Page images

WASHINGTON, February 9, 1846. To the House of Representatives of the United States:

I communicate herewith, in answer to the resolution of the House of Representatives of the 19th of December last, the report of the Secretary of State inclosing "copies of correspondence between this Government and Great Britain within the last two years in relation to the Washington treaty, and particularly in relation to the free navigation of the river St. John, and in relation to the disputed-territory fund named in said treaty;' and also the accompanying copies of documents filed in the Department of State, which embrace the correspondence and information called for by the said resolution.



[ocr errors]

WASHINGTON, February 9, 1846. To the Senate of the United States:

In compliance with the request of the Senate in their resolution of the 5th instant, I herewith return "the resolution of the Senate advising and consenting to the appointment of F. G. Mayson to be a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps." As the same resolution which contains the advice and consent of the Senate to the appointment of Mr. Mayson contains also the advice and consent of that body to the appointment of several other persons to other offices, to whom commissions have been since issued, I respectfully request that the resolution, so far as it relates to the persons other than Mr. Mayson, may be returned to me.


WASHINGTON, February 12, 1846. To the Senate of the United States:

I transmit herewith, for the consideration and advice of the Senate with regard to its ratification, a treaty concluded on the 14th day of January last by Thomas H. Harvey and Richard W. Cummins, commissioners on the part of the United States, and the chiefs and headmen of the Kansas tribe of Indians, together with a report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and other papers explanatory of the same.


WASHINGTON, February 16, 1846. To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I herewith transmit a communication from the Attorney-General relating to a contract entered into by him with Messrs. Little & Brown for certain copies of their proposed edition of the laws and treaties of the United States, in pursuance of the joint resolution of the 3d March, 1845.


WASHINGTON, February 16, 1870. To the Senate of the United States:

I herewith transmit a report from the Secretary of the Navy, commu. nicating the correspondence called for by the resolution of the Senate of the 25th of February, 1845, between the commander of the East India Squadrons and foreign powers or United States agents abroad during the years 1842 and 1843, relating to the trade and other interests of this Government.


WASHINGTON, February 18, 1846. To the House of Representatives of the United States:

In compliance with the request of the House of Representatives in their resolution of the 12th instant, asking for information relative to the Mexican indemnity, I communicate herewith a report from the Secretary of State, with the paper accompanying it.

JAMES K. POLK. [A similar message was sent to the Senate in compliance with a request of that body.]

WASHINGTON, March 23, 1846. To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I transmit, for your consideration, a correspondence between the minister of Her Britannic Majesty in Washington and the Secretary of State, containing an arrangement for the adjustment and payment of the claims of the respective Governments upon each other arising from the collection of certain import duties in violation of the second article of the commercial convention of 3d of July, 1815, between the two countries, and I respectfully submit to Congress the propriety of making provision to carry this arrangement into effect.

The second article of this convention provides that "no higher or other duties shall be imposed on the importation into the United States of any articles the growth, produce, or manufacture of His Britannic Majesty's territories in Europe, and no higher or other duties shall be imposed on the importation into the territories of His Britannic Majesty in Europe of any articles the growth, produce, or manufacture of the United States, than are or shall be payable on the like articles being the growth, produce, or manufacture of any other foreign country."

Previous to the act of Parliament of the 13th of August, 1836, the duty on foreign rough rice imported into Great Britain was 2s.6d. sterling per bushel. By this act the duty was reduced to i penny per quarter (of 8 bushels) on the rough rice “imported from the west coast of Africa."

Upon the earnest and repeated remonstrances of our ministers at London in opposition to this discrimination against American and in favor of African rice, as a violation of the subsisting convention, Parliament,


by the act of 9th July, 1842, again equalized the duty on all foreign rough rice by fixing it at 7s. per quarter. In the intervening period, however, of nearly six years large importations had been made into Great Britain of American rough rice, which was subjected to a duty of 2s. 6d. per bushel; but the importers, knowing their rights under the convention, claimed that it should be admitted at the rate of i penny per quarter, the duty imposed on African rice. This claim was resisted by the British Government, and the excess of duty was paid, at the first under protest, and afterwards, in consequence of an arrangement with the board of customs, by the deposit of exchequer bills.

It seems to have been a clear violation both of the letter and spirit of the convention to admit rough rice “the growth” of Africa at i penny per quarter, whilst the very same article “the growth” of the United States was charged with a duty of 2s. 6d. per bushel.

The claim of Great Britain, under the same article of the convention, is founded on the tariff act of 30th August, 1842. Its twenty-fifth section provides “that nothing in this act contained shall apply to goods shipped in a vessel bound to any port of the United States, actually having left her last port of lading eastward of the Cape of Good Hope or beyond Cape Horn prior to the ist day of September, 1842; and all legal provisions and regulations existing immediately before the 30th day of June, 1842, shall be applied to importations which may be made in vessels which have left such last port of lading eastward of the Cape of Good Hope or beyond Cape Horn prior to said ist day of September, 1842.”

The British Government contends that it was a violation of the second article of the convention for this act to require that “articles the growth, produce, or manufacture” of Great Britain, when imported into the United States in vessels which had left their last port of lading in Great Britain prior to the ist day of September, 1842, should pay any “higher or other duties” than were imposed on “like articles” "the growth, produce, or manufacture" of countries beyond the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.

Upon a careful consideration of the subject I arrived at the conclusion that this claim on the part of the British Government was well founded. I deem it unnecessary to state my reasons at length for adopting this opinion, the whole subject being fully explained in the letter of the Secretary of the Treasury and the accompanying papers.

The amount necessary to satisfy the British claim can not at present be ascertained with any degree of accuracy, no individual having yet presented his case to the Government of the United States. It is not apprehended that the amount will be large. After such examination of the subject as it has been in his power to make, the Secretary of the Treasury believes that it will not exceed $100,000.

On the other hand, the claims of the importers of rough rice into Great Britain have been already ascertained, as the duties were paid either

[ocr errors]

under protest or in exchequer bills. Their amount is stated by Mr. Everett, our late minister at London, in a dispatch dated June 1, 1843, to be £88,886 16s. rod. sterling, of which £60,006 4d. belong to citizens of the United States.

As it may be long before the amount of the British claim can be ascertained, and it would be unreasonable to postpone payment to the American claimants until this can be adjusted, it has been proposed to the British Government immediately to refund the excess of duties collected by it on American rough rice. I should entertain a confident hope that this proposal would be accepted should the arrangement concluded be sanctioned by an act of Congress making provision for the return of the duties in question. The claimants might then be paid as they present their demands, properly authenticated, to the Secretary of the Treasury.


[ocr errors]


WASHINGTON, March 24, 1846. To the Senate of the United States:

In answer to the inquiry of the Senate contained in their resolution of the 17th instant, whether in my “judgment any circumstances connected with or growing out of the foreign relations of this country require at this time an increase of our naval or military force," and, if so, "what those circumstances are,” I have to express the opinion that a wise precaution demands such increase.

In my annual message of the ad of December last I recommended to the favorable consideration of Congress an increase of our naval force, especially of our steam navy, and the raising of an adequate military force to guard and protect such of our citizens as might think proper to emigrate to Oregon. Since that period I have seen no cause to recall or modify these recommendations. On the contrary, reasons exist which, in my judgment, render it proper not only that they should be promptly carried into effect, but that additional provision should be made for the public defense.

The consideration of such additional provision was brought before appropriate committees of the two Houses of Congress, in answer to calls made by them, in reports prepared, with my sanction, by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy on the 29th of December and the 8th of January last—a mode of communication with Congress not unusual, and under existing circumstances believed to be most eligible. Subsequent events have confirmed me in the opinion that these recommendations were proper as precautionary measures.

It was a wise maxim of the Father of his Country that "to be prepared for war is one of the most efficient means of preserving peace," and that, "avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace," we should "remember also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it.” The general obligation to perform this duty is greatly strengthened by facts known to the whole world. A controversy respecting the Oregon Territory now exists between the United States and Great Britain, and while, as far as we know, the relations of the latter with all European nations are of the most pacific character, she is making unusual and extraordinary armaments and warlike preparations, naval and military, both at home and in her North American possessions.

It can not be disguised that, however sincere may be the desire of peace, in the event of a rupture these armaments and preparations would be used against our country. Whatever may have been the original purpose of these preparations, the fact is undoubted that they are now proceeding, in part at least, with a view to the contingent possibility of a war with the United States. The general policy of making additional warlike preparations was distinctly announced in the speech from the throne as late as January last, and has since been reiterated by the ministers of the Crown in both houses of Parliament. Under this aspect of our relations with Great Britain, I can not doubt the propriety of increasing our means of defense both by land and sea. This can give Great Britain no cause of offense nor increase the danger of a rupture. If, on the contrary, we should fold our arms in security and at last be suddenly involved in hostilities for the maintenance of our just rights without any adequate preparation, our responsibility to the country would be of the gravest character. Should collision between the two countries be avoided, as I sincerely trust it may be, the additional charge upon the Treasury in making the necessary preparations will not be lost, while in the event of such a collision they would be indispensable for the maintenance of our national rights and national honor.

I have seen no reason to change or modify the recommendations of my annual message in regard to the Oregon question. The notice to abrogate the treaty of the 6th of August, 1827, is authorized by the treaty itself and can not be regarded as a warlike measure, and I can not withhold my strong conviction that it should be promptly given. The other recommendations are in conformity with the existing treaty, and would afford to American citizens in Oregon no more than the same measure of protection which has long since been extended to British subjects in that Territory.

The state of our relations with Mexico is still in an unsettled condition. Since the meeting of Congress another revolution has taken place in that country, by which the Government has passed into the hands of new rulers. This event has procrastinated, and may possibly defeat, the settlement of the differences between the United States and that country. The minister of the United States to Mexico at the date of the last advices had not been received by the existing authorities. Demonstrations of a character hostile to the United States continue to be made in

« PreviousContinue »