« PreviousContinue »
made for large increases in compensation, which, under all the circumstanees of the several cases, I declined making without the express sanction of Congress. In order to obtain that sanction, the subject was, at the last session, on my suggestion, and by request of the immediate superintendent, submitted by the treasury department to the committee of commerce of the House of Representatives. But no legislative action having taken place, the early attention of Congress is now invited to the enactment of some express and detailed provisions in relation to the various claims made for the past, and to the compensation and allowances deemed proper for the future.
It is farther respectfully recommended that, such being the inconvenience of attention to these duties by the chief magistrate, and such the great pressure of business on the treasury department, the general supervision of the coast survey, and the completion of the weights and measures, if the works are kept united, should be devolved on a board of officers, organized especially for that purpose, or on the navy board attached to the navy depart
All my experience and reflection confirm the conviction I have so often expressed to Congress in favor of an amendment of the constitution which will prevent, in any event, the election of the President and Vice-President of the United States devolving on the House of Representatives and the Senate; and I therefore beg leave again to solicit your attention to the subject. There were various other suggestions in my last annual message not acted upon, particularly that relating to the want of uniformity in, the laws of the District of Columbia, that are deemed worthy of your favorable consideration.
Before concluding this paper, I think it due to the various executive departments to bear testimony to their prosperous condition, and to the ability and integrity with which they have been conducted. It has been my aim to enforce in all of them a vigilant and faithful discharge of the public business, and it is gratifying to me to believe that there is no just cause of complaint from any quarter at the manner in which they have fulfilled the objects of their creation.
Having now finished the observations deemed proper on this, the last occasion I shall have of communicating with the two Houses of Congress at their meeting, I cannot omit an expression of the gratitude which is due to the great body of my fellow citizens, in whose partiality and indulgence I have found encouragement and support in the many difficult and trying scenes through which it has been my lot to pass during my public career. Though deeply sensible that my exertions have not been crowned with a success corresponding to the degree of favor bestowed upon me, I am sure that they will be considered as having been directed by an earnest desire to promote the good of my country; and I am consoled by the persuasion, that whatever errors have been committed, will find a corrective in the intelligence and patriotism of those who will succeed us. All that has occurred during my administration is calculated to inspire me with increased confidence in the stability of our institutions; and should I be spared to enter upon that retirement which is so suitable to my age and infirm health, and so much desired by me in other respects, I shall not cease to invoke that beneficent Being, to whose providence we are already so signally indebted, for the continuance of his blessings on our beloved country.
MESSAGE IN RELATION TO TEXAS.
DECEMBER 21, 1836.
To the Senate of the United States:
DURING the last session, information was given to Congress by the executive, that measures had been taken to ascertain "the political, military, and civil condition of Texas." I now submit for your consideration, extracts from the report of the agent who had been appointed to collect it, relative to the condition of that country.
No steps have been taken by the executive toward the acknowledgment of the independence of Texas; and the whole subject would have been left without farther remark on the information now given to Congress, were it not that the two Houses at their last session, acting separately, passed resolutions "that the independence of Texas ought to be acknowledged by the United States, whenever satisfactory information should be received that it had in successful operation a civil government, capable of performing the duties, and fulfilling the obligations of an independent power." This mark of interest in the question of the independence of Texas, and indication of the views of Congress, make it proper that I should, somewhat in detail, present the considerations that have governed the executive in continuing to Occupy the ground previously taken in the contest between Mexico and Texas.
The acknowledgment of a new state as independent, and entitled to a place in the family of nations, is at all times an act of great delicacy and responsibility; but more especially so when such state has forcibly separated itself from another, of which it had formed an integral part, and which still claims dominion over it. A premature recognition under these circumstances, if not looked upon as justifiable cause of war, is always liable to be regarded as a proof of an unfriendly spirit to one of the contending parties. All questions relative to the government of foreign nations, whether of the old or new world, have been treated by the United States as questions of fact only, and our predecessors have cautiously abstained from deciding upon them until the clearest evidence was in their session, to enable them not only to decide correctly, but to shield their decisions from every unworthy imputation. In all the contests that have arisen out of the revolutions of France; out of the disputes relating to the crowns of Portugal and Spain; out of the separation of the American possessions of both from the European governments, and out of the numerous and constantly occurring struggles for dominion in Spanish America, so wisely consistent with our just principles has been the action of our government, that we have, under the most critical circumstances, avoided all censure, and encountered no other evil than that produced by a transient estrangement of good-will in those against whom we have been by force of evidence compelled to decide.
It has thus made known to the world, that the uniform policy and practice. of the United States is to avoid all interference in disputes which merely relate to the internal government of other nations, and eventually to recognise the authority of the prevailing party without reference to our particular interests and views, or to the merits of the original controversy. Public opinion here is so firmly established and well understood in favor of this
policy, that no serious disagreement has ever risen among ourselves in relation to it, although brought under view in a variety of forms, and at periods when the minds of the people were greatly excited by the agitation of topics purely domestic in their character. Nor has any deliberate inquiry ever been instituted in Congress, or in any of our legislative bodies, as to whom belonged the power of originally recognising a new state — a power, the exercise of which is equivalent, under some circumstances, to a declaration of war-a power nowhere expressly delegated, and only granted in the constitution, as it is necessarily involved in some of the great powers given to Congress; in that given to the President and Senate to form treaties with foreign powers, and to appoint ambassadors and other public ministers; and in that conferred upon the President to receive ministers from foreign nations.
In the preamble to the resolution of the House of Representatives, it is distinctly intimated that the expediency of recognising the independence of Texas should be left to the decision of Congress. In this view, on the ground of expediency, I am disposed to concur; and do not, therefore, consider it necessary to express any opinion as to the strict constitutional right of the executive, either apart from, or in conjunction with the Senate, over the subject. It is to be presumed that on no future occasion will a dispute arise, as none has heretofore occurred, between the executive and the legis lature in the exercise of the power of recognition. It will always be considered consistent with the spirit of the constitution, and most safe, that it should be exercised, when probably leading to war, with a previous understanding with that body by whom war can alone be declared, and by whom all the provisions for sustaining its perils must be furnished. Its submission to Congress, which represents in one of its branches the states of this Union, and in the other the people of the United States, where there may be reasonable ground to apprehend so grave a consequence, would certainly afford the fullest satisfaction to our own country, and a perfect guaranty to all other nations, of the justice and prudence of the measures which might be adopted.
In making these suggestions, it is not my purpose to relieve myself from the responsibility of expressing my own opinions of the course the inte rests of our country prescribe, and its honor permits us to follow.
It is scarcely to be imagined that a question of this character could be presented, in relation to which it would be more difficult for the United States to avoid exciting the suspicion and jealousy of other powers, and maintain their established character for fair and impartial dealing. But on this, as on every other trying occasion, safety is to be found in a rigid adhe rence to principle.
In the contest between Spain and her revolted colonies we stood aloof, and waited not only until the ability of the new states to protect themselves was fully established, but until the danger of their being again subjugated had entirely passed away. Then, and not until then, were they recognised. Such was our course in regard to Mexico herself. The same policy was observed in all the disputes growing out of the separation into distinct gov ernments of those Spanish American states, who began, or carried on the contest with the parent country, united under one form of government. We acknowledged the separate independence of New Grenada, of Venezuela, and of Equator, only after their independent existence was no longer a subject of dispute, or was actually acquiesced in by those with whom they had
been previously united. It is true that, with regard to Texas, the civil authority of Mexico has been expelled, its invading army defeated, the chief of the republic himself captured, and all present power to control the newly organized government of Texas annihilated within its confines. But, on the other hand, there is, in appearance at least, an immense disparity of physical force on the side of Texas. The Mexican republic, under another executive, is rallying its forces under a new leader, and menacing a fresh invasion to recover its lost dominion.
Upon the issue of this threatened invasion, the independence of Texas may be considered as suspended; and were there nothing peculiar in the relative situation of the United States and Texas, our acknowledgment of its independence at such a crisis could scarcely be regarded as consistent with that prudent reserve with which we have heretofore held ourselves bound to treat all similar questions. But there are circumstances in the relations of the two countries, which require us to act, on this occasion, with even more than our wonted caution. Texas was once claimed as a part of our property, and there are those among our citizens who, always reluctant to abandon that claim, cannot but regard with solicitude the prospect of the re-union of the territory to this country. A large portion of its civilized inhabitants are emigrants from the United States; speak the same language with ourselves; cherish the same principles, political and religious, and are bound to many of our citizens by ties of friendship and kindred blood; and more than all, it is known that the people of that country have instituted the same form of government with our own; and have, since the close of your last session, openly resolved, on the acknowledgment by us of their independence, to seek admission into the Union as one of the federal states. This last circumstance is a matter of peculiar delicacy, and forces upon us considerations of the gravest character. The title of Texas to the territory she claims is identified with her independence; she asks us to acknowledge that title to the territory, with an avowed design to treat immediately of its transfer to the United States. It becomes us to beware of a too early movement, as it might subject us, however unjustly, to the imputation of seeking to establish the claim of our neighbors to a territory, with a view to its subsequent acquisition by ourselves. Prudence, therefore, seems to dictate that we should still stand aloof, and maintain our present attitude, if not until Mexico itself, or one of the great foreign powers, shall recognise the independence of the new government, at least until the lapse of time, or the course of events shall have proved, beyond cavil or dispute, the ability of the people of that country to maintain their separate sovereignty, and to uphold the government constituted by them. Neither of the contending parties can justly complain of this course. By pursuing it, we are but carrying out the long-established policy of our government -a policy which has secured to us respect and influence abroad, and inspired confidence at home.
Having thus discharged my duty, by presenting with simplicity and directness the views which, after much reflection, I have been led to take of this important subject, I have only to add the expression of my confidence, that if Congress shall differ with me upon it, their judgment will be the result. of dispassionate, prudent, and wise deliberation; with the assurance that, during the short time I shall continue connected with the government, Í shall promptly and cordially unite with you in such measures as may be deemed best fitted to increase the prosperity and perpetuate the peace of our favored country.
BEING about to retire finally from public life, I beg leave to offer you my grateful thanks for the many proofs of kindness and confidence which I have received at your hands. It has been my fortune, in the discharge of public duties, civil and military, frequently to have found myself in difficult and trying situations, where prompt decision and energetic action were necessary, and where the interest of the country required that high responsibilities should be fearlessly encountered; and it is with the deepest emotions of gratitude that I acknowledge the continued and unbroken confidence with which you have sustained me in every trial. My public life has been a long one, and I cannot hope that it has at all times been free from errors. But I have the consolation of knowing that if mistakes have been committed, they have not seriously injured the country I so anxiously endeavored to serve; and at the moment when I surrender my last public trust, I leave this great people prosperous and happy; in the full enjoyment of liberty and peace; and honored and respected by every nation in the world.
If my humble efforts have, in any degree, contributed to preserve to you these blessings, I have been more than rewarded by the honors you have heaped upon me; and, above all, by the generous confidence with which you have supported me in every peril, and with which you have continued to animate and cheer my path to the closing hour of my political life. The time has now come, when advanced age and a broken frame warn me to retire from public concerns; but the recollection of the many favors you have bestowed upon me is engraven upon my heart, and I have felt that I could not part from your service without making this public acknowledg. ment of the gratitude I owe you. And if I use the occasion to offer to you the counsels of age and experience, you will, I trust, receive them with the same indulgent kindness which you have so often extended to me; and will, at least, see in them an earnest desire to perpetuate, in this favored land, the blessings of liberty and equal laws.
We have now lived almost fifty years under the constitution framed by the sages and patriots of the revolution. The conflicts in which the nations of Europe were engaged during a great part of this period; the spirit in which they waged war against each other; and our intimate commercial connections with every part of the civilized world, rendered it a time of much difficulty for the government of the United States. We have had our seasons of peace and of war, with all the evils which precede or follow a state of hostility with powerful nations. We encountered these trials with our constitution yet in its infancy, and under the disadvantages which a new and untried government must always feel when it is called upon to put forth its whole strength, without the lights of experience to guide it or the weight of precedents to justify its measures. But we have passed triumphantly through all these difficulties. Our constitution is no longer a doubtful experiment; and at the end of nearly half a century, we find that it has preserved unimpaired the liberties of the people, secured the rights of property, and that our country has improved, and is flourishing beyond any former example in the history of nations.
In our domestic concerns, there is everything to encourage us; and if you are true to yourselves, nothing can impede your march to the highest