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No. 3945. from the seas; the industry of one-half of the country had been taken from the
Union, of protecting and fostering free labor, and providing means for paying
Seven States which passed ordinances of secession have been fully restored to their places in the Union. The eighth, Georgia, held an election at which she ratified her constitution, republican in form, elected a governor, members of Congress, a State legislature, and all other officers required.
The governor was duly installed, and the legislature met and performed all the acts then required of them by the reconstruction acts of Congress. Subsequently, however, in violation of the constitution which they had just ratified, (as since decided by the supreme court of the State,) they unseated the colored members of the legislature and admitted to seats some members who are disqualified by the third clause of the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution, an article which they themselves had contributed to ratify. Under these circumstances, I uld submit to you whether it would not be wise, without delay, to enact law authorizing the governor of Georgia to convene the members originally elected to the legislature, requiring each member to take the oath prescribed by the reconstruction acts, and none to be admitted who are ineligible under the third clause of the fourteenth amendment.
The freedmen, under the protection which they have received, are making rapid progress in learning, and no complaints are heard of lack of industry on their part where they receive fair remuneration for their labor. The means provided for paying the interest on the public debt, with all other expenses of government, are more than ample. The loss of our commerce is the only result of the late rebellion which has not received sufficient attention from you. To this subject I call your earnest attention. I will not now suggest plans by which this object may be effected, but will, if necessary, make it the subject of a special message during the session of Congress.
At the March term, Congress by joint resolution authorized the Executive to order elections in the States of Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas, to submit to them the constitutions which each bad previously, in convention, framed, and submit the constitutions, either entire or in separate parts, to be voted upon, at the discretion of the Executive. Under this authority elections were called.
In Virginia the election took place on the 6th of July, 1869. The governor and lieutenant governor elected have been installed. The legislature met and did all required by this resolution and by all the reconstruction acts of Congress, and abstained from all doubtful authority. I recommend that her senators and representatives be promptly admitted to their seats, and that the Stato be fully restored to its place in the family of States. Elections were
called in Mississippi and Texas, to commence on the 30th of November, 1869, No. 3945.
Vereinigte and to last two days in Mississippi and four days in Texas. The elections have Staaten, taken place, but the result is not known. It is to be hoped that the acts of the legislatures of these States, when they meet, will be such as to receive your approval, and thus close the work of reconstruction.
Among the evils growing out of the rebellion, and not yet referred to, is that of an irredeemable currency. It is an evil which I hope will receive your most earnest attention. It is a duty, and one of the highest duties of government, to secure to the citizen a medium of exchange of fixed, unvarying value. This implies a return to a specie basis, and no substitute for it can be devised. It should be commenced now and reached at the earliest practicable moment consistent with a fair regard to the interests of the debtor class. Immediate resumption, if practicable, would not be desirable. It would compel the debtor
. class to pay, beyond their contracts, the premium on gold at the date of their purchase, and would bring bankruptcy and ruin to thousands. Fluctuations, however, in the paper value of the measure of all values (gold) is detrimental to the interests of trade. It makes the man of business an involuntary gambler, for in all sales where future payment is to be made both parties speculate as to what will be the value of the currency to be paid and received. I earnestly recommend to you, then, such legislation as will insure a gradual return to specie payments and put an immediate stop to fluctuations in the value of currency.
The methods to secure the former of these results are as numerous as are the speculators on political economy.
To secure the latter I see but one way, and that is to authorize the Treasury to redeem its own paper, at a fixed price, whenever presented; and to withhold from circulation all currency so redeemed until sold again for gold.
The vast resources of the nation, both developed and undeveloped, ought to make our credit the best on earth. With a less burden of taxation than the citizen has endured for six years past, the entire public debt could be paid in ten years. But it is not desirable that the people should be taxed to рау it in that time. Year by year the ability to pay increases in a rapid ratio. But the burden of interest ought to be reduced as rapidly as can be done without the violation of contract. The public debt is represented, in great part, by bonds having from five to twenty and from ten to forty years to run, bearing interest at the rate of six per cent. and five per cent. respectively. It is optional with the government to pay these bonds at any period after the expiration of the least time mentioned upon their face. The time has already expired when a great part of them may be taken up, and is rapidly approaching when all may be. It is believed that all which are now due may be replaced by bonds bearing a rate of interest not exceeding four and a half per cent., and as rapidly as the remainder become due that they may be replaced in the same way. To accomplish this it may be necessary to authorize the interest to be paid at either of three or four of the money centers of Europe, or by any assistant treasurer of the United States, at the option of the holder of the bond. I suggest this subject for the
No. 3945. consideration of Congress, and also, simultaneously with this, the propriety of
goes into effect, increasing the rate at which currency will be bought and sold
The subject of tariff and internal taxation will necessarily receive your attention. The revenues of the country are greater than the requirements, and may with safety be reduced. But as the funding of the debt in a four or a four and a half per cent. loan would reduce annual current expenses largely, thus, after funding, justifying a greater reduction of taxation than would be now expedient, I suggest postponement of this question until the next meeting of Congress.
It may be advisable to modify taxation and tariff in instances where unjust or burdensome discriminations are made by the present laws; but a general revision of the laws regulating this subject I recommend the postponement of for the present. I also suggest the renewal of the tax on incomes, but at a reduced rate, say of three per cent., and this tax to expire in three years.
With the funding of the national debt, as here suggested, I feel safe in saying that taxes and the revenue from imports may be reduced safely from sixty to eighty millions per annum at once, and may be still further reduced from year to year, as the resources of the country are developed.
The report of the Secretary of the Treasury shows the receipts of the government for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1869, to be Doll. 370, 943, 747, and the expenditures, including interest, bounties, &c., to be Doll. 321, 490,597. The estimates for the ensuing year are more favorable to the government,
and will no doubt show a much larger decrease of the public debt.
The receipts in the treasury, beyond expenditures, have exceeded the amount necessary to place to the credit of the sinking fund as provided by law. To lock up the surplus in the Treasury and withhold it from circulation, would lead to such a contraction of the currency as to cripple trade and seriously affect the prosperity of the country. Under these circumstances, the Secretary of the treasury and myself heartily concurred in the propriety of using all the surplus currency in the treasury in the purchase of government bonds, thus reducing the interestbearing indebtedness of the country, and of submitting to Congress the question of the disposition to be made of the bonds so purchased. The bonds now held by the Treasury amount to about seventy-five millions, including those belonging to the sinking fund. I recommend that the whole be placed to the credit of the sinking fund.
Your attention is respectfully invited to the recommendations of the Secretary of the Treasury for the creation of the office of Commissioner of Customs Revenue; for the increase of salaries to certain classes of officials; the substitution of increased national bank circulation to replace the outstanding three per cent. certificates; and most especially to his recommendation for the repeal of laws allowing shares of fines, penalties, forfeitures, &c., to officers of the government or to informers.
The office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue is one of the most
arduous and responsible under the government. It falls but little, if any, short No. 3945.
Vereinigte of a cabinet position in its importance and responsibilities. I would ask for it, Staaten, therefore, such legislation as, in your judgment, will place the office upon a footing of dignity commensurate with its importance, and with a character and qualifications of the class of men required to fill it properly.
As the United States is the freest of all nations, so, too, its people sympathize with all peoples struggling for liberty and self-government. while so sympathizing, it is due to our honor that we should abstain from enforcing our views upon unwilling nations, and from taking an interested part, without invitation, in the quarrels between different nations or between governments and their subjects. Our course should always be in conformity with strict justice and law, international and local. Such has been the policy of the administration in dealing with these questions. For more than a year a valuable province of Spain, and a near neighbor of ours , in whom all our people cannot but feel a deep interest, has been struggling for independence and freedom. The people and government of the United States entertain the same warm feelings and sympathies for the people of Cuba, in their pending struggle, that they manifested throughout the previous struggles between Spain and her former colonies, in behalf of the latter. But the contest has at no time assumed the conditions which amount to a war in the sense of international law, or which would show the existence of a de facto political organization of the insurgents sufficient to justify a recognition of belligerency.
The principle is maintained, however, that this nation is its own judge when to accord the rights of belligerency, either to a people struggling to free themselves from a government they believe to be oppressive, or to independent pations at war with each other.
The United States have no disposition to interfere with the existing relations of Spain to her colonial possessions on this continent. They believe that in due time Spain and other European powers will find their interest in terminating those relations, and establishing their present dependencies as independent powers — members of the family of nations. These dependencies are no longer regarded as subject to transfer from one European power to another. When the present relation of colonies ceases they are to become independent powers, exercising the right of choice and of self-control in the determination of their future condition and relations with other powers.
The United States, in order to put a stop to bloodshed in Cuba , and in the interest of a neighboring people, proposed their good offices to bring the existing contest to a termination. The offer, not being accepted by Spain on a
. basis which we believed could be received by Cuba, was withdrawn. It is hoped that the good offices of the United States may yet prove advantageous for the settlement of this unhappy strife.
Meanwhile a number of illegal expeditions against Cuba have been
It has been the endeavor of the administration to execute the neutrality
No. 3915. laws in good faith, no matter how unpleasant the task, made so by the sufferings
On the 26th of March last the United States schooner Lizzie Major was arrested on the high seas by a Spanish frigate, and two passengers taken from it and carried as prisoners to Cuba. Representations of these facts were made to the Spanish government as soon as official information of them reached Washington. The two passengers were set at liberty, and the Spanish government assured the United States that the captain of the frigate in making the capture had acted without law, that he had been reprimanded for the irregularity of his conduct, and that the Spanish authorities in Cuba would not sanction any act that could violate the rights or treat with disrespect the sovereignty of this nation.
The question of the seizure of the brig Mary Lowell at one of the Bahama Islands, by Spanish authorities, is now the subject of correspondence between this government and those of Spain and Great Britain.
The Captain General of Cuba, about May last, issued a proclamation authorizing search to be made of vessels on the high seas. Immediate remonstrance was made against this, whereupon the Captain General issued a new proclamation limiting the right of search to vessels of the United States so far as authorized under the treaty of 1795. This proclamation, however, was immediately withdrawn.
I have always felt that the most intimate relations should be cultivated between the republic of the United States and all independent nations on this continent. It
may be well worth considering whether new treaties between us and them may not be profitably entered into, to secure more intimate relations, friendly, commercial, and otherwise.
The subject of an inter - oceanic canal, to connect the Atlantic an Pacific Oceans, through the Isthmus of Darien, is one in which commerce is greatly interested. Instructions have been given to our minister to the republic of the United States of Colombia to endeavor to obtain authority for a survey by this government in order to determine the practicability of such an undertaking, and a charter for the right of way to build, by private enterprise, such a work if the survey proves it to be practicable.
In order to comply with the agreement of the United States as to a mixed commission at Lima for the adjustment of claims, it became necessary to send a comunissioner and secretary to Lima in August last. No appropriation having been made by Congress for this purpose, it is now asked that one be made covering the past and future expenses of the commission.
The good offices of the United States to bring about a peace between Spain and the South American republics, with which she is at war, having been accepted by Spain, Peru, and Chili, a congress has been invited, to be held in Washington during the present winter.
A grant has been given to Europeans of an exclusive right of transit over the territory of Nicaragua, to which Costa Rica has given its assent,