1829 State of the Union Address
December 8, 1829
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
It affords me pleasure to tender my friendly greetings to you on the occasion
of your assembling at the seat of Government to enter upon the important duties
to which you have been called by the voice of our country-men. The task devolves
on me, under a provision of the Constitution, to present to you, as the Federal
Legislature of 24 sovereign States and 12,000,000 happy people, a view of our
affairs, and to propose such measures as in the discharge of my official functions
have suggested themselves as necessary to promote the objects of our Union.
In communicating with you for the first time it is to me a source of unfeigned
satisfaction, calling for mutual gratulation and devout thanks to a benign Providence,
that we are at peace with all man-kind, and that our country exhibits the most
cheering evidence of general welfare and progressive improvement. Turning our
eyes to other nations, our great desire is to see our brethren of the human
race secured in the blessings enjoyed by ourselves, and advancing in knowledge,
in freedom, and in social happiness.
Our foreign relations, although in their general character pacific and friendly,
present subjects of difference between us and other powers of deep interest
as well to the country at large as to many of our citizens. To effect an adjustment
of these shall continue to be the object of my earnest endeavors, and not with
standing the difficulties of the task, I do not allow myself to apprehend unfavorable
results. Blessed as our country is with every thing which constitutes national
strength, she is fully adequate to the maintenance of all her interests. In
discharging the responsible trust confided to the Executive in this respect
it is my settled purpose to ask nothing that is not clearly right and to submit
to nothing that is wrong; and I flatter myself that, supported by the other
branches of the Government and by the intelligence and patriotism of the people,
we shall be able, under the protection of Providence, to cause all our just
rights to be respected.
Of the unsettled matters between the United States and other powers, the most
prominent are those which have for years been the subject of negotiation with
England, France, and Spain. The late periods at which our ministers to those
Governments left the United States render it impossible at this early day to
inform you of what has been done on the subjects with which they have been respectively
charged. Relying upon the justice of our views in relation to the points committed
to negotiation and the reciprocal good feeling which characterizes our intercourse
with those nations, we have the best reason to hope for a satisfactory adjustment
of existing differences.
With Great Britain, alike distinguished in peace and war, we may look forward
to years of peaceful, honorable, and elevated competition. Every thing in the
condition and history of the two nations is calculated to inspire sentiments
of mutual respect and to carry conviction to the minds of both that it is their
policy to preserve the most cordial relations. Such are my own views, and it
is not to be doubted that such are also the prevailing sentiments of our constituents.
Although neither time nor opportunity has been afforded for a full development
of the policy which the present cabinet of Great Britain designs to pursue toward
this country, I indulge the hope that it will be of a just and pacific character;
and if this anticipation be realized we may look with confidence to a speedy
and acceptable adjustment of our affairs.
Under the convention for regulating the reference to arbitration of the disputed
points of boundary under the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent, the proceedings
have hitherto been conducted in that spirit of candor and liberality which ought
ever to characterize the acts of sovereign States seeking to adjust by the most
unexceptionable means important and delicate subjects of contention. The first
sentiments of the parties have been exchanged, and the final replication on
our part is in a course of preparation. This subject has received the attention
demanded by its great and peculiar importance to a patriotic member of this
Confederacy. The exposition of our rights already made is such as, from the
high reputation of the commissioners by whom it has been prepared, we had a
right to expect. Our interests at the Court of the Sovereign who has evinced
his friendly disposition by assuming the delicate task of arbitration have been
committed to a citizen of the State of Maine, whose character, talents, and
intimate acquaintance with the subject eminently qualify him for so responsible
a trust. With full confidence in the justice of our cause and in the probity,
intelligence, and uncompromising independence of the illustrious arbitrator,
we can have nothing to apprehend from the result.
From France, our ancient ally, we have a right to expect that justice which
becomes the sovereign of a powerful, intelligent, and magnanimous people. The
beneficial effects produced by the commercial convention of 1822, limited as
are its provisions, are too obvious not to make a salutary impression upon the
minds of those who are charged with the administration of her Government. Should
this result induce a disposition to embrace to their full extent the wholesome
principles which constitute our commercial policy, our minister to that Court
will be found instructed to cherish such a disposition and to aid in conducting
it to useful practical conclusions. The claims of our citizens for depredations
upon their property, long since committed under the authority, and in many instances
by the express direction, of the then existing Government of France, remain
unsatisfied, and must therefore continue to furnish a subject of unpleasant
discussion and possible collision between the two Governments. I cherish, however,
a lively hope, founded as well on the validity of those claims and the established
policy of all enlightened governments as on the known integrity of the French
Monarch, that the injurious delays of the past will find redress in the equity
of the future. Our minister has been instructed to press these demands on the
French Government with all the earnestness which is called for by their importance
and irrefutable justice, and in a spirit that will evince the respect which
is due to the feelings of those from whom the satisfaction is required.
Our minister recently appointed to Spain has been authorized to assist in removing
evils alike injurious to both countries, either by concluding a commercial convention
upon liberal and reciprocal terms or by urging the acceptance in their full
extent of the mutually beneficial provisions of our navigation acts. He has
also been instructed to make a further appeal to the justice of Spain, in behalf
of our citizens, for indemnity for spoliations upon our commerce committed under
her authority -- an appeal which the pacific and liberal course observed on
our part and a due confidence in the honor of that Government authorize us to
expect will not be made in vain.
With other European powers our intercourse is on the most friendly footing.
In Russia, placed by her territorial limits, extensive population, and great
power high in the rank of nations, the United States have always found a steadfast
friend. Although her recent invasion of Turkey awakened a lively sympathy for
those who were exposed to the desolation of war, we can not but anticipate that
the result will prove favorable to the cause of civilization and to the progress
of human happiness. The treaty of peace between these powers having been ratified,
we can not be insensible to the great benefit to be derived by the commerce
of the United States from unlocking the navigation of the Black Sea, a free
passage into which is secured to all merchant vessels bound to ports of Russia
under a flag at peace with the Porte. This advantage, enjoyed upon conditions
by most of the powers of Europe, has hitherto been withheld from us. During
the past summer an antecedent but unsuccessful attempt to obtain it was renewed
under circumstances which promised the most favorable results. Although these
results have fortunately been thus in part attained, further facilities to the
enjoyment of this new field for the enterprise of our citizens are, in my opinion,
sufficiently desirable to insure to them our most zealous attention.
Our trade with Austria, although of secondary importance, has been gradually
increasing, and is now so extended as to deserve the fostering care of the Government.
A negotiation, commenced and nearly completed with that power by the late Administration,
has been consummated by a treaty of amity, navigation, and commerce, which will
be laid before the Senate.
During the recess of Congress our diplomatic relations with Portugal have been
resumed. The peculiar state of things in that country caused a suspension of
the recognition of the representative who presented himself until an opportunity
was had to obtain from our official organ there information regarding the actual
and, as far as practicable, prospective condition of the authority by which
the representative in question was appointed. This information being received,
the application of the established rule of our Government in like cases was
no longer withheld.
Considerable advances have been made during the present year in the adjustment
of claims of our citizens upon Denmark for spoliations, but all that we have
a right to demand from that Government in their behalf has not yet been conceded.
From the liberal footing, however, upon which this subject has, with the approbation
of the claimants, been placed by the Government, together with the uniformly
just and friendly disposition which has been evinced by His Danish Majesty,
there is a reasonable ground to hope that this single subject of difference
will speedily be removed.
Our relations with the Barbary Powers continue, as they have long been, of
the most favorable character. The policy of keeping an adequate force in the
Mediterranean, as security for the continuance of this tranquillity, will be
persevered in, as well as a similar one for the protection of our commerce and
fisheries in the Pacific.
The southern Republics of our own hemisphere have not yet realized all the
advantages for which they have been so long struggling. We trust, however, that
the day is not distant when the restoration of peace and internal quiet, under
permanent systems of government, securing the liberty and promoting the happiness
of the citizens, will crown with complete success their long and arduous efforts
in the cause of self-government, and enable us to salute them as friendly rivals
in all that is truly great and glorious.
The recent invasion of Mexico, and the effect thereby produced upon her domestic
policy, must have a controlling influence upon the great question of South American
emancipation. We have seen the fell spirit of civil dissension rebuked, and
perhaps for ever stifled, in that Republic by the love of independence. If it
be true, as appearances strongly indicate, the spirit of independence is the
master spirit, and if a corresponding sentiment prevails in the other States,
this devotion to liberty can not be without a proper effect upon the counsels
of the mother country. The adoption by Spain of a pacific policy toward her
former colonies -- an event consoling to humanity, and a blessing to the world,
in which she herself can not fail largely to participate -- may be most reasonably
The claims of our citizens upon the South American Governments generally are
in a train of settlement, while the principal part of those upon Brazil have
been adjusted, and a decree in council ordering bonds to be issued by the minister
of the treasury for their amount has received the sanction of His Imperial Majesty.
This event, together with the exchange of the ratifications of the treaty negotiated
and concluded in 1828, happily terminates all serious causes of difference with
Measures have been taken to place our commercial relations with Peru upon a
better footing than that upon which they have hitherto rested, and if met by
a proper disposition on the part of that Government important benefits may be
secured to both countries.
Deeply interested as we are in the prosperity of our sister Republics, and
more particularly in that of our immediate neighbor, it would be most gratifying
to me were I permitted to say that the treatment which we have received at her
hands has been as universally friendly as the early and constant solicitude
manifested by the United States for her success gave us a right to expect. But
it becomes my duty to inform you that prejudices long indulged by a portion
of the inhabitants of Mexico against the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary
of the United States have had an unfortunate influence upon the affairs of the
two countries, and have diminished that usefulness to his own which was justly
to be expected from his talents and zeal. To this cause, in a great degree,
is to be imputed the failure of several measures equally interesting to both
parties, but particularly that of the Mexican Government to ratify a treaty
negotiated and concluded in its own capital and under its own eye. Under these
circumstances it appeared expedient to give to Mr. Poinsett the option either
to return or not, as in his judgment the interest of his country might require,
and instructions to that end were prepared; but before they could be dispatched
a communication was received from the Government of Mexico, through its charge'
d'affaires here, requesting the recall of our minister. This was promptly complied
with, and a representative of a rank corresponding with that of the Mexican
diplomatic agent near this Government was appointed. Our conduct toward that
Republic has been uniformly of the most friendly character, and having thus
removed the only alleged obstacle to harmonious intercourse, I can not but hope
that an advantageous change will occur in our affairs.
In justice to Mr. Poinsett it is proper to say that my immediate compliance
with the application for his recall and the appointment of a successor are not
to be ascribed to any evidence that the imputation of an improper interference
by him in the local politics of Mexico was well founded, nor to a want of confidence
in his talents or integrity, and to add that the truth of the charges has never
been affirmed by the federal Government of Mexico in its communications with
I consider it one of the most urgent of my duties to bring to your attention
the propriety of amending that part of the Constitution which relates to the
election of President and Vice-President. Our system of government was by its
framers deemed an experiment, and they therefore consistently provided a mode
of remedying its defects.
To the people belongs the right of electing their Chief Magistrate; it was
never designed that their choice should in any case be defeated, either by the
intervention of electoral colleges or by the agency confided, under certain
contingencies, to the House of Representatives. Experience proves that in proportion
as agents to execute the will of the people are multiplied there is danger of
their wishes being frustrated. Some may be unfaithful; all are liable to err.
So far, therefore, as the people can with convenience speak, it is safer for
them to express their own will.
The number of aspirants to the Presidency and the diversity of the interests
which may influence their claims leave little reason to expect a choice in the
first instance, and in that event the election must devolve on the House of
Representatives, where it is obvious the will of the people may not be always
ascertained, or, if ascertained, may not be regarded. From the mode of voting
by States the choice is to be made by 24 votes, and it may often occur that
one of these will be controlled by an individual Representative. Honors and
offices are at the disposal of the successful candidate. Repeated ballotings
may make it apparent that a single individual holds the cast in his hand. May
he not be tempted to name his reward?
But even without corruption, supposing the probity of the Representative to
be proof against the powerful motives by which it may be assailed, the will
of the people is still constantly liable to be misrepresented. One may err from
ignorance of the wishes of his constituents; another from a conviction that
it is his duty to be governed by his own judgment of the fitness of the candidates;
finally, although all were inflexibly honest, all accurately informed of the
wishes of their constituents, yet under the present mode of election a minority
may often elect a President, and when this happens it may reasonably be expected
that efforts will be made on the part of the majority to rectify this injurious
operation of their institutions. But although no evil of this character should
result from such a perversion of the first principle of our system -- that the
majority is to govern -- it must be very certain that a President elected by
a minority can not enjoy the confidence necessary to the successful discharge
of his duties.
In this as in all other matters of public concern policy requires that as few
impediments as possible should exist to the free operation of the public will.
Let us, then, endeavor so to amend our system that the office of Chief Magistrate
may not be conferred upon any citizen but in pursuance of a fair expression
of the will of the majority.
I would therefore recommend such an amendment of the Constitution as may remove
all intermediate agency in the election of the President and Vice-President.
The mode may be so regulated as to preserve to each State its present relative
weight in the election, and a failure in the first attempt may be provided for
by confining the second to a choice between the two highest candidates. In connection
with such an amendment it would seem advisable to limit the service of the Chief
Magistrate to a single term of either 4 or 6 years. If, however, it should not
be adopted, it is worthy of consideration whether a provision disqualifying
for office the Representatives in Congress on whom such an election may have
devolved would not be proper.
While members of Congress can be constitutionally appointed to offices of trust
and profit it will be the practice, even under the most conscientious adherence
to duty, to select them for such stations as they are believed to be better
qualified to fill than other citizens; but the purity of our Government would
doubtless be promoted by their exclusion from all appointments in the gift of
the President, in whose election they may have been officially concerned. The
nature of the judicial office and the necessity of securing in the Cabinet and
in diplomatic stations of the highest rank the best talents and political experience
should, perhaps, except these from the exclusion.
There are, perhaps, few men who can for any great length of time enjoy office
and power without being more or less under the influence of feelings unfavorable
to the faithful discharge of their public duties. Their integrity may be proof
against improper considerations immediately addressed to themselves, but they
are apt to acquire a habit of looking with indifference upon the public interests
and of tolerating conduct from which an unpracticed man would revolt. Office
is considered as a species of property, and government rather as a means of
promoting individual interests than as an instrument created solely for the
service of the people. Corruption in some and in others a perversion of correct
feelings and principles divert government from its legitimate ends and make
it an engine for the support of the few at the expense of the many. The duties
of all public officers are, or at least admit of being made, so plain and simple
that men of intelligence may readily qualify themselves for their performance;
and I can not but believe that more is lost by the long continuance of men in
office than is generally to be gained by their experience. I submit, therefore,
to your consideration whether the efficiency of the Government would not be
promoted and official industry and integrity better secured by a general extension
of the law which limits appointments to four years.
In a country where offices are created solely for the benefit of the people
no one man has any more intrinsic right to official station than another. Offices
were not established to give support to particular men at the public expense.
No individual wrong is, therefore, done by removal, since neither appointment
to nor continuance in office is a matter of right. The incumbent became an officer
with a view to public benefits, and when these require his removal they are
not to be sacrificed to private interests. It is the people, and they alone,
who have a right to complain when a bad officer is substituted for a good one.
He who is removed has the same means of obtaining a living that are enjoyed
by the millions who never held office. The proposed limitation would destroy
the idea of property now so generally connected with official station, and although
individual distress may be some times produced, it would, by promoting that
rotation which constitutes a leading principle in the republican creed, give
healthful action to the system.
No very considerable change has occurred during the recess of Congress in the
condition of either our agriculture, commerce, or manufactures. The operation
of the tariff has not proved so injurious to the two former or as beneficial
to the latter as was anticipated. Importations of foreign goods have not been
sensibly diminished, while domestic competition, under an illusive excitement,
has increased the production much beyond the demand for home consumption. The
consequences have been low prices, temporary embarrassment, and partial loss.
That such of our manufacturing establishments as are based upon capital and
are prudently managed will survive the shock and be ultimately profitable there
is no good reason to doubt.
To regulate its conduct so as to promote equally the prosperity of these three
cardinal interests is one of the most difficult tasks of Government; and it
may be regretted that the complicated restrictions which now embarrass the intercourse
of nations could not by common consent be abolished, and commerce allowed to
flow in those channels to which individual enterprise, always its surest guide,
might direct it. But we must ever expect selfish legislation in other nations,
and are therefore compelled to adapt our own to their regulations in the manner
best calculated to avoid serious injury and to harmonize the conflicting interests
of our agriculture, our commerce, and our manufactures. Under these impressions
I invite your attention to the existing tariff, believing that some of its provisions
The general rule to be applied in graduating the duties upon articles of foreign
growth or manufacture is that which will place our own in fair competition with
those of other countries; and the inducements to advance even a step beyond
this point are controlling in regard to those articles which are of primary
necessity in time of war. When we reflect upon the difficulty and delicacy of
this operation, it is important that it should never be attempted but with the
utmost caution. Frequent legislation in regard to any branch of industry, affecting
its value, and by which its capital may be transferred to new channels, must
always be productive of hazardous speculation and loss.
In deliberating, therefore, on these interesting subjects local feelings and
prejudices should be merged in the patriotic determination to promote the great
interests of the whole. All attempts to connect them with the party conflicts
of the day are necessarily injurious, and should be discountenanced. Our action
upon them should be under the control of higher and purer motives. Legislation
subjected to such influences can never be just, and will not long retain the
sanction of a people whose active patriotism is not bounded by sectional limits
nor insensible to that spirit of concession and forbearance which gave life
to our political compact and still sustains it. Discarding all calculations
of political ascendancy, the North, the South, the East, and the West should
unite in diminishing any burthen of which either may justly complain.
The agricultural interest of our country is so essentially connected with every
other and so superior in importance to them all that it is scarcely necessary
to invite to it your particular attention. It is principally as manufactures
and commerce tend to increase the value of agricultural productions and to extend
their application to the wants and comforts of society that they deserve the
fostering care of Government.
Looking forward to the period, not far distant, when a sinking fund will no
longer be required, the duties on those articles of importation which can not
come in competition with our own productions are the first that should engage
the attention of Congress in the modification of the tariff. Of these, tea and
coffee are the most important. They enter largely into the consumption of the
country, and have become articles of necessity to all classes. A reduction,
therefore, of the existing duties will be felt as a common benefit, but like
all other legislation connected with commerce, to be efficacious and not injurious
it should be gradual and certain.
The public prosperity is evinced in the increased revenue arising from the
sales of the public lands and in the steady maintenance of that produced by
imposts and tonnage, not withstanding the additional duties imposed by the act
of [1828-05-19], and the unusual importations in the early part of that year.
The balance in the Treasury on [1829-01-01] was $5,972,435.81. The receipts
of the current year are estimated at $24,602,230 and the expenditures for the
same time at $26,164,595, leaving a balance in the Treasury on [1830-01-01]
There will have been paid on account of the public debt during the present
year the sum of $12,405,005.80, reducing the whole debt of the Government on
[1830-01-01] to $48,565,406.50, including $7M of the 5% stock subscribed to
the Bank of the United States. The payment on account of public debt made on
[1829-07-01] was $8,715,462.87. It was apprehended that the sudden withdrawal
of so large a sum from the banks in which it was deposited, at a time of unusual
pressure in the money market, might cause much injury to the interests dependent
on bank accommodations. But this evil was wholly averted by an early anticipation
of it at the Treasury, aided by the judicious arrangements of the officers of
the Bank of the United States.
This state of the finances exhibits the resources of the nation in an aspect
highly flattering to its industry and auspicious of the ability of Government
in a very short time to extinguish the public debt. When this shall be done
our population will be relieved from a considerable portion of its present burthens,
and will find not only new motives to patriotic affection, but additional means
for the display of individual enterprise. The fiscal power of the States will
also be increased, and may be more extensively exerted in favor of education
and other public objects, while ample means will remain in the Federal Government
to promote the general weal in all the modes permitted to its authority.
After the extinction of the public debt it is not probable that any adjustment
of the tariff upon principles satisfactory to the people of the Union will until
a remote period, if ever, leave the Government without a considerable surplus
in the Treasury beyond what may be required for its current service. As, then,
the period approaches when the application of the revenue to the payment of
debt will cease, the disposition of the surplus will present a subject for the
serious deliberation of Congress; and it may be fortunate for the country that
it is yet to be decided.
Considered in connection with the difficulties which have heretofore attended
appropriations for purposes of internal improvement, and with those which this
experience tells us will certainly arise when ever power over such subjects
may be exercised by the Central Government, it is hoped that it may lead to
the adoption of some plan which will reconcile the diversified interests of
the States and strengthen the bonds which unite them. Every member of the Union,
in peace and in war, will be benefited by the improvement of inland navigation
and the construction of high ways in the several States. Let us, then, endeavor
to attain this benefit in a mode which will be satisfactory to all. That hitherto
adopted has by many of our fellow citizens been deprecated as an infraction
of the Constitution, while by others it has been viewed as inexpedient. All
feel that it has been employed at the expense of harmony in the legislative
To avoid these evils it appears to me that the most safe, just, and federal
disposition which could be made of the surplus revenue would be its apportionment
among the several States according to their ratio of representation, and should
this measure not be found warranted by the Constitution that it would be expedient
to propose to the States an amendment authorizings it. I regard an appeal to
the source of power in cases of real doubt, and where its exercise is deemed
indispensable to the general welfare, as among the most sacred of all our obligations.
Upon this country more than any other has, in the providence of God, been cast
the special guardianship of the great principle of adherence to written constitutions.
If it fail here, all hope in regard to it will be extinguished.
That this was intended to be a government of limited and specific, and not
general, powers must be admitted by all, and it is our duty to preserve for
it the character intended by its framers. If experience points out the necessity
for an enlargement of these powers, let us apply for it to those for whose benefit
it is to be exercised, and not under-mine the whole system by a resort to over-strained
constructions. The scheme has worked well. It has exceeded the hopes of those
who devised it, and become an object of admiration to the world. We are responsible
to our country and to the glorious cause of self-government for the preservation
of so great a good.
The great mass of legislation relating to our internal affairs was intended
to be left where the Federal Convention found it -- in the State governments.
Nothing is clearer, in my view, than that we are chiefly indebted for the success
of the Constitution under which we are now acting to the watchful and auxiliary
operation of the State authorities. This is not the reflection of a day, but
belongs to the most deeply rooted convictions of my mind. I can not, therefore,
too strongly or too earnestly, for my own sense of its importance, warn you
against all encroachments upon the legitimate sphere of State sovereignty. Sustained
by its healthful and invigorating influence the federal system can never fall.
In the collection of the revenue the long credits authorized on goods imported
from beyond the Cape of Good Hope are the chief cause of the losses at present
sustained. If these were shortened to 6, 9, and 12 months, and ware-houses provided
by Government sufficient to receive the goods offered in deposit for security
and for debenture, and if the right of the United States to a priority of payment
out of the estates of its insolvent debtors were more effectually secured, this
evil would in a great measure be obviated. An authority to construct such houses
is therefore, with the proposed alteration of the credits, recommended to your
It is worthy of notice that the laws for the collection and security of the
revenue arising from imposts were chiefly framed when the rates of duties on
imported goods presented much less temptation for illicit trade than at present
exists. There is reason to believe that these laws are in some respects quite
insufficient for the proper security of the revenue and the protection of the
interests of those who are disposed to observe them. The injurious and demoralizing
tendency of a successful system of smuggling is so obvious as not to require
comment, and can not be too carefully guarded against. I therefore suggest to
Congress the propriety of adopting efficient measures to prevent this evil,
avoiding, however, as much as possible, every unnecessary infringement of individual
liberty and embarrassment of fair and lawful business.
On an examination of the records of the Treasury I have been forcibly struck
with the large amount of public money which appears to be outstanding. Of the
sum thus due from individuals to the Government a considerable portion is undoubtedly
desperate, and in many instances has probably been rendered so by remissness
in the agents charged with its collection. By proper exertions a great part,
however, may yet be recovered; and what ever may be the portions respectively
belonging to these two classes, it behooves the Government to ascertain the
real state of the fact. This can be done only by the prompt adoption of judicious
measures for the collection of such as may be made available. It is believed
that a very large amount has been lost through the inadequacy of the means provided
for the collection of debts due to the public, and that this inadequacy lies
chiefly in the want of legal skill habitually and constantly employed in the
direction of the agents engaged in the service. It must, I think, be admitted
that the supervisory power over suits brought by the public, which is now vested
in an *accounting* officer of the Treasury, not selected with a view to his
legal knowledge, and encumbered as he is with numerous other duties, operates
unfavorably to the public interest.
It is important that this branch of the public service should be subjected
to the supervision of such professional skill as will give it efficiency. The
expense attendant upon such a modification of the executive department would
be justified by the soundest principles of economy. I would recommend, therefore,
that the duties now assigned to the agent of the Treasury, so far as they relate
to the superintendence and management of legal proceedings on the part of the
United States, be transferred to the Attorney General, and that this officer
be placed on the same footing in all respects as the heads of the other Departments,
receiving like compensation and having such subordinate officers provided for
his Department as may be requisite for the discharge of these additional duties.
The professional skill of the Attorney General, employed in directing the conduct
of marshals and district attorneys, would hasten the collection of debts now
in suit and hereafter save much to the Government. It might be further extended
to the superintendence of all criminal proceedings for offenses against the
United States. In making this transfer great care should be taken, however,
that the power necessary to the Treasury Department be not impaired, 1 of its
greatest securities consisting in control over all accounts until they are audited
or reported for suit.
In connection with the foregoing views I would suggest also an inquiry whether
the provisions of the act of Congress authorizing the discharge of the persons
of the debtors to the Government from imprisonment may not, consistently with
the public interest, be extended to the release of the debt where the conduct
of the debtor is wholly exempt from the imputation of fraud. Some more liberal
policy than that which now prevails in reference to this unfortunate class of
citizens is certainly due to them, and would prove beneficial to the country.
The continuance of the liability after the means to discharge it have been exhausted
can only serve to dispirit the debtor; or, where his resources are but partial,
the want of power in the Government to compromise and release the demand instigates
to fraud as the only resource for securing a support to his family. He thus
sinks into a state of apathy, and becomes a useless drone in society or a vicious
member of it, if not a feeling witness of the rigor and inhumanity of his country.
All experience proves that oppressive debt is the bane of enterprise, and it
should be the care of a republic not to exert a grinding power over misfortune
Since the last session of Congress numerous frauds on the Treasury have been
discovered, which I thought it my duty to bring under the cognizance of the
United States court for this district by a criminal prosecution. It was my opinion
and that of able counsel who were consulted that the cases came within the penalties
of the act of the 17th Congress approved [1823-03-03], providing for punishment
of frauds committed on the Government of the United States. Either from some
defect in the law or in its administration every effort to bring the accused
to trial under its provisions proved ineffectual, and the Government was driven
to the necessity of resorting to the vague and inadequate provisions of the
common law. It is therefore my duty to call your attention to the laws which
have been passed for the protection of the Treasury. If, indeed, there be no
provision by which those who may be unworthily intrusted with its guardianship
can be punished for the most flagrant violation of duty, extending even to the
most fraudulent appropriation of the public funds to their own use, it is time
to remedy so dangerous an omission; or if the law has been perverted from its
original purposes, and criminals deserving to be punished under its provisions
have been rescued by legal subtleties, it ought to be made so plain by amendatory
provisions as to baffle the arts of perversion and accomplish the ends of its
In one of the most flagrant causes the court decided that the prosecution was
barred by the statute which limits prosecutions for fraud to two years. In this
case all the evidences of the fraud, and, indeed, all knowledge that a fraud
had been committed, were in possession of the party accused until after the
two years had elapsed. Surely the statute ought not to run in favor of any man
while he retains all the evidences of his crime in his own possession, and least
of all in favor of a public officer who continues to defraud the Treasury and
conceal the transaction for the brief term of two years. I would therefore recommend
such an alteration of the law as will give the injured party and the Government
two years after the disclosure of the fraud or after the accused is out of office
to commence their prosecution.
In connection with this subject I invite the attention of Congress to a general
and minute inquiry into the condition of the Government, with a view to ascertain
what offices can be dispensed with, what expenses retrenched, and what improvements
may be made in the organization of its various parts to secure the proper responsibility
of public agents and promote efficiency and justice in all its operations.
The report of the Secretary of War will make you acquainted with the condition
of our Army, fortifications, arsenals, and Indian affairs. The proper discipline
of the Army, the training and equipment of the militia, the education bestowed
at West Point, and the accumulation of the means of defense applicable to the
naval force will tend to prolong the peace we now enjoy, and which every good
citizen, more especially those who have felt the miseries of even a successful
warfare, must ardently desire to perpetuate.
The returns from the subordinate branches of this service exhibit a regularity
and order highly creditable to its character. Both officers and soldiers seem
imbued with a proper sense of duty, and conform to the restraints of exact discipline
with that cheerfulness which becomes the profession of arms. There is need,
however, of further legislation to obviate the inconveniences specified in the
report under consideration, to some of which it is proper that I should call
your particular attention.
The act of Congress of [1821-03-02], to reduce and fix the military establishment,
remaining unexecuted as it regards the command of 1 of the regiments of artillery,
can not now be deemed a guide to the Executive in making the proper appointment.
An explanatory act, designating the class of officers out of which the grade
is to be filled -- whether from the military list as existing prior to the act
of 1821 or from it as it has been fixed by that act -- would remove this difficulty.
It is also important that the laws regulating the pay and emoluments of officers
generally should be more specific than they now are. Those, for example, in
relation to the PayMaster and Surgeon General assign to them an annual salary
of $2.500, but are silent as to allowances which in certain exigencies of the
service may be deemed indispensable to the discharge of their duties. This circumstance
has been the authority for extending to them various allowances at different
times under former Administrations, but no uniform rule has been observed on
the subject. Similar inconveniences exist in other cases, in which the construction
put upon the laws by the public accountants may operate unequally, produce confusion,
and expose officers to the odium of claiming what is not their due.
I recommend to your fostering care, as one of our safest means of national
defense, the Military Academy. This institution has already exercised the happiest
influence upon the moral and intellectual character of our Army; and such of
the graduates as from various causes may not pursue the profession of arms will
be scarcely less useful as citizens. Their knowledge of the military art will
be advantageously employed in the militia service, and in a measure secure to
that class of troops the advantages which in this respect belong to standing
I would also suggest a review of the pension law, for the purpose of extending
its benefits to every Revolutionary soldier who aided in establishing our liberties,
and who is unable to maintain himself in comfort. These relics of the War of
Independence have strong claims upon their country's gratitude and bounty. The
law is defective in not embracing within its provisions all those who were during
the last war disabled from supporting themselves by manual labor. Such an amendment
would add but little to the amount of pensions, and is called for by the sympathies
of the people as well as by considerations of sound policy.
It will be perceived that a large addition to the list of pensioners has been
occasioned by an order of the late Administration, departing materially from
the rules which had previously prevailed. Considering it an act of legislation,
I suspended its operation as soon as I was informed that it had commenced. Before
this period, however, applications under the new regulation had been preferred
to the number of 154, of which, on [March 27], the date of its revocation, 87
were admitted. For the amount there was neither estimate nor appropriation;
and besides this deficiency, the regular allowances, according to the rules
which have heretofore governed the Department, exceed the estimate of its late
Secretary by about $50K, for which an appropriation is asked.
Your particular attention is requested to that part of the report of the Secretary
of War which relates to the money held in trust for the Seneca tribe of Indians.
It will be perceived that without legislative aid the Executive can not obviate
the embarrassments occasioned by the diminution of the dividends on that fund,
which originally amounted to $100,000, and has recently been invested in United
States 3% stock.
The condition and ulterior destiny of the Indian tribes within the limits of
some of our States have become objects of much interest and importance. It has
long been the policy of Government to introduce among them the arts of civilization,
in the hope of gradually reclaiming them from a wandering life. This policy
has, however, been coupled with another wholly incompatible with its success.
Professing a desire to civilize and settle them, we have at the same time lost
no opportunity to purchase their lands and thrust them farther into the wilderness.
By this means they have not only been kept in a wandering state, but been led
to look upon us as unjust and indifferent to their fate. Thus, though lavish
in its expenditures upon the subject, Government has constantly defeated its
own policy, and the Indians in general, receding farther and farther to the
west, have retained their savage habits. A portion, however, of the Southern
tribes, having mingled much with the whites and made some progress in the arts
of civilized life, have lately attempted to erect an independent government
within the limits of Georgia and Alabama. These States, claiming to be the only
sovereigns within their territories, extended their laws over the Indians, which
induced the latter to call upon the United States for protection.
Under these circumstances the question presented was whether the General Government
had a right to sustain those people in their pretensions. The Constitution declares
that "no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any
other State" without the consent of its legislature. If the General Government
is not permitted to tolerate the erection of a confederate State within the
territory of one of the members of this Union against her consent, much less
could it allow a foreign and independent government to establish itself there.
Georgia became a member of the Confederacy which eventuated in our Federal
Union as a sovereign State, always asserting her claim to certain limits, which,
having been originally defined in her colonial charter and subsequently recognized
in the treaty of peace, she has ever since continued to enjoy, except as they
have been circumscribed by her own voluntary transfer of a portion of her territory
to the United States in the articles of cession of 1802. Alabama was admitted
into the Union on the same footing with the original States, with boundaries
which were prescribed by Congress.
There is no constitutional, conventional, or legal provision which allows them
less power over the Indians within their borders than is possessed by Maine
or New York. Would the people of Maine permit the Penobscot tribe to erect an
independent government within their State? And unless they did would it not
be the duty of the General Government to support them in resisting such a measure?
Would the people of New York permit each remnant of the six Nations within her
borders to declare itself an independent people under the protection of the
United States? Could the Indians establish a separate republic on each of their
reservations in Ohio? And if they were so disposed would it be the duty of this
Government to protect them in the attempt? If the principle involved in the
obvious answer to these questions be abandoned, it will follow that the objects
of this Government are reversed, and that it has become a part of its duty to
aid in destroying the States which it was established to protect.
Actuated by this view of the subject, I informed the Indians inhabiting parts
of Georgia and Alabama that their attempt to establish an independent government
would not be countenanced by the Executive of the United States, and advised
them to emigrate beyond the Mississippi or submit to the laws of those States.
Our conduct toward these people is deeply interesting to our national character.
Their present condition, contrasted with what they once were, makes a most powerful
appeal to our sympathies. Our ancestors found them the uncontrolled possessors
of these vast regions. By persuasion and force they have been made to retire
from river to river and from mountain to mountain, until some of the tribes
have become extinct and others have left but remnants to preserve for a while
their once terrible names. Surrounded by the whites with their arts of civilization,
which by destroying the resources of the savage doom him to weakness and decay,
the fate of the Mohegan, the Narragansett, and the Delaware is fast over-taking
the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Creek. That this fate surely awaits them
if they remain within the limits of the States does not admit of a doubt. Humanity
and national honor demand that every effort should be made to avert so great
a calamity. It is too late to inquire whether it was just in the United States
to include them and their territory within the bounds of new States, whose limits
they could control. That step can not be retraced. A State can not be dismembered
by Congress or restricted in the exercise of her constitutional power. But the
people of those States and of every State, actuated by feelings of justice and
a regard for our national honor, submit to you the interesting question whether
something can not be done, consistently with the rights of the States, to preserve
this much- injured race.
As a means of effecting this end I suggest for your consideration the propriety
of setting apart an ample district west of the Mississippi, and without the
limits of any State or Territory now formed, to be guaranteed to the Indian
tribes as long as they shall occupy it, each tribe having a distinct control
over the portion designated for its use. There they may be secured in the enjoyment
of governments of their own choice, subject to no other control from the United
States than such as may be necessary to preserve peace on the frontier and between
the several tribes. There the benevolent may endeavor to teach them the arts
of civilization, and, by promoting union and harmony among them, to raise up
an interesting commonwealth, destined to perpetuate the race and to attest the
humanity and justice of this Government.
This emigration should be voluntary, for it would be as cruel as unjust to
compel the aborigines to abandon the graves of their fathers and seek a home
in a distant land. But they should be distinctly informed that if they remain
within the limits of the States they must be subject to their laws. In return
for their obedience as individuals they will without doubt be protected in the
enjoyment of those possessions which they have improved by their industry. But
it seems to me visionary to suppose that in this state of things claims can
be allowed on tracts of country on which they have neither dwelt nor made improvements,
merely because they have seen them from the mountain or passed them in the chase.
Submitting to the laws of the States, and receiving, like other citizens, protection
in their persons and property, they will ere long become merged in the mass
of our population.
The accompanying report of the Secretary of the Navy will make you acquainted
with the condition and useful employment of that branch of our service during
the present year. Constituting as it does the best standing security of this
country against foreign aggression, it claims the especial attention of Government.
In this spirit the measures which since the termination of the last war have
been in operation for its gradual enlargement were adopted, and it should continue
to be cherished as the off-spring of our national experience. It will be seen,
however, that not withstanding the great solicitude which has been manifested
for the perfect organization of this arm and the liberality of the appropriations
which that solicitude has suggested, this object has in many important respects
not been secured.
In time of peace we have need of no more ships of war than are requisite to
the protection of our commerce. Those not wanted for this object must lay in
the harbors, where without proper covering they rapidly decay, and even under
the best precautions for their preservation must soon become useless. Such is
already the case with many of our finest vessels, which, though unfinished,
will now require immense sums of money to be restored to the condition in which
they were when committed to their proper element.
On this subject there can be but little doubt that our best policy would be
to discontinue the building of ships of the first and second class, and look
rather to the possession of ample materials, prepared for the emergencies of
war, than to the number of vessels which we can float in a season of peace,
as the index of our naval power. Judicious deposits in navy yards of timber
and other materials, fashioned under the hands of skillful work-men and fitted
for prompt application to their various purposes, would enable us at all times
to construct vessels as fast as they can be manned, and save the heavy expense
of repairs, except to such vessels as must be employed in guarding our commerce.
The proper points for the establishment of these yards are indicated with so
much force in the report of the Navy Board that in recommending it to your attention
I deem it unnecessary to do more than express my hearty concurrence in their
views. The yard in this District, being already furnished with most of the machinery
necessary for ship building, will be competent to the supply of the two selected
by the Board as the best for the concentration of materials, and, from the facility
and certainty of communication between them, it will be useless to incur at
those depots the expense of similar machinery, especially that used in preparing
the usual metallic and wooden furniture of vessels.
Another improvement would be effected by dispensing altogether with the Navy
Board as now constituted, and substituting in its stead bureaux similar to those
already existing in the War Department. Each member of the Board, transferred
to the head of a separate bureau charged with specific duties, would feel in
its highest degree that wholesome responsibility which can not be divided without
a far more than proportionate diminution of its force. Their valuable services
would become still more so when separately appropriated to distinct portions
of the great interests of the Navy, to the prosperity of which each would be
impelled to devote himself by the strongest motives. Under such an arrangement
every branch of this important service would assume a more simple and precise
character, its efficiency would be increased, and scrupulous economy in the
expenditure of public money promoted.
I would also recommend that the Marine Corps be merged in the artillery or
infantry, as the best mode of curing the many defects in its organization. But
little exceeding in number any of the regiments of infantry, that corps has,
besides its lieutenant-colonel commandant, five brevet lieutenant-colonels,
who receive the full pay and emoluments of their brevet rank, without rendering
proportionate service. Details for marine service could as well be made from
the artillery or infantry, there being no peculiar training requisite for it.
With these improvements, and such others as zealous watchfulness and mature
consideration may suggest, there can be little doubt that under an energetic
administration of its affairs the Navy may soon be made every thing that the
nation wishes it to be. Its efficiency in the suppression of piracy in the West
India seas, and wherever its squadrons have been employed in securing the interests
of the country, will appear from the report of the Secretary, to which I refer
you for other interesting details. Among these I would bespeak the attention
of Congress for the views presented in relation to the inequality between the
Army and Navy as to the pay of officers. No such inequality should prevail between
these brave defenders of their country, and where it does exist it is submitted
to Congress whether it ought not to be rectified.
The report of the PostMaster General is referred to as exhibiting a highly
satisfactory administration of that Department. Abuses have been reformed, increased
expedition in the transportation of the mail secured, and its revenue much improved.
In a political point of view this Department is chiefly important as affording
the means of diffusing knowledge. It is to the body politic what the veins and
arteries are to the natural -- conveying rapidly and regularly to the remotest
parts of the system correct information of the operations of the Government,
and bringing back to it the wishes and feelings of the people. Through its agency
we have secured to ourselves the full enjoyment of the blessings of a free press.
In this general survey of our affairs a subject of high importance presents
itself in the present organization of the judiciary. An uniform operation of
the Federal Government in the different States is certainly desirable, and existing
as they do in the Union on the basis of perfect equality, each State has a right
to expect that the benefits conferred on the citizens of others should be extended
to hers. The judicial system of the United States exists in all its efficiency
in only fifteen members of the Union; to three others the circuit courts, which
constitute an important part of that system, have been imperfectly extended,
and to the remaining 6 altogether denied. The effect has been to withhold from
the inhabitants of the latter the advantages afforded (by the Supreme Court)
to their fellow citizens in other States in the whole extent of the criminal
and much of the civil authority of the Federal judiciary. That this state of
things ought to be remedied, if it can be done consistently with the public
welfare, is not to be doubted. Neither is it to be disguised that the organization
of our judicial system is at once a difficult and delicate task. To extend the
circuit courts equally throughout the different parts of the Union, and at the
same time to avoid such a multiplication of members as would encumber the supreme
appellate tribunal, is the object desired. Perhaps it might be accomplished
by dividing the circuit judges into two classes, and providing that the Supreme
Court should be held by these classes alternately, the Chief Justice always
If an extension of the circuit court system to those States which do not now
enjoy its benefits should be determined upon, it would of course be necessary
to revise the present arrangement of the circuits; and even if that system should
not be enlarged, such a revision is recommended.
A provision for taking the census of the people of the United States will,
to insure the completion of that work within a convenient time, claim the early
attention of Congress.
The great and constant increase of business in the Department of State forced
itself at an early period upon the attention of the Executive. Thirteen years
ago it was, in Mr. Madison's last message to Congress, made the subject of an
earnest recommendation, which has been repeated by both of his successors; and
my comparatively limited experience has satisfied me of its justness. It has
arisen from many causes, not the least of which is the large addition that has
been made to the family of independent nations and the proportionate extension
of our foreign relations. The remedy proposed was the establishment of a home
department -- a measure which does not appear to have met the views of Congress
on account of its supposed tendency to increase, gradually and imperceptibly,
the already too strong bias of the federal system toward the exercise of authority
not delegated to it. I am not, therefore, disposed to revive the recommendation,
but am not the less impressed with the importance of so organizing that Department
that its Secretary may devote more of his time to our foreign relations. Clearly
satisfied that the public good would be promoted by some suitable provision
on the subject, I respectfully invite your attention to it.
The charter of the Bank of the United States expires in 1836, and its stock
holders will most probably apply for a renewal of their privileges. In order
to avoid the evils resulting from precipitancy in a measure involving such important
principles and such deep pecuniary interests, I feel that I can not, in justice
to the parties interested, too soon present it to the deliberate consideration
of the Legislature and the people. Both the constitutionality and the expediency
of the law creating this bank are well questioned by a large portion of our
fellow citizens, and it must be admitted by all that it has failed in the great
end of establishing an uniform and sound currency.
Under these circumstances, if such an institution is deemed essential to the
fiscal operations of the Government, I submit to the wisdom of the Legislature
whether a national one, founded upon the credit of the Government and its revenues,
might not be devised which would avoid all constitutional difficulties and at
the same time secure all the advantages to the Government and country that were
expected to result from the present bank.
I can not close this communication without bringing to your view the just claim
of the representatives of Commodore Decatur, his officers and crew, arising
from the recapture of the frigate Philadelphia under the heavy batteries of
Tripoli. Although sensible, as a general rule, of the impropriety of Executive
interference under a Government like ours, where every individual enjoys the
right of directly petitioning Congress, yet, viewing this case as one of very
peculiar character, I deem it my duty to recommend it to your favorable consideration.
Besides the justice of this claim, as corresponding to those which have been
since recognized and satisfied, it is the fruit of a deed of patriotic and chivalrous
daring which infused life and confidence into our infant Navy and contributed
as much as any exploit in its history to elevate our national character. Public
gratitude, therefore, stamps her seal upon it, and the meed should not be withheld
which may here after operate as a stimulus to our gallant tars.
I now commend you, fellow citizens, to the guidance of Almighty God, with a
full reliance on His merciful providence for the maintenance of our free institutions,
and with an earnest supplication that what ever errors it may be my lot to commit
in discharging the arduous duties which have devolved on me will find a remedy
in the harmony and wisdom of your counsels.