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The expectations justly founded upon the promise thus solemnly made to this government by that of France, were not realized. The French Chambers met on the 31st of July, 1834, soon after the election; and although our minister in Paris urged the French ministry to bring the subject before then, they declined doing so. He next insisted that the Chambers, if prorogued without acting on the subject, should be re-assembled at a period so early that their action on the treaty might be known in Washingion prior to the meeting of Congress. This reasonable request was not only declined, but the Chambers were prorogued to the 29th of December, a day so late, that their decision, however urgently pressed, could not, in all probability, be obtained in time to reach Washington before the necessary adjournment of Congress, by the constitution. The reasons given by the ministry for refusing to convoke the Chambers at an earlier period, were afterwards shown not to be insuperable, by their actual convocation on the 1st of December, under a special call, for domestic purposes; which fact, however, did not become known to this government until after the commencement of the last session of Congress.
Thus disappointed in our just expectations, it became my imperative duty to consult with Congress in regard to the expediency of a resort to retaliatory measures, in case the stipulations of the treaty should not be speedily complied with ; and to recommend such as in my judgment the occasion called for. To this end an unreserved communication of the case, in all its aspects, became indispensable. To have shrunk in making it, from saying all that was necessary to its correct understanding, and that the truth would justify, for fear of giving offence to others, would have been unworthy of us. To have gone, on the other hand, a single step farther, for the purpose of wounding the pride of a government and people with whom we had so many motives for cultivating relations of amity and reciprocal advantage, would have been unwise and improper. Admonished by the past of the difficulty of making even the simplest statement of our wrongs without disturbing the sensibilities of those who had by their position become responsible for their redress, and earnestly desirous of preventing farther obstacles from that source, I went out of my way to preclude a construction of the message, by which the recommendation that was made to Congress might be regarded as a menace to France, in not only disavowing such a design, bat in declaring that her pride and her power were too well known to expect anything from her fears. The message did not reach Paris until more than a month after the Chambers had been in session; and such was the insensibility of the ministry to our rightful claims and just expectations, that our minister had been informed that the matter, when introduced, would not be pressed as a cabinet measure.
Although the message was not officially communicated 10 the French government, and notwithstanding the declaration to the contrary which it contained, the French ministry decided to consider the conditional recommendation of reprisals, a menace and an insult which the honor of the nation made it incumbent on them to resent. The measures resorted to by them to evince their sense of the supposed indignity, were the immediate recall of their minister at Washington, the offer of passports to the American minister at Paris, and a public notice to the legislative Chambers that all diplomatic intercourse with the United States had been suspended. Having in this manner vindicated the dignity of France, they next proceeded to illustrate her justice. To this end, a bill was immediately introduced into
the Chamber of Deputies, proposing to make the appropriations necessary to carry into effect the treaty. As this bill subsequently passed into a law, the provisions of which now constitute the main subject of difficulty between the iwo nations, it becomes my duty, in order to place the subject before you in a clear light, to trace the history of its passage, and to refer with some particularity to the proceedings and discussions in regard to it.
The minister of finance, in his opening speech, alluded to the measures which had been adopted to resent the supposed indignity, and recommended the execution of the treaty as a measure required by the honor and justice of France. He, as the organ of the ministry, declared the message, so long as it had not received the sanction of Congress, a mere expression of the personal opinion of the President, for which neither the government nor people of the United States were responsible, and that an engagement had been entered into, for the fulfilment of which the honor of France was pledged. Entertaining these views, the single condition which the French ministry proposed to annex to the payment of the money was, that it should not be made until it was ascertained that the government of the United States had done nothing to injure the interests of France, or, in other words
, that no steps had been authorized by Congress of a hostile character toward France.
What the disposition or action of Congress might be was then unknown to the French cabinet. But on the 14th of January, the Senate resolved that it was at that time inexpedient to adopt any legislative measures in regard to the state of affairs between the United States and France, and no action on the subject had occurred in the House of Representatives. These facts were known in Paris prior to the 28th of March, 1835, when the committee to whom the bill of indemnification had been referred reported it to the Chamber of Deputies. That committee substantially re-echoed the sentiments of the ministry, declared that Congress had set aside the proposition of the President, and recommended the passage of the bill without any other restriction than that originally proposed. Thus was it known to the French Ministry and Chambers, that if the position assumed by them, and which had been so frequently and solemnly announced as the only one compatible with the honor of France, was maintained, and the bill passed as originally proposed, the money would be paid and there would be an end of this unfortunate controversy.
But this cheering prospect was soon destroyed by an amendment introduced into the bill at the moment of its passage, providing that the money should not be paid until the French government had received satisfactory explanations of the President's message of the 2d December, 1834; and what is still more extraordinary, the President of the Council of Ministers adopted this amendment and consented to its incorporation in the bill. In regard to a supposed insult which had been formally resented by the recall of their minister, and the offer of passports to ours, they now for the firs time proposed to ask explanations. Sentiments and propositions which they had declared could not justly be imputed to the government or people of the United States, are set up as obstacles to the performance of an act of conceded justice to that government and people. They had declared that the honor of France required the fulfilment of the engagement into which the king had entered, unless Congress adopted the recommendations of the message. They ascertained that Congress did not adopt them, and yet that
fulfilment is refused, unless they first obtain from the President explanations of an opinion characterized by themselves as personal and imperative.
The conception that it was my intention to menace or insult the government of France, is as unfounded as the attempt to extort from the fears of that nation what her sense of justice may deny, would be vain and ridiculous. But the constitution of the United States imposes on the President the duty of laying before Congress the condition of the country in its foreign and domestic relations, and of recommending such measures as may in his opinion be required by its interests. From the performance of this duty he cannot be deterred by the fear of wounding the sensibilities of the people or government of whom it may become necessary to speak -- and the American people are incapable of submitting to an interference by any government on earth, however powerful, with the free performance of the domestic duties wbich the constitution has imposed on their public functionaries. The discussions which intervene between the several departments of our government belong to ourselves, and for anything said in them, our public servants are only responsible to their own constituents and to each other. If, in the course of their consultations, facts are erroneously stated, or unjust deductions are maile, they require no other inducement to correct them, however informed of their error, than their love of justice, and what is due to their own character — but they can never submit to be interrogated upon the subject, as a matter of right, by a foreign power. When our discussions terminate in acts, our responsibility to foreign powers commences, not as individuals
, but as a nation. The principle which calls in question the President for the language of his message, would equally justify a foreign power in demanding explanation of the language used in the report of a committee, or by a member in debate.
This is not the first time that the government of France has taken exception to the messages of American presidents. President Washington and the first President Adams, in the performance of their duties to the American people, fell under the animadversions of the French Directory. The objection taken by the ministry of Charles X. and removed by the explanations made by our minister upon the spot, has already been adverted to. When it was understood that the ministry of the present king took exception to my message of last year, putting a conrstuction upon it which was disavow-" ed on its face, our laté minister at Paris, in answer to the note which first announced a dissatisfaction with the language used in the message, made a communication to the French government under date of the 29th of January, 1835, calculated to remove all impressions which an unreasonable susceptibility had created. He repeated and called the attention of the French government to the disavowal contained in the message itself, of any intention to intimidate by menace - he truly declared that it contained, and was intended to contain no charge of ill faith against the king of the French, and properly distinguished between the right to complain, in unexceptionable terms, of the omission to execute an agreement, and an accusation of bad motives in withholding such execution—and demonstrated that the necessary use of that right ought not to be considered as an offensive imputation. Although this communication was made without instructions, and entirely on the minister's own responsibility, yet it was afterwards made the act of this government by my full approbation, and that approbation was officially made known on the 25th of April, 1835, lo the French government. It, however, failed to have any effect. The law, after this friendly
explanation, passed with the obnoxious amendment supported by the king's ministers, and was finally approved by the king.
The people of the United States are justly aliached to a pacific system in their intercourse with foreign nations. It is proper, therefore, that they should know whether their government has adhered to it. In the present instance it has been carried to the utmost extent that was consistent with a becoming self-respect. The note on the 29th of January, to which I have before alluded, was not the only one which our minister took upon himself the responsibility of presenting on the same subject, and in the same spirit. Finding that it was intended to make the payment of a just debt dependent on the performance of a condition which be knew could never be complied with, he thought it a duty to make another attempt to convince the French government, that whilst self-respect and regard to the dignity of other nations would always prevent us from using any language that ought to give offence, yet we could never admit a right in any foreign government to ask explanations of or interfere in any manner in the communications which one branch of our public councils made with another; that in the present case no such language had been used, and that this had, in a former note, been fully and voluntarily stated before it was contemplated to make the explanation a condition; and that there might be no misapprehension, he stated the terms used in that note, and he officially informed them that it had been approved by the President, and that therefore every explanation which could reasonably be asked, or honorably given, had been already made; that the contemplated measure had been anticipated by a voluntary and friendly declaration, and was, therefore, not only useless, but might be deemed offen sive, and certainly would not be complied with, if annexed as a condition.
When this latter communication, to which I specially invite the attention of Congress, was laid before me, I entertained the hope that the means it was obviously intended to afford, of an honorable and speedy adjustment of the difficulties between the two nations, would have been accepted; and I therefore did not hesitate to give it my sanction and full approbation. This was due to the minister who had made himself responsible for the act; and it was published to the people of the United States, and is now laid before their representatives, to show how far their executive has gone in its endeavors to restore a good understanding between the two countries. It would have been at any time communicated to the government of France, had it been officially requested.
The French government having received all the explanation which honor and principle permitted, and which could in reason be asked, it was hoped it would no longer hesitate to pay the instalments now due. The agent authorized to receive the money was instructed to inform the French ininistry of his readiness to do so. In reply to this notice, he was told thai the money could not then be paid, because the formalities required by the act of the Chambers had not been arranged.
Not having received any official communication of the intentions of the French government, and anxious to bring, as far as practicable, this un pleasant affair to a close before the meeting of Congress, that you might have the whole subject before you, I caused our chargé d'affaires at Paris to be instructed to ask for the final determination of the French and, in the event of their refusal to pay the instalments now due, without farther explanations to return to the United States.
The result of this last application has not yet reached us, but is daily ex
pected. That it may be favorable is my sincere wish. France having now, through all the branches of her government, acknowledged the validity of our claims, and the obligation of the treaty of 1831, and there really existing no adequate cause for farther delay, will at length, it may be hoped, adopt the course which the interests of both nations, not less than the principles of justice, so imperiously require. The treaty being once executed on her part, little will remain to disturb the friendly relations of the two countries; nothing indeed which will not yield to the suggestions of a pacific and enlightened policy, and to the influence of that mutual good-will and of those generous recollections which we may confidently expect will then be revived in all their ancient force. In any event, however, the principle involved in the new aspect which has been given to the controversy, is so vitally important to the independent administration of the government, that it can neither be surrendered nor compromitted, without national degradation. I hope it is unnecessary for me to say that such a sacrifice will not be made through any agency of mine. The honor of my country shall never be stained by an apology from me, for the statement of truth and the performance of duty; nor can I give any explanation of my official acts, except such as is due to integrity and justice, and consistent with the prinçiples on which our institutions have been framed. This determination will, I am confident, be approved by my constituents
. I have, indeed. studied their character to but little purpose, if the sum of twenty-five millions of francs will have the weight of a feather, in the estimation of what appertains to their national independence, and if, unhappily, a different impression should at any time obtain in any quarter, they will, I am sure, rally around the government of their choice with alacrity and unanimity, and silence for ever the degrading imputation.
Having thus frankly presented to you the circumstances which, since the last session of Congress, have occurred in this interesting and important matter, with the views of the executive in regard to them, it is at this time only necessary to add, that whenever the advices now daily expected from our chargé d'affaires shall have been received, they will be made the subject of a special communication.
The condition of the public finances was never more flattering than at the present period.
Since my last annual communication, all the remains of the public debt have been redeemed, or money has been placed in deposite for this purpose, whenever the creditors choose to receive it. All the other pecuniary engagements of the government have been honorably and promptly fuldtled, and there will be a balance in the treasury at the close of the present year of about nineteen millions of dollars. It is believed that, after meeting all outstanding and unexpended appropriations, there will remain near eleven millions of dollars to be applied to any new objects which Congress may designate, or to the more rapid execution of the works already in progress. In aid of these objects and to satisfy the current expenditures of the ensuing year, it is estimated that there will be received, from various sources, twenty millions of dollars more, in 1836.
Should Congress make new appropriations, in conformity with the estimates which will be submitted from the proper departments, amounting to about twenty-four millions of dollars, still the available surplus, at the close of the next year, after deducting all unexpended appropriations, will probably be not less than six millions of dollars. This sum can, in my judgment,