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Colonel Dodge, and the troops under his command, have acted with equal firmness and humanity, and an arrangement has been made with those Indians, which it is hoped will insure their permanent pacific relations with the United States, and the other tribes of Indians upon that border.
It is to be regretted that the prevalence of sickness in that quarter has deprived the country of a number of valuable lives, and particularly that of General Leavenworth, an officer well known and esteemed for his gallant services during the late war, and for subsequent good conduct, who has fallen a victim to his zeal and exertions in the discharge of his duty.
The army is in a high state of discipline. Its moral condition, so far as that is known here, is good, and the various branches of the public service are carefully attended to. It is amply sufficient, under its present organization, for providing the necessary garrisons for the seaboard, and for the defence of the internal frontier, and also for preserving the elements of military knowledge, and for keeping pace with those improvements which inodern experience is continually making. And these objects appear to me to embrace all the legitimate purposes for which a permanent military force should be maintained in our country. The lessons of bistory deach us its danger, and the tendency which exists to an increase. This can be best met and averted by a just caution on the part of the public itself, and of those who represent them in Congress.
From the duties which devolve on the engineer department, and upon the topographical engineers, a different organization seems to be demanded by the public interest, and I recommend the subject to your consideration.
No important change has, during this season, taken place in the condition of the Indians. Arrangements are in progress for the removal of the Creeks, and will soon be for the removal of the Seminoles. I regret that the Cherokees east of the Mississippi have not yet determined as a community to remove. How long the personal causes which have hitherto retarded i hat ultimately inevitable measure will continue to operate, I am unable to conjecture. It is certain, however, that delay will bring with it accumulated evils, which will render their condition more and more unpleasant The experience of every year adds to the conviction that emigration, and that alone, can preserve from destruction the remnant of tribes yet living among us. The facility with which the necessaries of life are procured, and the treaty stipulations providing aid for the emigrant Indians in their agricultural pursuits and in the important concern of education, and their removal from those causes which have heretofore depressed all, and destroyed many of the tribes, cannot fail to stimulate their exertions, and to reward their industry
The two laws passed at the last session of Congress on the subject of Indian affairs, have been carried into effect, and detailed instructions for their administration have been given. It will be seen by the estimates for the present session, that a great reduction will take place in the expenditures of the department in consequence of these laws. And there is reason to believe that their operation will be salutary, and that the colonization of the Indian on the western frontier, together with a judicious system of administration, will still farther reduce the expenses of this branch of the public service, and at the same time promote its usefulness and efficiency.
Circumstances have been recently developed, showing the existence of extensive frauds under the various laws granting pensions and gratuities for revolutionary services. It is impossible to estimate the amount which may
have been thus fraudulently obtained from the national treasury. I am satisfied, however, that it has been such as to justify a re-examination of the system, and the adoption of the necessary checks in its administration. All will agree that the services and sufferings of the remnant of our revolutionary band should be fully compensated; but while this is done, every proper precaution should be taken to prevent the admission of fabricated and fraudulent claims. In the present mode of proceeding, the attestations and certificates of judicial officers of the various states form a considerable portion of the checks which are interposed against the commission of frauds. These, however, have been and may be fabricated, and in such a way as to elude detection at the examining offices; and independently of this practical difficulty, it is ascertained that these documents are often loosely granted; sometimes even blank certificates have been issued; sometimes prepared papers have been signed without inquiry; and in one instance, at least
, the seal of the court has been within reach of a person most interested in its improper application. It is obvious that under such circumstances, no severity of administration can check the abuse of the law; and information has from time to time been communicated to the pension office, questioning or denying the right of persons placed upon the pension list to the bounty of the country. Such cautions are always attended to, and examined but a far more general investigation is called for; and I therefore recommend, in conformity with the suggestion of the secretary of war, that an actual inspection should be made in each state, into the circumstances and claims of every person now drawing a pension. The honest veteran has nothing to fear from such a scrutiny, while the fraudulent claimant will be detected, and the public treasury relieved to an amount, I have reason to believe, far greater than has heretofore been suspected. The details of such a plan could be so regulated as to interpose the necessary checks without any burdensoine operation upon the pensioners. The object should be twofold.
1. To look into the original justice of the claims, so far as this can be done under a proper system of regulations, by an examination of the claimants themselves, and by inquiring in the vicinity of their residence into their history, and into the opinion entertained of their revolutionary
2. To ascertain, in all cases, whether the original claimant is living, and this by actual personal inspection,
This measure will, if adopted, be productive, I think, of the desired results, and I therefore recommend it to your consideration, with the farther suggestion, that all payments should be suspended till the necessary reports are received.
It will be seen by a tabular statement annexed to the documents transmitted to Congress, that the appropriations for objects connected with the war department, made at the last session, for the service of the year 1834, excluding the permanent appropriation for the payment of military gratuities under the act of June 7, 1832, the appropriation of two hundred thousand dollars for arming and equipping the militia, and the appropriation of ten thousand dollars for the civilization of the Indians, which are not annually renewed, amounted to the sum
of nine millions three thousand two hundred and sixty-one dollars, and that the estimates of appropriations the sum of five millions seven hundred and seventy-eight thousand nine
hundred and sixty-four dollars, making a difference in the appropriations of the current year over the estimates of the appropriations for the next, of three millions two hundred and twenty-four thousand two hundred and ninety-seven dollars.
The principal causes which have operated at this time to produce this great difference, are shown in the reports and documents, and in the detailed estimates. Some of these causes are accidental and temporary, while others are permanent, and, aided by a just course of administration, may continue to operate beneficially upon the public expenditures.
A just economy, expending where the public service requires, and withholding where it does not, is among the indispensable duties of the government.
I refer you to the accompanying report of the secretary of the navy, and to the documents with it, for a full view of the operations of that important branch of our service during the present year. It will be seen that the wisdom and liberality with which Congress have provided for the gradual increase of our navy material, have been seconded by a corresponding zeal and fidelity on the part of those to whom has been confided the execution of the laws on the subject; and that but a short period would be now required to put in commission a force large enough for any exigency into which the country may be thrown.
When we reflect upon our position in relation to other nations, it must be apparent that, in the event of conflicts with them, we must look chiefly to our navy for the protection of our national rights. The wide seas which separate us from other governments, must of necessity be the theatre on which an enemy will aim to assail us, and, unless we are prepared to meet him on this element, we cannot be said to possess the power requisite to repel or prevent aggressions. We cannot, therefore, watch with too much attention this arm of our defence, or cherish with too much care the means by which it can possess the necessary efficiency and extension.
To this end our policy has been heretofore wisely directed to the constant employment of a force sufficient to guard our commerce, and to the rapid accumulation of the materials which are necessary to repair our vessels
and construct with ease such new ones as may be required in a state of war.
In accordance with this policy, I recommend to your consideration the erection of the additional dry-dock described by the secretary of the navy, and also the construction of the steam batteries to which he has referred, for the purpose of testing their efficiency as auxiliaries to the system of defence now in use.
The report of the postmaster general, herewith submitted, exhibits the condition and prospects of that department. From that document it appears that there was a deficit in the funds of the department, at the commencement of the present year, beyond its available means, of three hundred and fifteen thousand five hundred and ninety-nine dollars and ninety-eight cents, which, on the first of July last, had been reduced to two hundred and sixty. eight ihousand and ninety-two dollars and seventy-four cents. It appears
, also, that the revenues for the coming year will exceed the expenditures about two hundred and seventy-thousand dollars, which, with the excess of the revenue which will result from the operations of the current half-year, may be expected, independently of any increase in the gross amount of postages, to supply the entire deficit before the end of 1835. But as this calculation is based on the gross amount of postages which have accrued
within the period embraced by the times of striking the balances, it is obvious that, without a progressive increase in the amount of postages, the existing retrenchments must be persevered in through the year 1836, that the department may accumulate a surplus fund sufficient to place it in a condition of perfect ease.
It will be observed that the revenues of the post-office department, though they have increased, and their amount is above that of any former year, have yet fallen short of the estimates more than a hundred thousand dollars. This is attributed, in a great degree, to the increase of free letters growing out of the extension and abuse of the franking privilege. There has been a gradual increase in the number of executive officers to which it has been granted; and by an act passed in March, 1833, it was extended to members of Congress throughout the whole year. It is believed that a revision of the laws relative to the franking privilege, with some enactments to enforce more rigidly the restrictions under which it is granted, would operate beneficially to the country, by enabling the department at an early period to restore the mail facilities have been withdrawn, and to extend them more widely, as the growing settlement of the country may require.
To a measure so important to the government, and so just to our constituents, who ask no exclusive privileges for themselves, and are not willing to concede them to others, I earnestly recommend the serious attention of Congress
The importance of the post-office department, and the magnitude to which it has grown, both in its revenues and in its operations, seem to demand its re-organization by law. The whole of its receipts and disbursements have hitherto been left entirely to executive control and individual discretion. The principle is as sound in relation to this as to any other department of the government, that as little discretion should be confided to the executive officer who controls it, as is compatible with its efficiency. It is, therefore, earnestly recommended that it be organized with an auditor and treasury of its own, appointed by the President and Senate, who shall be branches of the treasury department.
Your attention is again respectfully invited to the defect which exists in the judicial system of the United States. Nothing can be more desirable than the uniform operation of the federal judiciary throughout the several states, all of which, standing on the same footing as members of the Union, have equal rights to the advantages and benefits resulting from its laws. This object is not attained by the judicial acts now in force, because they leave one fourth of the states without circuit courts.
It is undoubtedly the duty of Congress to place all the states on the same footing in this respect
, either by the creation of an additional number of associate judges, or by an enlargement of the circuits assigned to those already appointed, so as to include the new states. Whatever may be the difficulty in a proper organization of the judicial system, so as to secure its efficiency and uniformity in all parts of the Union, and at the same time to avoid such an increase of judges as would encumber the supreme appellate tribupal, it should not be allowed to weigh against the great injustice which the present operation of the system produces.
I trust that I may be also pardoned for renewing the recommendations I have so often submitted to your attention, in regard to the mode of electing the President and Vice-President of the United States. All the reflection I have been able to bestow upon the subject increases my conviction
that the best interests of the country will be promoted by the adoption of some plan which will secure, in all contingencies, that important right of sovereignty to the direct control of the people. Could this be attained, and the terms of those officers be limited to a single period of either four or six years, I think our liberties would possess an additional safeguard.
At your last session I called the attention of Congress to the destruction of the public building occupied by the treasury department. As the public interest requires that another building should be erected with as liule delay as possible, it is hoped that the means will be seasonably provided, and ihat they will be ample enough to authorize such an enlargement and improvement in the plan of the building as will more effectually accommodate the public officers, and secure the public documents deposited in it from the casualties of fire.
I have not been able to satisfy myself that the bill entitled “An act to improve the navigation of the Wabash river," which was sent to me at the close of your last session, ought to pass, and I have therefore with held from it my approval, and now return it io the Senate, the body in which it originated.
There can be no question connected with the administration of public affairs, more important, or more difficult to be satisfactorily dealt with, tban that which relates to the rightful authority and proper action of the federal government upon the subject of internal improvements. To inherent embarrassments have been added others resulting from the course of our legislation concerning it. I have heretofore communicated freely with Congress upon this subject
, and, in advertiog to it again, I cannot refrain from expressing my increased conviction of its extreme importance, as well in regard to its bearing upon the maintenance of the constitution, and the prudent management of the public revenue, as on account of its disturbing effect upon the harmony of the Union.
We are in no danger from violations of the constitution, by which encroachments are made upon the personal rights of the citizens. The sentence of condemnation long since pronounced by the American people upon acts of that character, will, I doubt not, continue to prove as salutary in its effects as it is irreversible in its nature. But against the dangers of unconstitutional acts which, instead of menacing the vengeance of offended authority, proffer local advantages, and bring in their train the patronage of the government, we are, I fear, not so safe. To suppose that, because our gor ernment has been instituted for the benefit of the people, it must therefore have the power to do whatever may seem to conduce to the public good, is an error into which even honest minds are too apt to fall. In yielding themselves to this fallacy, they overlook the great considerations in which the federal constitution was founded. They forget that, in consequence of the conceded diversities in the interest and condition of the different states, it was foreseen, at the period of its adoption, that although a particular measure of the government might be beneficial and proper in one state, it might be the reverse in another-that it was for this reason the states would not consent to make a grant to the federal government of the general and usual powers of government, but of such only as were specifically enumerated, and the probable effects of which they could, as they thought, safely anticipate; and they forget also the paramount obligation upon all to abide by the compact, then so solemnly, and as it was hoped, so firmly established. In