It may be said in brief, as the result of these efforts, that the attitude of the leading powers remains substantially unchanged since the monetary conference of 1881, nor is it to be questioned that the views of these governments are in each instance supported by the weight of public opinion.
The steps thus taken have therefore only more fully demonstrated the uselessness of further attempts at present to arrive at any agreement on the subject with other nations.
In the meantime we are accumulating silver coin, based upon our own peculiar ratio, to such an extent, and assuming so heavy a burden to be provided for in any international negotiations, as will render us an undesirable party to any future monetary conference of nations.
It is a significant fact that four of the five countries composing the Latin Union mentioned in our coinage act, embarrassed with their silver currency, have just completed an agreement among themselves that no more silver shall be coined by their respective Governments and that such as has been already coined and in circulation shall be redeemed in gold by the country of its coinage. The resort to this expedient by these countries may well arrest the attention of those who suppose that we can succeed without shock or injury in the attempt to circulate upon its merits all the silver we may coin under the provisions of our silver-coinage act.
The condition in which our Treasury may be placed by a persistence in our present course is a matter of concern to every patriotic citizen who does not desire his Government to pay in silver such of its obligations as should be paid in gold. Nor should our condition be such as to oblige us, in a prudent management of our affairs, to discontinue the calling in and payment of interest-bearing obligations which we have the right now to discharge, and thus avoid the payment of further interest thereon.
The so-called debtor class, for whose benefit the continued compulsory coinage of silver is insisted upon, are not dishonest because they are in debt, and they should not be suspected of a desire to jeopardize the financial safety of the country in order that they may cancel their present debts by paying the same in depreciated dollars. Nor should it be forgotten that it is not the rich nor the money lender alone that must submit to such a readjustment, enforced by the Government and their debtors. The pittance of the widow and the orphan and the incomes of helpless beneficiaries of all kinds would be disastrously reduced. The depositors in savings banks and in other institutions which hold in trust the savings of the poor, when their little accumulations are scaled down to meet the new order of things, would in their distress painfully realize the delusion of the promise made to them that plentiful money would improve their condition.
We have now on hand all the silver dollars necessary to supply the present needs of the people and to satisfy those who from sentiment wish to see them in circulation, and if their coinage is suspended they can be readily obtained by all who desire them. If the need of more is at anytime apparent, their coinage may be renewed.
That disaster has not already overtaken us furnishes no proof that danger does not wait upon a continuation of the present silver coinage. We have been saved by the most careful management and unusual expedients, by a combination of fortunate conditions, and by a confident expectation that the course of the Government in regard to silver coinage would be speedily changed by the action of Congress.
Prosperity hesitates upon our threshold because of the dangers and uncertainties surrounding this question. Capital timidly shrinks from trade, and investors are unwilling to take the chance of the questionable shape in which their money will be returned to them, while enterprise halts at a risk against which care and sagacious management do not protect.
As a necessary consequence, labor lacks employment and suffering and distress are visited upon a portion of our fellow-citizens especially entitled to the careful consideration of those charged with the duties of legislation. No interest appeals to us so strongly for a safe and stable currency as the vast army of the unemployed.
I recommend the suspension of the compulsory coinage of silver dollars, directed by the law passed in February, 1878.
The Steamboat-Inspection Service on the 30th day of June, 1885, was composed of 140 persons, including officers, clerks, and messengers. The expenses of the service over the receipts were $138,822.22 during the fiscal year. The special inspection of foreign steam vessels, organized under a law passed in 1882, was maintained during the year at an expense of $36,641.63. Since the close of the fiscal year reductions have been made in the force employed which will result in a saving during the current year of $17,000 without affecting the efficiency of the service.
The Supervising Surgeon-General reports that during the fiscal year 41,714 patients have received relief through the Marine-Hospital Service, of whom 12,803 were treated in hospitals and 28,911 at the dispensaries.
Active and effective efforts have been made through the medium of this service to protect the country against an invasion of cholera, which has prevailed in Spain and France, and the smallpox, which recently broke out in Canada.
The most gratifying results have attended the operations of the Life Saving Service during the last fiscal year. The observance of the provision of law requiring the appointment of the force employed in this service to be made “solely with reference to their fitness, and without reference to their political or party affiliation,” has secured the result which may confidently be expected in any branch of public employment where such a rule is applied. As a consequence, this service is composed of men well qualified for the performance of their dangerous and exceptionally important duties.
The number of stations in commission at the close of the year was 203. The number of disasters to vessels and craft of all kinds within their field of action was 371. The number of persons endangered in such disasters was 2,439, of whom 2,428 were saved and only 11 lost. Other lives which were imperiled, though not by disasters to shipping, were also rescued, and a large amount of property was saved through the aid of this service. The cost of its maintenance during the year was $828,474.43.
The work of the Coast and Geodetic Survey was during the last fiscal year carried on within the boundaries and off the coasts of thirty-two States, two Territories, and the District of Columbia. In July last certain irregularities were found to exist in the management of this Bureau, which led to a prompt investigation of its methods. The abuses which were brought to light by this examination and the reckless disregard of duty and the interests of the Government developed on the part of some of those connected with the service made a change of superintendency and a few of its other officers necessary. Since the Bureau has been in new hands an introduction of economies and the application of business methods have produced an important saving to the Government and a promise of more useful results.
This service has never been regulated by anything but the most indefinite legal enactments and the most unsatisfactory rules. It was many years ago sanctioned apparently for a purpose regarded as temporary and related to a survey of our coast. Having gained a place in the appropriations made by Congress, it has gradually taken to itself powers and objects not contemplated in its creation and extended its operations until it sadly needs legislative attention.
So far as a further survey of our coast is concerned, there seems to be a propriety in transferring that work to the Navy Department. The other duties now in charge of this establishment, if they can not be profitably attached to some existing Department or other bureau, should be prosecuted under a law exactly defining their scope and purpose, and with a careful discrimination between the scientific inquiries which may properly be assumed by the Government and those which should be undertaken by State authority or by individual enterprise.
It is hoped that the report of the Congressional committee heretofore appointed to investigate this and other like matters will aid in the accomplishment of proper legislation on this subject.
The report of the Secretary of War is herewith submitted. The attention of Congress is invited to the detailed account which it contains of the administration of his Department, and his recommendations and suggestions for the improvement of the service.
The Army consisted, at the date of the last consolidated returns, of 2,154 officers and 24,705 enlisted men.
The expenses of the Departments for the fiscal year ended June, 30, 1885, including $13,164,394.60 for public works and river and harbor improvements, were $45,850,999.54.
Besides the troops which were dispatched in pursuit of the small band of Indians who left their reservation in Arizona and committed murders and outrages, two regiments of cavalry and one of infantry were sent last July to the Indian Territory to prevent an outbreak which seemed imminent. They remained to aid, if necessary, in the expulsion of intruders upon the reservation, who seemed to have caused the discontent among the Indians, but the Executive proclamation warning them to remove was complied with without their interference.
Troops were also sent to Rock Springs, in Wyoming Territory, after the massacre of Chinese there, to prevent further disturbance, and afterwards to Seattle, in Washington Territory, to avert a threatened attack upon Chinese laborers and domestic violence there. In both cases the mere presence of the troops had the desired effect.
It appears that the number of desertions has diminished, but that during the last fiscal year they numbered 2,927; and one instance is given by the Lieutenant-General of six desertions by the same recruit. I am convinced that this number of desertions can be much diminished by better discipline and treatment; but the punishment should be increased for repeated offenses.
These desertions might also be reduced by lessening the term of first enlistments, thus allowing a discontented recruit to contemplate a nearer discharge and the Army a profitable riddance. After one term of service a reenlistment would be quite apt to secure a contented recruit and a good soldier.
The Acting Judge-Advocate-General reports that the number of trials by general courts-martial during the year was 2,328, and that 11,851 trials took place before garrison and regimental courts-martial. The suggestion that probably more than half the Army have been tried for offenses, great and small, in one year may well arrest attention. Of course many of these trials before garrison and regimental courts-martial were for offenses almost frivolous, and there should, I think, be a way devised to dispose of these in a more summary and less inconvenient manner than by court-martial.
If some of the proceedings of courts-martial which I have had occasion to examine present the ideas of justice which generally prevail in these tribunals, I am satisfied that they should be much reformed if the honor and the honesty of the Army and Navy are by their instrumentality to be vindicated and protected.
The Board on Fortifications or other defenses, appointed in pursuance of the provisions of the act of Congress approved March 3, 1885, will in a short time present their report, and it is hoped that this may greatly aid the legislation so necessary to remedy the present defenseless condition of our seacoasts
The work of the Signal Service has been prosecuted during the last year with results of increasing benefit to the country. The field of instruction has been enlarged with a view of adding to its usefulness. The number of stations in operation June 30, 1885, was 489. Telegraphic reports are received daily from 160 stations. Reports are also received from 25 Canadian stations, 375 volunteer observers, 52 army surgeons at military posts, and 333 foreign stations. The expense of the service during the fiscal year, after deducting receipts from military telegraph lines, was $792,592.97. In view of the fact referred to by the Secretary of War, that the work of this service ordinarily is of a scientific nature, and the further fact that it is assuming larger proportions constantly and becoming more and more unsuited to the fixed rules which must govern the Army, I am inclined to agree with him in the opinion that it should be separately established. If this is done, the scope and extent of its operations should, as nearly as possible, be definitely prescribed by law and always capable of exact ascertainment.
The Military Academy at West Point is reported as being in a high state of efficiency and well equipped for the satisfactory accomplishment of the purposes of its maintenance.
The fact that the class which graduates next year is an unusually large one has constrained me to decline to make appointments to second lieutenancies in the Army from civil life, so that such vacancies as exist in these places may be reserved for such graduates; and yet it is not probable that there will be enough vacancies to provide positions for them all when they leave the military school. Under the prevailing law and usage those not thus assigned to duty never actively enter the military service. It is suggested that the law on this subject be changed so that such of these young men as are not at once assigned to duty after graduation may be retained as second lieutenants in the Army if they desire it, subject to assignment when opportunity occurs, and under proper rules as to priority of selection.
The expenditures on account of the Military Academy for the last fiscal year, exclusive of the sum taken for its purposes from appropriations for the support of the Army, were $290,712.07.
The act approved March 3, 1885, designed to compensate officers and enlisted men for loss of private property while in the service of the United States, is so indefinite in its terms and apparently admits so many claims the adjustment of which could not have been contemplated that if it is to remain upon the statute book it needs amendment.
There should be a general law of Congress prohibiting the construction of bridges over navigable waters in such manner as to obstruct navigation, with provisions for preventing the same. It seems that under existing statutes the Government can not intervene to prevent such a construction when entered upon without its consent, though when such consent is asked and granted upon condition the authority to insist upon such condition is clear. Thus it is represented that while the officers of the Government are with great care guarding against the obstruction of navigation by a bridge across the Mississippi River at St. Paul a large pier for a bridge has been built just below this place directly in the navigable channel of the river. If such things are to be permitted, a strong argument is presented against the appropriation of large sums of money to improve the navigation of this and other important highways of commerce.
The report of the Secretary of the Navy gives a history of the operations of his Department and the present condition of the work committed to his charge.
He details in full the course pursued by him to protect the rights of the Government in respect of certain vessels unfinished at the time of his accession to office, and also concerning the dispatch boat Dolphin, claimed to be completed and awaiting the acceptance of the Department. No one can fail to see from recitals contained in this report that only the application of business principles has been insisted upon in the treatment of these subjects, and that whatever controversy has arisen was caused by the exaction on the part of the Department of contract obligations as they were legally construed. In the case of the Dolphin, with entire justice to the contractor, an agreement has been entered into providing for the ascertainment by a judicial inquiry of the complete or partial compliance with the contract in her construction, and further providing for the assessment of any damages to which the Government may be entitled on account of a partial failure to perform such contract, or the payment of the sum still remaining unpaid upon her price in case a full performance is adjudged.
The contractor, by reason of his failure in business, being unable to complete the other three vessels, they were taken possession of by the Government in their unfinished state under a clause in the contract permitting such a course, and are now in process of completion in the yard of the contractor, but under the supervision of the Navy Department.
Congress at its last session authorized the construction of two additional new cruisers and two gunboats, at a cost not exceeding in the aggregate $2,995,000. The appropriation for this purpose having become available on the 1st day of July last, steps were at once taken for the procurement of such plans for the construction of these vessels as would be likely to insure their usefulness when completed. These are of the utmost importance, considering the constant advance in the art of building vessels of this character, and the time is not lost which is spent in their careful consideration and selection.
All must admit the importance of an effective navy to a nation like ours, having such an extended seacoast to protect; and yet we have not a single vessel of war that could keep the seas against a first-class vessel of any important power. Such a condition ought not longer to continue. The nation that can not resist aggression is constantly exposed to it. Its foreign policy is of necessity weak and its negotiations are conducted with disadvantage because it is not in condition to enforce the terms dictated by its sense of right and justice.
Inspired, as I am, by the hope, shared by all patriotic citizens, that the day is not very far distant when our Navy will be such as befits our standing among the nations of the earth, and rejoiced at every step that leads in the direction of such a consummation, I deem it my duty to especially direct the attention of Congress to the close of the report of the Secretary of the Navy, in which the humiliating weakness of the present organization of his Department is exhibited and the startling abuses and waste of its present methods are exposed. The conviction is forced upon us with the certainty of mathematical demonstration that before we proceed further in the restoration of a Navy we need a thoroughly reorganized Navy Department. The fact that within seventeen years more than $75,000,000 have been spent in the construction, repair, equipment, and armament of vessels, and the further fact that instead of an effective and creditable fleet we have only the discontent and apprehension of a nation undefended by war vessels, added to the disclosures now made, do not permit us to doubt that every attempt to revive our Navy has thus far for the most part been misdirected, and all our efforts in that direction have been little better than blind gropings and expensive, aimless follies.
Unquestionably if we are content with the maintenance of a Navy Department simply as a shabby ornament to the Government, a constant watchfulness may prevent some of the scandal and abuse which have found their way into our present organization, and its incurable waste may be reduced to the minimum. But if we desire to build ships for present usefulness instead of naval reminders of the days that are past, we must have a Department organized for the work, supplied with all the talent and ingenuity our country affords, prepared to take advantage of the experience of other nations, systematized so that all effort shall unite and lead in one direction, and fully imbued with the conviction that war vessels, though new, are useless unless they combine all that the ingenuity of man has up to this day brought forth relating to their construction.
I earnestly commend the portion of the Secretary’s report devoted to this subject to the attention of Congress, in the hope that his suggestions touching the reorganization of his Department may be adopted as the first step toward the reconstruction of our Navy.
The affairs of the postal service are exhibited by the report of the Postmaster-General, which will be laid before you.
The postal revenue, whose ratio of gain upon the rising prosperity of 1882 and 1883 outstripped the increasing expenses of our growing service, was checked by the reduction in the rate of letter postage which took effect with the beginning of October in the latter year, and it diminished during the two past fiscal years $2,790,000, in about the proportion of $2,270,000 in 1884 to $520,000 in 1885. Natural growth and development have meantime increased expenditure, resulting in a deficiency in the revenue to meet the expenses of the Department of five and a quarter million dollars for the year 1884 and eight and a third million in the last fiscal year. The anticipated and natural revival of the revenue has been oppressed and retarded by the unfavorable business condition of the country, of which the postal service is a faithful indicator. The gratifying fact is shown, however, by the report that our returning prosperity is marked by a gain of $380,000 in the revenue of the latter half of the last year over the corresponding period of the preceding year.
The change in the weight of first-class matter which may be carried for a single rate of postage from a half ounce to an ounce, and the reduction by one-half of the rate of newspaper postage, which, under recent legislation, began with the current year, will operate to restrain the augmentation of receipts which otherwise might have been expected to such a degree that the scale of expense may gain upon the revenue and cause an increased deficiency to be shown at its close. Yet, after no long period of reawakened prosperity, by proper economy it is confidently anticipated that even the present low rates, now as favorable as any country affords, will be adequate to sustain the cost of the service.
The operation of the Post-Office Department is for the convenience and benefit of the people, and the method by which they pay the charges of this useful arm of their public service, so that it be just and impartial, is of less importance to them than the economical expenditure of the means they provide for its maintenance and the due improvement of its agencies, so that they may enjoy its highest usefulness.
A proper attention has been directed to the prevention of waste or extravagance, and good results appear from the report to have already been accomplished.
I approve the recommendation of the Postmaster-General to reduce the charges on domestic money orders of $5 and less from 8 to 5 cents. This change will materially aid those of our people who most of all avail themselves of this instrumentality, but to whom the element of cheapness is of the greatest importance. With this reduction the system would still remain self-supporting.
The free-delivery system has been extended to 19 additional cities during the year, and 178 now enjoy its conveniences. Experience has commended it to those who enjoy its benefits, and further enlargement of its facilities is due to other communities to which it is adapted. In the cities where it has been established, taken together the local postage exceeds its maintenance by nearly $1,300,000. The limit to which this system is now confined by law has been nearly reached, and the reasons given justify its extension, which is proposed.
It was decided, with my approbation, after a sufficient examination, to be inexpedient for the Post-Office Department to contract for carrying our foreign mails under the additional authority given by the last Congress. The amount limited was inadequate to pay all within the purview of the law the full rate of 50 cents per mile, and it would have been unjust and unwise to have given it to some and denied it to others. Nor could contracts have been let under the law to all at a rate to have brought the aggregate within the appropriation without such practical prearrangement of terms as would have violated it.
The rate of sea and inland postage which was proffered under another statute clearly appears to be a fair compensation for the desired service, being three times the price necessary to secure transportation by other vessels upon any route, and much beyond the charges made to private persons for services not less burdensome.
Some of the steamship companies, upon the refusal of the Postmaster-General to attempt, by the means provided, the distribution of the sum appropriated as an extra compensation, withdrew the services of their vessels and thereby occasioned slight inconvenience, though no considerable injury, the mails having been dispatched by other means.
Whatever may be thought of the policy of subsidizing any line of public conveyance or travel, I am satisfied that it should not be done under cover of an expenditure incident to the administration of a Department, nor should there be any uncertainty as to the recipients of the subsidy or any discretion left to an executive officer as to its distribution. If such gifts of the public money are to be made for the purpose of aiding any enterprise in the supposed interest of the public, I can not but think that the amount to be paid and the beneficiary might better be determined by Congress than in any other way.
The international congress of delegates from the Postal Union countries convened at Lisbon, in Portugal, in February last, and after a session of some weeks the delegates signed a convention amendatory of the present postal-union convention in some particulars designed to advance its purposes. This additional act has had my approval and will be laid before you with the departmental report.
I approve the recommendation of the postmaster-General that another assistant be provided for his Department. I invite your consideration to the several other recommendations contained in his report.
The report of the Attorney-General contains a history of the conduct of the Department of Justice during the last year and a number of valuable suggestions as to needed legislation, and I invite your careful attention to the same.
The condition of business in the courts of the United States is such that there seems to be an imperative necessity for remedial legislation on the subject. Some of these courts are so overburdened with pending causes that the delays in determining litigation amount often to a denial of justice. Among the plans suggested for relief is one submitted by the Attorney-General. Its main features are: The transfer of all the original jurisdiction of the circuit courts to the district courts and an increase of judges for the latter where necessary; an addition of judges to the circuit courts, and constituting them exclusively courts of appeal, and reasonably limiting appeals thereto; further restrictions of the right to remove causes from the State to Federal courts; permitting appeals to the Supreme Court from the courts of the District of Columbia and the Territories only in the same cases as they are allowed from State courts, and guarding against an unnecessary number of appeals from the circuit courts.
I approve the plan thus outlined, and recommend the legislation necessary for its application to our judicial system.
The present mode of compensating United States marshals and district attorneys should, in my opinion, be changed. They are allowed to charge against the Government certain fees for services, their income being measured by the amount of such fees within a fixed limit as to their annual aggregate. This is a direct inducement for them to make their fees in criminal cases as large as possible in an effort to reach the maximum sum permitted. As an entirely natural consequence, unscrupulous marshals are found encouraging frivolous prosecutions, arresting people on petty charges of crime and transporting them to distant places for examination and trial, for the purpose of earning mileage and other fees; and district attorneys uselessly attend criminal examinations far from their places of residence for the express purpose of swelling their accounts against the Government. The actual expenses incurred in these transactions are also charged against the Government.
Thus the rights and freedom of our citizens are outraged and public expenditures increased for the purpose of furnishing public officers pretexts for increasing the measure of their compensation.
I think marshals and district attorneys should be paid salaries, adjusted by a rule which will make them commensurate with services fairly rendered.
In connection with this subject I desire to suggest the advisability, if it be found not obnoxious to constitutional objection, of investing United States commissioners with the power to try and determine certain violations of law within the grade of misdemeanors. Such trials might be made to depend upon the option of the accused. The multiplication of small and technical offenses, especially under the provisions of our internal-revenue law, render some change in our present system very desirable in the interests of humanity as well as economy. The district courts are now crowded with petty prosecutions, involving a punishment in case of conviction, of only a slight fine, while the parties accused are harassed by an enforced attendance upon courts held hundreds of miles from their homes. If poor and friendless, they are obliged to remain in jail during months, perhaps, that elapse before a session of the court is held, and are finally brought to trial surrounded by strangers and with but little real opportunity for defense. In the meantime frequently the marshal has charged against the Government his fees for an arrest, the transportation of the accused and the expense of the same, and for summoning witnesses before a commissioner, a grand jury, and a court; the witnesses have been paid from the public funds large fees and traveling expenses, and the commissioner and district attorney have also made their charges against the Government.
This abuse in the administration of our criminal law should be remedied; and if the plan above suggested is not practicable, some other should be devised.
The report of the Secretary of the Interior, containing an account of the operations of this important Department and much interesting information, will be submitted for your consideration.
The most intricate and difficult subject in charge of this Department is the treatment and management of the Indians. I am satisfied that some progress may be noted in their condition as a result of a prudent administration of the present laws and regulations for their control.
But it is submitted that there is lack of a fixed purpose or policy on this subject, which should be supplied. It is useless to dilate upon the wrongs of the Indians, and as useless to indulge in the heartless belief that because their wrongs are revenged in their own atrocious manner, therefore they should be exterminated.
They are within the care of our Government, and their rights are, or should be, protected from invasion by the most solemn obligations. They are properly enough called the wards of the Government; and it should be borne in mind that this guardianship involves on our part efforts for the improvement of their condition and the enforcement of their rights. There seems to be general concurrence in the proposition that the ultimate object of their treatment should be their civilization and citizenship. Fitted by these to keep pace in the march of progress with the advanced civilization about them, they will readily assimilate with the mass of our population, assuming the responsibilities and receiving the protection incident to this condition.
The difficulty appears to be in the selection of the means to be at present employed toward the attainment of this result.
Our Indian population, exclusive of those in Alaska, is reported as numbering 260,000, nearly all being located on lands set apart for their use and occupation, aggregating over 134,000,000 acres. These lands are included in the boundaries of 171 reservations of different dimensions, scattered in 21 States and Territories, presenting great variations in climate and in the kind and quality of their soils. Among the Indians upon these several reservations there exist the most marked differences in natural traits and disposition and in their progress toward civilization. While some are lazy, vicious, and stupid, others are industrious, peaceful, and intelligent; while a portion of them are self-supporting and independent, and have so far advanced in civilization that they make their own laws, administered through officers of their own choice, and educate their children in schools of their own establishment and maintenance, others still retain, in squalor and dependence, almost the savagery of their natural state.
In dealing with this question the desires manifested by the Indians should not be ignored. Here again we find a great diversity. With some the tribal relation is cherished with the utmost tenacity, while its hold upon others is considerably relaxed; the love of home is strong with all, and yet there are those whose attachment to a particular locality is by no means unyielding; the ownership of their lands in severalty is much desired by some, while by others, and sometimes among the most civilized, such a distribution would be bitterly opposed.
The variation of their wants, growing out of and connected with the character of their several locations, should be regarded. Some are upon reservations most fit for grazing, but without flocks or herds; and some on arable land, have no agricultural implements. While some of the reservations are double the size necessary to maintain the number of Indians now upon them, in a few cases, perhaps, they should be enlarged.
Add to all this the difference in the administration of the agencies. While the same duties are devolved upon all, the disposition of the agents and the manner of their contact with the Indians have much to do with their condition and welfare. The agent who perfunctorily performs his duty and slothfully neglects all opportunity to advance their moral and physical improvement and fails to inspire them with a desire for better things will accomplish nothing in the direction of their civilization, while he who feels the burden of an important trust and has an interest in his work will, by consistent example, firm yet considerate treatment, and well-directed aid and encouragement, constantly lead those under his charge toward the light of their enfranchisement.
The history of all the progress which has been made in the civilization of the Indian I think will disclose the fact that the beginning has been religious teaching, followed by or accompanying secular education. While the self-sacrificing and pious men and women who have aided in this good work by their independent endeavor have for their reward the beneficent results of their labor and the consciousness of Christian duty well performed, their valuable services should be fully acknowledged by all who under the law are charged with the control and management of our Indian wards.
What has been said indicates that in the present condition of the Indians no attempt should be made to apply a fixed and unyielding plan of action to their varied and varying needs and circumstances.
The Indian Bureau, burdened as it is with their general oversight and with the details of the establishment, can hardly possess itself of the minute phases of the particular cases needing treatment; and thus the propriety of creating an instrumentality auxiliary to those already established for the care of the Indians suggests itself.
I recommend the passage of a law authorizing the appointment of six commissioners, three of whom shall be detailed from the Army, to be charged with the duty of a careful inspection from time to time of all the Indians upon our reservations or subject to the care and control of the Government, with a view of discovering their exact condition and needs and determining what steps shall be taken on behalf of the Government to improve their situation in the direction of their self-support and complete civilization; that they ascertain from such inspection what, if any, of the reservations may be reduced in area, and in such cases what part not needed for Indian occupation may be purchased by the Government from the Indians and disposed of for their benefit; what, if any, Indians may, with their consent, be removed to other reservations, with a view of their concentration and the sale on their behalf of their abandoned reservations; what Indian lands now held in common should be allotted in severalty; in what manner and to what extent the Indians upon the reservations can be placed under the protection of our laws and subjected to their penalties, and which, if any, Indians should be invested with the right of citizenship. The powers and functions of the commissioners in regard to these subjects should be clearly defined, though they should, in conjunction with the Secretary of the Interior, be given all the authority to deal definitely with the questions presented deemed safe and consistent.
They should be also charged with the duty of ascertaining the Indians who might properly be furnished with implements of agriculture, and of what kind; in what cases the support of the Government should be withdrawn; where the present plan of distributing Indian supplies should be changed; where schools may be established and where discontinued; the conduct, methods, and fitness of agents in charge of reservations; the extent to which such reservations are occupied or intruded upon by unauthorized persons, and generally all matters related to the welfare and improvement of the Indian.
They should advise with the Secretary of the Interior concerning these matters of detail in management, and he should be given power to deal with them fully, if he is not now invested with such power.
This plan contemplates the selection of persons for commissioners who are interested in the Indian question and who have practical ideas upon the subject of their treatment.
The expense of the Indian Bureau during the last fiscal year was more than six and a halt million dollars. I believe much of this expenditure might be saved under the plan proposed; that its economical effects would be increased with its continuance; that the safety of our frontier settlers would be subserved under its operation, and that the nation would be saved through its results from the imputation of inhumanity, injustice, and mismanagement.
In order to carry out the policy of allotment of Indian lands in severalty, when deemed expedient, it will be necessary to have surveys completed of the reservations, and, I hope that provision will be made for the prosecution of this work.
In May of the present year a small portion of the Chiricahua Apaches on the White Mountain Reservation, in Arizona, left the reservation and committed a number of murders and depredations upon settlers in that neighborhood. Though prompt and energetic action was taken by the military, the renegades eluded capture and escaped into Mexico. The formation of the country through which these Indians passed, their thorough acquaintance with the same, the speed of their escape, and the manner in which they scattered and concealed themselves among the mountains near the scene of their outrages put our soldiers at a great disadvantage in their efforts to capture them, though the expectation is still entertained that they will be ultimately taken and punished for their crimes.
The threatening and disorderly conduct of the Cheyennes in the Indian Territory early last summer caused considerable alarm and uneasiness. Investigation proved that their threatening attitude was due in a great measure to the occupation of the land of their reservation by immense herds of cattle, which their owners claimed were rightfully there under certain leases made by the Indians. Such occupation appearing upon examination to be unlawful notwithstanding these leases, the intruders were ordered to remove with their cattle from the lands of the Indians by Executive proclamation. The enforcement of this proclamation had the effect of restoring peace and order among the Indians, and they are now quiet and well behaved.
By an Executive order issued on February 27, 1885, by my predecessor, a portion of the tract of country in the territory known as the Old Winnebago and Crow Creek reservations was directed to be restored to the public domain and opened to settlement under the land laws of the United States, and a large number of persons entered upon those lands. This action alarmed the Sioux Indians, who claimed the territory as belonging to their reservation under the treaty of 1868. This claim was determined, after careful investigation, to be well rounded, and consequently the Executive order referred to was by proclamation of April 17, 1885, declared to be inoperative and of no effect, and all persons upon the land were warned to leave. This warning has been substantially complied with.
The public domain had its origin in cessions of land by the States to the General Government. The first cession was made by the State of New York, and the largest, which in area exceeded all the others, by the State of Virginia. The territory the proprietorship of which became thus vested in the General Government extended from the western line of Pennsylvania to the Mississippi River. These patriotic donations of the States were encumbered with no condition except that they should the held and used “for the common benefit of the United States.” By purchase with the common fund of all the people additions were made to this domain until it extended to the northern line of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean, and the Polar Sea. The original trust, “for the common benefit of the United States,” attached to all. In the execution of that trust the policy of many homes, rather than large estates, was adopted by the Government. That these might be easily obtained, and be the abode of security and contentment, the laws for their acquisition were few, easily understood, and general in their character. But the pressure of local interests, combined with a speculative spirit, have in many instances procured the passage of laws which marred the harmony of the general plan and encumbered the system with a multitude of general and special enactments which render the land laws complicated, subject the titles to uncertainty, and the purchasers often to oppression and wrong. Laws which were intended for the “common benefit” have been perverted so that large quantities of land are vesting in single ownerships. From the multitude and character of the laws, this consequence seems incapable of correction by mere administration.
It is not for the “common benefit of the United States” that a large area of the public lands should be acquired, directly or through fraud, in the hands of a single individual. The nation’s strength is in the people. The nation’s prosperity is in their prosperity. The nation’s glory is in the equality of her justice. The nation’s perpetuity is in the patriotism of all her people. Hence, as far as practicable, the plan adopted in the disposal of the public lands should have in view the original policy, which encouraged many purchases of these lands for homes and discouraged the massing of large areas. Exclusive of Alaska, about three-fifths of the national domain has been sold or subjected to contract or grant. Of the remaining two-fifths a considerable portion is either mountain or desert. A rapidly increasing population creates a growing demand for homes, and the accumulation of wealth inspires an eager competition to obtain the public land for speculative purposes. In the future this collision of interests will be more marked than in the past, and the execution of the nation’s trust in behalf of our settlers will be more difficult. I therefore commend to your attention the recommendations contained in the report of the Secretary of the Interior with reference to the repeal and modification of certain of our land laws.
The nation has made princely grants and subsidies to a system of railroads projected as great national highways to connect the Pacific States with the East. It has been charged that these donations from the people have been diverted to private gain and corrupt uses, and thus public indignation has been aroused and suspicion engendered. Our great nation does not begrudge its generosity, but it abhors speculation and fraud; and the favorable regard of our people for the great corporations to which these grants were made can only be revived by a restoration of confidence, to be secured by their constant, unequivocal, and clearly manifested integrity. A faithful application of the undiminished proceeds of the grants to the construction and perfecting of their roads, an honest discharge of their obligations, and entire justice to all the people in the enjoyment of their rights on these highways of travel are all the public asks, and it will be content with no less. To secure these things should be the common purpose of the officers of the Government, as well as of the corporations. With this accomplishment prosperity would be permanently secured to the roads, and national pride would take the place of national complaint.
It appears from the report of the Commissioner of Pensions that there were on the 1st day of July, 1885, 345,125 persons borne upon the pension rolls, who were classified as follows: Army invalids, 241,456; widows, minor children, and dependent relatives of deceased soldiers, 78,841; navy invalids, 2,745; navy widows, minor children, and dependents, 1,926; survivors of the War of 1812, 2,945; and widows of those who served in that war, 17,212. About one man in ten of all those who enlisted in the late war are reported as receiving pensions, exclusive of the dependents of deceased soldiers. On the 1st of July, 1875, the number of pensioners was 234,821, and the increase within the ten years next thereafter was 110,304.
While there is no expenditure of the public funds which the people more cheerfully approve than that made in recognition of the services of our soldiers living and dead, the sentiment underlying the subject should not be vitiated by the introduction of any fraudulent practices. Therefore it is fully as important that the rolls should be cleansed of all those who by fraud have secured a place thereon as that meritorious claims should be speedily examined and adjusted. The reforms in the methods of doing the business of this Bureau which have lately been inaugurated promise better results in both these directions.
The operations of the Patent Office demonstrate the activity of the inventive genius of the country. For the year ended June 30, 1885, the applications for patents, including reissues, and for the registration of trade-marks and labels, numbered 35,688. During the same period there were 22,928 patents granted and reissued and 1,429 trade-marks and labels registered. The number of patents issued in the year 1875 was 14,387. The receipts during the last fiscal year were $ 1,074,974.35, and the total expenditures, not including contingent expenses, $934,123.11.
There were 9,788 applications for patents pending on the 1st day of July, 1884, and 5,786 on the same date in the year 1885. There has been considerable improvement made in the prompt determination of applications and a consequent relief to expectant inventors.
A number of suggestions and recommendations are contained in the report of the Commissioner of patents which are well entitled to the consideration of Congress.
In the Territory of Utah the law of the United States passed for the Suppression of polygamy has been energetically and faithfully executed during the past year, with measurably good results. A number of convictions have been secured for unlawful cohabitation, and in some cases pleas of guilty have been entered and a slight punishment imposed, upon a promise by the accused that they would not again offend against the law, nor advise, counsel, aid, or abet in any way its violation by others.
The Utah commissioners express the opinion, based upon such information as they are able to obtain, that but few polygamous marriages have taken place in the Territory during the last year. They further report that while there can not be found upon the registration lists of voters the name of a man actually guilty of polygamy, and while none of that class are holding office, yet at the last election in the Territory all the officers elected, except in one county, were men who, though not actually living in the practice of polygamy, subscribe to the doctrine of polygamous marriages as a divine revelation and a law unto all higher and more binding upon the conscience than any human law, local or national. Thus is the strange spectacle presented of a community protected by a republican form of government, to which they owe allegiance, sustaining by their suffrages a principle and a belief which set at naught that obligation of absolute obedience to the law of the land which lies at the foundation of republican institutions.
The strength, the perpetuity, and the destiny of the nation rest upon our homes, established by the law of God, guarded by parental care, regulated by parental authority, and sanctified by parental love.
These are not the homes of polygamy.
The mothers of our land, who rule the nation as they mold the characters and guide the actions of their sons, live according to God’s holy ordinances, and each, secure and happy in the exclusive love of the father of her children, sheds the warm light of true womanhood, unperverted and unpolluted, upon all within her pure and wholesome family circle.
These are not the cheerless, crushed, and unwomanly mothers of polygamy.
The fathers of our families are the best citizens of the Republic. Wife and children are the sources of patriotism, and conjugal and parental affection beget devotion to the country. The man who, undefiled with plural marriage, is surrounded in his single home with his wife and children has a stake in the country which inspires him with respect for its laws and courage for its defense.
These are not the fathers of polygamous families.
There is no feature of this practice or the system which sanctions it which is not opposed to all that is of value in our institutions.
There should be no relaxation in the firm but just execution of the law now in operation, and I should be glad to approve such further discreet legislation as will rid the country of this blot upon its fair fame.
Since the people upholding polygamy in our Territories are reenforced by immigration from other lands, I recommend that a law be passed to prevent the importation of Mormons into the country.
The agricultural interest of the country demands just recognition and liberal encouragement. It sustains with certainty and unfailing strength our nation’s prosperity by the products of its steady toil, and bears its full share of the burden of taxation without complaint. Our agriculturists have but slight personal representation in the councils of the nation, and are generally content with the humbler duties of citizenship and willing to trust to the bounty of nature for a reward of their labor. But the magnitude and value of this industry are appreciated when the statement is made that of our total annual exports more than three-fourths are the products of agriculture, and of our total population nearly one-half are exclusively engaged in that occupation.
The Department of Agriculture was created for the purpose of acquiring and diffusing among the people useful information respecting the subjects it has in charge, and aiding in the cause of intelligent and progressive farming, by the collection of statistics, by testing the value and usefulness of new seeds and plants, and distributing such as are found desirable among agriculturists. This and other powers and duties with which this Department is invested are of the utmost importance, and if wisely exercised must be of great benefit to the country. The aim of our beneficent Government is the improvement of the people in every station and the amelioration of their condition. Surely our agriculturists should not be neglected. The instrumentality established in aid of the farmers of the land should not only be well equipped for the accomplishment of its purpose, but those for whose benefit it has been adopted should be encouraged to avail themselves fully of its advantages.
The prohibition of the importation into several countries of certain of our animals and their products, based upon the suspicion that health is endangered in their use and consumption, suggests the importance of such precautions for the protection of our stock of all kinds against disease as will disarm suspicion of danger and cause the removal of such an injurious prohibition.
If the laws now in operation are insufficient to accomplish this protection, I recommend their amendment to meet the necessities of the situation; and I commend to the consideration of Congress the suggestions contained in the report of the Commissioner of Agriculture calculated to increase the value and efficiency of this Department.
The report of the Civil Service Commission, which will be submitted, contains an account of the manner in which the civil-service law has been executed during the last year and much valuable information on this important subject.
I am inclined to think that there is no sentiment more general in the minds of the people of our country than a conviction of the correctness of the principle upon which the law enforcing civil-service reform is based. In its present condition the law regulates only a part of the subordinate public positions throughout the country. It applies the test of fitness to applicants for these places by means of a competitive examination, and gives large discretion to the Commissioners as to the character of the examination and many other matters connected with its execution. Thus the rules and regulations adopted by the Commission have much to do with the practical usefulness of the statute and with the results of its application.
The people may well trust the Commission to execute the law with perfect fairness and with as little irritation as is possible. But of course no relaxation of the principle which underlies it and no weakening of the safeguards which surround it can be expected. Experience in its administration will probably suggest amendment of the methods of its execution, but I venture to hope that we shall never again be remitted to the system which distributes public positions purely as rewards for partisan service. Doubts may well be entertained whether our Government could survive the strain of a continuance of this system, which upon every change of Administration inspires an immense army of claimants for office to lay siege to the patronage of Government, engrossing the time of public officers with their importunities, spreading abroad the contagion of their disappointment, and filling the air with the tumult of their discontent.
The allurements of an immense number of offices and places exhibited to the voters of the land, and the promise of their bestowal in recognition of partisan activity; debauch the suffrage and rob political action of its thoughtful and deliberative character. The evil would increase with the multiplication of offices consequent upon our extension, and the mania for office holding, growing from its indulgence, would pervade our population so generally that patriotic purpose, the support of principle, the desire for the public good, and solicitude for the nation’s welfare would be nearly banished from the activity of our party contests and cause them to degenerate into ignoble, selfish, and disgraceful struggles for the possession of office and public place.
Civil-service reform enforced by law came none too soon to check the progress of demoralization.
One of its effects, not enough regarded, is the freedom it brings to the political action of those conservative and sober men who, in fear of the confusion and risk attending an arbitrary and sudden change in all the public offices with a change of party rule, cast their ballots against such a chance.
Parties seem to be necessary, and will long continue to exist; nor can it be now denied that there are legitimate advantages, not disconnected with office holding, which follow party supremacy. While partisanship continues bitter and pronounced and supplies so much of motive to sentiment and action, it is not fair to hold public officials in charge of important trusts responsible for the best results in the performance of their duties, and yet insist that they shall rely in confidential and important places upon the work of those not only opposed to them in political affiliation, but so steeped in partisan prejudice and rancor that they have no loyalty to their chiefs and no desire for their success. Civil-service reform does not exact this, nor does it require that those in subordinate positions who fail in yielding their best service or who are incompetent should be retained simply because they are in place. The whining of a clerk discharged for indolence or incompetency, who, though he gained his place by the worst possible operation of the spoils system, suddenly discovers that he is entitled to protection under the sanction of civil-service reform, represents an idea no less absurd than the clamor of the applicant who claims the vacant position as his compensation for the most questionable party work.
The civil-service law does not prevent the discharge of the indolent or incompetent clerk, but it does prevent supplying his place with the unfit party worker. Thus in both these phases is seen benefit to the public service. And the people who desire good government, having secured this statute, will not relinquish its benefits without protest. Nor are they unmindful of the fact that its full advantages can only be gained through the complete good faith of those having its execution in charge. And this they will insist upon.
I recommend that the salaries of the Civil Service Commissioners be increased to a sum more nearly commensurate to their important duties.
It is a source of considerable and not unnatural discontent that no adequate provision has yet been made for accommodating the principal library of the Government. Of the vast collection of books and pamphlets gathered at the Capitol, numbering some 700,000, exclusive of manuscripts, maps, and the products of the graphic arts, also of great volume and value, only about 300,000 volumes, or less than half the collection, are provided with shelf room. The others, which are increasing at the rate of from twenty-five to thirty thousand volumes a year, are not only inaccessible to the public, but are subject to serious damage and deterioration from other causes in their present situation.
A consideration of the facts that the library of the Capitol has twice been destroyed or damaged by fire, its daily increasing value, and its importance as a place of deposit of books under the law relating to copyright makes manifest the necessity of prompt action to insure its proper accommodation and protection.
My attention has been called to a controversy which has arisen from the condition of the law relating to railroad facilities in the city of Washington, which has involved the Commissioners of the District in much annoyance and trouble. I hope this difficulty will be promptly settled by appropriate legislation.
The Commissioners represent that enough of the revenues of the District are now on deposit in the Treasury of the United States to repay the sum advanced by the Government for sewer improvements under the act of June 30, 1884. They desire now an advance of the share which ultimately should be borne by the District of the cost of extensive improvements to the streets of the city. The total expense of these contemplated improvements is estimated at $1,000,000, and they are of the opinion that a considerable sum could be saved if they had all the money in hand, so that contracts for the whole work could be made at the same time. They express confidence that if the advance asked for should be made the Government would be reimbursed the same within a reasonable time. I have no doubt that these improvements could be made much cheaper if undertaken together and prosecuted according to a general plan.
The license law now in force within the District is deficient and uncertain in some of its provisions and ought to be amended. The Commissioners urge, with good reason, the necessity of providing a building for the use of the District government which shall better secure the safety and preservation of its valuable books and records.
The present condition of the law relating to the succession to the Presidency in the event of the death, disability, or removal of both the President and Vice-President is such as to require immediate amendment. This subject has repeatedly been considered by Congress, but no result has been reached. The recent lamentable death of the Vice-President, and vacancies at the same time in all other offices the incumbents of which might immediately exercise the functions of the presidential office, has caused public anxiety and a just demand that a recurrence of such a condition of affairs should not be permitted.
In conclusion I commend to the wise care and thoughtful attention of Congress the needs, the welfare, and the aspirations of an intelligent and generous nation. To subordinate these to the narrow advantages of partisanship or the accomplishment of selfish aims is to violate the people’s trust and betray the people’s interests; but an individual sense of responsibility on the part of each of us and a stern determination to perform our duty well must give us place among those who have added in their day and generation to the glory and prosperity of our beloved land.