these powers and others enumerated in the Constitution may be effectually brought into action by laws promoting the improvement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, the cultivation and encouragement of the mechanic and of the elegant arts, the advancement of literature, and the progress of the sciences, ornamental and profound, to refrain from exercising them for the benefit of the people themselves would be to hide in the earth the talent committed to our charge--would be treachery to the most sacred of trusts.
The spirit of improvement is abroad upon the earth. It stimulates the hearts and sharpens the faculties not of our fellow citizens alone, but of the nations of Europe and of their rulers. While dwelling with pleasing satisfaction upon the superior excellence of our political institutions, let us not be unmindful that liberty is power; that the nation blessed with the largest portion of liberty must in proportion to its numbers be the most powerful nation upon earth, and that the tenure of power by man is, in the moral purposes of his Creator, upon condition that it shall be exercised to ends of beneficence, to improve the condition of himself and his fellow men.
While foreign nations less blessed with that freedom which is power than ourselves are advancing with gigantic strides in the career of public improvement, were we to slumber in indolence or fold up our arms and proclaim to the world that we are palsied by the will of our constituents, would it not be to cast away the bounties of Providence and doom ourselves to perpetual inferiority? In the course of the year now drawing to its close we have beheld, under the auspices and at the expense of one State of this Union, a new university unfolding its portals to the sons of science and holding up the torch of human improvement to eyes that seek the light. We have seen under the persevering and enlightened enterprise of another State the waters of our Western lakes mingle with those of the ocean. If undertakings like these have been accomplished in the compass of a few years by the authority of single members of our Confederation, can we, the representative authorities of the whole Union, fall behind our fellow servants in the exercise of the trust committed to us for the benefit of our common sovereign by the accomplishment of works important to the whole and to which neither the authority nor the resources of any one State can be adequate?
Finally, fellow citizens, I shall await with cheering hope and faithful cooperation the result of your deliberations, assured that, without encroaching upon the powers reserved to the authorities of the respective States or to the people, you will, with a due sense of your obligations to your country and of the high responsibilities weighing upon yourselves, give efficacy to the means committed to you for the common good. And may He who searches the hearts of the children of men prosper your exertions to secure the blessings of peace and promote the highest welfare of your country.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
State of the Union Address: December 5, 1826
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
The assemblage of the representatives of our Union in both Houses of the Congress at this time occurs under circumstances calling for the renewed homage of our grateful acknowledgments to the Giver of All Good. With the exceptions incidental to the most felicitous condition of human existence, we continue to be highly favored in all the elements which contribute to individual comfort and to national prosperity. In the survey of our extensive country we have generally to observe abodes of health and regions of plenty. In our civil and political relations we have peace without and tranquillity within our borders. We are, as a people, increasing with unabated rapidity in population, wealth, and national resources, and whatever differences of opinion exist among us with regard to the mode and the means by which we shall turn the beneficence of Heaven to the improvement of our own condition, there is yet a spirit animating us all which will not suffer the bounties of Providence to be showered upon us in vain, but will receive them with grateful hearts, and apply them with unwearied hands to the advancement of the general good.
Of the subjects recommended to Congress at their last session, some were then definitively acted upon. Others, left unfinished, but partly matured, will recur to your attention without needing a renewal of notice from me. The purpose of this communication will be to present to your view the general aspect of our public affairs at this moment and the measures which have been taken to carry into effect the intentions of the Legislature as signified by the laws then and heretofore enacted.
In our intercourse with the other nations of the earth we have still the happiness of enjoying peace and a general good understanding, qualified, however, in several important instances by collisions of interest and by unsatisfied claims of justice, to the settlement of which the constitutional interposition of the legislative authority may become ultimately indispensable.
By the decease of the Emperor Alexander of Russia, which occurred contemporaneously with the commencement of the last session of Congress, the United States have been deprived of a long tried, steady, and faithful friend. Born to the inheritance of absolute power and trained in the school of adversity, from which no power on earth, however absolute, is exempt, that monarch from his youth had been taught to feel the force and value of public opinion and to be sensible that the interests of his own Government would best be promoted by a frank and friendly intercourse with this Republic, as those of his people would be advanced by a liberal intercourse with our country. A candid and confidential interchange of sentiments between him and the Government of the United States upon the affairs of Southern America took place at a period not long preceding his demise, and contributed to fix that course of policy which left to the other Governments of Europe no alternative but that of sooner or later recognizing the independence of our southern neighbors, of which the example had by the United States already been set.
The ordinary diplomatic communications between his successor, the Emperor Nicholas, and the United States have suffered some interruption by the illness, departure, and subsequent decease of his minister residing here, who enjoyed, as he merited, the entire confidence of his new sovereign, as he had eminently responded to that of his predecessor. But we have had the most satisfactory assurances that the sentiments of the reigning Emperor toward the United States are altogether conformable to those which had so long and constantly animated his imperial brother, and we have reason to hope that they will serve to cement that harmony and good understanding between the two nations which, founded in congenial interests, can not but result in the advancement of the welfare and prosperity of both.
Our relations of commerce and navigation with France are, by the operation of the convention of June 24th, 1822, with that nation, in a state of gradual and progressive improvement. Convinced by all our experience, no less than by the principles of fair and liberal reciprocity which the United States have constantly tendered to all the nations of the earth as the rule of commercial intercourse which they would universally prefer, that fair and equal competition is most conducive to the interests of both parties, the United States in the negotiation of that convention earnestly contended for a mutual renunciation of discriminating duties and charges in the ports of the two countries. Unable to obtain the immediate recognition of this principle in its full extent, after reducing the duties of discrimination so far as was found attainable it was agreed that at the expiration of two years from October 1st, 1822, when the convention was to go into effect, unless a notice of six months on either side should be given to the other that the convention itself must terminate, those duties should be reduced one quarter, and that this reduction should be yearly repeated, until all discrimination should cease, while the convention itself should continue in force. By the effect of this stipulation three quarters of the discriminating duties which had been levied by each party upon the vessels of the other in its ports have already been removed; and on the first of next October, should the convention be still in force, the remaining one quarter will be discontinued. French vessels laden with French produce will be received in our ports on the same terms as our own, and ours in return will enjoy the same advantages in the ports of France.
By these approximations to an equality of duties and of charges not only has the commerce between the two countries prospered, but friendly dispositions have been on both sides encouraged and promoted. They will continue to be cherished and cultivated on the part of the United States. It would have been gratifying to have had it in my power to add that the claims upon the justice of the French Government, involving the property and the comfortable subsistence of many of our fellow citizens, and which have been so long and so earnestly urged, were in a more promising train of adjustment than at your last meeting; but their condition remains unaltered.
With the Government of the Netherlands the mutual abandonment of discriminating duties had been regulated by legislative acts on both sides. The act of Congress of April 20th, 1818, abolished all discriminating duties of impost and tonnage upon the vessels and produce of the Netherlands in the ports of the United States upon the assurance given by the Government of the Netherlands that all such duties operating against the shipping and commerce of the United States in that Kingdom had been abolished. These reciprocal regulations had continued in force several years when the discriminating principle was resumed by the Netherlands in a new and indirect form by a bounty of 10% in the shape of a return of duties to their national vessels, and in which those of the United States are not permitted to participate. By the act of Congress of January 7th, 1824, all discriminating duties in the United States were again suspended, so far as related to the vessels and produce of the Netherlands, so long as the reciprocal exemption should be extended to the vessels and produce of the United States in the Netherlands. But the same act provides that in the event of a restoration of discriminating duties to operate against the shipping and commerce of the United States in any of the foreign countries referred to therein the suspension of discriminating duties in favor of the navigation of such foreign country should cease and all the provisions of the acts imposing discriminating foreign tonnage and impost duties in the United States should revive and be in full force with regard to that nation.
In the correspondence with the Government of the Netherlands upon this subject they have contended that the favor shown to their own shipping by this bounty upon their tonnage is not to be considered a discriminating duty; but it can not be denied that it produces all the same effects. Had the mutual abolition been stipulated by treaty, such a bounty upon the national vessels could scarcely have been granted consistent with good faith. Yet as the act of Congress of January 7th, 1824 has not expressly authorized the Executive authority to determine what shall be considered as a revival of discriminating duties by a foreign government to the disadvantage of the United States, and as the retaliatory measure on our part, however just and necessary, may tend rather to that conflict of legislation which we deprecate than to that concert to which we invite all commercial nations, as most conducive to their interest and our own, I have thought it more consistent with the spirit of our institutions to refer to the subject again to the paramount authority of the Legislature to decide what measure the emergency may require than abruptly by proclamation to carry into effect the minatory provisions of the act of 1824.
During the last session of Congress treaties of amity, navigation, and commerce were negotiated and signed at this place with the Government of Denmark, in Europe, and with the Federation of Central America, in this hemisphere. These treaties then received the constitutional sanction of the Senate, by the advice and consent to their ratification. They were accordingly ratified on the part of the United States, and during the recess of Congress have been also ratified by the other respective contracting parties. The ratifications have been exchanged, and they have been published by proclamations, copies of which are herewith communicated to Congress.
These treaties have established between the contracting parties the principles of equality and reciprocity in their broadest and most liberal extent, each party admitting the vessels of the other into its ports, laden with cargoes the produce or manufacture of any quarter of the globe, upon the payment of the same duties of tonnage and impost that are chargeable upon their own. They have further stipulated that the parties shall hereafter grant no favor of navigation or commerce to any other nation which shall not upon the same terms be granted to each other, and that neither party will impose upon articles of merchandise the produce or manufacture of the other any other or higher duties than upon the like articles being the produce or manufacture of any other country. To these principles there is in the convention with Denmark an exception with regard to the colonies of that Kingdom in the arctic seas, but none with regard to her colonies in the West Indies.
In the course of the last summer the term to which our last commercial treaty with Sweden was limited has expired. A continuation of it is in the contemplation of the Swedish Government, and is believed to be desirable on the part of the United States. It has been proposed by the King of Sweden that pending the negotiation of renewal the expired treaty should be mutually considered as still in force, a measure which will require the sanction of Congress to be carried into effect on our part, and which I therefore recommend to your consideration.
With Prussia, Spain, Portugal, and, in general, all the European powers between whom and the United States relations of friendly intercourse have existed their condition has not materially varied since the last session of Congress. I regret not to be able to say the same of our commercial intercourse with the colonial possessions of Great Britain in America. Negotiations of the highest importance to our common interests have been for several years in discussion between the two Governments, and on the part of the United States have been invariably pursued in the spirit of candor and conciliation. Interests of great magnitude and delicacy had been adjusted by the conventions of 1815 and 1818, while that of 1822, mediated by the late Emperor Alexander, had promised a satisfactory compromise of claims which the Government of the United States, in justice to the rights of a numerous class of their citizens, was bound to sustain.
But with regard to the commercial intercourse between the United States and the British colonies in America, it has been hitherto found impracticable to bring the parties to an understanding satisfactory to both. The relative geographical position and the respective products of nature cultivated by human industry had constituted the elements of a commercial intercourse between the United States and British America, insular and continental, important to the inhabitants of both countries; but it had been interdicted by Great Britain upon a principle heretofore practiced upon by the colonizing nations of Europe, of holding the trade of their colonies each in exclusive monopoly to herself.
After the termination of the late war this interdiction had been revived, and the British Government declined including this portion of our intercourse with her possessions in the negotiation of the convention of 1815. The trade was then carried on exclusively in British vessels 'til the act of Congress, concerning navigation, of 1818 and the supplemental act of 1820 met the interdict by a corresponding measure on the part of the United States. These measures, not of retaliation, but of necessary self defense, were soon succeeded by an act of Parliament opening certain colonial ports to the vessels of the United States coming directly from them, and to the importation from them of certain articles of our produce burdened with heavy duties, and excluding some of the most valuable articles of our exports. The United States opened their ports to British vessels from the colonies upon terms as exactly corresponding with those of the act of Parliament as in the relative position of the parties could be made, and a negotiation was commenced by mutual consent, with the hope on our part that a reciprocal spirit of accommodation and a common sentiment of the importance of the trade to the interests of the inhabitants of the two countries between whom it must be carried on would ultimately bring the parties to a compromise with which both might be satisfied. With this view the Government of the United States had determined to sacrifice something of that entire reciprocity which in all commercial arrangements with foreign powers they are entitled to demand, and to acquiesce in some inequalities disadvantageous to ourselves rather than to forego the benefit of a final and permanent adjustment of this interest to the satisfaction of Great Britain herself. The negotiation, repeatedly suspended by accidental circumstances, was, however, by mutual agreement and express assent, considered as pending and to be speedily resumed.
In the mean time another act of Parliament, so doubtful and ambiguous in its import as to have been misunderstood by the officers in the colonies who were to carry it into execution, opens again certain colonial ports upon new conditions and terms, with a threat to close them against any nation which may not accept those terms as prescribed by the British Government. This act, passed July, 1825, not communicated to the Government of the United States, not understood by the British officers of the customs in the colonies where it was to be enforced, was never the less submitted to the consideration of Congress at their last session. With the knowledge that a negotiation upon the subject had long been in progress and pledges given of its resumption at an early day, it was deemed expedient to await the result of that negotiation rather than to subscribe implicitly to terms the import of which was not clear and which the British authorities themselves in this hemisphere were not prepared to explain.
Immediately after the close of the last session of Congress one of our most distinguished citizens was dispatched as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Great Britain, furnished with instructions which we could not doubt would lead to a conclusion of this long controverted interest upon terms acceptable to Great Britain. Upon his arrival, and before he had delivered his letters of credence, he was bet by an order of the British council excluding from and after the first of December now current the vessels of the United States from all the colonial British ports excepting those immediately bordering on our territories. In answer to his expostulations upon a measure thus unexpected he is informed that according to the ancient maxims of policy of European nations having colonies their trade is an exclusive possession of the mother country; that all participation in it by other nations is a boon or favor not forming a subject of negotiation, but to be regulated by the legislative acts of the power owning the colony; that the British Government therefore declines negotiating concerning it, and that as the United States did not forthwith accept purely and simply the terms offered by the act of Parliament of July, 1825, Great Britain would not now admit the vessels of the United States even upon the terms on which she has opened them to the navigation of other nations.
We have been accustomed to consider the trade which we have enjoyed with the British colonies rather as an interchange of mutual benefits than as a mere favor received; that under every circumstance we have given an ample equivalent. We have seen every other nation holding colonies negotiate with other nations and grant them freely admission to the colonies by treaty, and so far are the other colonizing nations of Europe now from refusing to negotiate for trade with their colonies that we ourselves have secured access to the colonies of more than one of them by treaty. The refusal, however, of Great Britain to negotiate leaves to the United States no other alternative than that of regulating or interdicting altogether the trade on their part, according as either measure may effect the interests of our own country, and with that exclusive object I would recommend the whole subject to your calm and candid deliberations.
It is hoped that our unavailing exertions to accomplish a cordial good understanding on this interest will not have an unpropitious effect upon the other great topics of discussion between the two Governments. Our north-eastern and north-western boundaries are still unadjusted. The commissioners under the 7th article of the treaty of Ghent have nearly come to the close of their labors; nor can we renounce the expectation, enfeebled as it is, that they may agree upon their report to the satisfaction or acquiescence of both parties. The commission for liquidating the claims for indemnity for slaves carried away after the close of the war has been sitting, with doubtful prospects of success. Propositions of compromise have, however, passed between the two Governments, the result of which we flatter ourselves may yet prove unsatisfactory. Our own dispositions and purposes toward Great Britain are all friendly and conciliatory; nor can we abandon but with strong reluctance the belief that they will ultimately meet a return, not of favors, which we neither as nor desire, but of equal reciprocity and good will.
With the American Governments of this hemisphere we continue to maintain an intercourse altogether friendly, and between their nations and ours that commercial interchange of which mutual benefit is the source of mutual comfort and harmony the result is in a continual state of improvement. The war between Spain and them since the total expulsion of the Spanish military force from their continental territories has been little more than nominal, and their internal tranquillity, though occasionally menaced by the agitations which civil wars never fail to leave behind them, has not been affected by any serious calamity.
The congress of ministers from several of those nations which assembled at Panama, after a short session there, adjourned to meet again at a more favorable season in the neighborhood of Mexico. The decease of one of our ministers on his way to the Isthmus, and the impediments of the season, which delayed the departure of the other, deprived United States of the advantage of being represented at the first meeting of the congress. There is, however, no reason to believe that any transactions of the congress were of a nature to affect injuriously the interests of the United States or to require the interposition of our ministers had they been present. Their absence has, indeed, deprived United States of the opportunity of possessing precise and authentic information of the treaties which were concluded at Panama; and the whole result has confirmed me in the conviction of the expediency to the United States of being represented at the congress. The surviving member of the mission, appointed during your last session, has accordingly proceeded to his destination, and a successor to his distinguished and lamented associate will be nominated to the Senate. A treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce has in the course of the last summer been concluded by our minister plenipotentiary at Mexico with the united states of that Confederacy, which will also be laid before the Senate for their advice with regard to its ratification.
In adverting to the present condition of our fiscal concerns and to the prospects of our revenue the first remark that calls our attention is that they are less exuberantly prosperous than they were at the corresponding period of the last year. The severe shock so extensively sustained by the commercial and manufacturing interests in Great Britain has not been without a perceptible recoil upon ourselves. A reduced importation from abroad is necessarily succeeded by a reduced return to the Treasury at home. The net revenue of the present year will not equal that of the last, and the receipts of that which is to come will fall short of those in the current year. The diminution, however, is in part attributable to the flourishing condition of some of our domestic manufactures, and so far is compensated by an equivalent more profitable to the nation.
It is also highly gratifying to perceive that the deficiency in the revenue, while it scarcely exceeds the anticipations of the last year's estimate from the Treasury, has not interrupted the application of more than $11 millions during the present year to the discharge of the principal and interest of the debt, nor the reduction of upward of $7,000,000 of the capital of the debt itself. The balance in the Treasury on the first of January last was $5,201,650.43; the receipts from that time to the 30th of September last were $19,585,932.50; the receipts of the current quarter, estimated at $6,000,000, yield, with the sums already received, a revenue of about $25,500,000 for the year; the expenditures for the first 3 quarters of the year have amounted to $18,714,226.66; the expenditures of the current quarter are expected, including the $2,000,000 of the principal of the debt to be paid, to balance the receipts; so that the expense of the year, amounting to upward of $1,000,000 less than its income, will leave a proportionally increased balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1827, over that of the first of January last; instead of $5,200,000 there will be $6,400,000.
The amount of duties secured on merchandise imported from the commence of the year 'til September 30 is estimated at $21,250,000, and the amount that will probably accrue during the present quarter is estimated at $4,250,000, making for the whole year $25,500,000, from which the draw-backs being deducted will leave a clear revenue from the customs receivable in the year 1827 of about $20,400,000, which, with the sums to be received from the proceeds of public lands, the bank dividends, and other incidental receipts, will form an aggregate of about $23,000,000, a sum falling short of the whole expenses of the present year little more than the portion of those expenditures applied to the discharge of the public debt beyond the annual appropriation of $10,000,000 by the act of March 3d, 1817. At the passage of that act the public debt amounted to $123,500,000. On the first of January next it will be short of $74,000,000. In the lapse of these 10 years $50,000,000 of public debt, with the annual charge of upward of $3,000,000 of interest upon them, have been extinguished. At the passage of tat act, of the annual appropriation of $10,000,000, $7,000,000 were absorbed in the payment of interest, and not more than $3,000,000 went to reduce the capital of the debt. Of the same $10,000,000, at this time scarcely $4,000,000 are applicable to the interest and upward of $6,000,000 are effective in melting down the capital.
Yet our experience has proved that a revenue consisting so largely of imposts and tonnage ebbs and flows to an extraordinary extent, with all the fluctuations incident to the general commerce of the world. It is within our recollection that even in the compass of the same last ten years the receipts of the Treasury were not adequate to the expenditures of the year, and that in two successive years it was found necessary to resort to loans to meet the engagements of the nation. The returning tides of the succeeding years replenished the public coffers until they have again begun to feel the vicissitude of a decline. To produce these alternations of fullness and exhaustion the relative operation of abundant or unfruitful seasons, the regulations of foreign governments, political revolutions, the prosperous or decaying condition of manufactures, commercial speculations, and many other causes, not always to be traced, variously combine.
We have found the alternate swells and diminutions embracing periods of from two to three years. The last period of depression to United States was from 1819 to 1822. The corresponding revival was from 1823 to the commencement of the present year. Still, we have no cause to apprehend a depression comparable to that of the former period, or even to anticipate a deficiency which will intrench upon the ability to apply the annual $10 millions to the reduction of the debt. It is well for us, however, to be admonished of the necessity of abiding by the maxims of the most vigilant economy, and of resorting to all honorable and useful expedients for pursuing with steady and inflexible perseverance the total discharge of the debt.
Besides the $7,000,000 of the loans of 1813 which will have been discharged in the course of the present year, there are $9,000,000 which by the terms of the contracts would have been and are now redeemable. $13,000,000 more of the loan of 1814 will become redeemable from and after the expiration of the present month, and $9,000,000 other from and after the close of the ensuing year. They constitute a mass of $31,000,000, all bearing an interest of 6%, more than $20,000,000 of which will be immediately redeemable, and the rest within little more than a year. Leaving of this amount $15,000,000 to continue at the interest of 6%, but to be paid off as far as shall be found practicable in the years 1827 and 1828, there is scarcely a doubt that the remaining $16,000,000 might within a few months be discharged by a loan at not exceeding 5%, redeemable in the years 1829 and 1830. By this operation a sum of nearly $500,000 may be saved to the nation, and the discharge of the whole $31,000,000 within the four years may be greatly facilitated if not wholly accomplished.
By an act of Congress of March 3d, 1825, a loan for the purpose now referred to, or a subscription to stock, was authorized, at an interest not exceeding 4.5%. But at that time so large a portion of the floating capital of the country was absorbed in commercial speculations and so little was left for investment in the stocks that the measure was but partially successful. At the last session of Congress the condition of the funds was still unpropitious to the measure; but the change so soon afterwards occurred that, had the authority existed to redeem the $9 millions now redeemable by an exchange of stocks or a loan at 5%, it is morally certain that it might have been effected, and with it a yearly saving of $90,000.
With regard to the collection of the revenue of imposts, certain occurrences have within the last year been disclosed in one or two of our principal ports, which engaged the attention of Congress at their last session and may hereafter require further consideration. Until within a very few years the execution of the laws for raising the revenue, like that of all our other laws, has been insured more by the moral sense of the community than by the rigors of a jealous precaution or by penal sanction. Confiding in the exemplary punctuality and unsullied integrity of our importing merchants, a gradual relaxation from the provisions of the collection laws, a close adherence to which have caused inconvenience and expense to them, had long become habitual, and indulgences had been extended universally because they had never been abused. It may be worthy of your serious consideration whether some further legislative provision may not be necessary to come in aid of this state of unguarded security.
From the reports herewith communicated of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy, with the subsidiary documents annexed to them, will be discovered the present condition and administration of our military establishment on the land and on the sea. The organization of the Army having undergone no change since its reduction to the present peace establishment in 1821, it remains only to observe that it is yet found adequate to all the purposes for which a permanent armed force in time of peace can be needed or useful. It may be proper to add that, from a difference of opinion between the late President of the United States and the Senate with regard to the construction of the act of Congress of March 2d, 1821, to reduce and fix the military peace establishment of the United States, it remains hitherto so far without execution that no colonel has been appointed to command one of the regiments of artillery. A supplementary or explanatory act of the Legislature appears to be the only expedient practicable for removing the difficulty of this appointment.
In a period of profound peace the conduct of the mere military establishment forms but a very inconsiderable portion of the duties devolving upon the administration of the Department of War. It will be seen by the returns from the subordinate departments of the Army that every branch of the service is marked with order, regularity, and discipline; that from the commanding general through all the gradations of superintendence the officers feel themselves to have been citizens before they were soldiers, and that the glory of a republican army must consist in the spirit of freedom, by which it is animated, and of patriotism, by which it is impelled. It may be confidently stated that the moral character of the Army is in a state of continual improvement, and that all the arrangements for the disposal of its parts have a constant reference to that end.
But to the War Department are attributed other duties, having, indeed, relation to a future possible condition of war, but being purely defensive, and in their tendency contributing rather to the security and permanency of peace--the erection of the fortifications provided for by Congress, and adapted to secure our shores from hostile invasion; the distribution of the fund of public gratitude and justice to the pensioners of the Revolutionary war; the maintenance of our relations of peace and protection with the Indian tribes, and the internal improvements and surveys for the location of roads and canals, which during the last three sessions of Congress have engaged so much of their attention, and may engross so large a share of their future benefactions to our country.
By the act of April 30th, 1824, suggested and approved by my predecessor, the sum of $30,000 was appropriated for the purpose of causing to be made the necessary surveys, plans, and estimates of the routes of such roads and canals as the President of the United States might deem of national importance in a commercial or military point of view, or necessary for the transportation of the public mail. The surveys, plans, and estimates for each, when completed, will be laid before Congress.
In execution of this act a board of engineers was immediately instituted, and have been since most assiduously and constantly occupied in carrying it into effect. The first object to which their labors were directed, by order of the late President, was the examination of the country between the tide waters of the Potomac, the Ohio, and Lake Erie, to ascertain the practicability of a communication between them, to designate the most suitable route for the same, and to form plans and estimates in detail of the expense of execution.
On March 2d, 1825, they made their first report, which was immediately communicated to Congress, and in which they declared that having maturely considered the circumstances observed by them personally, and carefully studied the results of such of the preliminary surveys as were then completed, they were decidedly of opinion that the communication was practicable.
At the last session of Congress, before the board of engineers were enabled to make up their second report containing a general plan and preparatory estimate for the work, the Committee of the House of Representatives upon Roads and Canals closed the session with a report expressing the hope that the plan and estimate of the board of engineers might at this time be prepared, and that the subject be referred to the early and favorable consideration of Congress at their present session. That expected report of the board of engineers is prepared, and will forthwith be laid before you.
Under the resolution of Congress authorizing the Secretary of War to have prepared a complete system of cavalry tactics, and a system of exercise and instruction of field artillery, for the use of the militia of the United States, to be reported to Congress at the present session, a board of distinguished officers of the Army and of the militia has been convened, whose report will be submitted to you with that of the Secretary of War. The occasion was thought favorable for consulting the same board, aided by the results of a correspondence with the governors of the several States and Territories and other citizens of intelligence and experience, upon the acknowledged defective condition of our militia system, and of the improvements of which it is susceptible. The report of the board upon this subject is also submitted for your consideration.
In the estimates of appropriations for the ensuing year upward of $5 millions will be submitted for the expenditures to be paid from the Department of War. Less than two fifths of this will be applicable to the maintenance and support of the Army. $1,500,000, in the form of pensions, goes as a scarcely adequate tribute to the services and sacrifices of a former age, and a more than equal sum invested in fortifications, or for the preparations of internal improvement, provides for the quiet, the comfort, and happier existence of the ages to come. The appropriations to indemnify those unfortunate remnants of another race unable alike to share in the enjoyments and to exist in the presence of civilization, though swelling in recent years to a magnitude burdensome to the Treasury, are generally not without their equivalents in profitable value, or serve to discharge the Union from engagements more burdensome than debt.
In like manner the estimate of appropriations for the Navy Department will present an aggregate sum of upward of $3,000,000. About half of these, however, covers the current expenditures of the Navy in actual service, and half constitutes a fund of national property, the pledge of our future glory and defense. It was scarcely one short year after the close of the late war, and when the burden of its expenses and charges was weighing heaviest upon the country, that Congress, by the act of April 29th, 1816, appropriated $1,000,000 annually for eight years to the gradual increase of the Navy. At a subsequent period this annual appropriation was reduced to $500,000 for six years, of which the present year is the last. A yet more recent appropriation the last two years, for building ten sloops of war, has nearly restored the original appropriation of 1816 of $1,000,000 for every year.
The result is before United States all. We have 12 line-of-battle ships, 20 frigates, and sloops of war in proportion, which, with a few months preparation, may present a line of floating fortifications along the whole range of our coast ready to meet any invader who might attempt to set foot upon our shores. Combining with a system of fortifications upon the shores themselves, commenced about the same time under the auspices of my immediate predecessor, and hitherto systematically pursued, it has placed in our possession the most effective sinews of war and has left us at once an example and a lesson from which our own duties may be inferred.
The gradual increase of the Navy was the principle of which the act of April 29th, 1816, was the first development. It was the introduction of a system to act upon the character and history of our country for an indefinite series of ages. It was a declaration of that Congress to their constituents and to posterity that it was the destiny and the duty of these confederated States to become in regular process of time and by no petty advances a great naval power. That which they proposed to accomplish in eight years is rather to be considered as the measure of their means that the limitation of their design. They looked forward for a term of years sufficient for the accomplishment of a definite portion of their purpose, and they left to their successors to fill up the canvas of which they had traced the large and prophetic outline. The ships of the line and frigates which they had in contemplation will be shortly completed. The time which they had allotted for the accomplishment of the work has more than elapsed. It remains for your consideration how their successors may contribute their portion of toil and of treasure for the benefit of the succeeding age in the gradual increase of our Navy.
There is perhaps no part of the exercise of the constitutional powers of the Federal Government which has given more general satisfaction to the people of the Union than this. The system has not been thus vigorously introduced and hitherto sustained to be now departed from or abandoned. In continuing to provide for the gradual increase of the Navy it may not be necessary or expedient to add for the present any more to the number of our ships; but should you deem it advisable to continue the yearly appropriation of $0.5 millions to the same objects, it may be profitably expended in a providing a supply of timber to be seasoned and other materials for future use in the construction of docks or in laying the foundations of a school for naval education, as to the wisdom of Congress either of those measures may appear to claim the preference.
Of the small portions of this Navy engaged in actual service during the peace, squadrons have continued to be maintained in the Pacific Ocean, in the West India seas, and in the Mediterranean, to which has been added a small armament to cruise on the eastern coast of South America. In all they have afforded protection to our commerce, have contributed to make our country advantageously known to foreign nations, have honorably employed multitudes of our sea men in the service of their country, and have inured numbers of youths of the rising generation to lives of manly hardihood and of nautical experience and skill.
The piracies with which the West India seas were for several years infested have been totally suppressed, but in the Mediterranean they have increased in a manner afflictive to other nations, and but for the continued presence of our squadron would probably have been distressing to our own.
The war which has unfortunately broken out between the Republic of Buenos Ayres and the Brazilian Government has given rise to very great irregularities among the naval officers of the latter, by whom principles in relation to blockades and to neutral navigation have been brought forward to which we can not subscribe and which our own commanders have found it necessary to resist. From the friendly disposition toward the United States constantly manifested by the Emperor of Brazil, and the very useful and friendly commercial intercourse between the United States and his dominions, we have reason to believe that the just reparation demanded for the injuries sustained by several of our citizens from some of his officers will not be withheld. Abstracts from the recent dispatches of the commanders of our several squadrons are communicated with the report of the Secretary of the Navy to Congress.
A report from the Post Master General is likewise communicated, presenting in a highly satisfactory manner the result of a vigorous, efficient, and economical administration of that Department. The revenue of the office, even of the year including the latter half of 1824 and the first half of 1825, had exceeded its expenditures by a sum of more than $45,000. That of the succeeding year has been still more productive. The increase of the receipts in the year preceding the first of July last over that of the year before exceeds $136,000, and the excess of the receipts over the expenditures of the year has swollen from $45,000 to yearly $80,000.
During the same period contracts for additional transportation of the mail in stages for about 260,000 miles have been made, and for 70,000 miles annually on horse back. 714 new post offices have been established within the year, and the increase of revenue within the last three years, as well as the augmentation of the transportation by mail, is more than equal to the whole amount of receipts and of mail conveyance at the commencement of the present century, when the seat of the General Government was removed to this place. When we reflect that the objects effected by the transportation of the mail are among the choicest comforts and enjoyments of social life, it is pleasing to observe that the dissemination of them to every corner of our country has out-stripped in their increase even the rapid march of our population.
By the treaties with France and Spain, respectively ceding Louisiana and the Floridas to the United States, provision was made for the security of land titles derived from the Governments of those nations. Some progress has been made under the authority of various acts of Congress in the ascertainment and establishment of those titles, but claims to a very large extent remain unadjusted. The public faith no less than the just rights of individuals and the interest of the community itself appears to require further provision for the speedy settlement of those claims, which I therefore recommend to the care and attention of the Legislature.
In conformity with the provisions of the act of May 20th, 1825, to provide for erecting a penitentiary in the District of Columbia, and for other purposes, three commissioners were appointed to select a site for the erection of a penitentiary for the District, and also a site in the county of Alexandria for a county jail, both of which objects have been effected. The building of the penitentiary has been commenced, and is in such a degree of forwardness as to promise that it will be completed before the meeting of the next Congress. This consideration points to the expediency of maturing at the present session a system for the regulation and government of the penitentiary, and of defining a system for the regulation and government of the penitentiary, and of defining the class of offenses which shall be punishable by confinement in this edifice.
In closing this communication I trust that it will not be deemed inappropriate to the occasion and purposes upon which we are here assembled to indulge a momentary retrospect, combining in a single glance the period of our origin as a national confederation with that of our present existence, at the precise interval of half a century from each other. Since your last meeting at this place the 50th anniversary of the day when our independence was declared has been celebrated throughout our land, and on that day, while every heart was bounding with joy and every voice was tuned to gratulation, amid the blessings of freedom and independence which the sires of a former age had handed down to their children, two of the principal actors in that solemn scene--the hand that penned the ever memorable Declaration and the voice that sustained it in debate--were by one summons, at the distance of 700 miles from each other, called before the Judge of All to account for their deeds done upon earth. They departed cheered by the benedictions of their country, to whom they left the inheritance of their fame and the memory of their bright example.
If we turn our thoughts to the condition of their country, in the contrast of the first and last day of that half century, how resplendent and sublime is the transition from gloom to glory! Then, glancing through the same lapse of time, in the condition of the individuals we see the first day marked with the fullness and vigor of youth, in the pledge of their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the cause of freedom and of man-kind; and on the last, extended on the bed of death, with but sense and sensibility left to breathe a last aspiration to Heaven of blessing upon their country, may we not humbly hope that to them too it was a pledge of transition from gloom to glory, and that while their mortal vestments were sinking into the clod of the valley their emancipated spirits were ascending to the bosom of their God!
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
State of the Union Address: December 4, 1827
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
A revolution of the seasons has nearly been completed since the representatives of the people and States of this Union were last assembled at this place to deliberate and to act upon the common important interests of their constituents. In that interval the never slumbering eye of a wise and beneficent Providence has continued its guardian care over the welfare of our beloved country; the blessing of health has continued generally to prevail throughout the land; the blessing of peace with our brethren of the human race has been enjoyed without interruption; internal quiet has left our fellow citizens in the full enjoyment of all their rights and in the free exercise of all their faculties, to pursue the impulse of their nature and the obligation of their duty in the improvement of their own condition; the productions of the soil, the exchanges of commerce, the vivifying labors of human industry, have combined to mingle in our cup a portion of enjoyment as large and liberal as the indulgence of Heaven has perhaps ever granted to the imperfect state of man upon earth; and as the purest of human felicity consists in its participation with others, it is no small addition to the sum of our national happiness at this time that peace and prosperity prevail to a degree seldom experienced over the whole habitable globe, presenting, though as yet with painful exceptions, a foretaste of that blessed period of promise when the lion shall lie down with the lamb and wars shall be no more.
To preserve, to improve, and to perpetuate the sources and to direct in their most effective channels the streams which contribute to the public weal is the purpose for which Government was instituted. Objects of deep importance to the welfare of the Union are constantly recurring to demand the attention of the Federal Legislature, and they call with accumulated interest at the first meeting of the two Houses after their periodical renovation. To present to their consideration from time to time subjects in which the interests of the nation are most deeply involved, and for the regulation of which the legislative will is alone competent, is a duty prescribed by the Constitution, to the performance of which the first meeting of the new Congress is a period eminently appropriate, and which it is now my purpose to discharge.
Our relations of friendship with the other nations of the earth, political and commercial, have been preserved unimpaired, and the opportunities to improve them have been cultivated with anxious and unremitting attention. A negotiation upon subjects of high and delicate interest with the Government of Great Britain has terminated in the adjustment of some of the questions at issue upon satisfactory terms and the postponement of others for future discussion and agreement.
The purposes of the convention concluded at St. Petersburg on July 12th, 1822, under the mediation of the late Emperor Alexander, have been carried into effect by a subsequent convention, concluded at London on November 13th, 1826, the ratifications of which were exchanged at that place on February 6th, 1827. A copy of the proclamations issued on March 19th, 1827, publishing this convention, is herewith communicated to Congress. The sum of $1,204,960, therein stipulated to be paid to the claimants of indemnity under the first article of the treaty of Ghent, has been duly received, and the commission instituted, conformably to the act of Congress of March 2d, 1827, for the distribution of the indemnity of the persons entitled to receive it are now in session and approaching the consummation of their labors. This final disposal of one of the most painful topics of collision between the United States and Great Britain not only affords an occasion of gratulation to ourselves, but has had the happiest effect in promoting a friendly disposition and in softening asperities upon other objects of discussion; nor ought it to pass without the tribute of a frank and cordial acknowledgment of the magnanimity with which an honorable nation, by the reparation of their own wrongs, achieves a triumph more glorious than any field of blood can ever bestow.
The conventions of March 7th, 1815, and of October 20th, 1818, will expire by their own limitation on October 20th, 1828. These have regulated the direct commercial intercourse between the United States and Great Britain upon terms of the most perfect reciprocity; and they effected a temporary compromise of the respective rights and claims to territory westward of the Rocky Mountains. These arrangements have been continued for an indefinite period of time after the expiration of the above mentioned conventions, leaving each party the liberty of terminating them by giving twelve months' notice to the other.
The radical principle of all commercial intercourse between independent nations is the mutual interest of both parties. It is the vital spirit of trade itself; nor can it be reconciled to the nature of man or to the primary laws of human society that any traffic should long be willingly pursued of which all the advantages are on one side and all the burdens on the other. Treaties of commerce have been found by experience to be among the most effective instruments for promoting peace and harmony between nations whose interests, exclusively considered on either side, are brought into frequent collisions by competition. In framing such treaties it is the duty of each party not simply to urge with unyielding pertinacity that which suits its own interest, but to concede liberally to that which is adapted to the interest of the other.
To accomplish this, little more is generally required than a simple observance of the rule of reciprocity, and were it possible for the states-men of one nation by stratagem and management to obtain from the weakness or ignorance of another an over-reaching treaty, such a compact would prove an incentive to war rather than a bond of peace.
Our conventions with Great Britain are founded upon the principles of reciprocity. The commercial intercourse between the two countries is greater in magnitude and amount than between any two other nations on the globe. It is for all purposes of benefit or advantage to both as precious, and in all probability far more extensive, than if the parties were still constituent parts of one and the same nation. Treaties between such States, regulating the intercourse of peace between them and adjusting interests of such transcendent importance to both, which have been found in a long experience of years mutually advantageous, should not be lightly cancelled or discontinued. Two conventions for continuing in force those above mentioned have been concluded between the plenipotentiaries of the two Governments on August 6th, 1827, and will be forthwith laid before the Senate for the exercise of their constitutional authority concerning them.
In the execution of the treaties of peace of November, 1782 and September, 1783, between the United States and Great Britain, and which terminated the war of our independence, a line of boundary was drawn as the demarcation of territory between the two countries, extending over nearly 20 degrees of latitude, and ranging over seas, lakes, and mountains, then very imperfectly explored and scarcely opened to the geographical knowledge of the age. In the progress of discovery and settlement by both parties since that time several questions of boundary between their respective territories have arisen, which have been found of exceedingly difficult adjustment.
At the close of the last war with Great Britain four of these questions pressed themselves upon the consideration of the negotiators of the treaty of Ghent, but without the means of concluding a definitive arrangement concerning them. They were referred to three separate commissions consisting, of two commissioners, one appointed by each party, to examine and decide upon their respective claims. In the event of a disagreement between the commissioners, one appointed by each party, to examine and decide upon their respective claims. In the event of a disagreement between the commissioners it was provided that they should make reports to their several Governments, and that the reports should finally be referred to the decision of a sovereign the common friend of both.
Of these commissions two have already terminated their sessions and investigations, one by entire and the other by partial agreement. The commissioners of the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent have finally disagreed, and made their conflicting reports to their own Governments. But from these reports a great difficulty has occurred in making up a question to be decided by the arbitrator. This purpose has, however, been effected by a 4th convention, concluded at London by the plenipotentiaries of the two Governments on September 29th, 1827. It will be submitted, together with the others, to the consideration of the Senate.
While these questions have been pending incidents have occurred of conflicting pretensions and of dangerous character upon the territory itself in dispute between the two nations. By a common understanding between the Governments it was agreed that no exercise of exclusive jurisdiction by either party while the negotiation was pending should change the state of the question of right to be definitively settled. Such collision has, never the less, recently taken place by occurrences the precise character of which has not yet been ascertained. A communication from the governor of the State of Maine, with accompanying documents, and a correspondence between the Secretary of State and the minister of Great Britain on this subject are now communicated. Measures have been taken to ascertain the state of the facts more correctly by the employment of a special agent to visit the spot where the alleged outrages have occurred, the result of those inquiries, when received, will be transmitted to Congress.
While so many of the subjects of high interest to the friendly relations between the two countries have been so far adjusted, it is a matter of regret that their views respecting the commercial intercourse between the United States and the British colonial possessions have not equally approximated to a friendly agreement.
At the commencement of the last session of Congress they were informed of the sudden and unexpected exclusion by the British Government of access in vessels of the United States to all their colonial ports except those immediately bordering upon our own territories. In the amicable discussions which have succeeded the adoption of this measure which, as it affected harshly the interests of the United States, became subject of expostulation on our part, the principles upon which its justification has been placed have been of a diversified character. It has been at once ascribed to a mere recurrence to the old, long established principle of colonial monopoly and at the same time to a feeling of resentment because the offers of an act of Parliament opening the colonial ports upon certain conditions had not been grasped at with sufficient eagerness by an instantaneous conformity to them.
At a subsequent period it has been intimated that the new exclusion was in resentment because a prior act of Parliament, of 1822, opening certain colonial ports, under heavy and burdensome restrictions, to vessels of the United States, had not been reciprocated by an admission of British vessels from the colonies, and their cargoes, without any restriction or discrimination what ever. But be the motive for the interdiction what it may, the British Government have manifested no disposition, either by negotiation or by corresponding legislative enactments, to recede from it, and we have been given distinctly to understand that neither of the bills which were under the consideration of Congress at their last session would have been deemed sufficient in their concessions to have been rewarded by any relaxation from the British interdict. It is one of the inconveniences inseparably connected with the attempt to adjust by reciprocal legislation interests of this nature that neither party can know what would be satisfactory to the other, and that after enacting a statute for the avowed and sincere purpose of conciliation it will generally be found utterly inadequate to the expectation of the other party, and will terminate in mutual disappointment.
The session of Congress having terminated without any act upon the subject, a proclamation was issued on March 17, 1827, conformably to the provisions of the 6th section of the act of March 3rd, 1823 declaring the fact that the trade and intercourse authorized by the British act of Parliament of June 24th, 1822, between the United States and the British enumerated colonial ports had been by the subsequent acts of Parliament of July 5th, 1825, and the order of council of July 27th, 1826 prohibited. The effect of this proclamation, by the terms of the act under which it was issued, has been that each and every provision of the act concerning navigation of April 18th, 1818, and of the act supplementary thereto of May 15th, 1820, revived and is in full force.
Such, then is the present condition of the trade that, useful as it is to both parties it can, with a single momentary exception, be carried on directly by the vessels of neither. That exception itself is found in a proclamation of the governor of the island of St. Christopher and of the Virgin Islands, inviting for three months from August 28th, 1827 the importation of the articles of the produce of the United States which constitute their export portion of this trade in the vessels of all nations.
That period having already expired, the state of mutual interdiction has again taken place. The British Government have not only declined negotiation upon this subject, but by the principle they have assumed with reference to it have precluded even the means of negotiation. It becomes not the self respect of the United States either to solicit gratuitous favors or to accept as the grant of a favor that for which an ample equivalent is exacted. It remains to be determined by the respective Governments whether the trade shall be opened by acts of reciprocal legislation. It is, in the mean time, satisfactory to know that apart from the inconvenience resulting from a disturbance of the usual channels of trade no loss has been sustained by the commerce, the navigation, or the revenue of the United States, and none of magnitude is to be apprehended from this existing state of mutual interdict.
With the other maritime and commercial nations of Europe our intercourse continues with little variation. Since the cessation by the convention of June 24th, 1822, of all discriminating duties upon the vessels of the United States and of France in either country our trade with that nation has increased and is increasing. A disposition on the part of France has been manifested to renew that negotiation, and in acceding to the proposal we have expressed the wish that it might be extended to other subjects upon which a good understanding between the parties would be beneficial to the interests of both.
The origin of the political relations between the United States and France is coeval with the first years of our independence. The memory of it is interwoven with that of our arduous struggle for national existence. Weakened as it has occasionally been since that time, it can by us never be forgotten, and we should hail with exultation the moment which should indicate a recollection equally friendly in spirit on the part of France.
A fresh effort has recently been made by the minister of the United States residing at Paris to obtain a consideration of the just claims of citizens of the United States to the reparation of wrongs long since committed, many of them frankly acknowledged and all of them entitled upon every principle of justice to a candid examination. The proposal last made to the French Government has been to refer the subject which has formed an obstacle to this consideration to the determination of a sovereign the common friend of both. To this offer no definitive answer has yet been received, but the gallant and honorable spirit which has at all times been the pride and glory of France will not ultimately permit the demands of innocent sufferers to be extinguished in the mere consciousness of the power to reject them.
A new treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce has been concluded with the Kingdom of Sweden, which will be submitted to the Senate for their advice with regard to its ratification. At a more recent date a minister plenipotentiary from the Hanseatic Republics of Hamburg, Lubeck, and Bremen has been received, charged with a special mission for the negotiation of a treaty of amity and commerce between that ancient and renowned league and the United States. This negotiation has accordingly been commenced, and is now in progress, the result of which will, if successful, be also submitted to the Senate for their consideration.
Since the accession of the Emperor Nicholas to the imperial throne of all the Russias the friendly dispositions toward the United States so constantly manifested by his predecessor have continued unabated, and have been recently testified by the appointment of a minister plenipotentiary to reside at this place. From the interest taken by this Sovereign in behalf of the suffering Greeks and from the spirit with which others of the great European powers are cooperating with him the friends of freedom and of humanity may indulge the hope that they will obtain relief from that most unequal of conflicts which they have so long and so gallantly sustained; that they will enjoy the blessing of self government, which by their sufferings in the cause of liberty they have richly earned, and that their independence will be secured by those liberal institutions of which their country furnished the earliest examples in the history of man-kind, and which have consecrated to immortal remembrance the very soil for which they are now again profusely pouring forth their blood. The sympathies which the people and Government of the United States have so warmly indulged with their cause have been acknowledged by their Government in a letter of thanks, which I have received from their illustrious President, a translation of which is now communicated to Congress, the representatives of that nation to whom this tribute of gratitude was intended to be paid, and to whom it was justly due.
In the American hemisphere the cause of freedom and independence has continued to prevail, and if signalized by none of those splendid triumphs which had crowned with glory some of the preceding years it has only been from the banishment of all external force against which the struggle had been maintained. The shout of victory has been superseded by the expulsion of the enemy over whom it could have been achieved.
Our friendly wishes and cordial good will, which have constantly followed the southern nations of America in all the vicissitudes of their war of independence, are succeeded by a solicitude equally ardent and cordial that by the wisdom and purity of their institutions they may secure to themselves the choicest blessings of social order and the best rewards of virtuous liberty. Disclaiming alike all right and all intention of interfering in those concerns which it is the prerogative of their independence to regulate as to them shall seem fit, we hail with joy every indication of their prosperity, of their harmony, of their persevering and inflexible homage to those principles of freedom and of equal rights which are alone suited to the genius and temper of the American nations.
It has been, therefore, with some concern that we have observed indications of intestine divisions in some of the Republics of the south, and appearances of less union with one another than we believe to be the interest of all. Among the results of this state of things has been that the treaties concluded at Panama do not appear to have been ratified by the contracting parties, and that the meeting of the congress at Tacubaya has been indefinitely postponed. In accepting the invitations to be represented at this congress, while a manifestation was intended on the part of the United States of the most friendly disposition toward the southern Republics by whom it had been proposed, it was hoped that it would furnish an opportunity for bringing all the nations of this hemisphere to the common acknowledgment and adoption of the principles in the regulation of their internal relations which would have secured a lasting peace and harmony between them and have promoted the cause of mutual benevolence throughout the globe. But as obstacles appear to have arisen to the reassembling of the congress, one of the two ministers commissioned on the part of the United States has returned to the bosom of his country, while the minister charged with the ordinary mission to Mexico remains authorized to attend the conferences of the congress when ever they may be resumed.
A hope was for a short time entertained that a treaty of peace actually signed between the Government of Buenos Ayres and of Brazil would supersede all further occasion for those collisions between belligerent pretensions and neutral rights which are so commonly the result of maritime war, and which have unfortunately disturbed the harmony of the relations between the United States and the Brazilian Governments. At their last session Congress were informed that some of the naval officers of that Empire had advanced and practiced upon principles in relation to blockades and to neutral navigation which we could not sanction, and which our commanders found it necessary to resist. It appears that they have not been sustained by the Government of Brazil itself. Some of the vessels captured under the assumed authority of these erroneous principles have been restored, and we trust that our just expectations will be realized that adequate indemnity will be made to all the citizens of the United States who have suffered by the unwarranted captures which the Brazilian tribunals themselves have pronounced unlawful.
In the diplomatic discussions at Rio de Janeiro of these wrongs sustained by citizens of the United States and of others which seemed as if emanating immediately from that Government itself the charge d'affaires of the United States, under an impression that his representations in behalf of the rights and interests of his country- men were totally disregarded and useless, deemed it his duty, without waiting for instructions, to terminate his official functions, to demand his pass-ports, and return to the United States. This movement, dictated by an honest zeal for the honor and interests of his country-- motives which operated exclusively on the mind of the officer who resorted to it--has not been disapproved by me.
The Brazilian Government, however, complained of it as a measure for which no adequate intentional cause had been given by them, and upon an explicit assurance through their charge d'affaires residing here that a successor to the late representative of the United States near that Government, the appointment of whom they desired, should be received and treated with the respect due to his character, and that indemnity should be promptly made for all injuries inflicted on citizens of the United States or their property contrary to the laws of nations, a temporary commission as charge d'affaires to that country has been issued, which it is hopes will entirely restore the ordinary diplomatic intercourse between the two Governments and the friendly relations between their respective nations.
Turning from the momentous concerns of our Union in its intercourse with foreign nations to those of the deepest interest in the administration of our internal affairs, we find the revenues of the present year corresponding as nearly as might be expected with the anticipations of the last, and presenting an aspect still more favorable in the promise of the next.
The balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1827 was $6,358,686.18. The receipts from that day to September 30th, 1827, as near as the returns of them yet received can show, amount to $16,886,581.32. The receipts of the present quarter, estimated at $4,515,000, added to the above form an aggregate of $21,400,000 of receipts.
The expenditures of the year may perhaps amount to $22,300,000 presenting a small excess over the receipts. But of these $22,000,000, upward of $6,000,000 have been applied to the discharge of the principal of the public debt, the whole amount of which, approaching $74,000,000 on January 1st, 1827, will on January 1st, 1828 fall short of $67,500,000. The balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1828 it is expected will exceed $5,450,000, a sum exceeding that of January 1st, 1825, though falling short of that exhibited on January 1st, 1827.
It was foreseen that the revenue of the present year 1827 would not equal that of the last, which had itself been less than that of the next preceding year. But the hope has been realized which was entertained, that these deficiencies would in no wise interrupt the steady operation of the discharge of the public debt by the annual $10,000,000 devoted to that object by the act of March 3d, 1817.
The amount of duties secured on merchandise imported from the commencement of the year until September 30th, 1827 is $21,226,000, and the probably amount of that which will be secured during the remainder of the year is $5,774,000, forming a sum total of $27,000,000. With the allowances for draw-backs and contingent deficiencies which may occur, though not specifically foreseen, we may safely estimate the receipts of the ensuing year at $22,300,000--a revenue for the next equal to the expenditure of the present year.
The deep solicitude felt by our citizens of all classes throughout the Union for the total discharge of the public debt will apologize for the earnestness with which I deem it my duty to urge this topic upon the consideration of Congress--of recommending to them again the observance of the strictest economy in the application of the public funds. The depression upon the receipts of the revenue which had commenced with the year 1826 continued with increased severity during the two first quarters of the present year.
The returning tide began to flow with the third quarter, and, so far as we can judge from experience, may be expected to continue through the course of the ensuing year. In the mean time an alleviation from the burden of the public debt will in the three years have been effected to the amount of nearly $16,000,000, and the charge of annual interest will have been reduced upward of $1,000,000. But among the maxims of political economy which the stewards of the public moneys should never suffer without urgent necessity to be transcended is that of keeping the expenditures of the year within the limits of its receipts.
The appropriations of the two last years, including the yearly $10,000,000 of the sinking fund, have each equaled the promised revenue of the ensuing year. While we foresee with confidence that the public coffers will be replenished from the receipts as fast as they will be drained by the expenditures, equal in amount to those of the current year, it should not be forgotten that they could ill suffer the exhaustion of larger disbursements.
The condition of the Army and of all the branches of the public service under the superintendence of the Secretary of War will be seen by the report from that officer and the documents with which it is accompanied.
During the last summer a detachment of the Army has been usefully and successfully called to perform their appropriate duties. At the moment when the commissioners appointed for carrying into execution certain provisions of the treaty of August 19th, 1825, with various tribes of the North Western Indians were about to arrive at the appointed place of meeting the unprovoked murder of several citizens and other acts of unequivocal hostility committed by a party of the Winnebago tribe, one of those associated in the treaty, followed by indications of a menacing character among other tribes of the same region, rendered necessary an immediate display of the defensive and protective force of the Union in that quarter.
It was accordingly exhibited by the immediate and concerted movements of the governors of the State of Illinois and of the Territory of Michigan, and competent levies of militia, under their authority, with a corps of 700 men of United States troops, under the command of General Atkinson, who, at the call of Governor Cass, immediately repaired to the scene of danger from their station at St. Louis. Their presence dispelled the alarms of our fellow citizens on those disorders, and overawed the hostile purposes of the Indians. The perpetrators of the murders were surrendered to the authority and operation of our laws, and every appearance of purposed hostility from those Indian tribes has subsided.
Although the present organization of the Army and the administration of its various branches of service are, upon the whole, satisfactory, they are yet susceptible of much improvement in particulars, some of which have been heretofore submitted to the consideration of Congress, and others are now first presented in the report of the Secretary of War.
The expediency of providing for additional numbers of officers in the two corps of engineers will in some degree depend upon the number and extent of the objects of national importance upon which Congress may think it proper that surveys should be made conformably to the act of April 30th, 1824. Of the surveys which before the last session of Congress had been made under the authority of that act, reports were made--Of the Board of Internal Improvement, on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. On the continuation of the national road from Cumberland to the tide waters within the District of Columbia. On the continuation of the national road from Canton to Zanesville. On the location of the national road from Zanesville to Columbus. On the continuation of the same to the seat of government in Missouri. On a post road from Baltimore to Philadelphia. Of a survey of Kennebec River (in part). On a national road from Washington to Buffalo. On the survey of Saugatuck Harbor and River. On a canal from Lake Pont Chartrain to the Mississippi River. On surveys at Edgartown, Newburyport, and Hyannis Harbor. On survey of La Plaisance Bay, in the Territory of Michigan. And reports are now prepared and will be submitted to Congress--On surveys of the peninsula of Florida, to ascertain the practicability of a canal to connect the waters of the Atlantic with the Gulf of Mexico across that peninsula; and also of the country between the bays of Mobile and of Pensacola, with the view of connecting them together by a canal. On surveys of a route for a canal to connect the waters of James and Great Kenhawa rivers. On the survey of the Swash, in Pamlico Sound, and that of Cape Fear, below the town of Wilmington, in North Carolina. On the survey of the Muscle Shoals, in the Tennessee River, and for a route for a contemplated communication between the Hiwassee and Coosa rivers, in the State of Alabama. Other reports of surveys upon objects pointed out by the several acts of Congress of the last and preceding sessions are in the progress of preparation, and most of them may be completed before the close of this session. All the officers of both corps of engineers, with several other persons duly qualified, have been constantly employed upon these services from the passage of the act of April 30th, 1824, to this time.
Were no other advantage to accrue to the country from their labors than the fund of topographical knowledge which they have collected and communicated, that alone would have been a profit to the Union more than adequate to all the expenditures which have been devoted to the object; but the appropriations for the repair and continuation of the Cumberland road, for the construction of various other roads, for the removal of obstructions from the rivers and harbors, for the erection of light houses, beacons, piers, and buoys, and for the completion of canals undertaken by individual associations, but needing the assistance of means and resources more comprehensive than individual enterprise can command, may be considered rather as treasures laid up from the contributions of the present age for the benefit of posterity than as unrequited applications of the accruing revenues of the nation.
To such objects of permanent improvement to the condition of the country, of real addition to the wealth as well as to the comfort of the people by whose authority and resources they have been effected, from $3,000,000 to $4,000,000 of the annual income of the nation have, by laws enacted at the three most recent sessions of Congress, been applied, without intrenching upon the necessities of the Treasury, without adding a dollar to the taxes or debts of the community, without suspending even the steady and regular discharge of the debts contracted in former days, which within the same three years have been diminished by the amount of nearly $16,000,000.
The same observations are in a great degree applicable to the appropriations made for fortifications upon the coasts and harbors of the United States, for the maintenance of the Military Academy at West Point, and for the various objects under the superintendence of the Department of the Navy. The report from the Secretary of the Navy and those from the subordinate branches of both the military departments exhibit to Congress in minute detail the present condition of the public establishments dependent upon them, the execution of the acts of Congress relating to them, and the views of the officers engaged in the several branches of the service concerning the improvements which may tend to their perfection.
The fortification of the coasts and the gradual increase and improvement of the Navy are parts of a great system of national defense which has been upward of ten years in progress, and which for a series of years to come will continue to claim the constant and persevering protection and superintendence of the legislative authority. Among the measures which have emanated from these principles the act of the last session of Congress for the gradual improvement of the Navy holds a conspicuous place. The collection of timber for the future construction of vessels of war, the preservation and reproduction of the species of timber peculiarly adapted to that purpose, the construction of dry docks for the use of the Navy, the erection of a marine railway for the repair of the public ships, and the improvement of the navy yards for the preservation of the public property deposited in them have all received from the Executive the attention required by that act, and will continue to receive it, steadily proceeding toward the execution of all its purposes.
The establishment of a naval academy, furnishing the means of theoretic instruction to the youths who devote their lives to the service of their country upon the ocean, still solicits the sanction of the Legislature. Practical seamanship and the art of navigation may be acquired on the cruises of the squadrons which from time to time are dispatched to distant seas, but a competent knowledge even of the art of ship building, the higher mathematics, and astronomy; the literature which can place our officers on a level of polished education with the officers of other maritime nations; the knowledge of the laws, municipal and national, which in their intercourse with foreign states and their governments are continually called into operation, and, above all, that acquaintance with the principles of honor and justice, with the higher obligations of morals and of general laws, human and divine, which constitutes the great distinction between the warrior-patriot and the licensed robber and pirate--these can be systematically taught and eminently acquired only in a permanent school, stationed upon the shore and provided with the teachers, the instruments, and the books conversant with and adapted to the communication of the principles of these respective sciences to the youthful and inquiring mind.
The report from the Post Master General exhibits the condition of that Department as highly satisfactory for the present and still more promising for the future. Its receipts for the year ending July 1st, 1827 amounted to $1,473,551, and exceeded its expenditures by upward of $100,000. It can not be an over sanguine estimate to predict that in less than ten years, of which half have elapsed, the receipts will have been more than doubled.
In the mean time a reduced expenditure upon established routes has kept pace with increased facilities of public accommodation and additional services have been obtained at reduced rates of compensation. Within the last year the transportation of the mail in stages has been greatly augmented. The number of post offices has been increased to 7,000, and it may be anticipated that while the facilities of intercourse between fellow citizens in person or by correspondence will soon be carried to the door of every villager in the Union, a yearly surplus of revenue will accrue which may be applied as the wisdom of Congress under the exercise of their constitutional powers may devise for the further establishment and improvement of the public roads, or by adding still further to the facilities in the transportation of the mails. Of the indications of the prosperous condition of our country, none can be more pleasing than those presented by the multiplying relations of personal and intimate intercourse between the citizens of the Union dwelling at the remotest distances from each other.
Among the subjects which have heretofore occupied the earnest solicitude and attention of Congress is the management and disposal of that portion of the property of the nation which consists of the public lands. The acquisition of them, made at the expense of the whole Union, not only in treasury but in blood, marks a right of property in them equally extensive. By the report and statements from the General Land Office now communicated it appears that under the present Government of the United States a sum little short of $33,000,000 has been paid from the common Treasury for that portion of this property which has been purchased from France and Spain, and for the extinction of the aboriginal titles. The amount of lands acquired is near 260,000,000 acres, of which on January 1st, 1826, about 139,000,000 acres had been surveyed, and little more than 19,000,000 acres had been sold. The amount paid into the Treasury by the purchasers of the public lands sold is not yet equal to the sums paid for the whole, but leaves a small balance to be refunded. The proceeds of the sales of the lands have long been pledged to the creditors of the nation, a pledge from which we have reason to hope that they will in a very few years be redeemed.
The system upon which this great national interest has been managed was the result of long, anxious, and persevering deliberation. Matured and modified by the progress of our population and the lessons of experience, it has been hitherto eminently successful. More than nine tenths of the lands still remain the common property of the Union, the appropriation and disposal of which are sacred trusts in the hands of Congress.
Of the lands sold, a considerable part were conveyed under extended credits, which in the vicissitudes and fluctuations in the value of lands and of their produce became oppressively burdensome to the purchasers. It can never be the interest or the policy of the nation to wring from its own citizens the reasonable profits of their industry and enterprise by holding them to the rigorous import of disastrous engagements. In March, 1821, a debt of $22,000,000, due by purchasers of the public lands, had accumulated, which they were unable to pay. An act of Congress of March 2nd, 1821, came to their relief, and has been succeeded by others, the latest being the act of May 4th, 1826, the indulgent provisions of which expired on July 4th, 1827. The effect of these laws has been to reduce the debt from the purchasers to a remaining balance of about $4,300,000 due, more than three fifths of which are for lands within the State of Alabama. I recommend to Congress the revival and continuance for a further term of the beneficent accommodations to the public debtors of that statute, and submit to their consideration, in the same spirit of equity, the remission, under proper discriminations, of the forfeitures of partial payments on account of purchases of the public lands, so far as to allow of their application to other payments.
There are various other subjects of deep interest to the whole Union which have heretofore been recommended to the consideration of Congress, as well by my predecessors as, under the impression of the duties devolving upon me, by myself. Among these are the debt, rather of justice than gratitude, to the surviving warriors of the Revolutionary war; the extension of the judicial administration of the Federal Government to those extensive since the organization of the present judiciary establishment, now constitute at least one third of its territory, power, and population; the formation of a more effective and uniform system for the government of the militia, and the amelioration in some form or modification of the diversified and often oppressive codes relating to insolvency. Amidst the multiplicity of topics of great national concernment which may recommend themselves to the calm and patriotic deliberations of the Legislature, it may suffice to say that on these and all other measures which may receive their sanction my hearty cooperation will be given, conformably to the duties enjoined upon me and under the sense of all the obligations prescribed by the Constitution.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS
State of the Union Address: December 2, 1828
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
If the enjoyment in profusion of the bounties of Providence forms a suitable subject of mutual gratulation and grateful acknowledgment, we are admonished at this return of the season when the representatives of the nation are assembled to deliberate upon their concerns to offer up the tribute of fervent and grateful hearts for the never failing mercies of Him who ruleth over all. He has again favored us with healthful seasons and abundant harvests; He has sustained us in peace with foreign countries and in tranquillity within our borders; He has preserved us in the quiet and undisturbed possession of civil and religious liberty; He has crowned the year with His goodness, imposing on us no other condition than of improving for our own happiness the blessings bestowed by His hands, and, in the fruition of all His favors, of devoting his faculties with which we have been endowed by Him to His glory and to our own temporal and eternal welfare.
In the relations of our Federal Union with our brethren of the human race the changes which have occurred since the close of your last session have generally tended to the preservation of peace and to the cultivation of harmony. Before your last separation a war had unhappily been kindled between the Empire of Russia, one of those with which our intercourse has been no other than a constant exchange of good offices, and that of the Ottoman Porte, a nation from which geographical distance, religious opinions and maxims of government on their part little suited to the formation of those bonds of mutual benevolence which result from the benefits of commerce had department us in a state, perhaps too much prolonged, of coldness and alienation.
The extensive, fertile, and populous dominions of the Sultan belong rather to the Asiatic than the European division of the human family. They enter but partially into the system of Europe, nor have their wars with Russia and Austria, the European States upon which they border, for more than a century past disturbed the pacific relations of those States with the other great powers of Europe. Neither France nor Prussia nor Great Britain has ever taken part in them, nor is it to be expected that they will at this time. The declaration of war by Russia has received the approbation or acquiescence of her allies, and we may indulge the hope that its progress and termination will be signalized by the moderation and forbearance no less than by the energy of the Emperor Nicholas, and that it will afford the opportunity for such collateral agency in behalf of the suffering Greeks as will secure to them ultimately the triumph of humanity and of freedom.
The state of our particular relations with France has scarcely varied in the course of the present year. The commercial intercourse between the two countries has continued to increase for the mutual benefit of both. The claims of indemnity to numbers of our fellow citizens for depredations upon their property, heretofore committed during the revolutionary governments, remain unadjusted, and still form the subject of earnest representation and remonstrance. Recent advices from the minister of the United States at Paris encourage the expectation that the appeal to the justice of the French Government will ere long receive a favorable consideration.
The last friendly expedient has been resorted to for the decision of the controversy with Great Britain relating to the north-eastern boundary of the United States. By an agreement with the British Government, carrying into effect the provisions of the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent, and the convention of September 29th, 1827, His Majesty the King of the Netherlands has by common consent been selected as the umpire between the parties. The proposal to him to accept the designation for the performance of this friendly office will be made at an early day, and the United States, relying upon the justice of their cause, will cheerfully commit the arbitrament of it to a prince equally distinguished for the independence of his spirit, his indefatigable assiduity to the duties of his station, and his inflexible personal probity.
Our commercial relations with Great Britain will deserve the serious consideration of Congress and the exercise of a conciliatory and forbearing spirit in the policy of both Governments. The state of them has been materially changed by the act of Congress, passed at their last session, in alteration of several acts imposing duties on imports, and by acts of more recent date of the British Parliament. The effect of the interdiction of direct trade, commenced by Great Britain and reciprocated by the United States, has been, as was to be foreseen, only to substitute different channels for an exchange of commodities indispensable to the colonies and profitable to a numerous class of our fellow citizens. The exports, the revenue, the navigation of the United States have suffered no diminution by our exclusion from direct access to the British colonies. The colonies pay more dearly for the necessaries of life which their Government burdens with the charges of double voyages, freight, insurance, and commission, and the profits of our exports are somewhat impaired and more injuriously transferred from one portion of our citizens to another.
The resumption of this old and otherwise exploded system of colonial exclusion has not secured to the shipping interest of Great Britain the relief which, at the expense of the distant colonies and of the United States, it was expected to afford. Other measures have been resorted to more pointedly bearing upon the navigation of the United States, and more pointedly bearing upon the navigation of the United States, and which, unless modified by the construction given to the recent acts of Parliament, will be manifestly incompatible with the positive stipulations of the commercial convention existing between the two countries. That convention, however, may be terminated with 12 months' notice, at the option of either party.
A treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce between the United States and His Majesty the Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary and Bohemia, has been prepared for signature by the Secretary of State and by the Baron de Lederer, intrusted with full powers of the Austrian Government. Independently of the new and friendly relations which may be thus commenced with one of the most eminent and powerful nations of the earth, the occasion has been taken in it, as in other recent treaties concluded by the United States, to extend those principles of liberal intercourse and of fair reciprocity which intertwine with the exchanges of commerce the principles of justice and the feelings of mutual benevolence.
This system, first proclaimed to the world in the first commercial treaty ever concluded by the United States--that of February 6th, 1778, with France--has been invariably the cherished policy of our Union. It is by treaties of commerce alone that it can be made ultimately to prevail as the established system of all civilized nations. With this principle our fathers extended the hand of friendship to every nation of the globe, and to this policy our country has ever since adhered. What ever of regulation in our laws has ever been adopted unfavorable to the interest of any foreign nation has been essentially defensive and counteracting to similar regulations of theirs operating against us.
Immediately after the close of the War of Independence commissioners were appointed by the Congress of the Confederation authorized to conclude treaties with every nation of Europe disposed to adopt them. Before the wars of the French Revolution such treaties had been consummated with the United Netherlands, Sweden, and Prussia. During those wars treaties with Great Britain and Spain had been effected, and those with Prussia and France renewed. In all these some concessions to the liberal principles of intercourse proposed by the United States had been obtained; but as in all the negotiations they came occasionally in collision with previous internal regulations or exclusive and excluding compacts of monopoly with which the other parties had been trammeled, the advances made in them toward the freedom of trade were partial and imperfect. Colonial establishments, chartered companies, and ship building influence pervaded and encumbered the legislation of all the great commercial states; and the United States, in offering free trade and equal privilege to all, were compelled to acquiesce in many exceptions with each of the parties to their treaties, accommodated to their existing laws and anterior agreements.
The colonial system by which this whole hemisphere was bound has fallen into ruins, totally abolished by revolutions converting colonies into independent nations throughout the two American continents, excepting a portion of territory chiefly at the northern extremity of our own, and confined to the remnants of dominion retained by Great Britain over the insular archipelago, geographically the appendages of our part of the globe. With all the rest we have free trade, even with the insular colonies of all the European nations, except Great Britain. Her Government also had manifested approaches to the adoption of a free and liberal intercourse between her colonies and other nations, though by a sudden and scarcely explained revulsion the spirit of exclusion has been revived for operation upon the United States alone.
The conclusion of our last treaty of peace with Great Britain was shortly afterwards followed by a commercial convention, placing the direct intercourse between the two countries upon a footing of more equal reciprocity than had ever before been admitted. The same principle has since been much further extended by treaties with France, Sweden, Denmark, the Hanseatic cities, Prussia, in Europe, and with the Republics of Colombia and of Central America, in this hemisphere. The mutual abolition of discriminating duties and charges upon the navigation and commercial intercourse between the parties is the general maxim which characterizes them all. There is reason to expect that it will at no distant period be adopted by other nations, both of Europe and America, and to hope that by its universal prevalence one of the fruitful sources of wars of commercial competition will be extinguished.
Among the nations upon whose Governments many of our fellow citizens have had long-pending claims of indemnity for depredations upon their property during a period when the rights of neutral commerce were disregarded was that of Denmark. They were soon after the events occurred the subject of a special mission from the United States, at the close of which the assurance was given by His Danish Majesty that at a period of more tranquillity and of less distress they would be considered, examined, and decided upon in a spirit of determined purpose for the dispensation of justice. I have much pleasure in informing Congress that the fulfillment of this honorable promise is now in progress; that a small portion of the claims has already been settled to the satisfaction of the claimants, and that we have reason to hope that the remainder will shortly be placed in a train of equitable adjustment. This result has always been confidently expected, from the character of personal integrity and of benevolence which the Sovereign of the Danish dominions has through every vicissitude of fortune maintained.
The general aspect of the affairs of our neighboring American nations of the south has been rather of approaching than of settled tranquillity. Internal disturbances have been more frequent among them than their common friends would have desired. Our intercourse with all has continued to be that of friendship and of mutual good will. Treaties of commerce and of boundaries with the United Mexican States have been negotiated, but, from various successive obstacles, not yet brought to a final conclusion.
The civil war which unfortunately still prevails in the Republics of Central America has been unpropitious to the cultivation of our commercial relations with them; and the dissensions and revolutionary changes in the Republics of Colombia and of Peru have been seen with cordial regret by us, who would gladly contribute to the happiness of both. It is with great satisfaction, however, that we have witnessed the recent conclusion of a peace between the Governments of Buenos Ayres and of Brazil, and it is equally gratifying to observe that indemnity has been obtained for some of the injuries which our fellow citizens had sustained in the latter of those countries. The rest are in a train of negotiation, which we hope may terminate to mutual satisfaction, and that it may be succeeded by a treaty of commerce and navigation, upon liberal principles, propitious to a great and growing commerce, already important to the interests of our country.
The condition and prospects of the revenue are more favorable than our most sanguine expectations had anticipated. The balance in the Treasury on January 1st, 1828, exclusive of the moneys received under the convention of November 13th, 1826, with Great Britain, was $5,861,972.83. The receipts into the Treasury from January 1st, 1828 to September 30th, 1828, so far as they have been ascertained to form the basis of an estimate, amount to $18,633,580.27, which, with the receipts of the present quarter, estimated at $5,461,283.40, form an aggregate of receipts during the year of $24,094,863.67. The expenditures of the year may probably amount to $25,637,111.63, and leave in the Treasury on January 1st, 1829 the sum of $5,125,638.14.
The receipts of the present year have amounted to near $2,000,000 more than was anticipated at the commencement of the last session of Congress.
The amount of duties secured on importations from the first of January to the 30th of September was about $22,997,000, and that of the estimated accruing revenue is $5,000,000, forming an aggregate for the year of near $28,000,000. This is $1,000,000 more than the estimate last December for the accruing revenue of the present year, which, with allowances for draw-backs and contingent deficiencies, was expected to produce an actual revenue of $22,300,000. Had these only been realized the expenditures of the year would have been also proportionally reduced, for of these $24,000,000 received upward of $9,000,000 have been applied to the extinction of public debt, bearing an interest of 6% a year, and of course reducing the burden of interest annually payable in future by the amount of more than $500,000. The payments on account of interest during the current year exceed $3,000,000, presenting an aggregate of more than $12,000,000 applied during the year to the discharge of the public debt, the whole of which remaining due on January 1st, 1829 will amount only to $58,362,135.78.
That the revenue of the ensuing year will not fall short of that received in the one now expiring there are indications which can scarcely prove deceptive. In our country an uniform experience of 40 years has shown that what ever the tariff of duties upon articles imported from abroad has been, the amount of importations has always borne an average value nearly approaching to that of the exports, though occasionally differing in the balance, some times being more and some times less. It is, indeed, a general law of prosperous commerce that the real value of exports should by a small, and only a small, balance exceed that of imports, that balance being a permanent addition to the wealth of the nation.
The extent of the prosperous commerce of the nation must be regulated by the amount of its exports, and an important addition to the value of these will draw after it a corresponding increase of importations. It has happened in the vicissitudes of the seasons that the harvests of all Europe have in the late summer and autumn fallen short of their usual average. A relaxation of the interdict upon the importation of grain and flour from abroad has ensued, a propitious market has been opened to the granaries of our country, and a new prospect of reward presented to the labors of the husband-man, which for several years has been denied. This accession to the profits of agriculture in the middle and western portions of our Union is accidental and temporary. It may continue only for a single year. It may be, as has been often experienced in the revolutions of time, but the first of several scanty harvests in succession. We may consider it certain that for the approaching year it has added an item of large amount to the value of our exports and that it will produce a corresponding increase of importations. It may therefore confidently be foreseen that the revenue of 1829 will equal and probably exceed that of 1828, and will afford the means of extinguishing $10,000,000 more of the principal of the public debt.
This new element of prosperity to that part of our agricultural industry which is occupied in producing the first article of human subsistence is of the most cheering character to the feelings of patriotism. Proceeding from a cause which humanity will view with concern, the sufferings of scarcity in distant lands, it yields a consolatory reflection that this scarcity is in no respect attributable to us; that it comes from the dispensation of Him who ordains all in wisdom and goodness, and who permits evil itself only as an instrument of good; that, far from contributing to this scarcity, our agency will be applied only to the alleviation of its severity, and that in pouring forth from the abundance of our own garners the supplies which will partially restore plenty to those who are in need we shall ourselves reduce our stores and add to the price of our own bread, so as in some degree to participate in the wants which it will be the good fortune of our country to relieve.
The great interests of an agricultural, commercial, and manufacturing nation are so linked in union together that no permanent cause of prosperity to one of them can operate without extending its influence to the others. All these interests are alike under the protecting power of the legislative authority, and the duties of the representative bodies are to conciliate them in harmony together.
So far as the object of taxation is to raise a revenue for discharging the debts and defraying the expenses of the community, its operation should be adapted as much as possible to suit the burden with equal hand upon all in proportion with their ability of bearing it without oppression. But the legislation of one nation is some times intentionally made to bear heavily upon the interests of another. That legislation, adapted, as it is meant to be, to the special interests of its own people, will often press most unequally upon the several component interests of its neighbors.
Thus the legislation of Great Britain, when, as has recently been avowed, adapted to the depression of a rival nation, will naturally abound with regulations to interdict upon the productions of the soil or industry of the other which come in competition with its own, and will present encouragement, perhaps even bounty, to the raw material of the other State which it can not produce itself, and which is essential for the use of its manufactures, competitors in the markets of the world with those of its commercial rival.
Such is the state of commercial legislation of Great Britain as it bears upon our interests. It excludes with interdicting duties all importation (except in time of approaching famine) of the great staple of production of our Middle and Western States; it proscribes with equal rigor the bulkier lumber and live stock of the same portion and also of the Northern and Eastern part of our Union. It refuses even the rice of the South unless aggravated with a charge of duty upon the Northern carrier who brings it to them. But the cotton, indispensable for their looms, they will receive almost duty free to weave it into a fabric for our own wear, to the destruction of our own manufactures, which they are enabled thus to under-sell.
Is the self-protecting energy of this nation so helpless that there exists in the political institutions of our country no power to counter-act the bias of this foreign legislation; that the growers of grain must submit to this exclusion from the foreign markets of their produce; that the shippers must dismantle their ships, the trade of the North stagnate at the wharves, and the manufacturers starve at their looms, while the whole people shall pay tribute to foreign industry to be clad in a foreign garb; that the Congress of the Union are impotent to restore the balance in favor of native industry destroyed by the statutes of another realm?
More just and generous sentiments will, I trust, prevail. If the tariff adopted at the last session of Congress shall be found by experience to bear oppressively upon the interests of any one section of the Union, it ought to be, and I can not doubt will be, so modified as to alleviate its burden. To the voice of just complaint from any portion of their constituents the representatives of the States and of the people will never turn away their ears.
But so long as the duty of the foreign shall operate only as a bounty upon the domestic article; while the planter and the merchant and the shepherd and the husbandman shall be found thriving in their occupations under the duties imposed for the protection of domestic manufactures, they will not repine at the prosperity shared with themselves by their fellow citizens of other professions, nor denounce as violations of the Constitution the deliberate acts of Congress to shield from the wrongs of foreigns the native industry of the Union.
While the tariff of the last session of Congress was a subject of legislative deliberation it was foretold by some of its opposers that one of its necessary consequences would be to impair the revenue. It is yet too soon to pronounce with confidence that this prediction was erroneous. The obstruction of one avenue of trade not unfrequently opens an issue to another. The consequence of the tariff will be to increase the exportation and to diminish the importation of some specific articles; but by the general law of trade the increase of exportation of one article will be followed by an increased importation of others, the duties upon which will supply the deficiencies which the diminished importation would otherwise occasion. The effect of taxation upon revenue can seldom be foreseen with certainty. It must abide the test of experience.
As yet no symptoms of diminution are perceptible in the receipts of the Treasury. As yet little addition of cost has even been experienced upon the articles burdened with heavier duties by the last tariff. The domestic manufacturer supplies the same or a kindred article at a diminished price, and the consumer pays the same tribute to the labor of his own country-man which he must otherwise have paid to foreign industry and toil.
The tariff of the last session was in its details not acceptable to the great interests of any portion of the Union, not even to the interest which it was specially intended to subserve. Its object was to balance the burdens upon native industry imposed by the operation of foreign laws, but not to aggravate the burdens of one section of the Union by the relief afforded to another. To the great principle sanctioned by that act--one of those upon which the Constitution itself was formed--I hope and trust the authorities of the Union will adhere. But if any of the duties imposed by the act only relieve the manufacturer by aggravating the burden of the planter, let a careful revisal of its provisions, enlightened by the practical experience of its effects, be directed to retain those which impart protection to native industry and remove or supply the place of those which only alleviate one great national interest by the depression of another.
The United States of America and the people of every State of which they are composed are each of them sovereign powers. The legislative authority of the whole is exercised by Congress under authority granted them in the common Constitution. The legislative power of each State is exercised by assemblies deriving their authority from the constitution of the State. Each is sovereign within its own province. The distribution of power between them presupposes that these authorities will move in harmony with each other. The members of the State and General Governments are all under oath to support both, and allegiance is due to the one and to the other. The case of a conflict between these two powers has not been supposed, nor has any provision been made for it in our institutions; as a virtuous nation of ancient times existed more than five centuries without a law for the punishment of parricide.
More than once, however, in the progress of our history have the people and the legislatures of one or more States, in moments of excitement, been instigated to this conflict; and the means of effecting this impulse have been allegations that the acts of Congress to be resisted were unconstitutional. The people of no one State have ever delegated to their legislature the power of pronouncing an act of Congress unconstitutional, but they have delegated to them powers by the exercise of which the execution of the laws of Congress within the State may be resisted. If we suppose the case of such conflicting legislation sustained by the corresponding executive and judicial authorities, patriotism and philanthropy turn their eyes from the condition in which the parties would be placed, and from that of the people of both, which must be its victims.
The reports from the Secretary of War and the various subordinate offices of the resort of that Department present an exposition of the public administration of affairs connected with them through the course of the current year. The present state of the Army and the distribution of the force of which it is composed will be seen from the report of the Major General. Several alterations in the disposal of the troops have been found expedient in the course of the year, and the discipline of the Army, though not entirely free from exception, has been generally good.
The attention of Congress is particularly invited to that part of the report of the Secretary of War which concerns the existing system of our relations with the Indian tribes. At the establishment of the Federal Government under the present Constitution of the United States the principle was adopted of considering them as foreign and independent powers and also as proprietors of lands. They were, moreover, considered as savages, whom it was our policy and our duty to use our influence in converting to Christianity and in bringing within the pale of civilization.
As independent powers, we negotiated with them by treaties; as proprietors, we purchased of them all the lands which we could prevail upon them to sell; as brethren of the human race, rude and ignorant, we endeavored to bring them to the knowledge of religion and letters. The ultimate design was to incorporate in our own institutions that portion of them which could be converted to the state of civilization. In the practice of European States, before our Revolution, they had been considered as children to be governed; as tenants at discretion, to be dispossessed as occasion might require; as hunters to be indemnified by trifling concessions for removal from the grounds from which their game was extirpated. In changing the system it would seem as if a full contemplation of the consequences of the change had not been taken.
We have been far more successful in the acquisition of their lands than in imparting to them the principles or inspiring them with the spirit of civilization. But in appropriating to ourselves their hunting grounds we have brought upon ourselves the obligation of providing them with subsistence; and when we have had the rare good fortune of teaching them the arts of civilization and the doctrines of Christianity we have unexpectedly found them forming in the midst of ourselves communities claiming to be independent of ours and rivals of sovereignty within the territories of the members of our Union. This state of things requires that a remedy should be provided--a remedy which, while it shall do justice to those unfortunate children of nature, may secure to the members of our confederation their rights of sovereignty and of soil. As the outline of a project to that effect, the views presented in the report of the Secretary of War are recommended to the consideration of Congress.
The report from the Engineer Department presents a comprehensive view of the progress which has been made in the great systems promotive of the public interest, commenced and organized under authority of Congress, and the effects of which have already contributed to the security, as they will hereafter largely contribute to the honor and dignity, of the nation.
The first of these great systems is that of fortifications, commenced immediately after the close of our last war, under the salutary experience which the events of that war had impressed upon our country- men of its necessity. Introduced under the auspices of my immediate predecessor, it has been continued with the persevering and liberal encouragement of the Legislature, and, combined with corresponding exertions for the gradual increase and improvement of the Navy, prepares for our extensive country a condition of defense adapted to any critical emergency which the varying course of events may bring forth. Our advances in these concerted systems have for the last ten years been steady and progressive, and in a few years more will be so completed as to leave no cause for apprehension that our sea coast will ever again offer a theater of hostile invasion.
The next of these cardinal measures of policy is the preliminary to great and lasting works of public improvement in the surveys of roads, examination for the course of canals, and labors for the removal of the obstructions of rivers and harbors, first commenced by the act of Congress of April 30th, 1824.
The report exhibits in one table the funds appropriated at the last and preceding sessions of Congress for all these fortifications, surveys, and works of public improvement, the manner in which these funds have been applied, the amount expended upon the several works under construction, and the further sums which may be necessary to complete them; in a second, the works projected by the Board of Engineers which have not been commenced, and the estimate of their cost; in a third, the report of the annual Board of Visitors at the Military Academy at West Point.
For thirteen fortifications erecting on various points of our Atlantic coast, from Rhode Island to Louisiana, the aggregate expenditure of the year has fallen little short of $1,000,000. For the preparation of five additional reports of reconnoissances and surveys since the last session of Congress, for the civil construction upon 37 different public works commenced, eight others for which specific appropriations have been made by acts of Congress, and twenty other incipient surveys under the authority given by the act of April 30th, 1824, about $1,000,000 more has been drawn from the Treasury.
To these $2,000,000 is to be added the appropriation of $250,000 to commence the erection of a break-water near the mouth of the Delaware River, the subscriptions to the Delaware and Chesapeake, the Louisville and Portland, the Dismal Swamp, and the Chesapeake and Ohio canals, the large donations of lands to the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Alabama for objects of improvements within those States, and the sums appropriated for light-houses, buoys, and piers on the coast; and a full view will be taken of the munificence of the nation in the application of its resources to the improvement of its own condition.
Of these great national under-takings the Academy at West Point is among the most important in itself and the most comprehensive in its consequences. In that institution a part of the revenue of the nation is applied to defray the expense of educating a competent portion of her youth chiefly to the knowledge and the duties of military life. It is the living armory of the nation. While the other works of improvement enumerated in the reports now presented to the attention of Congress are destined to ameliorate the face of nature, to multiply the facilities of communication between the different parts of the Union, to assist the labors, increase the comforts, and enhance the enjoyments of individuals, the instruction acquired at West Point enlarges the dominion and expands the capacities of the mind. Its beneficial results are already experienced in the composition of the Army, and their influence is felt in the intellectual progress of society. The institution is susceptible still of great improvement from benefactions proposed by several successive Boards of Visitors, to whose earnest and repeated recommendations I cheerfully add my own.
With the usual annual reports from the Secretary of the Navy and the Board of Commissioners will be exhibited to the view of Congress the execution of the laws relating to that department of the public service. The repression of piracy in the West Indian and in the Grecian seas has been effectually maintained, with scarcely any exception. During the war between the Governments of Buenos Ayres and of Brazil frequent collisions between the belligerent acts of power and the rights of neutral commerce occurred. Licentious blockades, irregularly enlisted or impressed sea men, and the property of honest commerce seized with violence, and even plundered under legal pretenses, are disorders never separable from the conflicts of war upon the ocean.
With a portion of them the correspondence of our commanders on the eastern aspect of the South American coast and among the islands of Greece discover how far we have been involved. In these the honor of our country and the rights of our citizens have been asserted and vindicated. The appearance of new squadrons in the Mediterranean and the blockade of the Dardanelles indicate the danger of other obstacles to the freedom of commerce and the necessity of keeping our naval force in those seas. To the suggestions repeated in the report of the Secretary of the Navy, and tending to the permanent improvement of this institution, I invite the favorable consideration of Congress.
A resolution of the House of Representatives requesting that one of our small public vessels should be sent to the Pacific Ocean and South Sea to examine the coasts, islands, harbors, shoals, and reefs in those seas, and to ascertain their true situation and description, has been put in a train of execution. The vessel is nearly ready to depart. The successful accomplishment of the expedition may be greatly facilitated by suitable legislative provisions, and particularly by an appropriation to defray its necessary expense. The addition of a 2nd, and perhaps a 3rd, vessel, with a slight aggravation of the cost, would contribute much to the safety of the citizens embarked on this under- taking, the results of which may be of the deepest interest to our country.
With the report of the Secretary of the Navy will be submitted, in conformity to the act of Congress of March 3d, 1827, for the gradual improvement of the Navy of the United States, statements of the expenditures under that act and of the measures for carrying the same into effect. Every section of that statute contains a distinct provision looking to the great object of the whole--the gradual improvement of the Navy. Under its salutary sanction stores of ship timber have been procured and are in process of seasoning and preservation for the future uses of the Navy. Arrangements have been made for the preservation of the live oak timber growing on the lands of the United States, and for its reproduction, to supply at future and distant days the waste of that most valuable material for ship building by the great consumption of it yearly for the commercial as well as for the military marine of our country.
The construction of the two dry docks at Charlestown and at Norfolk is making satisfactory progress toward a durable establishment. The examinations and inquiries to ascertain the practicability and expediency of a marine railway at Pensacola, though not yet accomplished, have been postponed but to be more effectually made. The navy yards of the United States have been examined, and plans for their improvement and the preservation of the public property therein at Portsmouth, Charlestown, Philadelphia, Washington, and Gosport, and to which two others are to be added, have been prepared and received my sanction; and no other portion of my public duties has been performed with a more intimate conviction of its importance to the future welfare and security of the Union.
With the report from the Post Master General is exhibited a comparative view of the gradual increase of that establishment, from five to five years, since 1792 'til this time in the number of post offices, which has grown from less than 200 to nearly 8,000; in the revenue yielded by them, which from $67,000 has swollen to upward of $1,500,000, and in the number of miles of post roads, which from 5,642 have multiplied to 114,536. While in the same period of time the population of the Union has about thrice doubled, the rate of increase of these offices is nearly 40, and of the revenue and of traveled miles from 20 to 25 for one. The increase of revenue within the last five years has been nearly equal to the whole revenue of the Department in 1812.
The expenditures of the Department during the year which ended on July 1st, 1828 have exceeded the receipts by a sum of about $25,000. The excess has been occasioned by the increase of mail conveyances and facilities to the extent of near 800,000 miles. It has been supplied by collections from the post masters of the arrearages of preceding years. While the correct principle seems to be that the income levied by the Department should defray all its expenses, it has never been the policy of this Government to raise from this establishment any revenue to be applied to any other purposes. The suggestion of the Post Master General that the insurance of the safe transmission of moneys by the mail might be assumed by the Department for a moderate and competent remuneration will deserve the consideration of Congress.
A report from the commissioner of the public buildings in this city exhibits the expenditures upon them in the course of the current year. It will be seen that the humane and benevolent intentions of Congress in providing, by the act of May 20th, 1826, for the erection of a penitentiary in this District have been accomplished. The authority of further legislation is now required for the removal to this tenement of the offenders against the laws sentenced to atone by personal confinement for their crimes, and to provide a code for their employment and government while thus confined.
The commissioners appointed, conformably to the act of March 2d, 1827, to provide for the adjustment of claims of persons entitled to indemnification under the first article of the treaty of Ghent, and for the distribution among such claimants of the sum paid by the Government of Great Britain under the convention of November 13th, 1826, closed their labors on August 30th, 1828 last by awarding to the claimants the sum of $1,197,422.18, leaving a balance of $7,537.82, which was distributed ratably amongst all the claimants to whom awards had been made, according to the directions of the act.
The exhibits appended to the report from the Commissioner of the General Land Office present the actual condition of that common property of the Union. The amount paid into the Treasury from the proceeds of lands during the year 1827 and for the first half of 1828 falls little short of $2,000,000. The propriety of further extending the time for the extinguishment of the debt due to the United States by the purchasers of the public lands, limited by the act of March 21st, 1828 to July 4th, 1829, will claim the consideration of Congress, to whose vigilance and careful attention the regulation, disposal, and preservation of this great national inheritance has by the people of the United States been intrusted.
Among the important subjects to which the attention of the present Congress has already been invited, and which may occupy their further and deliberate discussion, will be the provision to be made for taking the 5th census of enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States. The Constitution of the United States requires that this enumeration should be made within every term of ten years, and the date from which the last enumeration commenced was the first Monday of August of the year 1820.
The laws under which the former enumerations were taken were enacted at the session of Congress immediately preceding the operation; but considerable inconveniences were experienced from the delay of legislation to so late a period. That law, like those of the preceding enumerations, directed that the census should be taken by the marshals of the several districts and Territories of the Union under instructions from the Secretary of State. The preparation and transmission to the marshals of those instructions required more time than was then allowed between the passage of the law and the day when the enumeration was to commence. The term of six months limited for the returns of the marshals was also found even then too short, and must be more so now, when an additional population of at least 3,000,000 must be presented upon the returns.
As they are to be made at the short session of Congress, it would, as well as from other considerations, be more convenient to commence the enumeration from an earlier period of the year than the first of August. The most favorable season would be the spring.
On a review of the former enumerations it will be found that the plan for taking every census has contained many improvements upon that of its predecessor. The last is still susceptible of much improvement. The 3rd Census was the first at which any account was taken of the manufactures of the country. It was repeated at the last enumeration, but the returns in both cases were necessarily very imperfect. They must always be so, resting, of course, only upon the communications voluntarily made by individuals interested in some of the manufacturing establishments. Yet they contained much valuable information, and may by some supplementary provision of the law be rendered more effective.
The columns of age, commencing from infancy, have hitherto been confined to a few periods, all under the number of 45 years. Important knowledge would be obtained by extending these columns, in intervals of ten years, to the utmost boundaries of human life. The labor of taking them would be a trifling addition to that already prescribed, and the result would exhibit comparative tables of longevity highly interesting to the country. I deem it my duty further to observe that much of the imperfections in the returns of the last and perhaps of preceding enumerations proceeded from the inadequateness of the compensations allowed to the marshals and their assistants in taking them.
In closing this communication it only remains for me to assure the Legislature of my continued earnest wish for the adoption of measures recommended by me heretofore and yet to be acted on by them, and of the cordial concurrence on my part in every constitutional provision which may receive their sanction during the session tending to the general welfare.
JOHN QUINCY ADAMS