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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discriminating duties of tonnage or impost are imposed or levied
in the ports of the said nation upon vessels wholly belonging to
citizens of the United States, or upon the produce, manufactures, or
merchandise imported in the same from the United States or from any
foreign country, the President is thereby authorized to issue his
proclamation declaring that the foreign discriminating duties of
tonnage and impost within the United States are and shall be suspended
and discontinued so far as respects the vessels of the said foreign
nation and the produce, manufactures, or merchandise imported into the
United States in the same from the said foreign nation or from any
other foreign country, the said suspension to take effect from the
time of such notification being given to the President of the United
States and to continue so long as the reciprocal exemption of vessels
belonging to citizens of the United States and their cargoes, as
aforesaid, shall be continued, and no longer; and

Whereas satisfactory evidence has lately been received by me from the
Government of the Republic of Chile, through an official communication
of Señor Don Manuel Carvallo, accredited to this Government as envoy
extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of that Republic, under
date of the 31st of October, 1850, that no other or higher duties of
tonnage and impost are imposed or levied in the ports of Chile upon
vessels wholly belonging to citizens of the United States and upon the
produce, manufactures, or merchandise imported in the same from the
United States and from any foreign country whatever than are levied on
Chilean ships and their cargoes in the same ports and under like

Now, therefore, I, Millard Fillmore, President of the United States of
America, do hereby declare and proclaim that so much of the several
acts imposing discriminating duties of tonnage and impost within the
United States are and shall be suspended and discontinued so far as
respects the vessels of Chile and the produce, manufactures, and
merchandise imported into the United States in the same from Chile and
from any other foreign country whatever, the said suspension to take
effect from the day above mentioned and to continue thenceforward so
long as the reciprocal exemption of the vessels of the United States
and the produce, manufactures, and merchandise imported into Chile in
the same, as aforesaid, shall be continued on the part of the
Government of Chile.

Given under my hand, at the city of Washington, this 1st day of
November, A.D. 1850, and the seventy-fifth of the Independence of the
United States.


By the President:
_Acting Secretary of State_.


WASHINGTON, _December 2, 1850_.

_Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives_:

Being suddenly called in the midst of the last session of Congress by
a painful dispensation of Divine Providence to the responsible station
which I now hold, I contented myself with such communications to the
legislature as the exigency of the moment seemed to require. The
country was shrouded in mourning for the loss of its venerable Chief
Magistrate and all hearts were penetrated with grief. Neither the time
nor the occasion appeared to require or to justify on my part any
general expression of political opinions or any announcement of the
principles which would govern me in the discharge of the duties to the
performance of which I had been so unexpectedly called. I trust,
therefore, that it may not be deemed inappropriate if I avail myself
of this opportunity of the reassembling of Congress to make known my
sentiments in a general manner in regard to the policy which ought to
be pursued by the Government both in its intercourse with foreign
nations and its management and administration of internal affairs.

Nations, like individuals in a state of nature, are equal and
independent, possessing certain rights and owing certain duties to
each other, arising from their necessary and unavoidable relations;
which rights and duties there is no common human authority to protect
and enforce. Still, they are rights and duties, binding in morals, in
conscience, and in honor, although there is no tribunal to which an
injured party can appeal but the disinterested judgment of mankind,
and ultimately the arbitrament of the sword.

Among the acknowledged rights of nations is that which each possesses
of establishing that form of government which it may deem most
conducive to the happiness and prosperity of its own citizens, of
changing that form as circumstances may require, and of managing its
internal affairs according to its own will. The people of the United
States claim this right for themselves, and they readily concede it to
others. Hence it becomes an imperative duty not to interfere in the
government or internal policy of other nations; and although we may
sympathize with the unfortunate or the oppressed everywhere in their
struggles for freedom, our principles forbid us from taking any part
in such foreign contests. We make no wars to promote or to prevent
successions to thrones, to maintain any theory of a balance of power,
or to suppress the actual government which any country chooses to
establish for itself. We instigate no revolutions, nor suffer any
hostile military expeditions to be fitted out in the United States
to invade the territory or provinces of a friendly nation. The great
law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and
individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish
them to act toward us, and justice and conscience should form the rule
of conduct between governments, instead of mere power, self-interest,
or the desire of aggrandizement. To maintain a strict neutrality in
foreign wars, to cultivate friendly relations, to reciprocate every
noble and generous act, and to perform punctually and scrupulously
every treaty obligation - these are the duties which we owe to other
states, and by the performance of which we best entitle ourselves to
like treatment from them; or, if that, in any case, be refused, we can
enforce our own rights with justice and a clear conscience.

In our domestic policy the Constitution will be my guide, and in
questions of doubt I shall look for its interpretation to the judicial
decisions of that tribunal which was established to expound it and to
the usage of the Government, sanctioned by the acquiescence of the
country. I regard all its provisions as equally binding. In all its
parts it is the will of the people expressed in the most solemn form,
and the constituted authorities are but agents to carry that will into
effect. Every power which it has granted is to be exercised for the
public good; but no pretense of utility, no honest conviction, even,
of what might be expedient, can justify the assumption of any power
not granted. The powers conferred upon the Government and their
distribution to the several departments are as clearly expressed in
that sacred instrument as the imperfection of human language will
allow, and I deem it my first duty not to question its wisdom, add to
its provisions, evade its requirements, or nullify its commands.

Upon you, fellow-citizens, as the representatives of the States and
the people, is wisely devolved the legislative power. I shall comply
with my duty in laying before you from time to time any information
calculated to enable you to discharge your high and responsible trust
for the benefit of our common constituents.

My opinions will be frankly expressed upon the leading subjects of
legislation; and if - which I do not anticipate - any act should pass
the two Houses of Congress which should appear to me unconstitutional,
or an encroachment on the just powers of other departments, or with
provisions hastily adopted and likely to produce consequences
injurious and unforeseen, I should not shrink from the duty of
returning it to you, with my reasons, for your further consideration.
Beyond the due performance of these constitutional obligations, both
my respect for the Legislature and my sense of propriety will restrain
me from any attempt to control or influence your proceedings. With you
is the power, the honor, and the responsibility of the legislation of
the country.

The Government of the United States is a limited Government. It is
confined to the exercise of powers expressly granted and such others
as may be necessary for carrying those powers into effect; and it is
at all times an especial duty to guard against any infringement on the
just rights of the States. Over the objects and subjects intrusted to
Congress its legislative authority is supreme. But here that authority
ceases, and every citizen who truly loves the Constitution and desires
the continuance of its existence and its blessings will resolutely and
firmly resist any interference in those domestic affairs which the
Constitution has clearly and unequivocally left to the exclusive
authority of the States. And every such citizen will also deprecate
useless irritation among the several members of the Union and all
reproach and crimination tending to alienate one portion of the
country from another. The beauty of our system of government consists,
and its safety and durability must consist, in avoiding mutual
collisions and encroachments and in the regular separate action of
all, while each is revolving in its own distinct orbit.

The Constitution has made it the duty of the President to take care
that the laws be faithfully executed. In a government like ours, in
which all laws are passed by a majority of the representatives of the
people, and these representatives are chosen for such short periods
that any injurious or obnoxious law can very soon be repealed, it
would appear unlikely that any great numbers should be found ready
to resist the execution of the laws. But it must be borne in mind
that the country is extensive; that there may be local interests or
prejudices rendering a law odious in one part which is not so in
another, and that the thoughtless and inconsiderate, misled by their
passions or their imaginations, may be induced madly to resist such
laws as they disapprove. Such persons should recollect that without
law there can be no real practical liberty; that when law is trampled
under foot tyranny rules, whether it appears in the form of a military
despotism or of popular violence. The law is the only sure protection
of the weak and the only efficient restraint upon the strong. When
impartially and faithfully administered, none is beneath its
protection and none above its control. You, gentlemen, and the country
may be assured that to the utmost of my ability and to the extent of
the power vested in me I shall at all times and in all places take
care that the laws be faithfully executed. In the discharge of this
duty, solemnly imposed upon me by the Constitution and by my oath of
office, I shall shrink from no responsibility, and shall endeavor to
meet events as they may arise with firmness, as well as with prudence
and discretion.

The appointing power is one of the most delicate with which the
Executive is invested. I regard it as a sacred trust, to be exercised
with the sole view of advancing the prosperity and happiness of the
people. It shall be my effort to elevate the standard of official
employment by selecting for places of importance individuals fitted
for the posts to which they are assigned by their known integrity,
talents, and virtues. In so extensive a country, with so great a
population, and where few persons appointed to office can be known to
the appointing power, mistakes will sometimes unavoidably happen and
unfortunate appointments be made notwithstanding the greatest care.
In such cases the power of removal may be properly exercised; and
neglect of duty or malfeasance in office will be no more tolerated
in individuals appointed by myself than in those appointed by others.

I am happy in being able to say that no unfavorable change in our
foreign relations has taken place since the message at the opening of
the last session of Congress. We are at peace with all nations and we
enjoy in an eminent degree the blessings of that peace in a prosperous
and growing commerce and in all the forms of amicable national
intercourse. The unexampled growth of the country, the present amount
of its population, and its ample means of self-protection assure for
it the respect of all nations, while it is trusted that its character
for justice and a regard to the rights of other States will cause that
respect to be readily and cheerfully paid.

A convention was negotiated between the United States and Great
Britain in April last for facilitating and protecting the construction
of a ship canal between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and for other
purposes. The instrument has since been ratified by the contracting
parties, the exchange of ratifications has been effected, and
proclamation thereof has been duly made.

In addition to the stipulations contained in this convention, two
other objects remain to be accomplished between the contracting

First. The designation and establishment of a free port at each end of
the canal.

Second. An agreement fixing the distance from the shore within which
belligerent maritime operations shall not be carried on.

On these points there is little doubt that the two Governments will
come to an understanding.

The company of citizens of the United States who have acquired from
the State of Nicaragua the privilege of constructing a ship canal
between the two oceans through the territory of that State have made
progress in their preliminary arrangements. The treaty between the
United States and Great Britain of the 19th of April last, above
referred to, being now in operation, it is to be hoped that the
guaranties which it offers will be sufficient to secure the completion
of the work with all practicable expedition. It is obvious that this
result would be indefinitely postponed if any other than peaceful
measures for the purpose of harmonizing conflicting claims to
territory in that quarter should be adopted. It will consequently be
my endeavor to cause any further negotiations on the part of this
Government which may be requisite for this purpose to be so conducted
as to bring them to a speedy and successful close.

Some unavoidable delay has occurred, arising from distance and the
difficulty of intercourse between this Government and that of
Nicaragua, but as intelligence has just been received of the
appointment of an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of
that Government to reside at Washington, whose arrival may soon be
expected, it is hoped that no further impediments will be experienced
in the prompt transaction of business between the two Governments.

Citizens of the United States have undertaken the connection of the
two oceans by means of a railroad across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec,
under grants of the Mexican Government to a citizen of that Republic.
It is understood that a thorough survey of the course of the
communication is in preparation, and there is every reason to expect
that it will be prosecuted with characteristic energy, especially when
that Government shall have consented to such stipulations with the
Government of the United States as may be necessary to impart a
feeling of security to those who may embark their property in the
enterprise. Negotiations are pending for the accomplishment of that
object, and a hope is confidently entertained that when the Government
of Mexico shall become duly sensible of the advantages which that
country can not fail to derive from the work, and learn that the
Government of the United States desires that the right of sovereignty
of Mexico in the Isthmus shall remain unimpaired, the stipulations
referred to will be agreed to with alacrity.

By the last advices from Mexico it would appear, however, that that
Government entertains strong objections to some of the stipulations
which the parties concerned in the project of the railroad deem
necessary for their protection and security. Further consideration, it
is to be hoped, or some modification of terms, may yet reconcile the
differences existing between the two Governments in this respect.

Fresh instructions have recently been given to the minister of the
United States in Mexico, who is prosecuting the subject with
promptitude and ability.

Although the negotiations with Portugal for the payment of claims of
citizens of the United States against that Government have not yet
resulted in a formal treaty, yet a proposition, made by the Government
of Portugal for the final adjustment and payment of those claims, has
recently been accepted on the part of the United States. It gives me
pleasure to say that Mr. Clay, to whom the negotiation on the part of
the United States had been intrusted, discharged the duties of his
appointment with ability and discretion, acting always within the
instructions of his Government.

It is expected that a regular convention will be immediately
negotiated for carrying the agreement between the two Governments into

The commissioner appointed under the act of Congress for carrying into
effect the convention with Brazil of the 27th of January, 1849, has
entered upon the performance of the duties imposed upon him by that
act. It is hoped that those duties may be completed within the time
which it prescribes. The documents, however, which the Imperial
Government, by the third article of the convention, stipulates to
furnish to the Government of the United States have not yet been
received. As it is presumed that those documents will be essential for
the correct disposition of the claims, it may become necessary for
Congress to extend the period limited for the duration of the
commission. The sum stipulated by the fourth article of the convention
to be paid to this Government has been received.

The collection in the ports of the United States of discriminating
duties upon the vessels of Chili and their cargoes has been suspended,
pursuant to the provisions of the act of Congress of the 24th of
May, 1828. It is to be hoped that this measure will impart a fresh
impulse to the commerce between the two countries, which of late, and
especially since our acquisition of California, has, to the mutual
advantage of the parties, been much augmented.

Peruvian guano has become so desirable an article to the agricultural
interest of the United States that it is the duty of the Government to
employ all the means properly in its power for the purpose of causing
that article to be imported into the country at a reasonable price.
Nothing will be omitted on my part toward accomplishing this desirable
end. I am persuaded that in removing any restraints on this traffic
the Peruvian Government will promote its own best interests, while it
will afford a proof of a friendly disposition toward this country,
which will be duly appreciated.

The treaty between the United States and His Majesty the King of the
Hawaiian Islands, which has recently been made public, will, it is
believed, have a beneficial effect upon the relations between the two

The relations between those parts of the island of St. Domingo which
were formerly colonies of Spain and France, respectively, are still in
an unsettled condition. The proximity of that island to the United
States and the delicate questions involved in the existing controversy
there render it desirable that it should be permanently and speedily
adjusted. The interests of humanity and of general commerce also
demand this; and as intimations of the same sentiment have been
received from other governments, it is hoped that some plan may soon
be devised to effect the object in a manner likely to give general
satisfaction. The Government of the United States will not fail, by
the exercise of all proper friendly offices, to do all in its power
to put an end to the destructive war which has raged between the
different parts of the island and to secure to them both the benefits
of peace and commerce.

I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Treasury for a
detailed statement of the finances.

The total receipts into the Treasury for the year ending 30th of June
last were $47,421,748.90.

The total expenditures during the same period were $43,002,168.90.

The public debt has been reduced since the last annual report from the
Treasury Department $495,276.79.

By the nineteenth section of the act of 28th January, 1847, the
proceeds of the sales of the public lands were pledged for the
interest and principal of the public debt. The great amount of those
lands subsequently granted by Congress for military bounties will, it
is believed, very nearly supply the public demand for several years
to come, and but little reliance can, therefore, be placed on that
hitherto fruitful source of revenue. Aside from the permanent annual
expenditures, which have necessarily largely increased, a portion of
the public debt, amounting to $8,075,986.59, must be provided for
within the next two fiscal years. It is most desirable that these
accruing demands should be met without resorting to new loans.

All experience has demonstrated the wisdom and policy of raising a
large portion of revenue for the support of Government from duties on
goods imported. The power to lay these duties is unquestionable, and
its chief object, of course, is to replenish the Treasury. But if in
doing this an incidental advantage may be gained by encouraging the
industry of our own citizens, it is our duty to avail ourselves of
that advantage.

A duty laid upon an article which can not be produced in this country,
such as tea or coffee, adds to the cost of the article, and is chiefly
or wholly paid by the consumer. But a duty laid upon an article which
may be produced here stimulates the skill and industry of our own
country to produce the same article, which is brought into the market
in competition with the foreign article, and the importer is thus
compelled to reduce his price to that at which the domestic article
can be sold, thereby throwing a part of the duty upon the producer of
the foreign article. The continuance of this process creates the skill
and invites the capital which finally enable us to produce the article
much cheaper than it could have been procured from abroad, thereby
benefiting both the producer and the consumer at home. The consequence
of this is that the artisan and the agriculturist are brought
together, each affords a ready market for the produce of the other,
the whole country becomes prosperous, and the ability to produce every
necessary of life renders us independent in war as well as in peace.

A high tariff can never be permanent. It will cause dissatisfaction,
and will be changed. It excludes competition, and thereby invites the
investment of capital in manufactures to such excess that when changed
it brings distress, bankruptcy, and ruin upon all who have been misled
by its faithless protection. What the manufacturer wants is uniformity
and permanency, that he may feel a confidence that he is not to be
ruined by sudden changes. But to make a tariff uniform and permanent
it is not only necessary that the laws should not be altered, but that
the duty should not fluctuate. To effect this all duties should be
specific wherever the nature of the article is such as to admit of it.
_Ad valorem_ duties fluctuate with the price and offer strong
temptations to fraud and perjury. Specific duties, on the contrary,
are equal and uniform in all ports and at all times, and offer a
strong inducement to the importer to bring the best article, as he
pays no more duty upon that than upon one of inferior quality. I
therefore strongly recommend a modification of the present tariff,
which has prostrated some of our most important and necessary
manufactures, and that specific duties be imposed sufficient to raise
the requisite revenue, making such discriminations in favor of the
industrial pursuits of our own country as to encourage home production
without excluding foreign competition. It is also important that an
unfortunate provision in the present tariff, which imposes a much
higher duty upon the raw material that enters into our manufactures
than upon the manufactured article, should be remedied.

The papers accompanying the report of the Secretary of the Treasury
will disclose frauds attempted upon the revenue, in variety and amount

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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 9 of 22)