Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
The representation of the people has been renewed for the 22nd time since the Constitution they formed has been in force. For near half a century the Chief Magistrates who have been successively chosen have made their annual communications of the state of the nation to its representatives. Generally these communications have been of the most gratifying nature, testifying an advance in all the improvements of social and all the securities of political life. But frequently and justly as you have been called on to be grateful for the bounties of Providence, at few periods have they been more abundantly or extensively bestowed than at the present; rarely, if ever, have we had greater reason to congratulate each other on the continued and increasing prosperity of our beloved country.
Agriculture, the first and most important occupation of man, has compensated the labors of the husband-man with plentiful crops of all the varied products of our extensive country. Manufactures have been established in which the funds of the capitalist find a profitable investment, and which give employment and subsistence to a numerous and increasing body of industrious and dexterous mechanics. The laborer is rewarded by high wages in the construction of works of internal improvement, which are extending with unprecedented rapidity. Science is steadily penetrating the recesses of nature and disclosing her secrets, while the ingenuity of free minds is subjecting the elements to the power of man and making each new conquest auxiliary to his comfort. By our mails, whose speed is regularly increased and whose routes are every year extended, the communication of public intelligence and private business is rendered frequent and safe; the intercourse between distant cities, which it formerly required weeks to accomplish, is now effected in a few days; and in the construction of rail roads and the application of steam power we have a reasonable prospect that the extreme parts of our country will be so much approximated and those most isolated by the obstacles of nature rendered so accessible as to remove an apprehension some times entertained that the great extent of the Union would endanger its permanent existence.
If from the satisfactory view of our agriculture, manufactures, and internal improvements we turn to the state of our navigation and trade with foreign nations and between the States, we shall scarcely find less cause for gratulation. A beneficent Providence has provided for their exercise and encouragement an extensive coast, indented by capacious bays, noble rivers, inland seas; with a country productive of every material for ship building and every commodity for gainful commerce, and filled with a population active, intelligent, well—informed, and fearless of danger. These advantages are not neglected, and an impulse has lately been given to commercial enterprise, which fills our ship yards with new constructions, encourages all the arts and branches of industry connected with them, crowds the wharves of our cities with vessels, and covers the most distant seas with our canvas.
Let us be grateful for these blessings to the beneficent Being who has conferred them, and who suffers us to indulge a reasonable hope of their continuance and extension, while we neglect not the means by which they may be preserved. If we may dare to judge of His future designs by the manner in which His past favors have been bestowed, He has made our national prosperity to depend on the preservation of our liberties, our national force on our Federal Union, and our individual happiness on the maintenance of our State rights and wise institutions. If we are prosperous at home and respected abroad, it is because we are free, united, industrious, and obedient to the laws. While we continue so we shall by the blessing of Heaven go on in the happy career we have begun, and which has brought us in the short period of our political existence from a population of 3,000,000 to 13,000,000; from 13 separate colonies to 24 united States; from weakness to strength; from a rank scarcely marked in the scale of nations to a high place in their respect.
This last advantage is one that has resulted in a great degree from the principles which have guided our intercourse with foreign powers since we have assumed an equal station among them, and hence the annual account which the Executive renders to the country of the manner in which that branch of his duties has been fulfilled proves instructive and salutary.
The pacific and wise policy of our Government kept us in a state of neutrality during the wars that have at different periods since our political existence been carried on by other powers; but this policy, while it gave activity and extent to our commerce, exposed it in the same proportion to injuries from the belligerent nations. Hence have arisen claims of indemnity for those injuries. England, France, Spain, Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Naples, and lately Portugal had all in a greater or less degree infringed our neutral rights. Demands for reparation were made upon all. They have had in all, and continue to have in some, cases a leading influence on the nature of our relations with the powers on whom they were made.
Of the claims upon England it is unnecessary to speak further than to say that the state of things to which their prosecution and denial gave rise has been succeeded by arrangements productive of mutual good feeling and amicable relations between the two countries, which it is hoped will not be interrupted. One of these arrangements is that relating to the colonial trade which was communicated to Congress at the last session; and although the short period during which it has been in force will not enable me to form an accurate judgment of its operation, there is every reason to believe that it will prove highly beneficial. The trade thereby authorized has employed to September 30th, 1831 upward of 30 thousand tons of American and 15 thousand tons of foreign shipping in the outward voyages, and in the inward nearly an equal amount of American and 20 thousand only of foreign tonnage. Advantages, too, have resulted to our agricultural interests from the state of the trade between Canada and our Territories and States bordering or the St. Lawrence and the Lakes which may prove more than equivalent to the loss sustained by the discrimination made to favor the trade of the northern colonies with the West Indies.
After our transition from the state of colonies to that of an independent nation many points were found necessary to be settled between us and Great Britain. Among them was the demarcation of boundaries not described with sufficient precision in the treaty of peace. Some of the lines that divide the States and Territories of the United States from the British Provinces have been definitively fixed.
That, however, which separates us from the Provinces of Canada and New Brunswick to the North and the East was still in dispute when I came into office, but I found arrangements made for its settlement over which I had no control. The commissioners who had been appointed under the provisions of the treaty of Ghent having been unable to agree, a convention was made with Great Britain by my immediate predecessor in office, with the advice and consent of the Senate, by which it was agreed “that the points of difference which have arisen in the settlement of the boundary line between the American and British dominions, as described in the 5th article of the treaty of Ghent, shall be referred, as therein provided, to some friendly sovereign or State, who shall be invited to investigate and make a decision upon such points of difference”; and the King of the Netherlands having by the late President and His Britannic Majesty been designated as such friendly sovereign, it became my duty to carry with good faith the agreement so made into full effect. To this end I caused all the measures to be taken which were necessary to a full exposition of our case to the sovereign arbiter, and nominated as minister plenipotentiary to his Court a distinguished citizen of the State most interested in the question, and who had been one of the agents previously employed for settling the controversy.
On January 10th, 1831 His Majesty the King of the Netherlands delivered to the plenipotentiaries of the United States and of Great Britain his written opinion on the case referred to him. The papers in relation to the subject will be communicated by a special message to the proper branch of the Government with the perfect confidence that its wisdom will adopt such measures as will secure an amicable settlement of the controversy without infringing any constitutional right of the States immediately interested.
It affords me satisfaction to inform you that suggestions made by my direction to the chargé d’affaires of His Britannic Majesty to this Government have had their desired effect in producing the release of certain American citizens who were imprisoned for setting up the authority of the State of Maine at a place in the disputed territory under the actual jurisdiction of His Britannic Majesty. From this and the assurances I have received of the desire of the local authorities to avoid any cause of collision I have the best hopes that a good understanding will be kept up until it is confirmed by the final disposition of the subject.
The amicable relations which now subsist between the United States and Great Britain, the increasing intercourse between their citizens, and the rapid obliteration of unfriendly prejudices to which former events naturally gave rise concurred to present this as a fit period for renewing our endeavors to provide against the recurrence of causes of irritation which in the event of war between Great Britain and any other power would inevitably endanger our peace. Animated by the sincerest desire to avoid such a state of things, and peacefully to secure under all possible circumstances the rights and honor of the country, I have given such instructions to the minister lately sent to the Court of London as will evince that desire, and if met by a correspondent disposition, which we can not doubt, will put an end to causes of collision which, without advantage to either, tend to estrange from each other two nations who have every motive to preserve not only peace, but an intercourse of the most amicable nature.
In my message at the opening of the last session of Congress I expressed a confident hope that the justice of our claims upon France, urged as they were with perseverance and signal ability by our minister there, would finally be acknowledged. This hope has been realized. A treaty has been signed which will immediately be laid before the Senate for its approbation, and which, containing stipulations that require legislative acts, must have the concurrence of both houses before it can be carried into effect.
By it the French Government engage to pay a sum which, if not quite equal to that which may be found due to our citizens, will yet, it is believed, under all circumstances, be deemed satisfactory by those interested. The offer of a gross sum instead of the satisfaction of each individual claim was accepted because the only alternatives were a rigorous exaction of the whole amount stated to be due on each claim, which might in some instances be exaggerated by design, in other over—rated through error, and which, therefore, it would have been both ungracious and unjust to have insisted on; or a settlement by a mixed commission, to which the French negotiators were very averse, and which experience in other cases had shewn to be dilatory and often wholly inadequate to the end.
A comparatively small sum is stipulated on our part to go to the extinction of all claims by French citizens on our Government, and a reduction of duties on our cotton and their wines has been agreed on as a consideration for the renunciation of an important claim for commercial privileges under the construction they gave to the treaty for the cession of Louisiana.
Should this treaty receive the proper sanction, a source of irritation will be stopped that has for so many years in some degree alienated from each other two nations who, from interest as well as the remembrance of early associations, ought to cherish the most friendly relations; an encouragement will be given for perseverance in the demands of justice by this new proof that if steadily pursued they will be listened to, and admonition will be offered to those powers, if any, which may be inclined to evade them that they will never be abandoned; above all, a just confidence will be inspired in our fellow citizens that their Government will exert all the powers with which they have invested it in support of their just claims upon foreign nations; at the same time that the frank acknowledgment and provision for the payment of those which were addressed to our equity, although unsupported by legal proof, affords a practical illustration of our submission to the divine rule of doing to others what we desire they should do unto us.
Sweden and Denmark having made compensation for the irregularities committed by their vessels or in their ports to the perfect satisfaction of the parties concerned, and having renewed the treaties of commerce entered into with them, our political and commercial relations with those powers continue to be on the most friendly footing.
With Spain our differences up to February 22d, 1819 were settled by the treaty of Washington of that date, but at a subsequent period our commerce with the States formerly colonies of Spain on the continent of America was annoyed and frequently interrupted by her public and private armed ships. They captured many of our vessels prosecuting a lawful commerce and sold them and their cargoes, and at one time to our demands for restoration and indemnity opposed the allegation that they were taken in the violation of a blockade of all the ports of those States. This blockade was declaratory only, and the inadequacy of the force to maintain it was so manifest that this allegation was varied to a charge of trade in contraband of war. This, in its turn, was also found untenable, and the minister whom I sent with instructions to press for the reparation that was due to our injured fellow citizens has transmitted an answer to his demand by which the captures are declared to have been legal, and are justified because the independence of the States of America never having been acknowledged by Spain she had a right to prohibit trade with them under her old colonial laws. This ground of defense was contradictory, not only to those which had been formerly alleged, but to the uniform practice and established laws of nations, and had been abandoned by Spain herself in the convention which granted indemnity to British subjects for captures made at the same time, under the same circumstances, and for the same allegations with those of which we complain.
I, however, indulge the hope that further reflection will lead to other views, and feel confident that when His Catholic Majesty shall be convinced of the justice of the claims his desire to preserve friendly relations between the two countries, which it is my earnest endeavor to maintain, will induce him to accede to our demand. I have therefore dispatched a special messenger with instructions to our minister to bring the case once more to his consideration, to the end that if (which I can not bring myself to believe) the same decision (that can not but be deemed an unfriendly denial of justice) should be persisted in the matter may before your adjournment be laid before you, the constitutional judges of what is proper to be done when negotiation for redress of injury fails.
The conclusion of a treaty for indemnity with France seemed to present a favorable opportunity to renew our claims of a similar nature on other powers, and particularly in the case of those upon Naples, more especially as in the course of former negotiations with that power our failure to induce France to render us justice was used as an argument against us. The desires of the merchants, who were the principal sufferers, have therefore been acceded to, and a mission has been instituted for the special purpose of obtaining for them a reparation already too long delayed. This measure having been resolved on, it was put in execution without waiting for the meeting of Congress, because the state of Europe created an apprehension of events that might have rendered our application ineffectual.
Our demands upon the Government of the two Sicilies are of a peculiar nature. The injuries on which they are founded are not denied, nor are the atrocity and perfidy under which those injuries were perpetrated attempted to be extenuated. The sole ground on which indemnity has been refused is the alleged illegality of the tenure by which the monarch who made the seizures held his crown. This defense, always unfounded in any principle of the law of nations, now universally abandoned, even by those powers upon whom the responsibility for the acts of past rulers bore the most heavily, will unquestionably be given up by His Sicilian Majesty, whose counsels will receive an impulse from that high sense of honor and regard to justice which are said to characterize him; and I feel the fullest confidence that the talents of the citizen commissioned for that purpose will place before him the just claims of our injured citizens in such as light as will enable me before your adjournment to announce that they have been adjusted and secured. Precise instructions to the effect of bringing the negotiation to a speedy issue have been given, and will be obeyed.
In the late blockade of Terceira some of the Portuguese fleet captured several of our vessels and committed other excesses, for which reparation was demanded, and I was on the point of dispatching an armed force to prevent any recurrence of a similar violence and protect our citizens in the prosecution of their lawful commerce when official assurances, on which I relied, made the sailing of the ships unnecessary. Since that period frequent promises have been made that full indemnity shall be given for the injuries inflicted and the losses sustained. In the performance there has been some, perhaps unavoidable, delay; but I have the fullest confidence that my earnest desire that this business may at once be closed, which our minister has been instructed strongly to express, will very soon be gratified. I have the better ground for this hope from the evidence of a friendly disposition which that Government has shown an actual reduction in the duty on rice the produce of our Southern States, authorizing the anticipation that this important article of our export will soon be admitted on the same footing with that produced by the most favored nation.
With the other powers of Europe we have fortunately had no cause of discussions for the redress of injuries. With the Empire of the Russias our political connection is of the most friendly and our commercial of the most liberal kind. We enjoy the advantages of navigation and trade given to the most favored nation, but it has not yet suited their policy, or perhaps has not been found convenient from other considerations, to give stability and reciprocity to those privileges by a commercial treaty. The ill health of the minister last year charged with making a proposition for that arrangement did not permit him to remain at St. Petersburg, and the attention of that Government during the whole of the period since his departure having been occupied by the war in which it was engaged, we have been assured that nothing could have been effected by his presence. A minister will soon be nominated, as well to effect this important object as to keep up the relations of amity and good understanding of which we have received so many assurances and proofs from His Imperial Majesty and the Emperor his predecessor.
The treaty with Austria is opening to us an important trade with the hereditary dominions of the Emperor, the value of which has been hitherto little known, and of course not sufficiently appreciated. While our commerce finds an entrance into the south of Germany by means of this treaty, those we have formed with the Hanseatic towns and Prussia and others now in negotiation will open that vast country to the enterprising spirit of our merchants on the north——a country abounding in all the materials for a mutually beneficial commerce, filled with enlightened and industrious inhabitants, holding an important place in the politics of Europe, and to which we owe so many valuable citizens. The ratification of the treaty with the Porte was sent to be exchanged by the gentleman appointed our charge d’affaires to that Court. Some difficulties occurred on his arrival, but at the date of his last official dispatch he supposed they had been obviated and that there was every prospect of the exchange being speedily effected.
This finishes the connected view I have thought it proper to give of our political and commercial relations in Europe. Every effort in my power will be continued to strengthen and extend them by treaties founded on principles of the most perfect reciprocity of interest, neither asking nor conceding any exclusive advantage, but liberating as far as it lies in my power the activity and industry of our fellow citizens from the shackles which foreign restrictions may impose.
To China and the East Indies our commerce continues in its usual extent, and with increased facilities which the credit and capital of our merchants afford by substituting bills for payments in specie. A daring outrage having been committed in those seas by the plunder of one of our merchant—men engaged in the pepper trade at a port in Sumatra, and the piratical perpetrators belonging to tribes in such a state of society that the usual course of proceedings between civilized nations could not be pursued, I forthwith dispatched a frigate with orders to require immediate satisfaction for the injury and indemnity to the sufferers.
Few changes have taken place in our connections with the independent States of America since my last communication to Congress. The ratification of a commercial treaty with the United Republics of Mexico has been for some time under deliberation in their Congress, but was still undecided at the date of our last dispatches. The unhappy civil commotions that have prevailed there were undoubtedly the cause of the delay, but as the Government is now said to be tranquillized we may hope soon to receive the ratification of the treaty and an arrangement for the demarcation of the boundaries between us. In the mean time, an important trade has been opened with mutual benefit from St. Louis, in the State of Missouri, by caravans to the interior Provinces of Mexico. This commerce is protected in its progress through the Indian countries by the troops of the United States, which have been permitted to escort the caravans beyond our boundaries to the settled part of the Mexican territory.
From Central America I have received assurances of the most friendly kind and a gratifying application for our good offices to remove a supposed indisposition toward that Government in a neighboring State. This application was immediately and successfully complied with. They gave us also the pleasing intelligence that differences which had prevailed in their internal affairs had been peaceably adjusted. Our treaty with this Republic continues to be faithfully observed, and promises a great and beneficial commerce between the two countries——a commerce of the greatest importance if the magnificent project of a ship canal through the dominions of that State from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, now in serious contemplation, shall be executed.
I have great satisfaction in communicating the success which has attended the exertions of our minister in Colombia to procure a very considerable reduction in the duties on our flour in that Republic. Indemnity also has been stipulated for injuries received by our merchants from illegal seizures, and renewed assurances are given that the treaty between the two countries shall be faithfully observed.
Chili and Peru seem to be still threatened with civil commotions, and until they shall be settled disorders may naturally be apprehended, requiring the constant presence of a naval force in the Pacific Ocean to protect our fisheries and guard our commerce.
The disturbances that took place in the Empire of Brazil previously to and immediately consequent upon the abdication of the late Emperor necessarily suspended any effectual application for the redress of some past injuries suffered by our citizens from that Government, while they have been the cause of others, in which all foreigners seem to have participated. Instructions have been given to our minister there to press for indemnity due for losses occasioned by these irregularities, and to take care of our fellow citizens shall enjoy all the privileges stipulated in their favor by the treaty lately made between the two powers, all which the good intelligence that prevails between our minister at Rio Janeiro and the Regency gives us the best reason to expect.
I should have placed Buenos Ayres in the list of South American powers in respect to which nothing of importance affecting us was to be communicated but for occurrences which have lately taken place at the Falkland Islands, in which the name of that Republic has been used to cover with a show of authority acts injurious to our commerce and to the property and liberty of our fellow citizens. In the course of the present year one of our vessels, engaged in the pursuit of a trade which we have always enjoyed without molestation, has been captured by a band acting, as they pretend, under the authority of the Government of Buenos Ayres. I have therefore given orders for the dispatch of an armed vessel to join our squadron in those seas and aid in affording all lawful protection to our trade which shall be necessary, and shall without delay send a minister to inquire into the nature of the circumstances and also of the claim, if any, that is set up by that Government to those islands. In the mean time, I submit the case to the consideration of Congress, to the end that they may clothe the Executive with such authority and means as they may deem necessary for providing a force adequate to the complete protection of our fellow citizens fishing and trading in those seas.
This rapid sketch of our foreign relations, it is hoped, fellow citizens, may be of some use in so much of your legislation as may bear on that important subject, while it affords to the country at large a source of high gratification in the contemplation of our political and commercial connection with the rest of the world. At peace with all; having subjects of future difference with few, and those susceptible of easy adjustment; extending our commerce gradually on all sides and on none by any but the most liberal and mutually beneficial means, we may, by the blessing of Providence, hope for all that national prosperity which can be derived from an intercourse with foreign nations, guided by those eternal principles of justice and reciprocal good will which are binding as well upon States as the individuals of whom they are composed.
I have great satisfaction in making this statement of our affairs, because the course of our national policy enables me to do it without any indiscreet exposure of what in other governments is usually concealed from the people. Having none but a straight-forward, open course to pursue, guided by a single principle that will bear the strongest light, we have happily no political combinations to form, no alliances to entangle us, no complicated interests to consult, and in subjecting all we have done to the consideration of our citizens and to the inspection of the world we give no advantage to other nations and lay ourselves open to no injury.
It may not be improper to add that to preserve this state of things and give confidence to the world in the integrity of our designs all our consular and diplomatic agents are strictly enjoined to examine well every cause of complaint preferred by our citizens, and while they urge with proper earnestness those that are well founded, to countenance none that are unreasonable or unjust, and to enjoin on our merchants and navigators the strictest obedience to the laws of the countries to which they resort, and a course of conduct in their dealings that may support the character of our nation and render us respected abroad.
Connected with this subject, I must recommend a revisal of our consular laws. Defects and omissions have been discovered in their operation that ought to be remedied and supplied. For your further information on this subject I have directed a report to be made by the Secretary of State, which I shall hereafter submit to your consideration.
The internal peace and security of our confederated States is the next principal object of the General Government. Time and experience have proved that the abode of the native Indian within their limits is dangerous to their peace and injurious to himself. In accordance with my recommendation at a former session of Congress, an appropriation of $500 thousand was made to aid the voluntary removal of the various tribes beyond the limits of the States. At the last session I had the happiness to announce that the Chickasaws and Choctaws had accepted the generous offer of the Government and agreed to remove beyond the Mississippi River, by which the whole of the State of Mississippi and the western part of Alabama will be freed from Indian occupancy and opened to a civilized population. The treaties with these tribes are in a course of execution, and their removal, it is hoped, will be completed in the course of 1832.
At the request of the authorities of Georgia the registration of Cherokee Indians for emigration has been resumed, and it is confidently expected that half, if not two-thirds, of that tribe will follow the wise example of their more westerly brethren. Those who prefer remaining at their present homes will hereafter be governed by the laws of Georgia, as all her citizens are, and cease to be the objects of peculiar care on the part of the General Government.
During the present year the attention of the Government has been particularly directed to those tribes in the powerful and growing State of Ohio, where considerable tracts of the finest lands were still occupied by the aboriginal proprietors. Treaties, either absolute or conditional, have been made extinguishing the whole Indian title to the reservations in that State, and the time is not distant, it is hoped, when Ohio will be no longer embarrassed with the Indian population. The same measures will be extended to Indiana as soon as there is reason to anticipate success. It is confidently believed that perseverance for a few years in the present policy of the Government will extinguish the Indian title to all lands lying within the States composing our Federal Union, and remove beyond their limits every Indian who is not willing to submit to their laws.
Thus will all conflicting claims to jurisdiction between the States and the Indian tribes be put to rest. It is pleasing to reflect that results so beneficial, not only to the States immediately concerned, but to the harmony of the Union, will have been accomplished by measures equally advantageous to the Indians. What the native savages become when surrounded by a dense population and by mixing with the whites may be seen in the miserable remnants of a few Eastern tribes, deprived of political and civil rights, forbidden to make contracts, and subjected to guardians, dragging out a wretched existence, without excitement, without hope, and almost without thought.
But the removal of the Indians beyond the limits and jurisdiction of the States does not place them beyond the reach of philanthropic aid and Christian instruction. On the contrary, those whom philanthropy or religion may induce to live among them in their new abode will be more free in the exercise of their benevolent functions than if they had remained within the limits of the States, embarrassed by their internal regulations. Now subject to no control but the superintending agency of the General Government, exercised with the sole view of preserving peace, they may proceed unmolested in the interesting experiment of gradually advancing a community of American Indians from barbarism to the habits and enjoyments of civilized life.
Among the happiest effects of the improved relations of our Republic has been an increase of trade, producing a corresponding increase of revenue beyond the most sanguine anticipations of the Treasury Department.
The state of the public finances will be fully shown by the Secretary of the Treasury in the report which he will presently lay before you. I will here, however, congratulate you upon their prosperous condition. The revenue received in the present year will not fall short of $27,700,000, and the expenditures for all objects other than the public debt will not exceed $14,700,000. The payment on account of the principal and interest of the debt during the year will exceed $16,500,000, a greater sum than has been applied to that object out of the revenue in any year since the enlargement of the sinking fund except the two years following immediately there after. The amount which will have been applied to the public debt from March 4th, 1829 to January 1st, 1832, which is less than three years since the Administration has been placed in my hands, will exceed $40,000,000.
From the large importations of the present year it may be safely estimated that the revenue which will be received into the Treasury from that source during the next year, with the aid of that received from the public lands, will considerably exceed the amount of the receipts of the present year; and it is believed that with the means which the Government will have at its disposal from various sources, which will be fully stated by the proper Department, the whole of the public debt may be extinguished, either by redemption or purchase, within the four years of my Administration. We shall then exhibit the rare example of a great nation, abounding in all the means of happiness and security, altogether free from debt.
The confidence with which the extinguishment of the public debt may be anticipated presents an opportunity for carrying into effect more fully the policy in relation to import duties which has been recommended in my former messages. A modification of the tariff which shall produce a reduction of our revenue to the wants of the Government and an adjustment of the duties on imports with a view to equal justice in relation to all our national interests and to the counteraction of foreign policy so far as it may be injurious to those interests, is deemed to be one of the principal objects which demand the consideration of the present Congress. Justice to the interests of the merchant as well as the manufacturer requires that material reductions in the import duties be prospective; and unless the present Congress shall dispose of the subject the proposed reductions can not properly be made to take effect at the period when the necessity for the revenue arising from present rates shall cease. It is therefore desirable that arrangements be adopted at your present session to relieve the people from unnecessary taxation after the extinguishment of the public debt. In the exercise of that spirit of concession and conciliation which has distinguished the friends of our Union in all great emergencies, it is believed that this object may be effected without injury to any national interest.
In my annual message of December, 1829, I had the honor to recommend the adoption of a more liberal policy than that which then prevailed toward unfortunate debtors to the Government, and I deem it my duty again to invite your attention to this subject.
Actuated by similar views, Congress at their last session passed an act for the relief of certain insolvent debtors of the United States, but the provisions of that law have not been deemed such as were adequate to that relief to this unfortunate class of our fellow citizens which may be safely extended to them. The points in which the law appears to be defective will be particularly communicated by the Secretary of the Treasury, and I take pleasure in recommending such an extension of its provisions as will unfetter the enterprise of a valuable portion of our citizens and restore to them the means of usefulness to themselves and the community. While deliberating on this subject I would also recommend to your consideration the propriety of so modifying the laws for enforcing the payment of debts due either to the public or to individuals suing in the courts of the United States as to restrict the imprisonment of the person to cases of fraudulent concealment of property. The personal liberty of the citizen seems too sacred to be held, as in many cases it now is, at the will of a creditor to whom he is willing to surrender all the means he has of discharging his debt.
The reports from the Secretaries of the War and Navy Departments and from the Post Master General, which accompany this message, present satisfactory views of the operations of the Departments respectively under their charge, and suggest improvements which are worthy of and to which I invite the serious attention of Congress. Certain defects and omissions having been discovered in the operation of the laws respecting patents, they are pointed out in the accompanying report from the Secretary of State.
I have heretofore recommended amendments of the Federal Constitution giving the election of President and Vice-President to the people and limiting the service of the former to a single term. So important do I consider these changes in our fundamental law that I can not, in accordance with my sense of duty, omit to press them upon the consideration of a new Congress. For my views more at large, as well in relation to these points as to the disqualification of members of Congress to receive an office from a President in whose election they have had an official agency, which I proposed as a substitute, I refer you to my former messages.
Our system of public accounts is extremely complicated, and it is believed may be much improved. Much of the present machinery and a considerable portion of the expenditure of public money may be dispensed with, while greater facilities can be afforded to the liquidation of claims upon the Government and an examination into their justice and legality quite as efficient as the present secured. With a view to a general reform in the system, I recommend the subject to the attention of Congress.
I deem it my duty again to call your attention to the condition of the District of Columbia. It was doubtless wise in the framers of our Constitution to place the people of this District under the jurisdiction of the General Government, but to accomplish the objects they had in view it is not necessary that this people should be deprived of all the privileges of self—government. Independently of the difficulty of inducing the representatives of distant States to turn their attention to projects of laws which are not of the highest interest to their constituents, they are not individually, nor in Congress collectively, well qualified to legislate over the local concerns of this District. Consequently its interests are much neglected, and the people are almost afraid to present their grievances, lest a body in which they are not represented and which feels little sympathy in their local relations should in its attempt to make laws for them do more harm than good.
Governed by the laws of the States whence they were severed, the two shores of the Potomac within the ten miles square have different penal codes—not the present codes of Virginia and Maryland, but such as existed in those States at the time of the cession to the United States. As Congress will not form a new code, and as the people of the District can not make one for themselves, they are virtually under two governments. Is it not just to allow them at least a Delegate in Congress, if not a local legislature, to make laws for the District, subject to the approval or rejection of Congress? I earnestly recommend the extension to them of every political right which their interests require and which may be compatible with the Constitution.
The extension of the judiciary system of the United States is deemed to be one of the duties of the Government. One-fourth of the States in the Union do not participate in the benefits of a circuit court. To the States of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana, admitted into the Union since the present judicial system was organized, only a district court has been allowed. If this be sufficient, then the circuit courts already existing in 18 States ought to be abolished; if it be not sufficient, the defect ought to be remedied, and these States placed on the same footing with the other members of the Union. It was on this condition and on this footing that they entered the Union, and they may demand circuit courts as a matter not of concession, but of right. I trust that Congress will not adjourn leaving this anomaly in our system.
Entertaining the opinions heretofore expressed in relation to the Bank of the United States as at present organized, I felt it my duty in my former messages frankly to disclose them, in order that the attention of the Legislature and the people should be seasonably directed to that important subject, and that it might be considered and finally disposed of in a manner best calculated to promote the ends of the Constitution and subserve the public interests. Having thus conscientiously discharged a constitutional duty, I deem it proper on this occasion, without a more particular reference to the views of the subject then expressed to leave it for the present to the investigation of an enlightened people and their representatives.
In conclusion permit me to invoke that Power which superintends all governments to infuse into your deliberations at this important crisis of our history a spirit of mutual forbearance and conciliation. In that spirit was our Union formed, and in that spirit must it be preserved.