James D. Richardson.

A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 3, part 1: Andrew Jackson (Second Term) online

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by those only which are in harmony with the true character and the
permanent interests of the Republic. We must recur to first principles
and see what it is that has prevented the legislation of Congress and
the States on the subject of currency from satisfying the public
expectation and realizing results corresponding to those which have
attended the action of our system when truly consistent with the great
principle of equality upon which it rests, and with that spirit of
forbearance and mutual concession and generous patriotism which was
originally, and must ever continue to be, the vital element of our

On this subject I am sure that I can not be mistaken in ascribing our
want of success to the undue countenance which has been afforded to the
spirit of monopoly. All the serious dangers which our system has yet
encountered may be traced to the resort to implied powers and the use of
corporations clothed with privileges, the effect of which is to advance
the interests of the few at the expense of the many. We have felt but
one class of these dangers exhibited in the contest waged by the Bank
of the United States against the Government for the last four years.
Happily they have been obviated for the present by the indignant
resistance of the people, but we should recollect that the principle
whence they sprung is an ever-active one, which will not fail to renew
its efforts in the same and in other forms so long as there is a hope
of success, founded either on the inattention of the people or the
treachery of their representatives to the subtle progress of its
influence. The bank is, in fact, but one of the fruits of a system at
war with the genius of all our institutions - a system founded upon a
political creed the fundamental principle of which is a distrust of
the popular will as a safe regulator of political power, and whose
great ultimate object and inevitable result, should it prevail, is the
consolidation of all power in our system in one central government.
Lavish public disbursements and corporations with exclusive privileges
would be its substitutes for the original and as yet sound checks and
balances of the Constitution - the means by whose silent and secret
operation a control would be exercised by the few over the political
conduct of the many by first acquiring that control over the labor and
earnings of the great body of the people. Wherever this spirit has
effected an alliance with political power, tyranny and despotism have
been the fruit. If it is ever used for the ends of government, it has to
be incessantly watched, or it corrupts the sources of the public virtue
and agitates the country with questions unfavorable to the harmonious
and steady pursuit of its true interests.

We are now to see whether, in the present favorable condition of the
country, we can not take an effectual stand against this spirit of
monopoly, and practically prove in respect to the currency as well as
other important interests that there is no necessity for so extensive a
resort to it as that which has been heretofore practiced. The experience
of another year has confirmed the utter fallacy of the idea that the
Bank of the United States was necessary as a fiscal agent of the
Government. Without its aid as such, indeed, in despite of all the
embarrassment it was in its power to create, the revenue has been paid
with punctuality by our citizens, the business of exchange, both
foreign and domestic, has been conducted with convenience, and the
circulating medium has been greatly improved. By the use of the State
banks, which do not derive their charters from the General Government
and are not controlled by its authority, it is ascertained that the
moneys of the United States can be collected and disbursed without loss
or inconvenience, and that all the wants of the community in relation
to exchange and currency are supplied as well as they have ever been
before. If under circumstances the most unfavorable to the steadiness of
the money market it has been found that the considerations on which the
Bank of the United States rested its claims to the public favor were
imaginary and groundless, it can not be doubted that the experience of
the future will be more decisive against them.

It has been seen that without the agency of a great moneyed monopoly the
revenue can be collected and conveniently and safely applied to all the
purposes of the public expenditure. It is also ascertained that instead
of being necessarily made to promote the evils of an unchecked paper
system, the management of the revenue can be made auxiliary to the
reform which the legislatures of several of the States have already
commenced in regard to the suppression of small bills, and which has
only to be fostered by proper regulations on the part of Congress to
secure a practical return to the extent required for the security of
the currency to the constitutional medium. Severed from the Government
as political engines, and not susceptible of dangerous extension and
combination, the State banks will not be tempted, nor will they have the
power, which we have seen exercised, to divert the public funds from the
legitimate purposes of the Government. The collection and custody of
the revenue, being, on the contrary, a source of credit to them, will
increase the security which the States provide for a faithful execution
of their trusts by multiplying the scrutinies to which their operations
and accounts will be subjected. Thus disposed, as well from interest
as the obligations of their charters, it can not be doubted that such
conditions as Congress may see fit to adopt respecting the deposits in
these institutions, with a view to the gradual disuse, of the small
bills will be cheerfully complied with, and that we shall soon gain in
place of the Bank of the United States a practical reform in the whole
paper system of the country. If by this policy we can ultimately witness
the suppression of all bank bills below $20, it is apparent that gold
and silver will take their place and become the principal circulating
medium in the common business of the farmers and mechanics of the
country. The attainment of such a result will form an era in the history
of our country which will be dwelt upon with delight by every true
friend of its liberty and independence. It will lighten the great
tax which our paper system has so long collected from the earnings of
labor, and do more to revive and perpetuate those habits of economy and
simplicity which are so congenial to the character of republicans than
all the legislation which has yet been attempted.

To this subject I feel that I can not too earnestly invite the special
attention of Congress, without the exercise of whose authority the
opportunity to accomplish so much public good must pass unimproved.
Deeply impressed with its vital importance, the Executive has taken all
the steps within his constitutional power to guard the public revenue
and defeat the expectation which the Bank of the United States indulged
of renewing and perpetuating its monopoly on the ground of its necessity
as a fiscal agent and as affording a sounder currency than could be
obtained without such an institution. In the performance of this duty
much responsibility was incurred which would have been gladly avoided if
the stake which the public had in the question could have been otherwise
preserved. Although clothed with the legal authority and supported by
precedent, I was aware that there was in the act of the removal of the
deposits a liability to excite that sensitiveness to Executive power
which it is the characteristic and the duty of freemen to indulge; but
I relied on this feeling also, directed by patriotism and intelligence,
to vindicate the conduct which in the end would appear to have been
called for by the best interests of my country. The apprehensions
natural to this feeling that there may have been a desire, through the
instrumentality of that measure, to extend the Executive influence, or
that it may have been prompted by motives not sufficiently free from
ambition, were not overlooked. Under the operation of our institutions
the public servant who is called on to take a step of high
responsibility should feel in the freedom which gives rise to such
apprehensions his highest security. When unfounded the attention which
they arouse and the discussions they excite deprive those who indulge
them of the power to do harm; when just they but hasten the certainty
with which the great body of our citizens never fail to repel an attempt
to procure their sanction to any exercise of power inconsistent with the
jealous maintenance of their rights. Under such convictions, and
entertaining no doubt that my constitutional obligations demanded the
steps which were taken in reference to the removal of the deposits, it
was impossible for me to be deterred from the path of duty by a fear
that my motives could be misjudged or that political prejudices could
defeat the just consideration of the merits of my conduct. The result
has shewn how safe is this reliance upon the patriotic temper and
enlightened discernment of the people. That measure has now been before
them and has stood the test of all the severe analysis which its general
importance, the interests it affected, and the apprehensions it excited
were calculated to produce, and it now remains for Congress to consider
what legislation has become necessary in consequence.

I need only add to what I have on former occasions said on this subject
generally that in the regulations which Congress may prescribe
respecting the custody of the public moneys it is desirable that as
little discretion as may be deemed consistent with their safe-keeping
should be given to the executive agents. No one can be more deeply
impressed than I am with the soundness of the doctrine which restrains
and limits, by specific provisions, executive discretion, as far as it
can be done consistently with the preservation of its constitutional
character. In respect to the control over the public money this doctrine
is peculiarly applicable, and is in harmony with the great principle
which I felt I was sustaining in the controversy with the Bank of the
United States, which has resulted in severing to some extent a dangerous
connection between a moneyed and political power. The duty of the
Legislature to define, by clear and positive enactments, the nature and
extent of the action which it belongs to the Executive to superintend
springs out of a policy analogous to that which enjoins upon all the
branches of the Federal Government an abstinence from the exercise of
powers not clearly granted.

In such a Government, possessing only limited and specific powers, the
spirit of its general administration can not be wise or just when it
opposes the reference of all doubtful points to the great source of
authority, the States and the people, whose number and diversified
relations, securing them against the influences and excitements which
may mislead their agents, make them the safest depository of power.
In its application to the Executive, with reference to the legislative
branch of the Government, the same rule of action should make the
President ever anxious to avoid the exercise of any discretionary
authority which can be regulated by Congress. The biases which may
operate upon him will not be so likely to extend to the representatives
of the people in that body.

In my former messages to Congress I have repeatedly urged the
propriety of lessening the discretionary authority lodged in the
various Departments, but it has produced no effect as yet, except
the discontinuance of extra allowances in the Army and Navy and the
substitution of fixed salaries in the latter. It is believed that the
same principles could be advantageously applied in all cases, and would
promote the efficiency and economy of the public service, at the same
time that greater satisfaction and more equal justice would be secured
to the public officers generally.

The accompanying report of the Secretary of War will put you in
possession of the operations of the Department confided to his care
in all its diversified relations during the past year.

I am gratified in being able to inform you that no occurrence has
required any movement of the military force, except such as is common to
a state of peace. The services of the Army have been limited to their
usual duties at the various garrisons upon the Atlantic and inland
frontier, with the exceptions stated by the Secretary of War. Our small
military establishment appears to be adequate to the purposes for which
it is maintained, and it forms a nucleus around which any additional
force may be collected should the public exigencies unfortunately
require any increase of our military means.

The various acts of Congress which have been recently passed in relation
to the Army have improved its condition, and have rendered its
organization more useful and efficient. It is at all times in a state
for prompt and vigorous action, and it contains within itself the power
of extension to any useful limit, while at the same time it preserves
that knowledge, both theoretical and practical, which education and
experience alone can give, and which, if not acquired and preserved in
time of peace, must be sought under great disadvantages in time of war.

The duties of the Engineer Corps press heavily upon that branch of the
service, and the public interest requires an addition to its strength.
The nature of the works in which the officers are engaged renders
necessary professional knowledge and experience, and there is no economy
in committing to them more duties than they can perform or in assigning
these to other persons temporarily employed, and too often of necessity
without all the qualifications which such service demands. I recommend
this subject to your attention, and also the proposition submitted at
the last session of Congress and now renewed, for a reorganization of
the Topographical Corps. This reorganization can be effected without any
addition to the present expenditure and with much advantage to the
public service. The branch of duties which devolves upon these officers
is at all times interesting to the community, and the information
furnished by them is useful in peace and war.

Much loss and inconvenience have been experienced in consequence of
the failure of the bill containing the ordinary appropriations for
fortifications which passed one branch of the National Legislature at
the last session, but was lost in the other. This failure was the more
regretted not only because it necessarily interrupted and delayed the
progress of a system of national defense, projected immediately after
the last war and since steadily pursued, but also because it contained
a contingent appropriation, inserted in accordance with the views
of the Executive, in aid of this important object and other branches
of the national defense, some portions of which might have been most
usefully applied during the past season. I invite your early attention
to that part of the report of the Secretary of War which relates
to this subject, and recommend an appropriation sufficiently liberal
to accelerate the armament of the fortifications agreeably to the
proposition submitted by him, and to place our whole Atlantic seaboard
in a complete state of defense. A just regard to the permanent interests
of the country evidently requires this measure, but there are also other
reasons which at the present juncture give it peculiar force and make
it my duty to call to the subject your special consideration.

The present system of military education has been in operation
sufficiently long to test its usefulness, and it has given to the
Army a valuable body of officers. It is not alone in the improvement,
discipline, and operation of the troops that these officers are
employed. They are also extensively engaged in the administrative and
fiscal concerns of the various matters confided to the War Department;
in the execution of the staff duties usually appertaining to military
organization; in the removal of the Indians and in the disbursement of
the various expenditures growing out of our Indian relations; in the
formation of roads and in the improvement of harbors and rivers; in
the construction of fortifications, in the fabrication of much of the
_matériel_ required for the public defense, and in the preservation,
distribution, and accountability of the whole, and in other
miscellaneous duties not admitting of classification.

These diversified functions embrace very heavy expenditures of public
money, and require fidelity, science, and business habits in their
execution, and a system which shall secure these qualifications is
demanded by the public interest. That this object has been in a great
measure obtained by the Military Academy is shewn by the state of the
service and by the prompt accountability which has generally followed
the necessary advances. Like all other political systems, the present
mode of military education no doubt has its imperfections, both of
principle and practice; but I trust these can be improved by rigid
inspections and by legislative scrutiny without destroying the
institution itself.

Occurrences to which we as well as all other nations are liable, both
in our internal and external relations, point to the necessity of an
efficient organization of the militia. I am again induced by the
importance of the subject to bring it to your attention. To suppress
domestic violence and to repel foreign invasion, should these calamities
overtake us, we must rely in the first instance upon the great body of
the community whose will has instituted and whose power must support
the Government. A large standing military force is not consonant to the
spirit of our institutions nor to the feelings of our countrymen, and
the lessons of former days and those also of our own times shew the
danger as well as the enormous expense of these permanent and extensive
military organizations. That just medium which avoids an inadequate
preparation on one hand and the danger and expense of a large force on
the other is what our constituents have a right to expect from their
Government. This object can be attained only by the maintenance of
a small military force and by such an organization of the physical
strength of the country as may bring this power into operation whenever
its services are required. A classification of the population offers the
most obvious means of effecting this organization. Such a division may
be made as will be just to all by transferring each at a proper period
of life from one class to another and by calling first for the services
of that class, whether for instruction or action, which from age is
qualified for the duty and may be called to perform it with least
injury to themselves or to the public. Should the danger ever become so
imminent as to require additional force, the other classes in succession
would be ready for the call. And if in addition to this organization
voluntary associations were encouraged and inducements held out for
their formation, our militia would be in a state of efficient service.
Now, when we are at peace, is the proper time to digest and establish
a practicable system. The object is certainly worth the experiment and
worth the expense. No one appreciating the blessings of a republican
government can object to his share of the burden which such a plan may
impose. Indeed, a moderate portion of the national funds could scarcely
be better applied than in carrying into effect and continuing such an
arrangement, and in giving the necessary elementary instruction. We are
happily at peace with all the world. A sincere desire to continue so and
a fixed determination to give no just cause of offense to other nations
furnish, unfortunately, no certain grounds of expectation that this
relation will be uninterrupted. With this determination to give no
offense is associated a resolution, equally decided, tamely to submit
to none. The armor and the attitude of defense afford the best security
against those collisions which the ambition, or interest, or some other
passion of nations not more justifiable is liable to produce. In many
countries it is considered unsafe to put arms into the hands of the
people and to instruct them in the elements of military knowledge. That
fear can have no place here when it is recollected that the people are
the sovereign power. Our Government was instituted and is supported by
the ballot box, not by the musket. Whatever changes await it, still
greater changes must be made in our social institutions before our
political system can yield to physical force. In every aspect,
therefore, in which I can view the subject I am impressed with the
importance of a prompt and efficient organization of the militia.

The plan of removing the aboriginal people who yet remain within the
settled portions of the United States to the country west of the
Mississippi River approaches its consummation. It was adopted on the
most mature consideration of the condition of this race, and ought to
be persisted in till the object is accomplished, and prosecuted with
as much vigor as a just regard to their circumstances will permit, and
as fast as their consent can be obtained. All preceding experiments
for the improvement of the Indians have failed. It seems now to be an
established fact that they can not live in contact with a civilized
community and prosper. Ages of fruitless endeavors have at length
brought us to a knowledge of this principle of intercommunication with
them. The past we can not recall, but the future we can provide for.
Independently of the treaty stipulations into which we have entered with
the various tribes for the usufructuary rights they have ceded to us,
no one can doubt the moral duty of the Government of the United States
to protect and if possible to preserve and perpetuate the scattered
remnants of this race which are left within our borders. In the
discharge of this duty an extensive region in the West has been assigned
for their permanent residence. It has been divided into districts and
allotted among them. Many have already removed and others are preparing
to go, and with the exception of two small bands living in Ohio and
Indiana, not exceeding 1,500 persons, and of the Cherokees, all the
tribes on the east side of the Mississippi, and extending from Lake
Michigan to Florida, have entered into engagements which will lead
to their transplantation.

The plan for their removal and reestablishment is founded upon the
knowledge we have gained of their character and habits, and has been
dictated by a spirit of enlarged liberality. A territory exceeding in
extent that relinquished has been granted to each tribe. Of its
climate, fertility, and capacity to support an Indian population the
representations are highly favorable. To these districts the Indians are
removed at the expense of the United States, and with certain supplies
of clothing, arms, ammunition, and other indispensable articles; they
are also furnished gratuitously with provisions for the period of a year
after their arrival at their new homes. In that time, from the nature
of the country and of the products raised by them, they can subsist
themselves by agricultural labor, if they choose to resort to that mode
of life; if they do not they are upon the skirts of the great prairies,
where countless herds of buffalo roam, and a short time suffices to
adapt their own habits to the changes which a change of the animals
destined for their food may require. Ample arrangements have also been
made for the support of schools; in some instances council houses and
churches are to be erected, dwellings constructed for the chiefs, and
mills for common use. Funds have been set apart for the maintenance of
the poor; the most necessary mechanical arts have been introduced, and
blacksmiths, gunsmiths, wheelwrights, millwrights, etc., are supported
among them. Steel and iron, and sometimes salt, are purchased for them,
and plows and other farming utensils, domestic animals, looms, spinning
wheels, cards, etc., are presented to them. And besides these beneficial
arrangements, annuities are in all cases paid, amounting in some
instances to more than $30 for each individual of the tribe, and in all
cases sufficiently great, if justly divided and prudently expended, to
enable them, in addition to their own exertions, to live comfortably.
And as a stimulus for exertion, it is now provided by law that "in all

Online LibraryJames D. RichardsonA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 3, part 1: Andrew Jackson (Second Term) → online text (page 21 of 39)