Page images

relinquish the execution of this policy without sacrificing important interests, and abandoning the tribes remaining east of the Mississippi to certain destruction.

The decrease in numbers of the tribes within the limits of the states and territories has been most rapid. If they be removed, they can be protected from those associations and evil practices which exert so pernicious and destructive an influence over their destinies. They can be induced to labor, and to acquire property, and its acquisition will inspire them with a feeling of independence. Their minds can be cultivated, and they can be taught the value of salutary and uniform laws, and be made sensible of the blessings of free government, and capable of enjoying its advantages.

In the possession of property, knowledge, and a good government, free to give what direction they please to their labor, and sharers in the legislation by which their persons and the profits of their industry are to be protected and secured, they will have an ever-present conviction of the importance of union, of peace among themselves, and of the preservation of amicable relations with us.

The interests of the United States would also be greatly promoted by freeing the relations between the general and state governments from what has proved a most embarrassing encumbrance, by a satisfactory adjustment of conflicting titles to lands, caused by the occupation of the Indians, and by causing the resources of the whole country to be developed by the power of the state and general governments, and improved by the enterprise, of a white population.

Intimately connected with this subject is the obligation of the government to fulfil its treaty stipulations, and to protect the Indians thus assembled “at their new residence from all interruptions and disturbances from any other tribes or nations of Indians, or from any other

person or persons whatsoever," and the equally solemn obligation to guard from Indian hostilities its own border settlements stretching along a line of more than one thousand miles. To enable the government to redeem their pledge to the Indians, and to afford adequate protection to its own citi

zens, will require the continual presence of a considerable regular force on the frontiers, and the establishment of a chain of permanent posts. Examinations of the

country are now making, with a view to decide on the most suitable points for the erection of fortresses and other works of defence, the results of which will be presented to you by the secretary of war at an early day, together with a plan for the effectual protection of friendly Indians, and the permanent defence of the frontier states. By the report of the secretary of the navy,

herewith communicated, it appears that unremitted exertions have been made at the different navy-yards, to carry into effect all authorized measures for the extension and employment of our naval force. The launching and preparation of the ship of the line Pennsylvania, and the complete repairs of the ships of the line Ohio, Delaware, and Columbus, may be noticed, as forming a respectable addition to this important arm of our national defence. Our commerce and navigation have received increased aid and protection during the present year. Our squadrons in the Pacific and on the Brazilian stations have been much increased, and that in the Mediterranean, although small, is adequate to the present wants of our commerce in that sea. Additions have been made to our squadron on the West India station, where the large force under Commodore Dallas has been most actively

and efficiently employed in protecting our commerce, in preventing the importation of slaves, and in coöperating with the officers of the army in carrying on the war in Florida.

The satisfactory condition of our naval force abroad leaves at our disposal the means of conveniently providing for a home squadron, for the protection of commerce upon our extensive coast. The amount of appropriations required for such a squadron will be found in the general estimates for the naval service, for the year 1838.

The naval officers engaged upon our coast survey, have rendered important service to our navigation. The discovery of a new channel into the harbor of New York, through which our largest ships may pass without danger, must afford important commercial advantages to that harbor, and add greatly to its value as a naval station. The

accurate survey of George's Shoals, off the coast of Massachusetts, lately completed, will render comparatively safe a navigation hitherto considered dangerous.

Considerable additions have been made to the number of captains, commanders, lieutenants, surgeons, and assistant surgeons in the navy. These additions were rendered necessary, by the increased number of vessels put in commission, to answer the exigencies of our growing commerce.

Your attention is respectfully invited to the various suggestions of the secretary, for the improvement of the naval service.

The report of the postmaster-general exhibits the progress and condition of the mail service. The operations of the post-office department constitute one of the most active elements of our national prosperity, and it is gratifying to observe with what vigor they are conducted. The mail routes of the United States cover an extent of about one hundred and forty-two thousand eight hundred and seventy-seven miles, having been increased about thirty-seven thousand one hundred and three miles within the last two years.

The annual mail transportation on these routes is about 36,228,962 miles, having been increased about 10,359,476 miles within the same period. The number of postoffices has also been increased from 10,770 to 12,099, very few of which receive the mails less than once a week, and a large portion of them daily. Contractors and postmasters in general are represented as attending to their duties with most commendable zeal and fidelity.

The revenue of the department within the year ending on the 30th of June last, was $4,137,066 59; and its liabilities accruing within the same time, were $3,380,847 75. The increase of revenue over that of the preceding year, was $708,166 41.

For many interesting details, I refer you to the report of the postmaster-general, with the accompanying paper. Your particular attention is invited to the necessity of providing a more safe and convenient building for the accommodation of the department.

I lay before Congress copies of reports, submitted in pursuance of a call made by me upon the heads of departments, for such suggestions as their experience might enable them to make, as to what further legislative provisions may be advantageously adopted to secure the faithful application of public money to the objects for which they are appropriated; to prevent their misapplication or embezzlement by those intrusted with the expenditure of them; and generally to increase the security of the government against losses in their disbursement. It is needless to dilate on the importance of providing such new safeguards as are within the power of legislation to promote these ends; and I have little to add to the recommendations submitted in the accompanying papers.

By law, the terms of service of our most important collecting and disbursing officers in the civil departments, are limited to four years, and when reappointed their bonds' are required to be renewed. The safety of the public is much increased by this feature of the law, and there can be no doubt that its application to all officers intrusted with the collection or disbursement of the public money, whatever may be the tenure of their offices, would be equally beneficial. I therefore recommend, in addition to such of the suggestions presented by the heads of department as you may think useful, a general provision that all officers of the army or navy, or in the civil department, intrusted with the receipt or payment of the public money, and whose term of service is either unlimited or for a longer time than four years, be required to give bonds, with good and sufficient securities, at the expiration of every such period.

A change in the period of terminating the fiscal year, from the 1st of October to the 1st of April, has been frequently recommended, and appears to be desirable.

The distressing casualties in steamboats, which have so frequently happened, during the year, seem to evince the necessity of attempting to prevent them by means of severe provisions connected with their custom-house papers. This subject was submitted to the attention of Congress by the secretary of the treasury, in his last annual report, and will be again noticed at the present session, with additional details. It will doubtless receive that early and careful consideration which its pressing importance appears to require.

Your attention has heretofore been frequently called to the affairs of the District of Columbia, and I should not again ask it, did not their entire dependence on Congress give them a constant claim upon its notice. Separated by the constitution from the rest of the Union, limited in extent, and aided by no legislature of its own, it would seem to be a spot where a wise and uniform system of local government might have been easily adopted.

This district, however, unfortunately, has been left to linger behind the rest of the Union; its codes, civil and criminal, are not only very defective, but full of obsolete or inconvenient provisions; being formed of portions of two states, discrepancies in the laws prevail in different parts of the territory, small as it is; and although it was selected as the seat of the general government, the site of its public edifices, the depository of its archives, and the residence of officers intrusted with large amounts of public property, and the management of public business, yet it has never been subjected to, or received, that special and comprehensive legislation which these circumstances peculiarly demand.

I am well aware of the various subjects of greater magnitude and immediate interest, that press themselves on the consideration of Congress; but I believe there is no one that appeals more directly to its justice, than a liberal and

even generous attention to the interests of the District of Columbia, and a thorough and careful revision of its local government.


MARCH 4, 1841. CALLED from a retirement which I had supposed was . to continue for the residue of my life, to fill the chief executive office of this great and free nation, I appear before you, fellow-citizens, to take the oaths which the constitution prescribes as a necessary qualification for the performance of its duties. And in obedience with a custom

« PreviousContinue »