James D. Richardson.

A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 5, part 1: Presidents Taylor and Fillmore online

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This volume, the fifth of the series, comprises a period of twelve
years. It includes the four years' term of the Taylor-Fillmore
Administration and the full terms of Presidents Pierce and Buchanan.
This brings the history down to March 4, 1861, the beginning of the late
war between the States. These twelve years form an important and
eventful epoch in the affairs of our country, as they immediately
precede the war and cover the official utterances of the Executives
during this period. Some of the more important events and incidents of
these twelve years are the Bulwer-Clayton treaty with Great Britain for
a joint occupancy of the proposed ship canal through Central America;
the compromise measures of 1850; the admission of California, Minnesota,
Oregon, and Kansas as States; the Gadsden purchase, by which the United
States acquired 45,535 square miles of territory, being portions of
Arizona and New Mexico; the Kansas-Nebraska legislation; the famous Dred
Scott decision; the John Brown insurrection, and the disruption of the
Democratic party in the national campaign of 1860.

This volume contains several veto messages which are interesting. By
President Pierce, vetoes of "An act making a grant of public lands to
the several States for the benefit of indigent insane persons;" of six
acts relating to internal improvements; of an act for a subsidy for
ocean mails, and of an act for the ascertainment and allowance of French
spoliation claims. By President Buchanan, vetoes of an act granting
lands for agricultural purposes; of two acts relating to internal
improvements, and of a homestead act.

Interesting reading is furnished in the protests of President Buchanan
against the action of the House of Representatives in ordering the
appointment of a committee to investigate the conduct of the President.
The careful reader will find in this volume errors which the compiler
could not correct. For instance, on page 410 certain figures are given
from a report of the Postmaster-General, which when added do not produce
the total given. The error may arise from the failure to make the proper
addition, or it may be that the total is correct and that the figures
first given are incorrect. The original message contains the same error.
Similar errors occur elsewhere in the compilation. These matters are,
however, trivial and perhaps need not have been mentioned.

JULY 4, 1897.

Zachary Taylor

March 5, 1849, to July 9, 1850

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor was born in Orange County, Va., November 24, 1784. He was
the third son of Richard Taylor, a colonel in the War of the Revolution,
who was conspicuous for his zeal and courage. In 1785 his father removed
to Kentucky, then a sparsely occupied county of Virginia, and made his
home near the present city of Louisville, where he died. Zachary had but
little opportunity for attending school in this new settlement, but was
surrounded during all the years of his childhood and early manhood by
conditions and circumstances well adapted to form the character
illustrated by his eventful career. In 1808 he was appointed a
Lieutenant in the Seventh Infantry, and in 1810 was promoted to the
grade of captain in the same regiment. The same year was married to Miss
Margaret Smith, of Maryland. For meritorious conduct in defending Fort
Harrison, on the Wabash River, against the Indians received the brevet
of major. In 1814 commanded in a campaign against hostile Indians and
their British allies on Rock River. Was made lieutenant-colonel of the
First Infantry in 1819, and in 1832 became full colonel of that
regiment, with headquarters at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien. Was
occupied with his regiment fighting the Indians in the Black Hawk and
other campaigns until 1836, when he was transferred to Florida for
service in the Seminole War. For gallant conduct there the next year
received the brevet of brigadier-general, and in 1838 was appointed to
the chief command in Florida. In 1840 was assigned to command the
southern division of the western department of the Army. About this time
he made his family home at Baton Rouge, La. In 1845 was ordered to the
defense of Texas, which had been annexed to the United States. He went
to Corpus Christi, and on March 8, 1846, advanced, and after some
fighting, in which he routed and drove the enemy across the Rio Grande,
on May 18 occupied Matamoras. He remained there for a short period,
obtaining reenforcements. In September fought the enemy at Monterey and
captured that town. The following February fought and won the battle of
Buena Vista. In the meantime, besides engagements less important, he had
won the victories of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, which created
great enthusiasm throughout the Union. The terms of capitulation granted
by him to the enemy at Monterey were not approved by the Government at
Washington. Soon after the battles of Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma
he received the rank of brevet major-general, and on June 27, 1846, was
appointed major-general and was commander in chief of all the American
forces in Mexico until Major-General Scott was ordered there in 1846.
The latter part of November returned to his home in Louisiana. Upon his
return to the United States he was received wherever he went with
popular demonstrations. Was nominated for President by the national
convention of the Whig party at Philadelphia on June 7, 1848, on the
fourth ballot, defeating General Scott, Mr. Clay, and Mr. Webster. At
the election on November 7 the Whig ticket (Taylor and Fillmore) was
successful, receiving 163 electoral votes, while the Democratic
candidates (Cass and Butler) each received 127 votes. He was inaugurated
March 5, 1849, and died in Washington City July 9, 1850. Was buried in
Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Ky.


Elected by the American people to the highest office known to our laws,
I appear here to take the oath prescribed by the Constitution, and, in
compliance with a time-honored custom, to address those who are now

The confidence and respect shown by my countrymen in calling me to be
the Chief Magistrate of a Republic holding a high rank among the nations
of the earth have inspired me with feelings of the most profound
gratitude; but when I reflect that the acceptance of the office which
their partiality has bestowed imposes the discharge of the most arduous
duties and involves the weightiest obligations, I am conscious that the
position which I have been called to fill, though sufficient to satisfy
the loftiest ambition, is surrounded by fearful responsibilities.
Happily, however, in the performance of my new duties I shall not be
without able cooperation. The legislative and judicial branches of the
Government present prominent examples of distinguished civil attainments
and matured experience, and it shall be my endeavor to call to my
assistance in the Executive Departments individuals whose talents,
integrity, and purity of character will furnish ample guaranties for the
faithful and honorable performance of the trusts to be committed to
their charge. With such aids and an honest purpose to do whatever is
right, I hope to execute diligently, impartially, and for the best
interests of the country the manifold duties devolved upon me.

In the discharge of these duties my guide will be the Constitution,
which I this day swear to "preserve, protect, and defend." For the
interpretation of that instrument I shall look to the decisions of the
judicial tribunals established by its authority and to the practice of
the Government under the earlier Presidents, who had so large a share in
its formation. To the example of those illustrious patriots I shall
always defer with reverence, and especially to his example who was by so
many titles "the Father of his Country."

To command the Army and Navy of the United States; with the advice and
consent of the Senate, to make treaties and to appoint ambassadors and
other officers; to give to Congress information of the state of the
Union and recommend such measures as he shall judge to be necessary; and
to take care that the laws shall be faithfully executed - these are the
most important functions intrusted to the President by the Constitution,
and it may be expected that I shall briefly indicate the principles
which will control me in their execution.

Chosen by the body of the people under the assurance that my
Administration would be devoted to the welfare of the whole country, and
not to the support of any particular section or merely local interest, I
this day renew the declarations I have heretofore made and proclaim my
fixed determination to maintain to the extent of my ability the
Government in its original purity and to adopt as the basis of my public
policy those great republican doctrines which constitute the strength of
our national existence.

In reference to the Army and Navy, lately employed with so much
distinction on active service, care shall be taken to insure the highest
condition of efficiency, and in furtherance of that object the military
and naval schools, sustained by the liberality of Congress, shall
receive the special attention of the Executive.

As American freemen we can not but sympathize in all efforts to extend
the blessings of civil and political liberty, but at the same time we
are warned by the admonitions of history and the voice of our own
beloved Washington to abstain from entangling alliances with foreign
nations. In all disputes between conflicting governments it is our
interest not less than our duty to remain strictly neutral, while our
geographical position, the genius of our institutions and our people,
the advancing spirit of civilization, and, above all, the dictates of
religion direct us to the cultivation of peaceful and friendly relations
with all other powers. It is to be hoped that no international question
can now arise which a government confident in its own strength and
resolved to protect its own just rights may not settle by wise
negotiation; and it eminently becomes a government like our own, founded
on the morality and intelligence of its citizens and upheld by their
affections, to exhaust every resort of honorable diplomacy before
appealing to arms. In the conduct of our foreign relations I shall
conform to these views, as I believe them essential to the best
interests and the true honor of the country.

The appointing power vested in the President imposes delicate and
onerous duties. So far as it is possible to be informed, I shall make
honesty, capacity, and fidelity indispensable prerequisites to the
bestowal of office, and the absence of either of these qualities shall
be deemed sufficient cause for removal.

It shall be my study to recommend such constitutional measures to
Congress as may be necessary and proper to secure encouragement and
protection to the great interests of agriculture, commerce, and
manufactures, to improve our rivers and harbors, to provide for the
speedy extinguishment of the public debt, to enforce a strict
accountability on the part of all officers of the Government and the
utmost economy in all public expenditures; but it is for the wisdom of
Congress itself, in which all legislative powers are vested by the
Constitution, to regulate these and other matters of domestic policy. I
shall look with confidence to the enlightened patriotism of that body to
adopt such measures of conciliation as may harmonize conflicting
interests and tend to perpetuate that Union which should be the
paramount object of our hopes and affections. In any action calculated
to promote an object so near the heart of everyone who truly loves his
country I will zealously unite with the coordinate branches of the

In conclusion I congratulate you, my fellow-citizens, upon the high
state of prosperity to which the goodness of Divine Providence has
conducted our common country. Let us invoke a continuance of the same
protecting care which has led us from small beginnings to the eminence
we this day occupy, and let us seek to deserve that continuance by
prudence and moderation in our councils, by well-directed attempts to
assuage the bitterness which too often marks unavoidable differences of
opinion, by the promulgation and practice of just and liberal
principles, and by an enlarged patriotism, which shall acknowledge no
limits but those of our own widespread Republic.

MARCH 5, 1849.


WASHINGTON, _March 13, 1849_.

_To the Senate of the United States:_

I herewith communicate to the Senate, in confidence, a report and
accompanying papers[1a] from the Secretary of State, in answer to its
resolution of the 12th instant.

[Footnote 1a: Instructions to United States minister at London relative
to further extension of reciprocity and equality in the laws of
navigation, and contemplating the opening of the coasting trade of the
United States to the vessels of other nations.]


WASHINGTON, _March 20, 1849_.

_To the Senate of the United States:_

In answer to the resolution of the Senate of yesterday, passed in
executive session, requesting a communication of certain papers relative
to the amendments made by the Senate to the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo,
I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the documents by
which it was accompanied. It is desirable that the latter should be
returned to the Department of State.


WASHINGTON, _March 22, 1849_.

_To the Senate of the United States:_

In compliance with the request contained in the resolution of the Senate
yesterday, adopted in executive session, calling for certain papers in
relation to the amendments made by the Senate in the treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo, I transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the
documents by which it was accompanied.





There is reason to believe that an armed expedition is about to be
fitted out in the United States with an intention to invade the island
of Cuba or some of the Provinces of Mexico. The best information which
the Executive has been able to obtain points to the island of Cuba as
the object of this expedition. It is the duty of this Government to
observe the faith of treaties and to prevent any aggression by our
citizens upon the territories of friendly nations. I have therefore
thought it necessary and proper to issue this my proclamation to warn
all citizens of the United States who shall connect themselves with an
enterprise so grossly in violation of our laws and our treaty
obligations that they will thereby subject themselves to the heavy
penalties denounced against them by our acts of Congress and will
forfeit their claim to the protection of their country. No such persons
must expect the interference of this Government in any form on their
behalf, no matter to what extremities they may be reduced in consequence
of their conduct. An enterprise to invade the territories of a friendly
nation, set on foot and prosecuted within the limits of the United
States, is in the highest degree criminal, as tending to endanger the
peace and compromit the honor of this nation; and therefore I exhort all
good citizens, as they regard our national reputation, as they respect
their own laws and the laws of nations, as they value the blessings of
peace and the welfare of their country, to discountenance and prevent by
all lawful means any such enterprise; and I call upon every officer of
this Government, civil or military, to use all efforts in his power to
arrest for trial and punishment every such offender against the laws
providing for the performance of our sacred obligations to friendly

Given under my hand the 11th day of August, A.D. 1849, and the
seventy-fourth of the Independence of the United States.


By the President:
_Secretary of State_.





_Washington, June 19, 1849_.

I. The following orders of the President of the United States and
Secretary of War communicate to the Army the death of the late
ex-President, James K. Polk:

WASHINGTON, _June 19, 1849_.

The President with deep regret announces to the American people the
death of James K. Polk, late President of the United States, which
occurred at Nashville on the 15th instant.

A nation is suddenly called upon to mourn the loss of one the
recollection of whose long services in its councils will be forever
preserved on the tablets of history.

As a mark of respect to the memory of a citizen who has been
distinguished by the highest honors which his country could bestow, it
is ordered that the Executive Mansion and the several Departments at
Washington be immediately placed in mourning and all business be
suspended during to-morrow.

It is further ordered that the War and Navy Departments cause suitable
military and naval honors to be paid on this occasion to the memory of
the illustrious dead.


WAR DEPARTMENT, _June 19, 1849_.

The President of the United States with deep regret announces to the
Army the death of James K. Polk, our distinguished and honored

He died at Nashville the 15th instant, having but recently left the
theater of his high public duties at this capital and retired to his
home amid the congratulations of his fellow-citizens. He died in the
prime of life, after having received and enjoyed the highest honors of
the Republic.

His Administration was eventful. No branch of the Government will be
more intimately associated with it in history than the Army and its
glorious achievements. Accordingly, the President orders that
appropriate military honors shall be paid to his memory by the Army of
the United States.

The Adjutant-General will give the necessary instructions for carrying
into effect the foregoing orders.


_Secretary of War_.

II. On the day succeeding the arrival of this general order at each
military post the troops will be paraded at 10 o'clock a.m. and the
order read to them, after which all labors for the day will cease.

The national flag will be displayed at half-staff.

At dawn of day thirteen guns will be fired, and afterwards at intervals
of thirty minutes between the rising and setting sun a single gun, and
at the close of the day a national salute of thirty guns.

The officers of the Army will wear crape on the left arm and on their
swords and the colors of the several regiments will be put in mourning
for the period of six months.

By order:




WASHINGTON, _December 4, 1849_.

_Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:_

Sixty years have elapsed since the establishment of this Government, and
the Congress of the United States again assembles to legislate for an
empire of freemen. The predictions of evil prophets, who formerly
pretended to foretell the downfall of our institutions, are now
remembered only to be derided, and the United States of America at this
moment present to the world the most stable and permanent Government on

Such is the result of the labors of those who have gone before us. Upon
Congress will eminently depend the future maintenance of our system of
free government and the transmission of it unimpaired to posterity.

We are at peace with all the other nations of the world, and seek to
maintain our cherished relations of amity with them. During the past
year we have been blessed by a kind Providence with an abundance of the
fruits of the earth, and although the destroying angel for a time
visited extensive portions of our territory with the ravages of a
dreadful pestilence, yet the Almighty has at length deigned to stay his
hand and to restore the inestimable blessing of general health to a
people who have acknowledged His power, deprecated His wrath, and
implored His merciful protection.

While enjoying the benefits of amicable intercourse with foreign
nations, we have not been insensible to the distractions and wars which
have prevailed in other quarters of the world. It is a proper theme of
thanksgiving to Him who rules the destinies of nations that we have been
able to maintain amidst all these contests an independent and neutral
position toward all belligerent powers.

Our relations with Great Britain are of the most friendly character. In
consequence of the recent alteration of the British navigation acts,
British vessels, from British and other foreign ports, will under our
existing laws, after the 1st day of January next, be admitted to entry
in our ports with cargoes of the growth, manufacture, or production of
any part of the world on the same terms as to duties, imposts, and
charges as vessels of the United States with their cargoes, and our
vessels will be admitted to the same advantages in British ports,
entering therein on the same terms as British vessels. Should no order
in council disturb this legislative arrangement, the late act of the
British Parliament, by which Great Britain is brought within the terms
proposed by the act of Congress of the 1st of March, 1817, it is hoped
will be productive of benefit to both countries.

A slight interruption of diplomatic intercourse which occurred between
this Government and France, I am happy to say, has been terminated, and
our minister there has been received. It is therefore unnecessary to
refer now to the circumstances which led to that interruption. I need
not express to you the sincere satisfaction with which we shall welcome
the arrival of another envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary
from a sister Republic to which we have so long been, and still remain,
bound by the strongest ties of amity.

Shortly after I had entered upon the discharge of the Executive duties I
was apprised that a war steamer belonging to the German Empire was being
fitted out in the harbor of New York with the aid of some of our naval
officers, rendered under the permission of the late Secretary of the
Navy. This permission was granted during an armistice between that
Empire and the Kingdom of Denmark, which had been engaged in the
Schleswig-Holstein war. Apprehensive that this act of intervention on
our part might be viewed as a violation of our neutral obligations
incurred by the treaty with Denmark and of the provisions of the act of
Congress of the 20th of April, 1818, I directed that no further aid
should be rendered by any agent or officer of the Navy; and I instructed
the Secretary of State to apprise the minister of the German Empire
accredited to this Government of my determination to execute the law of
the United States and to maintain the faith of treaties with all
nations. The correspondence which ensued between the Department of State
and the minister of the German Empire is herewith laid before you. The
execution of the law and the observance of the treaty were deemed by me
to be due to the honor of the country, as well as to the sacred
obligations of the Constitution. I shall not fail to pursue the same
course should a similar case arise with any other nation. Having avowed
the opinion on taking the oath of office that in disputes between
conflicting foreign governments it is our interest not less than our
duty to remain strictly neutral, I shall not abandon it. You will
perceive from the correspondence submitted to you in connection with
this subject that the course adopted in this case has been properly
regarded by the belligerent powers interested in the matter.

Although a minister of the United States to the German Empire was
appointed by my predecessor in August, 1848, and has for a long time
been in attendance at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and although a minister
appointed to represent that Empire was received and accredited here, yet
no such government as that of the German Empire has been definitively
constituted. Mr. Donelson, our representative at Frankfort, remained
there several months in the expectation that a union of the German
States under one constitution or form of government might at length be
organized. It is believed by those well acquainted with the existing

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Online LibraryJames D. RichardsonA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 5, part 1: Presidents Taylor and Fillmore → online text (page 1 of 22)