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To the Congress of the United States :
Your assembling is clouded by a sense of public bereavement, cansed by the recent and sudden death of Thomas A. Hendricks, Vice-Presi. dent of the United States. His distinguished public services, bis complete integrity and devotion to every duty, and his personal virtues will find honorable record in his country's history.
Ample and repeated proofs of the esteem and confidence in which he was held by his fellow-countrymen were manifested by his election to offices of the most important trust and highest dignity; and at length, full of years and honors, he has been laid at rest amid universal sorrow and benediction.
The Constitution which requires those chosen to legislate for the people to annually meet in the discharge of their solemn trust, also requires the President to give to Congress information of the state of the Union and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall deem necessary and expedient. At the threshold of a compliance with these constitutional directions, it is well for us to bear in mind that our usefulness to the people's interests will be promoted by a constant appreciation of the scope and character of our respective duties as they relate to Federal legislation. While the Executive may recommend such measures as he shall deem expedient, the responsibility for legislative action must and should rest upon those selected by the people to make their laws.
Contemplation of the grave and responsible functions assigned to the respective branches of the Government under the Constitution, will disclose the partitions of power between our respective Departments and their necessary independence, and also the need for the exercise of all the power entrusted to each, in that spirit of comity and co-operation which is essential to the proper fulfiHment of the patriotic obligations which rest upon us as faithful servants of the people.
The jealous watchfulness of our constituencies, great and small, supplements their suffrages, and before the tribunal they establish every public servant should be judged.
It is gratifying to announce that the relations of the United States with all foreign powers continue to be friendly. Our position after nearly a century of successful constitutional government, maintenance of good faith in all our engagements, the avoidance of complications with other nations, and our consistent and anicable attitude toward the strong and weak alike, furnish proof of a political disposition which
renders professions of good will unnecessary. There are no questions of difficulty pending with any foreign government.
The Argentine Government has revived the long dormant question of the Falkland Islands, by claiming from the United States indemnity for their loss, attributed to the action of the commander of the sloopof-war Lexington in breaking up a piratical colony on those islands in 1831, and their subsequent occupation by Great Britain. In view of the ample justification for the act of the Lexington and the derelict condition of the islands before and after their alleged occupation by Argentine colonists this Government considers the claim as wholly groundless.
Question has arisen with the Government of Austria-Hungary touching the representation of the United States at Vienna. Having, under my constitutional prerogative, appointed an estimablo citizen of unimpeached probity and competence as minister at that court, the Gov. ernment of Austria-Hungary invited this Government to take cogni. zance of certain exceptions, based upon allegations against the personal acceptability of Mr. Keiley, the appointed envoy, asking that, in view thereof, the appointment should be withdrawn. The reasons advanced were such as could not be acquiesced in, withont violation of my oath of office and the precepts of the Constitution, since they necessarily involved a limitation in favor of a foreign government upon the right of selection by the Executive, and required such an application of a religious test as a qualification for office under the United States as would have resulted in the practical disfranchisement of a large class of our citizens and the abandonment of a vital principle in our Government. The Austro-Hungarian Government finally decided not to receive Mr. Keiley as the envoy of the United States, and that gentleman has since resigned his commission, leaving the post vacant. I have made no new nomination, and the interests of this Government at Vienna are now in the care of the secretary of legation, acting as chargé d'affaires ad interim.
Early in March last, war broke out in Central America, caused by the attempt of Guatemala to consolidate the several states into a single government. In these contests between our neighboring states the United States forebore to interfere actively, but lent the aid of their friendly offices in deprecation of war and to promote peace and concord among the belligerents, and by such counsel contributed importantly to the restoration of tranquillity in that locality.
Emergencies growing out of civil war in the United States of Colombia demanded of the Government at the beginning of this administra tion the employment of armed forces to fulfill its guaranties under the thirty-fifth article of the treaty of 1846, in order to keep the transit open across the Isthmus of Panama. Desirous of exercising only the powers expressly reserved to us by the treaty, and mindful of the rights of Colombia, the forces sent to the Isthmus were instructed to confine their action to positively and efficaciously” preventing the transit and its accessories from being "interrupted or embarrassed."
The execution of this delicate and responsible task necessarily involved police control where the local authority was temporarily powerless, but always in aid of the sovereignty of Colombia.
The prompt and successful fulfillment of its duty by this Government was highly appreciated by the Government of Colombia, and has been followed by expressions of its satisfaction.
High praise is due to the officers and men engaged in this service.
The restoration of peace on the Isthmus by the re-establishment of the constituted government there being thus accomplished, the forces of the United States were withdrawn.
Pending these occurrences a question of much importance was presented by decrees of the Colombian Government, proclaiming the closure of certain ports then in the hands of insurgents, and declaring vessels held by the revolutionists to be piratical and liable to capture by any power. To neither of these propositions could the United States assent. An effective closure of ports not in the possession of the government, but held by hostile partisans, could not be recognized; neither could the vessels of insurgents against the legitimate sovereignty be deemed hostes humani generis within the precepts of international law, whatever might be the definition and penalty of their acts under the municipal law of the state against whose authority they were in revolt. The denial by this Gov. ernment of the Colombian propositions did not, however, imply the admission of a belligerent status on the part of the insurgents.
The Colombian Government has expressed its willingness to negotiate conventions for the adjustment by arbitration of claims by foreign citizens arising out of the destruction of the city of Aspinwall by the insurrectionary forces.
The interest of the United States in a practicable transit for ships across the strip of land separating the Atlantic from the Pacific has been repeatedly manifested during the last half century.
My immediate predecessor caused to be negotiated with Nicaragua a treaty for the construction, by and at the sole cost of the United States, of a canal through Nicaraguan territory, and laid it before the Senate. Pending the action of that body thereon, I withdrew the treaty for re-examination. Attentive consideration of its provisions leads me to withhold it from resubmission to the Senate.
Maintaining, as I do, the tenets of a line of precedents from Washington's day, which proscribe entangling alliances with foreign states,