A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 4, part 3: James Knox Polk online

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purchased which would otherwise have remained unsold. The lands were
disposed of at their real value, and many persons of limited means were
enabled to purchase small tracts, upon which they have settled with
their families. That similar results would be produced by the adoption
of the graduation policy by the United States in all the States in which
they are the owners of large bodies of lands which have been long in the
market can not be doubted. It can not be a sound policy to withhold
large quantities of the public lands from the use and occupation of our
citizens by fixing upon them prices which experience has shown they will
not command. On the contrary, it is a wise policy to afford facilities
to our citizens to become the owners at low and moderate rates of
freeholds of their own instead of being the tenants and dependents of
others. If it be apprehended that these lands if reduced in price would
be secured in large quantities by speculators or capitalists, the sales
may be restricted in limited quantities to actual settlers or persons
purchasing for purposes of cultivation.

In my last annual message I submitted for the consideration of Congress
the present system of managing the mineral lands of the United States,
and recommended that they should be brought into market and sold upon
such terms and under such restrictions as Congress might prescribe. By
the act of the 11th of July last "the reserved lead mines and contiguous
lands in the States of Illinois and Arkansas and Territories of
Wisconsin and Iowa" were authorized to be sold. The act is confined in
its operation to "lead mines and contiguous lands." A large portion of
the public lands, containing copper and other ores, is represented to be
very valuable, and I recommend that provision be made authorizing the
sale of these lands upon such terms and conditions as from their
supposed value may in the judgment of Congress be deemed advisable,
having due regard to the interests of such of our citizens as may be
located upon them.

It will be important during your present session to establish a
Territorial government and to extend the jurisdiction and laws of the
United States over the Territory of Oregon. Our laws regulating trade
and intercourse with the Indian tribes east of the Rocky Mountains
should be extended to the Pacific Ocean; and for the purpose of
executing them and preserving friendly relations with the Indian tribes
within our limits, an additional number of Indian agencies will be
required, and should be authorized by law. The establishment of
custom-houses and of post-offices and post-roads and provision for the
transportation of the mail on such routes as the public convenience will
suggest require legislative authority. It will be proper also to
establish a surveyor-general's office in that Territory and to make the
necessary provision for surveying the public lands and bringing them
into market. As our citizens who now reside in that distant region have
been subjected to many hardships, privations, and sacrifices in their
emigration, and by their improvements have enhanced the value of the
public lands in the neighborhood of their settlements, it is recommended
that liberal grants be made to them of such portions of these lands as
they may occupy, and that similar grants or rights of preemption be made
to all who may emigrate thither within a limited period, prescribed by

The report of the Secretary of War contains detailed information
relative to the several branches of the public service connected with
that Department. The operations of the Army have been of a satisfactory
and highly gratifying character. I recommend to your early and favorable
consideration the measures proposed by the Secretary of War for speedily
filling up the rank and file of the Regular Army, for its greater
efficiency in the field, and for raising an additional force to serve
during the war with Mexico.

Embarrassment is likely to arise for want of legal provision authorizing
compensation to be made to the agents employed in the several States and
Territories to pay the Revolutionary and other pensioners the amounts
allowed them by law. Your attention is invited to the recommendations
of the Secretary of War on this subject. These agents incur heavy
responsibilities and perform important duties, and no reason exists why
they should not be placed on the same footing as to compensation with
other disbursing officers.

Our relations with the various Indian tribes continue to be of a pacific
character. The unhappy dissensions which have existed among the
Cherokees for many years past have been healed. Since my last annual
message important treaties have been negotiated with some of the tribes,
by which the Indian title to large tracts of valuable land within the
limits of the States and Territories has been extinguished and
arrangements made for removing them to the country west of the
Mississippi. Between 3,000 and 4,000 of different tribes have been
removed to the country provided for them by treaty stipulations, and
arrangements have been made for others to follow.

In our intercourse with the several tribes particular attention has been
given to the important subject of education. The number of schools
established among them has been increased, and additional means provided
not only for teaching them the rudiments of education, but of
instructing them in agriculture and the mechanic arts.

I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Navy for a
satisfactory view of the operations of the Department under his charge
during the past year. It is gratifying to perceive that while the war
with Mexico has rendered it necessary to employ an unusual number of our
armed vessels on her coasts, the protection due to our commerce in other
quarters of the world has not proved insufficient. No means will be
spared to give efficiency to the naval service in the prosecution of the
war; and I am happy to know that the officers and men anxiously desire
to devote themselves to the service of their country in any enterprise,
however difficult of execution.

I recommend to your favorable consideration the proposition to add to
each of our foreign squadrons an efficient sea steamer, and, as
especially demanding attention, the establishment at Pensacola of the
necessary means of repairing and refitting the vessels of the Navy
employed in the Gulf of Mexico.

There are other suggestions in the report which deserve and I doubt not
will receive your consideration.

The progress and condition of the mail service for the past year are
fully presented in the report of the Postmaster-General. The revenue for
the year ending on the 30th of June last amounted to $3,487,199, which
is $802,642.45 less than that of the preceding year. The payments for
that Department during the same time amounted to $4,084,297.22. Of this
sum $597,097.80 have been drawn from the Treasury. The disbursements for
the year were $236,434.77 less than those of the preceding year. While
the disbursements have been thus diminished, the mail facilities have
been enlarged by new mail routes of 5,739 miles, an increase of
transportation of 1,764,145 miles, and the establishment of 418 new
post-offices. Contractors, postmasters, and others engaged in this
branch of the service have performed their duties with energy and
faithfulness deserving commendation. For many interesting details
connected with the operations of this establishment you are referred to
the report of the Postmaster-General, and his suggestions for improving
its revenues are recommended to your favorable consideration. I repeat
the opinion expressed in my last annual message that the business of
this Department should be so regulated chat the revenues derived from it
should be made to equal the expenditures, and it is believed that this
may be done by proper modifications of the present laws, as suggested in
the report of the Postmaster-General, without changing the present rates
of postage.

With full reliance upon the wisdom and patriotism of your deliberations,
it, will be my duty, as it will be my anxious desire, to cooperate with
you in every constitutional effort to promote the welfare and maintain
the honor of our common country.



WASHINGTON, _December 14, 1846_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I transmit to the Senate, for their consideration and advice with regard
to its ratification, a convention for the mutual surrender of criminals
between the United States and the Swiss Confederation, signed by their
respective plenipotentiaries on the 15th of September last at Paris.

I transmit also a copy of a dispatch from the plenipotentiary of the
United States, with the accompanying documents.


WASHINGTON, _December 22, 1846_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

In compliance with the request contained in the resolution of the House
of Representatives of the 15th instant, I communicate herewith reports
from the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, with the
documents which accompany them.

These documents contain all the "orders or instructions" to any
military, naval, or other officer of the Government "in relation to the
establishment or organization of civil government in any portion of the
territory of Mexico which has or might be taken possession of by the
Army or Navy of the United States."

These orders and instructions were given to regulate the exercise of the
rights of a belligerent engaged in actual war over such portions of the
territory of our enemy as by military conquest might be "taken
possession of" and be occupied by our armed forces - rights necessarily
resulting from a state of war and clearly recognized by the laws of
nations. This was all the authority which could be delegated to our
military and naval commanders, and its exercise was indispensable to the
secure occupation and possession of territory of the enemy which might
be conquered. The regulations authorized were temporary, and dependent
on the rights acquired by conquest. They were authorized as belligerent
rights, and were to be carried into effect by military or naval
officers. They were but the amelioration of martial law, which modern
civilization requires, and were due as well to the security of the
conquest as to the inhabitants of the conquered territory.

The documents communicated also contain the reports of several highly
meritorious officers of our Army and Navy who have conquered and taken
possession of portions of the enemy's territory.

Among the documents accompanying the report of the Secretary of War will
be found a "form of government" "established and organized" by the
military commander who conquered and occupied with his forces the
Territory of New Mexico. This document was received at the War
Department in the latter part of the last month, and, as will be
perceived by the report of the Secretary of War, was not, for the
reasons stated by that officer, brought to my notice until after my
annual message of the 8th instant was communicated to Congress.

It is declared on its face to be a "temporary government of the said
Territory," but there are portions of it which purport to "establish and
organize" a permanent Territorial government of the United States over
the Territory and to impart to its inhabitants political rights which
under the Constitution of the United States can be enjoyed permanently
only by citizens of the United States. These have not been "approved and
recognized" by me. Such organized regulations as have been established
in any of the conquered territories for the security of our conquest,
for the preservation of order, for the protection of the rights of the
inhabitants, and for depriving the enemy of the advantages of these
territories while the military possession of them by the forces of the
United States continues will be recognized and approved.

It will be apparent from the reports of the officers who have been
required by the success which has crowned their arms to exercise the
powers of temporary government over the conquered territories that if
any excess of power has been exercised the departure has been the
offspring of a patriotic desire to give to the inhabitants the
privileges and immunities so cherished by the people of our own country,
and which they believed calculated to improve their condition and
promote their prosperity. Any such excess has resulted in no practical
injury, but can and will be early corrected in a manner to alienate as
little as possible the good feelings of the inhabitants of the conquered


WASHINGTON, _December 29, 1846_.

_To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States_:

In order to prosecute the war against Mexico with vigor and success,
it is necessary that authority should be promptly given by Congress
to increase the Regular Army and to remedy existing defects in its
organization. With this view your favorable attention is invited to the
annual report of the Secretary of War, which accompanied my message of
the 8th instant, in which he recommends that ten additional regiments
of regular troops shall be raised, to serve during the war.

Of the additional regiments of volunteers which have been called for
from several of the States, some have been promptly raised; but this
has not been the case in regard to all. The existing law, requiring
that they should be organized by the independent action of the State
governments, has in some instances occasioned considerable delay, and it
is yet uncertain when the troops required can be ready for service in
the field.

It is our settled policy to maintain in time of peace as small a Regular
Army as the exigencies of the public service will permit. In a state of
war, notwithstanding the great advantage with which our volunteer
citizen soldiers can be brought into the field, this small Regular Army
must be increased in its numbers in order to render the whole force more

Additional officers as well as men then become indispensable. Under the
circumstances of our service a peculiar propriety exists for increasing
the officers, especially in the higher grades. The number of such
officers who from age and other causes are rendered incapable of active
service in the field has seriously impaired the efficiency of the Army.

From the report of the Secretary of War it appears that about two-thirds
of the whole number of regimental field officers are either permanently
disabled or are necessarily detached from their commands on other
duties. The long enjoyment of peace has prevented us from experiencing
much embarrassment from this cause, but now, in a state of war,
conducted in a foreign country, it has produced serious injury to the
public service.

An efficient organization of the Army, composed of regulars and
volunteers, whilst prosecuting the war in Mexico, it is believed would
require the appointment of a general officer to take the command of all
our military forces in the field. Upon the conclusion of the war the
services of such an officer would no longer be necessary, and should be
dispensed with upon the reduction of the Army to a peace establishment.

I recommend that provision be made by law for the appointment of such a
general officer to serve during the war.

It is respectfully recommended that early action should be had by
Congress upon the suggestions submitted for their consideration, as
necessary to insure active and efficient service in prosecuting the war,
before the present favorable season for military operations in the
enemy's country shall have passed away.


WASHINGTON, _January 4, 1847_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I communicate herewith a report of the Postmaster-General, which
contains the information called for by the resolution of the Senate of
the 16th instant, in relation to the means which have been taken for the
transmission of letters and papers to and from the officers and soldiers
now in the service of the United States in Mexico. In answer to the
inquiry whether any legislation is necessary to secure the speedy
transmission and delivery of such letters and papers, I refer you to the
suggestions of the Postmaster-General, which are recommended to your
favorable consideration.


WASHINGTON, _January 11, 1847_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

In answer to the resolution of the Senate of the 22d ultimo, calling for
information relative to the negotiation of the treaty of commerce with
the Republic of New Granada signed on the 20th of December, 1844, I
transmit a report from the Secretary of State and the documents by which
it was accompanied.


WASHINGTON, _January 19, 1847_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I transmit herewith a report of the Secretary of War, with the
accompanying report from the Adjutant-General of the Army, made in
compliance with the resolution of the House of Representatives of the
5th instant, requesting the President to communicate to the House "the
whole number of volunteers which have been mustered into the service of
the United States since the 1st day of May last, designating the number
mustered for three months, six months, and twelve months; the number of
those who have been discharged before they served two months, number
discharged after two months' service, and the number of volunteer
officers who have resigned, and the dates of their resignations."


WASHINGTON, _January 20, 1847_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I communicate herewith a letter received from the president of the
convention of delegates of the people of Wisconsin, transmitting a
certified copy of the constitution adopted by the delegates of the
people of Wisconsin in convention assembled, also a copy of the act of
the legislature of the Territory of Wisconsin providing for the calling
of said convention, and also a copy of the last census, showing the
number of inhabitants in said Territory, requesting the President to
"lay the same before the Congress of the United States with the request
that Congress act upon the same at its present session."


WASHINGTON, _January 25, 1847_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I communicate herewith a report of the Secretary of the Treasury,
accompanied by a statement of the Register of the Treasury prepared in
compliance with a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 7th
instant, requesting the President "to furnish the House with a statement
showing the whole amount allowed and paid at the Treasury during the
year ending 30th June, 1846, for postages of the Executive Departments
of the Government and for the several officers and persons authorized by
the act approved 3d March, 1846, to send or receive matter through the
mails free, including the amount allowed or allowable, if charged in the
postages of any officers or agents, military, naval, or civil, employed
in or by any of said Departments." It will be perceived that said
statement is as full and accurate as can be made during the present
session of Congress.


WASHINGTON, _January 29, 1847_.

_To the House of Representatives of the United States_:

I communicate herewith a report of the Secretary of War, together with
reports of the Adjutant-General and Paymaster-General of the Army, in
answer to a resolution of the House of Representatives of the 20th
instant, requesting the President to communicate to the House "whether
any, and, if any, which, of the Representatives named in the list
annexed have held any office or offices under the United States since
the commencement of the Twenty-ninth Congress, designating the office or
offices held by each, and whether the same are now so held, and
including in said information the names of all who are now serving in
the Army of the United States as officers and receiving pay as such, and
when and by whom they were commissioned."


WASHINGTON, _February 3, 1847_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I communicate herewith reports of the Secretary of War and the Secretary
of the Treasury, with accompanying documents, in answer to a resolution
of the Senate "requesting the President to inform the Senate whether any
funds of the Government, and, if any, what amount, have been remitted
from the Atlantic States to New Orleans or to the disbursing officers of
the American Army in Mexico since the 1st of September last, and, if any
remitted, in what funds remitted, whether in gold or silver coin,
Treasury notes, bank notes, or bank checks, and, if in whole or in part
remitted in gold and silver, what has been the expense to the Government
of each of said remittances."


WASHINGTON, _February 10, 1847_.

_To the Senate of the United States_:

I transmit to the Senate, for their advice with regard to its
ratification, "a general treaty of peace, amity, navigation, and
commerce between the United States of America and the Republic of New
Granada," concluded at Bogota on the 12th December last by Benjamin A.
Bidlack, chargé d'affaires of the United States, on their part, and by
Manuel Maria Mallarino, secretary of state and foreign relations, on the
part of that Republic.

It will be perceived by the thirty-fifth article of this treaty that New
Granada proposes to guarantee to the Government and citizens of the
United States the right of passage across the Isthmus of Panama over the
natural roads and over any canal or railroad which may be constructed to
unite the two seas, on condition that the United States shall make a
similar guaranty to New Granada of the neutrality of this portion of her
territory and her sovereignty over the same.

The reasons which caused the insertion of this important stipulation in
the treaty will be fully made known to the Senate by the accompanying
documents. From these it will appear that our chargé d'affaires acted in
this particular upon his own responsibility and without instructions.
Under such circumstances it became my duty to decide whether I would
submit the treaty to the Senate, and after mature consideration I have
determined to adopt this course.

The importance of this concession to the commercial and political
interests of the United States can not easily be overrated. The route by
the Isthmus of Panama is the shortest between the two oceans, and from
the information herewith communicated it would seem to be the most
practicable for a railroad or canal.

The vast advantages to our commerce which would result from such a
communication, not only with the west coast of America, but with Asia
and the islands of the Pacific, are too obvious to require any detail.
Such a passage would relieve us from a long and dangerous navigation of
more than 9,000 miles around Cape Horn and render our communication with
our possessions on the northwest coast of America comparatively easy and

The communication across the Isthmus has attracted the attention of the
Government of the United States ever since the independence of the South
American Republics. On the 3d of March, 1835, a resolution passed the
Senate in the following words:

_Resolved_, That the President of the United States be respectfully
requested to consider the expediency of opening negotiations with the
governments of other nations, and particularly with the Governments
of Central America and New Granada, for the purpose of effectually
protecting, by suitable treaty stipulations with them, such individuals
or companies as may undertake to open a communication between the
Atlantic and Pacific oceans by the construction of a ship canal across
the isthmus which connects North and South America, and of securing
forever by such stipulations the free and equal right of navigating such
canal to all nations on the payment of such reasonable tolls as may be
established to compensate the capitalists who may engage in such
undertaking and complete the work.

No person can be more deeply sensible than myself of the danger of
entangling alliances with any foreign nation. That we should avoid such
alliances has become a maxim of our policy consecrated by the most
venerated names which adorn our history and sanctioned by the unanimous
voice of the American people. Our own experience has taught us the
wisdom of this maxim in the only instance, that of the guaranty to

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