Message from the President of the Unites States to the Two Houses of Congress at the commencement of the second session of the Thirty-third Congress: 33rd Congress, Second Session: Executive Document No. 1 [House of Representatives] [Digital Version]

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United States. Congress (33rd, 2nd session: 1854-1856). House and Pierce, Franklin, 1804-1869, Message from the President of the Unites States to the Two Houses of Congress at the commencement of the second session of the Thirty-third Congress (Washington [D.C.]: Nicholson, A.O.P., printer, December 4, 1854)

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Title: Message from the President of the Unites States to the Two Houses of Congress at the commencement of the second session of the Thirty-third Congress: 33rd Congress, Second Session: Executive Document No. 1 [House of Representatives] [Digital Version]
Funding from: Funding for the creation of this digitized text is provided by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
  • United States. Congress (33rd, 2nd session: 1854-1856). House
  • Pierce, Franklin, 1804-1869
Statements of responsibility:
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Publisher: Rice University, Houston, Texas
Publication date: 2010-06-07
Identifier: aa00341
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Provenance: Gifts of Mr. and Mrs. James Lanier Britton, 1971.
Description: State of the Union address by United States president Franklin Pierce regarding the South and Central America.
Abstract: The U.S. Serial set is a specially bound, consecutively numbered version of all House and Senate reports and documents. Many of the government documents in the Americas archive come originally from the U.S. Serial set, although were bound together at some later point into the collection that is now represented in this collection.
Source(s): United States. Congress (33rd, 2nd session: 1854-1856). House and Pierce, Franklin, 1804-1869, Message from the President of the Unites States to the Two Houses of Congress at the commencement of the second session of the Thirty-third Congress (Washington [D.C.]: Nicholson, A.O.P., printer, December 4, 1854)
Source Identifier: Britton Collection of Early Texas and U.S. Civil War documents, 1597-1903, MS 009, Box 1 folder 22, Woodson Research Center, Fondren Library, Rice University.
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Languages used in the text: English
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Keywords: Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus
  • Government publications
Keywords: Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • United States. President (1853-1857 : Pierce)
  • Presidents--United States--Messages
  • Agriculture--United States--History--19th century
  • United States--Politics and government--1849-1861
  • United States--Foreign relations
  • United States--Foreign economic relations
  • United States--Military policy
  • United States--Territorial expansion
  • Imperialism--History--19th century
  • United States--Commerce
  • Neutrality--United States--History--19th century
  • Great Britain. Royal Navy
  • Privateering
  • Fisheries--Newfoundland and Labrador
  • Duty-free importation--United States
  • Duty-free importation--Canada
  • United States--Boundaries--Canada
  • Canada--Boundaries--United States
  • France--Foreign relations--United States
  • United States--Foreign relations--France
  • Spain--History--Revolution, 1854
  • United States. Treaties, etc. Denmark, 1826
  • Denmark. Treaties, etc. United States, 1826
  • United States Naval Expedition to Japan (1852-1854)
  • United States--Claims vs. Mexico
  • Mexico--Boundaries--United States
  • United States--Boundaries--Mexico
  • United States. Treaties, etc. Mexico, 1853, Dec. 30
  • Mexico. Treaties, etc. United States, 1853, Dec. 30
  • United States Foreign relations--Argentina
  • Argentina--Foreign relations--United States
  • United States--Foreign relations--Uruguay
  • Uruguay--Foreign relations--United States
  • United States--Foreign relations--Paraguay
  • Paraguay--Foreign relations--United States
  • United States--Foreign relations--Brazil
  • Brazil--Foreign relations--United States
  • Panama, Isthmus of (Panama)
  • California--Annexation to United States
  • Miskito Indians
  • Nicaragua--History--1838-1909
  • Greytown (Nicaragua)--History
  • Finance, Public--United States
  • Debts, Public--United States
  • Public records--Law and legislation--United States
  • Fraud--United States
  • Frontier and pioneer life--United States--History--19th century
  • United States. Army--Pay, allowances, etc.
  • United States. Army--Recruiting, enlistment, etc.
  • United States. Navy--Discipline
  • Ships--Safety measures
  • United States. General Post Office
  • Public domain--United States
  • Public land sales--United States--History--19th century
  • Land grants--United States--History--19th century
  • Railroads--United States--History--19th century
  • Railroads--Design and construction--United States--History--19th century
  • Roads--Design and construction--United States--History--19th century
  • Free enterprise--United States--History--19th century
  • Law reform--United States--History--19th century
  • Washington (D.C.)
Keywords: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
  • United States (nation)
  • Canada (nation)
  • Mexico (nation)
  • South America (continent)
  • Central America (general region)
  • Europe (continent)


DECEMBER 4, 1854.—Read, committed to the Committee of the Whole on the state of the
Union, and that 20,000 extra copies, with the accompanying documents, be printed.




Fellow-citizens of the Senate
and of the House of Representatives

The past has been an eventful year, and will be hereafter referred
to as a marked epoch in the history of the world. While we have
been happily preserved from the calamities of war, our domestic prosperity
has not been entirely uninterrupted. The crops in portions of
the country have been nearly cut off. Disease has prevailed to a
greater extent than usual, and the sacrifice of human life, through
casualties by sea and land, is without parallel. But the pestilence
has swept by, and restored salubrity invites the absent to their homes,
and the return of business to its ordinary channels. If the earth
has rewarded the labor of the husbandman less bountifully than in
preceding seasons, it has left him with abundance for domestic wants,
and a large surplus for exportation. In the present, therefore, as in
the past, we find ample grounds for reverent thankfulness to the God
of Grace and Providence, for His protecting care and merciful dealings
with us as a people.

Although our attention has been arrested by painful interest in
passing events, yet our country feels no more than the slight vibrations
of the convulsions which have shaken Europe. As individuals,
we cannot repress sympathy with human suffering, nor
regret for the causes which produce it. As a nation, we are reminded,
that whatever interrupts the peace, or checks the prosperity,
of any part of Christendom, tends, more or less, to involve
our own. The condition of states is not unlike that of individuals:
they are mutually dependent upon each other. Amicable relations
between them, and reciprocal good will, are essential for
the promotion of whatever is desirable in their moral, social, and political
condition. Hence, it has been my earnest endeavor to maintain
peace and friendly intercourse with all nations.

The wise theory of this government, so early adopted and steadily
pursued, of avoiding all entangling alliances, has hitherto exempted
it from many complications, in which it would otherwise have become
involved. Notwithstanding this our clearly defined and well-sustained
course of action, and our geographical position so remote
from Europe, increasing disposition has been manifested, by some
of its governments, to supervise, and, in certain respects, to direct,
our foreign policy. In plans for adjusting the balance of power among
themselves, they have assumed to take us into account, and would
constrain us to conform our conduct to their views. One or another
of the powers of Europe has, from time to time, undertaken to enforce
arbitrary regulations, contrary in many respects to established principles
of international law. That law the United States have, in
their foreign intercourse, uniformly respected and observed, and they
cannot recognise any such interpolations therein as the temporary


interests of others may suggest. They do not admit that the sovereigns
of one continent, or of a particular community of states, can
legislate for all others.

Leaving the trans-atlantic nations to adjust their political system
in the way they may think best for their common welfare, the independent
powers of this continent may well assert the right to be exempt
from all annoying interference on their part. Systematic abstinence
from intimate political connexion with distant foreign nations,
does not conflict with giving the widest range to our foreign commerce.
This distinction, so clearly marked in history, seems to have been
overlooked, or disregarded, by some leading foreign states. Our refusal
to be brought within, and subjected to, their peculiar system,
has, I fear, created a jealous distrust of our conduct, and induced,
on their part, occasional acts of disturbing effect upon our foreign
relations. Our present attitude and past course give assurances, which
should not be questioned, that our purposes are not aggressive, nor
threatening to the safety and welfare of other nations. Our military
establishment, in time of peace, is adapted to maintain exterior
defences, and to preserve order among the aboriginal tribes
within the limits of the Union. Our naval force is intended only for
the protection of our citizens abroad, and of our commerce, diffused,
as it is, over all the seas of the globe. The government of the United
States, being essentially pacific in policy, stands prepared to repel
invasion by the voluntary service of a patriotic people, and provides
no permanent means of foreign aggression. These considerations
should allay all apprehension that we are disposed to encroach
on the rights, or endanger the security, of other states.

Some European powers have regarded with disquieting concern
the territorial expansion of the United States. This rapid growth
has resulted from the legitimate exercise of sovereign rights,
belonging alike to all nations, and by many liberally exercised.
Under such circumstances, it could hardly have been expected
that those among them which have, within a comparatively recent
period, subdued and absorbed ancient kingdoms, planted their standards
on every continent, and now possess, or claim the control of, the
islands of every ocean as their appropriate domain, would look with
unfriendly sentiments upon the acquisitions of this country, in every
instance honorably obtained, or would feel themselves justified in
imputing our advancement to a spirit of aggression or to a passion
for political predominance.

Our foreign commerce has reached a magnitude and extent nearly
equal to that of the first maritime power of the earth, and exceeding
that of any other. Over this great interest, in which not only
our merchants, but all classes of citizens, at least indirectly, are
concerned, it is the duty of the executive and legislative branches
of the government to exercise a careful supervision, and adopt proper
measures for its protection. The policy which I have had in view,
in regard to this interest, embraces its future as well as its present

Long experience has shown that, in general, when the principal
powers of Europe are engaged in war, the rights of neutral nations are
endangered. This consideration led, in the progress of the war of


our independence, to the formation of the celebrated confederacy of
armed neutrality, a primary object of which was, to assert the doctrine
that free ships make free goods, except in the case of articles
contraband of war: a doctrine which, from the very commencement
of our national being, has been a cherished idea of the statesmen
of this country. At one period or another, every maritime power
has, by some solemn treaty stipulation, recognised that principle;
and it might have been hoped that it would come to be universally
received and respected as a rule of international law. But the
refusal of one power prevented this, and in the next great war
which ensued, that of the French revolution, it failed to be respected
among the belligerent states of Europe. Notwithstanding this, the
principle is generally admitted to be a sound and salutary one—so
much so, that, at the commencement of the existing war in Europe,
Great Britain and France announced their purpose to observe it for
the present; not, however, as a recognised international right, but
as a mere concession for the time being. The co-operation, however,
of these two powerful maritime nations in the interest of neutral
rights, appeared to me to afford an occasion inviting and justifying, on
the part of the United States, a renewed effort to make the doctrine in
question a principle of international law, by means of special conventions
between the several powers of Europe and America. Accordingly,
a proposition, embracing not only the rule that free ships make
free goods, except contraband articles, but also the less contested one,
that neutral property other than contraband, though on board enemy's
ships, shall be exempt from confiscation, has been submitted by
this government to those of Europe and America.

Russia acted promptly in this matter, and a convention was concluded
between that country and the United States, providing for the
observance of the principles announced, not only as between themselves,
but also as between them and all other nations which shall enter
into like stipulations. None of the other powers have as yet taken
final action on the subject. I am not aware, however, that any
objection to the proposed stipulations has been made; but, on the
contrary, they are acknowledged to be essential to the security of
neutral commerce; and the only apparent obstacle to their general
adoption is in the possibility that it may be encumbered by inadmissible

The King of the Two Sicilies has expressed to our minister at Naples
his readiness to concur in our proposition relative to neutral
rights, and to enter into a convention on that subject.

The King of Prussia entirely approves of the project of a treaty to
the same effect, submitted to him, but proposes an additional article
providing for the renunciation or privateering. Such an article, for
most obvious reasons, is much desired by nations having naval establishments,
large in proportion to their foreign commerce. If it
were adopted as an international rule, the commerce of a nation having
comparatively a small naval force would be very much at the
mercy of its enemy in case of war with a power of decided naval superiority.
The bare statement of the condition in which the United
States would be placed, after having surrendered the right to resort
to privateers, in the event of war with a belligerent of naval supremacy,


will show that this government could never listen to such a proposition.
The navy of the first maritime power in Europe is at least
ten times as large as that of the United States. The foreign commerce
of the two countries is nearly equal, and about equally exposed
to hostile depredations. In war between that power and the
United States, without resort on our part to our mercantile marine,
the means of our enemy to inflict injury upon our commerce would be
tenfold greater than ours to retaliate. We could not extricate our
country from this unequal condition, with such an enemy, unless we
at once departed from our present peaceful policy, and became a great
naval power. Nor would this country be better situated in war with
one of the secondary naval powers. Though the naval disparity
would be less, the greater extent and more exposed condition of
our wide-spread commerce would give any of them a like advantage
over us.

The proposition to enter into engagements to forego a resort to privateers,
in case this country should be forced into war with a great naval
power, is not entitled to more favorable consideration than would be
a proposition to agree not to accept the services of volunteers for operations
on land. When the honor or the rights of our country require
it to assume a hostile attitude, it confidently relies upon the
patriotism of its citizens, not ordinarily devoted to the military profession,
to augment the army and the navy, so as to make them fully
adequate to the emergency which calls them into action. The proposal
to surrender the right to employ privateers is professedly
founded upon the principle, that private property of unoffending
non-combatants, though enemies, should be exempt from the ravages
of war; but the proposed surrender goes but little way in carrying
out that principle, which equally requires that such private
property should not be seized or molested by national ships of war.
Should the leading powers of Europe concur in proposing, as a rule
of international law, to exempt private property, upon the ocean,
from seizure by public armed cruisers, as well as by privateers, the
United States will readily meet them upon that broad ground.

Since the adjournment of Congress, the ratifications of the treaty
between the United States and Great Britain relative to coast fisheries,
and to reciprocal trade with the British North American provinces,
have been exchanged, and some of its anticipated advantages are
already enjoyed by us, although its full execution was to abide
certain acts of legislation not yet fully performed. So soon as it was
ratified, Great Britain opened to our commerce the free navigation of
the river St. Lawrence, and to our fishermen unmolested access to the
shores and bays, from which they had been previously excluded, on
the coasts of her North American provinces; in return for which, she
asked for the introduction, free of duty, into the ports of the United
States, of the fish caught on the same coast by British fishermen.
This being the compensation, stipulated in the treaty, for privileges of
the highest importance and value to the United States, which were
thus voluntarily yielded before it became effective, the request seemed
to me to be a reasonable one; but it could not be acceded to, from want
of authority to suspend our laws imposing duties upon all foreign fish.
In the mean time the Treasury Department issued a regulation for


ascertaining the duties paid or secured by bonds on fish caught on the
coasts of the British provinces, and brought to our markets by British
subjects, after the fishing-grounds had been made fully accessible to
the citizens of the United States. I recommend to your favorable
consideration a proposition, which will be submitted to you, for
authority to refund the duties and cancel the bonds thus received.
The provinces of Canada and New Brunswick have also anticipated
the full operation of the treaty, by legislative arrangements, respectively,
to admit free of duty the products of the United States mentioned
in the free list of the treaty; and an arrangement, similar to
that regarding British fish, has been made for duties now chargeable
on the products of those provinces enumerated in the same free list,
and introduced therefrom into the United States; a proposition for
refunding which will, in my judgment, be in like manner entitled to
your favorable consideration.

There is difference of opinion between the United States and Great
Britain as to the boundary line of the Territory of Washington adjoining
the British possessions on the Pacific, which has already led
to difficulties on the part of the citizens and local authorities of the
two governments. I recommend that provision be made for a commission,
to be joined by one on the part of her Britannic Majesty,
for the purpose of running and establishing the line in controversy.
Certain stipulations of the third and fourth articles of the treaty
concluded by the United States and Great Britain in 1846, regarding
possessory rights of the Hudson's Bay Company, and property of the
Puget's Sound Agricultural Company, have given rise to serious disputes,
and it is important to all concerned that summary means of
settling them amicably should be devised. I have reason to believe
that an arrangement can be made, on just terms, for the extinguishment
of the rights in question, embracing, also, the right of the
Hudson's Bay Company to the navigation of the river Columbia;
and I therefore suggest to your consideration the expediency of
making a contingent appropriation for that purpose.

France was the early and efficient ally of the United States in their
struggle for independence. From that time to the present, with occasional
slight interruptions, cordial relations of friendship have existed
between the governments and people of the two countries. The
kindly sentiments cherished alike by both nations have led to extensive
social and commercial intercourse, which I trust will not be
interrupted or checked by any casual event of an apparently unsatisfactory
character. The French consul at San Francisco was, not
long since, brought into the United States district court at that
place, by compulsory process, as a witness in favor of another foreign
consul, in violation, as the French government conceives, of his privileges
under our consular convention with France. There being
nothing in the transaction which could imply any disrespect to
France or its consul, such explanation has been made as, I hope,
will be satisfactory. Subsequently, misunderstanding arose on the
subject of the French government having, as it appeared, abruptly
excluded the American minister to Spain from passing through
France, on his way from London to Madrid. But that government
has unequivocally disavowed any design to deny the right of


transit to the minister of the United States; and, after explanations
to this effect, he has resumed his journey, and actually returned
through France to Spain. I herewith lay before Congress the correspondence
on this subject between our envoy at Paris and the minister
of foreign relations of the French government.

The position of our affairs with Spain remains as at the close
of your last session. Internal agitation, assuming very nearly the
character of political revolution, has recently convulsed that country.
The late ministers were violently expelled from power, and men of
very different views in relation to its internal affairs have succeeded.
Since this change, there has been no propitious opportunity to resume,
and press on, negotiations for the adjustment of serious questions
of difficulty between the Spanish government and the United
States. There is reason to believe that our minister will find the
present government more favorably inclined than the preceding to
comply with our just demands, and to make suitable arrangements for
restoring harmony, and preserving peace, between the two countries.

Negotiations are pending with Denmark to discontinue the practice
of levying tolls on our vessels and their cargoes passing through
the Sound. I do not doubt that we can claim exemption therefrom,
as a matter of right. It is admitted on all hands that this exaction is
sanctioned, not by the general principles of the law of nations, but only
by special conventions, which most of the commercial nations have
entered into with Denmark. The fifth article of our treaty of 1826,
with Denmark, provides that there shall not be paid, on the vessels of
the United States and their cargoes when passing through the Sound,
higher duties than those of the most favored nations. This may be
regarded as an implied agreement to submit to the tolls during the
continuance of the treaty, and, consequently, may embarrass the assertion
of our right to be released therefrom. There are also other
provisions in the treaty which ought to be modified. It was to
remain in force for ten years, and until one year after either party
should give notice to the other of intention to terminate it. I deem it
expedient that the contemplated notice should be given to the government
of Denmark.

The naval expedition despatched about two years since for the purpose
of establishing relations with the empire of Japan has been ably
and skilfully conducted to a successful termination, by the officer
to whom it was intrusted. A treaty, opening certain of the ports
of that populous country, has been negotiated; and in order to give
full effect thereto, it only remains to exchange ratifications, and adopt
requisite commercial regulations.

The treaty lately concluded between the United States and Mexico
settled some of our most embarrassing difficulties with that country,
but numerous claims upon it for wrongs and injuries to our citizens
remained unadjusted, and many new cases have been recently
added to the former list of grievances. Our legation has been earnest
in its endeavors to obtain from the Mexican government a favorable
consideration of these claims, but hitherto without success. This
failure is probably, in some measure, to be ascribed to the disturbed
condition of that country. It has been my anxious desire to maintain
friendly relations with the Mexican republic, and to cause its rights


and territories to be respected, not only by our citizens, but by foreigners
who have resorted to the United States for the purpose of organizing
hostile expeditions against some of the States of that republic.
The defenceless condition in which its frontiers have been left
has stimulated lawless adventurers to embark in these enterprises, and
greatly increased the difficulty of enforcing our obligations of neutrality.
Regarding it as my solemn duty to fulfil, efficiently, these
obligations, not only towards Mexico, but other foreign nations, I
have exerted all the powers with which I am invested to defeat such
proceedings, and bring to punishment those who, by taking a part
therein, violated our laws. The energy and activity of our civil
and military authorities have frustrated the designs of those who
meditated expeditions of this character, except in two instances.
One of these, composed of foreigners, was at first countenanced and
aided by the Mexican government itself, it having been deceived as
to their real object. The other, small in number, eluded the vigilance
of the magistrates at San Francisco, and succeeded in reaching
the Mexican territories; but the effective measures taken by this
government compelled the abandonment of the undertaking.

The commission to establish the new line between the United States
and Mexico, according to the provisions of the treaty of the 30th of
December last, has been organized, and the work is already commenced.

Our treaties with the Argentine Confederation, and with the republics
of Uruguay and Paraguay, secure to us the free navigation of the
river La Plata, and some of its larger tributaries; but the same success
has not attended our endeavors to open the Amazon. The
reasons in favor of the free use of that river I had occasion to present
fully, in a former message; and, considering the cordial relations
which have long existed between this government and Brazil, it
may be expected that pending negotiations will eventually reach a
favorable result.

Convenient means of transit between the several parts of a country
are not only desirable for the objects of commercial and personal communication,
but essential to its existence under one government.
Separated as are the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States
by the whole breadth of the continent, still the inhabitants of each
are closely bound together by community of origin and institutions,
and by strong attachment to the Union. Hence the constant and
increasing intercourse, and vast interchange of commercial productions,
between these remote divisions of the Republic. At the present time,
the most practicable and only commodious routes for communication
between them are by the way of the Isthmus of Central America.
It is the duty of the government to secure these avenues against all
danger of interruption.

In relation to Central America, perplexing questions existed between
the United States and Great Britain at the time of the cession
of California. These, as well as questions which subsequently arose
concerning inter-oceanic communication across the Isthmus, were, as
it was supposed, adjusted by the treaty of April 19, 1850: but, unfortunately,
they have been re-opened by serious misunderstanding as to
the import of some of its provisions, a re-adjustment of which is now


under consideration. Our minister at London has made strenuous
efforts to accomplish this desirable object, but has not yet found it
possible to bring the negotiations to a termination.

As incidental to these questions, I deem it proper to notice an occurrence
which happened in Central America, near the close of the last
session of Congress. So soon as the necessity was perceived of establishing
inter-oceanic communications across the Isthmus, a company
was organized, under authority of the State of Nicaragua, but
composed, for the most part, of citizens of the United States, for the
purpose of opening such a transit way, by the river San Juan and
Lake Nicaragua, which soon became an eligible and much-used
route in the transportation of our citizens and their property between
the Atlantic and Pacific. Meanwhile, and in anticipation of the
completion and importance of this transit way, a number of adventurers
had taken possession of the old Spanish port at the mouth of the
river San Juan, in open defiance of the State or States of Central
America, which, upon their becoming independent, had rightfully
succeeded to the local sovereignty and jurisdiction of Spain. These
adventurers undertook to change the name of the place from San
Juan del Norte to Greytown, and, though at first pretending to act
as the subjects of the fictitious sovereign of the Mosquito Indians,
they subsequently repudiated the control of any power whatever, assumed
to adopt a distinct political organization, and declared themselves
an independent sovereign state. If, at some time, a faint hope
was entertained that they might become a stable and respectable community,
that hope soon vanished. They proceeded to assert unfounded
claims to civil jurisdiction over Punta Arenas, a position on the opposite
side of the river San Juan, which was in possession, under a
title wholly independent of them, of citizens of the United States interested
in the Nicaragua Transit Company, and which was indispensably
necessary to the prosperous operation of that route across
the Isthmus. The company resisted their groundless claims; where-upon
they proceeded to destroy some of its buildings, and attempted
violently to dispossess it.

At a later period they organized a strong force for the purpose
of demolishing the establishment at Punta Arenas, but this
mischievous design was defeated by the interposition of one of our
ships of war, at that time in the harbor of San Juan. Subsequently
to this, in May last, a body of men from Greytown crossed
over to Punta Arenas, arrogating authority to arrest, on the
charge of murder, a captain of one of the steamboats of the Transit
Company. Being well aware that the claim to exercise jurisdiction
there would be resisted then, as it had been on previous
occasions, they went prepared to assert it by force of arms. Our
minister to Central America happened to be present on that occasion.
Believing that the captain of the steamboat was innocent, for he
witnessed the transaction on which the charge was founded, and
believing, also, that the intruding party, having no jurisdiction
over the place where they proposed to make the arrest, would
encounter desperate resistance if they persisted in their purpose,
he interposed, effectually, to prevent violence and bloodshed. The
American minister afterwards visited Greytown, and whilst he was


there, a mob, including certain of the so-called public functionaries
of the place, surrounded the house in which he was, avowing
that they had come to arrest him, by order of some person exercising
the chief authority. While parleying with them he was wounded by
a missile from the crowd. A boat, despatched from the American
steamer "Northern Light" to release him from the perilous situation
in which he was understood to be, was fired into by the town guard,
and compelled to return. These incidents, together with the known
character of the population of Greytown, and their excited state, induced
just apprehensions that the lives and property of our citizens at
Punta Arenas would be in imminent danger after the departure of
the steamer, with her passengers, for New York, unless a guard was
left for their protection. For this purpose, and in order to insure
the safety of passengers and property passing over the route, a temporary
force was organized, at considerable expense to the United
States, for which provision was made at the last session of Congress.

This pretended community, a heterogeneous assemblage gathered
from various countries, and composed, for the most part, of blacks
and persons of mixed blood, had previously given other indications
of mischievous and dangerous propensities. Early in the same
month, property was clandestinely abstracted from the depot of
the Transit Company, and taken to Greytown. The plunderers obtained
shelter there, and their pursuers were driven back by its people,
who not only protected the wrong-doers and shared the plunder,
but treated with rudeness and violence those who sought to recover
their property.

Such, in substance, are the facts submitted to my consideration, and
proved by trustworthy evidence. I could not doubt that the case demanded
the interposition of this government. Justice required that
reparation should be made for so many and such gross wrongs, and that
a course of insolence and plunder, tending directly to the insecurity of
the lives of numerous travellers, and of the rich treasure belonging to
our citizens, passing over this transit way, should be peremptorily arrested.
Whatever it might be in other respects, the community in question,
in power to do mischief, was not despicable. It was well provided
with ordnance, small arms, and ammunition, and might easily seize
on the unarmed boats, freighted with millions of property, which
passed almost daily within its reach. It did not profess to belong to
any regular government, and had, in fact, no recognized dependence
on, or connection with, any one to which the United States or their
injured citizens might apply for redress, or which could be held responsible,
in any way, for the outrages committed. Not standing before
the world in the attitude of an organized political society, being
neither competent to exercise the rights nor to discharge the obligations
of a government, it was, in fact, a marauding establishment, too dangerous
to be disregarded, and too guilty to pass unpunished, and yet
incapable of being treated in any other way than as a piratical resort
of outlaws, or a camp of savages, depredating on emigrant trains or
caravans and the frontier settlements of civilized states.

Seasonable notice was given to the people of Greytown that this
government required them to repair the injuries they had done to our


citizens, and to make suitable apology for their insult of our minister,
and that a ship-of-war would be despatched thither to enforce compliance
with these demands. But the notice passed unheeded. There-upon,
a commander of the navy, in charge of the sloop-of-war "Cyane,"
was ordered to repeat the demands, and to insist upon a compliance
therewith. Finding that neither the populace, nor those assuming
to have authority over them, manifested any disposition to make
the required reparation, or even to offer excuse for their conduct, he
warned them, by a public proclamation, that if they did not give
satisfaction within a time specified, he would bombard the town.
By this procedure he afforded them opportunity to provide for their
personal safety. To those also who desired to avoid loss of property,
in the punishment about to be inflicted on the offending town,
he furnished the means of removing their effects, by the boats of
his own ship, and of a steamer which he procured and tendered
to them for that purpose. At length, perceiving no disposition on
the part of the town to comply with his requisitions, he appealed
to the commander of her Britannic Majesty's schooner "Bermuda,"
who was seen to have intercourse, and apparently much influence with
the leaders among them, to interpose, and persuade them to take
some course calculated to save the necessity of resorting to the extreme
measure indicated in his proclamation; but that officer, instead
of acceding to the request, did nothing more than to protest
against the contemplated bombardment. No steps of any sort
were taken by the people to give the satisfaction required. No individuals,
if any there were, who regarded themselves as not responsible
for the misconduct of the community, adopted any means to
separate themselves from the fate of the guilty. The several charges,
on which the demands for redress were founded, had been publicly
known to all for some time, and were again announced to them. They
did not deny any of these charges; they offered no explanation,
nothing in extenuation of their conduct; but contumaciously refused to
hold any intercourse with the commander of the "Cyane." By their
obstinate silence they seemed rather desirous to provoke chastisement
than to escape it. There is ample reason to believe that this conduct of
wanton defiance, on their part, is imputable chiefly to the delusive idea
that the American government would be deterred from punishing them,
through fear of displeasing a formidable foreign power, which, they
presumed to think, looked with complacency upon their aggressive and
insulting deportment towards the United States. The "Cyane" at
length fired upon the town. Before much injury had been done, the
fire was twice suspended, in order to afford opportunity for an arrangement;
but this was declined. Most of the buildings of the place,
of little value generally, were, in the sequel, destroyed; but, owing
to the considerate precautions taken by our naval commander, there
was no destruction of life.

When the "Cyane" was ordered to Central America, it was
confidently hoped and expected that no occasion would arise for
"a resort to violence and destruction of property and loss of life."
Instructions to that effect were given to her commander. And
no extreme act would have been requisite had not the people
themselves, by their extraordinary conduct in the affair, frustrated


all the possible mild measures for obtaining satisfaction. A
withdrawal from the place, the object of his visit entirely defeated,
would, under the circumstances in which the commander of the Cyane
found himself, have been absolute abandonment of all claim of our
citizens for indemnification, and submissive acquiescence in national
indignity. It would have encouraged in these lawless men a spirit of
insolence and rapine most dangerous to the lives and property of our
citizens at Punta Arenas, and probably emboldened them to grasp at
the treasures and valuable merchandise continually passing over the
Nacaragua route. It certainly would have been most satisfactory to
me if the objects of the "Cyane's" mission could have been consummated
without any act of public force; but the arrogant contumacy
of the offenders rendered it impossible to avoid the alternative,
either to break up their establishment, or to leave them impressed
with the idea that they might persevere with impunity in a
career of insolence and plunder.

This transaction has been the subject of complaint on the part of
some foreign powers, and has been characterized with more of harshness
than of justice. If comparisons were to be instituted, it would not be
difficult to present repeated instances in the history of states, standing
in the very front of modern civilization, where communities, far less
offending and more defenceless than Grey town, have been chastised
with much greater severity, and where not cities only have been laid
in ruins, but human life has been recklessly sacrificed, and the blood
of the innocent made profusely to mingle with that of the guilty.

Passing from foreign to domestic affairs, your attention is naturally
directed to the financial condition of the country, always a subject of
general interest. For complete and exact information regarding the
finances, and the various branches of the public service connected
therewith, I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury;
from which it will appear, that the amount of revenue during
the last fiscal year, from all sources, was seventy-three million
five hundred and forty-nine thousand seven hundred and five
dollars; and that the public expenditures for the same period, exclusive
of payments on account of the public debt, amounted to fifty-one
million eighteen thousand two hundred and forty-nine dollars.
During the same period, the payments made in redemption of the
public debt, including interest and premium, amounted to twenty-four
million three hundred and thirty-six thousand three hundred and
eighty dollars. To the sum total of the receipts of that year is to be
added a balance remaining in the Treasury at the commencement
thereof, amounting to twenty-one million nine hundred and forty-two
thousand eight hundred and ninety-two dollars; and at the close
of the same year, a corresponding balance, amounting to twenty million
one hundred and thirty-seven thousand nine hundred and sixty-seven
dollars of receipts above expenditures, also remained in the
Treasury. Although, in the opinion of the Secretary of the Treasury,
the receipts of the current fiscal year are not likely to equal in amount
those of the last, yet they will undoubtedly exceed the amount of expenditures
by at least fifteen millions of dollars. I shall, therefore, continue
to direct that the surplus revenue be applied, so far as it can be
judiciously and economically done, to the reduction of the public debt,


the amount of which, at the commencement of the last fiscal year,
was sixty-seven million three hundred and forty thousand six hundred
and twenty-eight dollars; of which there had been paid on the
twentieth day of November 1854, the sum of twenty-two million
three hundred and sixty-five thousand one hundred and seventy-two
dollars; leaving a balance of outstanding public debt of only forty-four
million nine hundred and seventy-five thousand four hundred
and fifty-six dollars, redeemable at different periods within fourteen
years. There are also remnants of other government stocks, most of
which are already due, and on which the interest has ceased, but which
have not yet been presented for payment, amounting to two hundred
and thirty-three thousand one hundred and seventy-nine dollars. This
statement exhibits the fact, that the annual income of the government
greatly exceeds the amount of its public debt, which latter remains
unpaid, only because the time of payment has not yet matured,
and it cannot be discharged at once, except at the option of
public creditors, who prefer to retain the securities of the United
States; and the other fact, not less striking, that the annual revenue
from all sources exceeds, by many millions of dollars, the amount
needed for a prudent and economical administration of the Government.

The estimates presented to Congress from the different Executive
Departments, at the last session, amounted to thirty-eight million four
hundred and six thousand five hundred and eighty-one dollars; and
the appropriations made, to the sum of fifty-eight million one hundred
and sixteen thousand nine hundred and fifty-eight dollars. Of
this excess of appropriations over estimates, however, more than
twenty millions was applicable to extraordinary objects having no
reference to the usual annual expenditures. Among these objects was
embraced ten millions to meet the third article of the treaty between
the United States and Mexico; so that, in fact, for objects of ordinary
expenditure, the appropriations were limited to considerably less than
forty millions of dollars. I therefore renew my recommendation for
a reduction of the duties on imports. The report of the Secretary of
the Treasury presents a series of tables showing the operation of the
revenue system for several successive years; and as the general principle
of reduction of duties with a view to revenue and not protection
may now be regarded as the settled policy of the country, I trust that
little difficulty will be encountered in settling the details of a measure
to that effect.

In connexion with this subject, I recommend a change in the
laws which recent experience has shown to be essential to the protection
of the government. There is no express provision of law
requiring the records and papers of a public character, of the several
officers of the government, to be left in their offices for the use of their
successors, nor any provision declaring it felony on their part to make
false entries in the books, or return false accounts. In the absence of
such express provision by law, the outgoing officers, in many instances,
have claimed and exercised the right to take into their own possession
important books and papers, on the ground that these were their private
property; and have placed them beyond the reach of the government.
Conduct of this character, brought in several instances to the notice of


the present Secretary of the Treasury, naturally awakened his suspicion,
and resulted in the disclosure that at four ports, namely—Oswego, Toledo,
Sandusky, and Milwaukie—the treasury had, by false entries, been
defrauded, within the four years next preceding March, 1853, of the
sum of one hundred and ninety-eight thousand dollars. The great
difficulty with which the detection of these frauds has been attended,
in consequence of the abstraction of books and papers
by the retiring officers, and the facility with which similar frauds
in the public service may be perpetrated, render the necessity of
new legal enactments, in the respects above referred to, quite obvious.
For other material modifications of the revenue laws which
seem to me desirable, I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the
Treasury. That report, and the tables which accompany it, furnish
ample proofs of the solid foundation on which the financial security
of the country rests, and of the salutary influence of the independent
treasury system upon commerce and all monetary operations.

The experience of the last year furnishes additional reasons, I regret
to say, of a painful character, for the recommendation heretofore made
to provide for increasing the military force employed in the territory
inhabited by the Indians. The settlers on the frontier have suffered
much from the incursions of predatory bands, and large parties of
emigrants to our Pacific possessions have been massacred with impunity.
The recurrence of such scenes can only be prevented by teaching
these wild tribes the power of, and their responsibility to, the
the United States. From the garrisons of our frontier posts, it is only
possible to detach troops in small bodies; and though these have on all
occasions displayed a gallantry and a stern devotion to duty which on
a larger field would have commanded universal admiration, they have
usually suffered severely in these conflicts with superior numbers, and
have sometimes been entirely sacrificed. All the disposable force of the
army is already employed on this service, and is known to be wholly inadequate
to the protection which should be afforded. The public mind
of the country has been recently shocked by savage atrocities committed
upon defenceless emigrants and border settlements, and hardly less
by the unnecessary destruction of valuable lives, where inadequate detachments
of troops have undertaken to furnish the needed aid. Without
increase of the military force, these scenes will be repeated, it is to
be feared, on a larger scale, and with more disastrous consequences.
Congress, I am sure, will perceive that the plainest duties and
responsibilities of government are involved in this question, and I
doubt not that prompt action may be confidently anticipated when
delay must be attended by such fearful hazards.

The bill of the last session providing for an increase of the pay of
the rank and file of the army has had beneficial results, not only in facilitating
enlistments, but in obvious improvement in the class of men
who enter the service. I regret that corresponding consideration was
not bestowed on the officers, who, in view of their character and services,
and the expenses to which they are necessarily subject, receive at
present what is, in my judgment, inadequate compensation.

The valuable services constantly rendered by the army, and its inestimable
importance, as the nucleus around which the volunteer forces
of the nation can promptly gather in the hour of danger, sufficiently


attest the wisdom of maintaining a military peace establishment; but
the theory of our system, and the wise practice under it, require that
any proposed augmentation, in time of peace, be only commensurate
with our extended limits and frontier relations. While scrupulously
adhering to this principle, I find, in existing circumstances, a
necessity for increase of our military force, and it is believed that
four new regiments, two of infantry and two of mounted men, will be
sufficient to meet the present exigency. If it were necessary carefully
to weigh the cost in a case of such urgency, it would be shown that
the additional expense would be comparatively light.

With the increase of the numerical force of the army should, I
think, be combined certain measures of reform in its organic arrangement
and administration. The present organization is the result of
partial legislation often directed to special objects and interests; and
the laws regulating rank and command, having been adopted many
years ago from the British code, are not always applicable to our service.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the system should be deficient
in the symmetry and simplicity essential to the harmonious working
of its several parts, and require a careful revision.

The present organization, by maintaining large staff corps or departments,
separates many officers from that close connexion with troops,
and those active duties in the field, which are deemed requisite to qualify
them for the varied responsibilities of high command. Were the
duties of the army staff mainly discharged by officers detached from
their regiments, it is believed that the special service would be equally
well performed, and the discipline and instruction of the army be improved.
While due regard to the security of the rights of officers, and
to the nice sense of honor which should be cultivated among them,
would seem to exact compliance with the established rule of promotion
in ordinary cases, still it can hardly be doubted that the range of promotion
by selection, which is now practically confined to the grade of
general officers, might be somewhat extended with benefit to the public
service. Observance of the rule of seniority sometimes leads, especially
in time of peace, to the promotion of officers who, after meritorious
and even distinguished service, may have been rendered by age or
infirmity incapable of performing active duty, and whose advancement,
therefore, would tend to impair the efficiency of the army.
Suitable provision for this class of officers, by the creation of a retired
list, would remedy the evil, without wounding the just pride of men
who, by past services, have established a claim to high consideration.
In again commending this measure to the favorable consideration of
Congress, I would suggest that the power of placing officers on the
retired list be limited to one year. The practical operation of the
measure would thus be tested, and if, after the lapse of years, there
should be occasion to renew the provision, it can be reproduced with
any improvements which experience, may indicate. The present
organization of the artillery into regiments is liable to obvious
objections. The service of artillery is that of batteries, and an
organization of batteries into a corps of artillery would be more
consistent with the nature of their duties. A large part of the troops
now called artillery are, and have been, on duty as infantry, the distinction
between the two arms being merely nominal. This nominal


artillery in our service is disproportionate to the whole force,
and greater than the wants of the country demand. I therefore
commend the discontinuance of a distinction, which has no foundation
in either the arms used or the character of the service expected to
be performed.

In connection with the proposition for the increase of the army, I
have presented these suggestions with regard to certain measures of
reform, as the complement of a system which would produce the happiest
results from a given expenditure, and which I hope may attract
the early attention, and be deemed worthy of the approval, of Congress.

The recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy having reference
to more ample provisions for the discipline and general improvement
in the character of seamen, and for the reorganization and gradual
increase of the navy, I deem eminently worthy of your favorable consideration.
The principles which have controlled our policy in relation to
the permanent military force, by sea and land, are sound, consistent
with the theory of our system, and should by no means be disregarded.
But, limiting the force to the objects particularly set forth in the preceding
part of this message, we should not overlook the present magnitude
and prospective extension of our commercial marine, nor fail to
give due weight to the fact that, besides the two thousand miles of
Atlantic seaboard, we have now a Pacific coast, stretching from Mexico
to the British possessions in the north, teeming with wealth and
enterprise, and demanding the constant presence of ships-of-war. The
augmentation of the navy has not kept pace with the duties properly
and profitably assigned to it in time of peace, and it is inadequate for
the large field of its operations, not merely in the present but still more
in the progressively increasing exigencies of the wealth and commerce
of the United States. I cordially approve of the proposed apprentice
system for our national vessels, recommended by the Secretary of
the Navy.

The occurrence, during the last few months, of marine disasters of
the most tragic nature, involving great loss of human life, has produced
intense emotions of sympathy and sorrow throughout the country.
It may well be doubted whether all these calamitous events are
wholly attributable to the necessary and inevitable dangers of the sea.
The merchants, mariners, and ship-builders of the United States, are,
it is true, unsurpassed in far-reaching enterprise, skill, intelligence
and courage, by any others in the world. But, with the increasing
amount of our commercial tonnage in the aggregate, and the larger
size and improved equipment of the ships now constructed, a deficiency
in the supply of reliable seamen begins to be very seriously felt.
The inconvenience may, perhaps, be met, in part, by due regulation
for the introduction into our merchant ships of indented apprentices;
which, while it would afford useful and eligible occupation to numerous
young men, would have a tendency to raise the character of seamen
as a class. And it is deserving of serious reflection, whether it
may not be desirable to revise the existing laws for the maintenance
of discipline at sea, upon which the security of life and property on the
ocean must to so great an extent depend. Although much attention
has already been given by Congress to the proper construction and

Ex. Doc. 1—2


arrangement of steam-vessels and all passenger ships, still it is believed
that the resources of science and mechanical skill in this direction
have not been exhausted. No good reason exists for the marked
distinction which appears upon our statutes between the laws for
protecting life and property at sea, and those for protecting them on
land. In most of the States severe penalties are provided to punish
conductors of trains, engineers, and others employed in the transportation
of persons by railway, or by steamboats on rivers. Why should
not the same principle be applied to acts of insubordination, cowardice,
or other misconduct on the part of masters and mariners, producing
injury or death to passengers on the high seas, beyond the jurisdiction
of any of the States, and where such delinquencies can be
reached only by the power of Congress? The whole subject is earnestly
commended to your consideration.

The report of the Postmaster General, to which you are referred for
many interesting details in relation to this important and rapidly
extending branch of the public service, shows that the expenditure of
the year ending June 30, 1854, including one hundred and thirty-three
thousand four hundred and eighty-three dollars of balance due
to foreign offices, amounted to eight million seven hundred and ten
thousand nine hundred and seven dollars. The gross receipts during
the same period amounted to six million nine hundred and fifty-five
thousand five hundred and eighty-six dollars: exhibiting an expenditure
over income of one million seven hundred and fifty-five thousand
three hundred and twenty-one dollars, and a diminution of deficiency,
as compared with the last year, of three hundred and sixty-one
thousand seven hundred and fifty-six dollars. The increase of the
revenue of the department, for the year ending June 30, 1854, over
the preceding year, was nine hundred and seventy thousand three
hundred and ninety-nine dollars. No proportionate increase, however,
can be anticipated for the current year, in consequence of the
act of Congress of June 23, 1854, providing for increased compensation
to all postmasters. From these statements it is apparent that
the Post Office Department, instead of defraying its expenses, according
to the design at the time of its creation, is now, and under existing
laws must continue to be, to no small extent, a charge upon the
general treasury. The cost of mail transportation, during the year
ending June 30, 1854, exceeds the cost of the preceding year by four
hundred and ninety-five thousand and seventy-four dollars. I again
call your attention to the subject of mail transportation by ocean
steamers, and commend the suggestions of the Postmaster General to
your early attention.

During the last fiscal year eleven million seventy thousand nine
hundred and thirty-five acres of the public lands have been surveyed,
and eight million one hundred and ninety thousand and seventeen
acres brought into market. The number of acres sold is
seven million thirty-five thousand seven hundred and thirty-five,
and the amount received therefor nine million two hundred and eighty-five
thousand five hundred and thirty-three dollars. The aggregate
amount of lands sold, located under military scrip and land
warrants, selected as swamp lands by States, and by locating under
grants for roads, is upwards of twenty-three millions of acres. The


increase of lands sold, over the previous year, is about six millions
of acres; and the sales during the first two quarters of the
current year present the extraordinary result of five and a half millions
sold, exceeding by nearly four millions of acres the sales of the
corresponding quarters of the last year.

The commendable policy of the government, in relation to setting
apart public domain for those who have served their country in time of
war, is illustrated by the fact, that since 1790 no less than thirty
millions of acres have been applied to this object.

The suggestions, which I submitted in my annual message of last
year, in reference to grants of land in aid of the construction of railways,
were less full and explicit than the magnitude of the subject
and subsequent developments would seem to render proper and desirable.
Of the soundness of the principle then asserted with regard
to the limitation of the power of Congress, I entertain no doubt; but
in its application it is not enough that the value of lands in a particular
locality may be enhanced; that, in fact, a larger amount of money
may probably be received, in a given time, for alternate sections, than
could have been realized for all the sections, without the impulse and
influence of the proposed improvements. A prudent proprietor looks
beyond limited sections of his domain, beyond present results, to
the ultimate effect which a particular line of policy is likely to produce
upon all his possessions and interests. The government, which is
trustee, in this matter, for the people of the States, is bound to take
the same wise and comprehensive view. Prior to and during the last
session of Congress, upwards of thirty millions of acres of land
were withdrawn from public sale with a view to applications for grants
of this character pending before Congress. A careful review of the
whole subject led me to direct that all such orders be abrogated,
and the lands restored to market; and instructions were immediately
given to that effect. The applications at the last session
contemplated the construction of more than five thousand miles
of road, and grants to the amount of nearly twenty millions of
acres of the public domain. Even admitting the right on the
part of Congress to be unquestionable, is it quite clear that the
proposed grants would be productive of good, and not evil? The
different projects are confined, for the present, to eleven States
of this Union, and one Territory. The reasons assigned for the
grants, show that it is proposed to put the works speedily in process
of construction. When we reflect, that since the commencement of
the construction of railways in the United States, stimulated as they
have been by the large dividends realized from the earlier works over
the great thoroughfares, and between the most important points of
commerce and population, encouraged by State legislation, and
pressed forward by the amazing energy of private enterprise, only
seventeen thousand miles have been completed in all the States in a
quarter of a century;—when we see the crippled condition of many
works commenced and prosecuted upon what were deemed to be sound
principles, and safe calculations;—when we contemplate the enormous
absorption of capital withdrawn from the ordinary channels of business,
the extravagant rates of interest at this moment paid to continue
operations, the bankruptcies not merely in money, but in character


and the inevitable effect upon finances generally;—can it be doubted
that the tendency is to run to excess in this matter? Is it wise to
augment this excess by encouraging hopes of sudden wealth expected
to flow from magnificent schemes dependent upon the action of Congress?
Does the spirit which has produced such results need to be
stimulated or checked? Is it not the better rule to leave all these
works to private enterprise? Regulated, and, when expedient, aided,
by the co-operation of States? If constructed by private capital, the
stimulant and the check go together, and furnish a salutary restraint
against speculative schemes and extravagance. But it is manifest
that, with the most effective guards, there is danger of going too fast
and too far.

We may well pause before a proposition contemplating a simultaneous
movement for the construction of railroads, which in
extent, will equal, exclusive of the great Pacific road and all its
branches, nearly one-third of the entire length of such works, now
completed, in the United States, and which cannot cost, with equipments,
less than one hundred and fifty millions of dollars. The
dangers likely to result from combinations of interests of this character,
can hardly be over-estimated. But, independently of these considerations,
which shall discriminate between the relative claims of
these twenty-eight proposed roads, in eleven States and one Territory?
Where will you begin, and where end? If to enable these
companies to execute their proposed works, it is necessary that the aid
of the general government be primarily given, the policy will present
a problem so comprehensive in its bearings, and so important to our
political and social well-being, as to claim, in anticipation, the severest
analysis. Entertaining these views, I recur with satisfaction to the
experience and action of the last session of Congress, as furnishing
assurance that the subject will not fail to elicit a careful re-examination
and rigid scrutiny.

It was my intention to present, on this occasion, some suggestions
regarding internal improvements by the general government, which
want of time at the close of the last session prevented my submitting
on the return to the House of Representatives, with objections, of the
bill entitled "An act making appropriations for the repair, preservation
and completion of certain public works heretofore commenced
under authority of law;" but the space in this communication already
occupied with other matter of immediate public exigency constrains
me to reserve that subject for a special message, which will be transmitted
to the two houses of Congress at an early day.

The judicial establishment of the United States requires modification,
and certain reforms in the manner of conducting the legal
business of the government are also much needed; but as I have addressed
you upon both of these subjects at length before, I have only
to call your attention to the suggestions then made.

My former recommendations in relation to suitable provision for
various objects of deep interest to the inhabitants of the District of
Columbia, are renewed. Many of these objects partake largely of a
national character, and re important, independently of their relation


to the prosperity of the only considerable organized community in the
Union, entirely unrepresented in Congress.

I have thus presented suggestions on such subjects as appear to me
to be of particular interest or importance, and therefore most worthy
of consideration during the short remaining period allotted to the
labors of the present Congress.

Our forefathers of the thirteen United Colonies, in acquiring their
independence, and in founding this Republic of the United States of
America, have devolved upon us, their descendants, the greatest and
the most noble trust ever committed to the hands of man, imposing
upon all, and especially such as the public will may have invested,
for the time being, with political functions, the most sacred
obligations. We have to maintain inviolate the great doctrine of the
inherent right of popular self-government; to reconcile the largest
liberty of the individual citizen, with complete security of the public
order; to render cheerful obedience to the laws of the land, to
unite in enforcing their execution, and to frown indignantly on all
combinations to resist them; to harmonize a sincere and ardent
devotion to the institutions of religious faith with the most universal
religious toleration; to preserve the rights of all by causing
each to respect those of the other; to carry forward every
social improvement to the uttermost limit of human perfectibility,
by the free action of mind upon mind, not by the obtrusive
intervention of misapplied force; to uphold the integrity
and guard the limitations of our organic law; to preserve sacred
from all touch of usurpation, as the very palladium of our political
salvation, the reserved rights and powers of the several States
and of the people; to cherish, with loyal fealty and devoted affection,
this Union, as the only sure foundation on which the hopes
of civil liberty rest; to administer government with vigilant integrity
and rigid economy; to cultivate peace and friendship with
foreign nations, and to demand and exact equal justice from all,
but to do wrong to none; to eschew intermeddling with the national
policy and the domestic repose of other governments, and
to repel it from our own; never to shrink from war when the
rights and the honor of the country call us to arms, but to cultivate
in preference the arts of peace, seek enlargement of the rights
of neutrality, and elevate and liberalize the intercourse of nations;
and by such just and honorable means, and such only, whilst exalting
the condition of the Republic, to assure to it the legitimate influence
and the benign authority of a great example amongst all the powers
of Christendom.

Under the solemnity of these convictions, the blessing of Almighty
God is earnestly invoked to attend upon your deliberations, and upon
all the counsels and acts of the government, to the end that, with common
zeal and common efforts, we may, in humble submission to the
Divine will, co-operate for the promotion of the supreme good of these
United States.

WASHINGTON, December 4, 1854.


[No. 37.]



An incident of very grave import has transpired. In my
No. 36 I communicated the intelligence that the minister of the United
States to Spain had been prohibited by alleged orders of the Emperor's
government from entering France. That I might without delay ascertain
the facts of this extraordinary and unusual proceeding, I sent
Mr. Piatt, secretary of this legation, to Dover, to communicate with
Mr. Soulé. He left Paris in the evening of the 25th, and on his arrival,
finding that Mr. Soulé had left Dover, he proceeded to London,
where he had an interview with that gentleman. The order forbidding
his entering France was wholly unknown to Mr. Soulé, and he
assures me that "neither by deed nor by words, uttered or written, has
he afforded the shadow of a pretence for the wanton measure which,
in violation of his rights as a citizen of the North American republic,
and of his privileges as one of its accredited ministers, has interdicted
to him a passage through France on his way back to Madrid."

I lost no time, after the return of Mr. Piatt, to address to the
Minister of Foreign Affairs, under date of the 27th instant, a communication,
of which I send you a copy. It was sent to the Foreign
Office on the 28th, and I have not yet received an answer.

It is impossible not to regard this humiliating indignity as deeply
injurious, when it is remembered that Mr. Soulé, acting under your
orders, has recently spent more than two weeks in Paris; and while
sojourning here, neither he nor I received any intimation that his
presence was objected to by the French government.

Seeing no adequate cause to justify an unfriendly feeling towards
the United States, I cannot but hope that the French government,
finding that they have acted on erroneous information, will at once
redress the grievous wrong.

If in this I am disappointed, earnest as I have been since I have
represented my country at this court to cultivate the most cordial
relations of amity between the two countries, I must consider the incident
as of such grave importance, that it is not impossible I shall
regard it to be my duty to terminate my mission by demanding my

I will not lose a moment in keeping you advised of the reply to my
note, and of the progress of events, in connexion with this most extraordinary

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Rice University
Date: 2010-06-07
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