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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 towards other nations as we wish them to act towards 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 pretence 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 unfore. seen, 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 exclusime 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 peaple, 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 exe. cution 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. This 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 powers:
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 understand. ing.
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 guarantees 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 govern. ment, 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; bul, 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 connexion 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 cannot 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 re. cently 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 effect.
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 gov. ernment, by the third article of the convention, stipulates to furnish to the goverument 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 towards accomplishing this desirable end. I am persuaded that in reinoving any restraints on this traffic, the Peruvian government will promote its own best interests, while it will afford a proof of a friendly disposition towards 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 be. lieved, have a beneficial effect upon the relations between the two countries.
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 forty seven million four hundred and twenty-one thousand seven hundred and forty-eight dollars and ninety cents, ($47,421,748 90.)
The total expenditures during the same period were forty-three million two thousand one hundred and sixty-eight dollars and ninety cents, ($43,002,168 90.)
The public debt has been reduced, since the last annual report from the Treasury Department, four hundred and ninty-five thousand two hundred and seventy-six dollars and seventy-nine cents, ($495,276 79.)
By the 19th 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 eight million seventy-five thousand nine hundred and eighty-six dollars and fifty nine cents, ($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