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silver, no law impairing the obligation, of contracts yet that, in point of fact, the privileges conferred on banking corporations have made their notes the currency of the country; that the obligations imposed by these notes are violated under the impulses of interest or convenience; and that the number and power of the persons connected with these corporations, or placed under their influence, give them a fearful weight when their interest is in opposition to the spirit of the constitution and laws. To the people it is immaterial whether these results are produced by open violations of the latter, or by the workings of a system of which the result is the same. An inflexible execution even of the existing statutes of most of the states would redress many evils now endured; would effectually show the banks the dangers of mismanagement which impunity encourages them to repeat; and would teach all corporations the useful lesson that they are the subjects of the law and the servants of the people. What is still wanting to effect these objects must be sought in additional legislation; or, if that be inade. quate, in such farther constitutional grants or restrictions as may bring us back into the path from which we have so widely wandered. In the mean time, it is the duty of the general government to co-operate with the states, by a wise exercise of its constitutional powers, and the enforcement of its existing laws. The extent to which it may do so by farther enactments I have already adverted to, and the wisdom of Congress may yet enlarge them. But, above all, it is incumbent upon us to hold erect the principles of morality and law, constantly executing our own contracts in accordance with the provisions of the constitution, and thus serving as a rallying point by which our whole country may be brought back to that safe and honored standard. Our people will not long be insensible to the extent of the burdensentailed upon them by the false system that has been operating on their sanguine, energetic, and industrious character; nor to the means necessary to extricate themselves from these embarrassments. The weight which presses upon a large portion of the people and the states is an enormous debt, foreign and domestic. The foreign debt of our states, corporations, and men of business, can scarcely be less than two hundred millions of dollars, requiring more than ten millions a year to pay the interest. This sum has to be paid out of the exports of the country, and must of necessity cut off imports to that extent, or plunge the country more deeply in debt from year to year. It is easy to see that the increase of this foreign debt must augment the annual demand on the exports to pay the interest, and to the same extent diminish the imports; and in proportion to the enlargement of the foreign debt, and the consequent increase of interest, must be the decrease of the import trade. In lieu of the comforts which it now brings us, we might have our gigantic banking institutions, and splendid, but in many instances profitless, railroads and canals, absorbing to a great extent, in interest upon the capital borrowed to construct them, the surplus fruits of national indus. try for years to come, and securing to posterity no adequate return for the comforts which the labors of their hands might otherwise have secured. It is not by the increase of this debt that relief is to be sought, but in its dimi. nution. Upon this point there is, I am happy to say, hope before us; not so much in the return of confidence abroad, which will enable the states to borrow more money, as in a change of public feeling at home, which prompts our people to pause in their career, and think of the means by which debts are to be paid before they are contracted. If we would escape
embarrassment, public and private, we must cease to run in debt, except for objects of necessity, or such as will yield a certain return. Let the faith of the states, corporations, and individuals, already pledged, be kept with the most punctilious regard. It is due to our national character, as well as to justice, that this should on the part of each be a fixed principle of conduct. But it behooves us all to be more chary in pledging it hereafter. By ceasing to run in debt, and applying the surplus of our crops and incomes to the discharge of existing obligations, buying less and selling more, and managing all affairs, public and private, with strict economy and frugality, we shall see our country soon recover from a temporary oppression, arising not from natural and permanent causes, but from those I have enumerated, and advance with renewed vigor in her career of prosperity. Fortunately for us, at this moment, when the balance of trade is greatly against us, and the difficulty of meeting it enhanced by the disturbed state of our money affairs, the bounties of Providence have come to relieve us from the consequences of past errors. A faithful application of the immense results of the labors of the last season will afford partial relief for the present, and perseverance in the same course will, in due season, accomplish the rest. We have had full experience, in times past, of the extraordinary results which can, in this respect, be brought about, in a short period, by the united and well-directed efforts of a community like ours. Our suri. profits, the energy and industry of our population, and the wonderful advantages which Providence has bestowed upon our country, in its climate, its various productions, indispensable to other nations, will, in due time, afford abundant means to perfect the most useful of those objects, for which the states have been plunging themselves of late in embarrassment and debt, without imposing on ourselves or our children such fearful burdens. But let it be indelibly engraved on our minds, that relief is not to be found in expedients. Indebtedness cannot be lessened by borrowing more money, or by changing the form of the debt. The balance of trade is not to be turned in our favor by creating new demands upon us abroad. Our currency cannot be improved by the creation of new banks, or more issues from those which now exist. Although these devices sometimes appear to give temporary relief, they almost invariably aggravate the evil in the end. It is only by retrenchment and reform, by curtailing public and private expenditures, by paying our debts, and by reforming our banking system, that we are to expect effectual relief, security for the future, and an enduring prosperity. In shaping the institutions and policy of the general government so as to promote, as far as it can with its limited powers, these important ends, you may rely on my most cordial co-operation. That there should have been, in the progress of recent events, doubts in many quarters, and in some a heated opposition to every change, cannot surprise us. Doubts are properly attendant on all reform; and it is peculiarly in the nature of such abuses as we are now encountering, to seek to perpetuate their power by means of the influence which they have been permitted to acquire. It is their result, if not their object, to gain for the few an ascendancy over the many, by securing to them the monopoly of the currency, the medium through which most of the wants of mankind are supplied—to produce throughout society a chain of dependence which leads all classes to look to privileged associations for the means of speculation and extravagance—to nourish, in preference to the manly virtues that give dignity to human nature, a craving desire for luxurious enjoyment and
sudden wealth, which renders those who seek them dependent on those who supply them--to substitute for republican simplicity and economical habits a sickly appetite for effeminate indulgence, and an imitation of that reckless extravagance which impoverished and enslaved the industrious people of foreign lands; and at last to fix upon us, instead of those political rights the acquisition of which was alike ihe object and supposed reward of our revolutionary struggle, a system of exclusive privileges conferred by partial legislation. To remove the influences which had thus gradually grown up among us to deprive them of their deceptive advantages—to test them by the light of wisdom and truth—0 oppose the force which they concentrate in their support-all this was necessarily the work of time, even among a people so enlightened and pure as that of the United States. In most other countries, perhaps, it could only have been accomplished through that series of revolutionary movemenis which are too often found necessary to effect any great and radical reform; but it is the crowning merit of our institutions, ihat :hey create and nourish, in the vast majority of our people, a disposition and a power peaceably to remedy abuses which have elsewhere caused the effusion of rivers of blood, and the sacrifce of thousands of the human race. The result thus far is most honorable to the self-denial, the intelligence, and the patriotism of our citizens; it justifies the confident hope that they will carry through the reform which has been 80 well begin, and that they will go still farther than they have yet gone in illustrating the important truth, that a people as free and enlightened as ours, will, whenever it becomes necessary, show themselves to be indeed capable of self-government hy voluntarily adopting appropriate remedies for every abuse, and submitting to temporary sacrifices, however great, to insure their temporary welfare.
My own exertiong for the fartherance of these desirable objects have been bestowed throughout my official career with a zeal that is nourished by ardent wishes for the welfare of my country, and by an unlimited reliance on the wisdom that marks its ultimate decision on all great and controverted questions. Impressed with the solemn obligations imposed upon me by the constitution, desirous also of laying before my fellow citizens, with whose confidence and support I have been so highly honored, such measures as appear to me conducive to their prosperity, and anxious to submit to their fullest consideration the grounds upon which my opinions are formed, I have on this, as on preceding occasions, freely offered my views on those points of domestic policy that seem, at the present time, most prominently to require the action of the government. I know that they will receive from Congress that full and able consideration which the importance of the subjects merits, and I can repeat the assurance heretofore made, that I shall cheerfully and readily co-operate with you in every measure that will tend to promote the welfare of the Union.
FOURTH ANNUAL MESSAGE.
December 5, 1840.
Our devout gratitude is due to the Supreme Being for having graciously continued to our beloved country, through the vicissitudes of another year,
the invaluable blessings of health, plenty and peace. Seldom has this favored land been so generally exempted from the ravages of disease, or the labor of the husbandman more amply rewarded; and never before have our relations with other countries been placed on a more favorable basis than that which they so happily occupy at this critical conjuncture in the affairs of the world. A rigid and persevering abstinence from all interference with the domestic and political relations of other states, alike due to the genius and distinctive character of our government and to the principles by which it is directed; a faithful observance, in the management of our foreign relations, of the practice of speaking plainly, dealing justly, and requiring truth and justice in return, as the best conservative of the peace of nations; a strict impartiality in our manifestations of friendship, in the commercial privileges we concede, and those we require from others; these, accompanied by a disposition as prompt to maintain, in every emergency, our own rights, as we are from principle averse to the invasion of those of others, have given to our country and government a standing in the great family of nations, of which we have just cause to be proud, and the advantages of which are experienced by our citizens throughout every portion of the earth to which their enterprise and adventurous spirit may carry them. Few, if any, remain insensible to the value of our friendship, or ignorant of the terms on which it can be acquired, and by which it can alone be preserved. A series of questions of long standing, difficult in their adjustment and important in their consequences, in which the rights of our citizens and the honor of the country were deeply involved, have, in the course of a few years, (the most of them during the successful administration of my immediate predecessor,) been brought to a satisfactory conclusion; and the most important of those remaining are, I am happy to believe, in a fair way of being speedily and satisfactorily adjusted. • With all the powers of the world our relations are those of honorable peace. Since your adjournment, nothing serious has occurred to interrupt or threaten this desirable harmony. If clouds have lowered above the other hemisphere, they have not cast their portentous shadows upon our happy shores. Bound by no entangling alliances, }. linked by a common nature and interest with the other nations of mankind, our aspirations are for the preservation of peace, in whose solid and civilizing triumphs all may participate with a generous emulation. Yet it behooves us to be prepared for any event, and to be always ready to maintain those just and enlightened principles of national intercourse for which this government has ever contended. In the shock of contending empires, it is only by assuming a resolute bearing, and clothing themselves with defensive armor, that .. nations can maintain their independent rights. The excitement which grew out of the territorial controversy between the United States and Great Britain having in a great measure subsided, it is hoped that a favorable period is approaching for its final settlement. Both governments must now be convinced of the dangers with which the question is fraught; and it must be their desire, as it is their interest, that this perpetual cause of irritation should be removed as speedily as practicable. In my fast annual message you were informed that a proposition for a commission of exploration and survey promised by Great Britain had been received, and that a counter-project, including also a provision for the certain and final adjustment of the limits in dispute, was then before the British government for its consideration. The answer of that government, accom
panied by additional propositions of its own, were received through its minister here, since your separation. These were promptly considered; such as were deemed correct in principle, and consistent with a due regard to the just rights of the United States and of the State of Maine, concurred in ; and the reasons for dissenting from the residue, with an additional sug gestion on our part, coinmunicated by the secretary of state 10 Mr. Foi. That minister, not feeling himself sufficiently instructed upon some of the points raised in the discussion, felt it to be his duty to refer ihe matter to his own government for its farther decision. Having now been for some time under its advisement, a speedy answer may be confidently expected. From the character of the points still in difference, and the undoubted disposition of both parties to bring the matter to an early conclusion, I look with entire confidence to a prompt and satisfactory termination of the negotiation. Three commissioners were appointed shortly after the adjournment of Congress, under the act of the lust session providing for the exploration and survey of the line which separates the states of Maine and New Hampshire from the British Provinces; they have been actively employed unil their progress was interrupted by the inclemency of the season, and will resume their labors as soon as practicable in the ensuing year.
It is understood that their respective examinations will throw new light upon the subject in controversy, and serve to remove any erroneous impression which may have been made elsewhere prejudicial to the rights of the United States. It was, among other reasons, with a view of preventing the embarrassinents which, in our peculiar system of government, impede and complicate negotiations involving the territorial rights of a state that I thought it my duty, as you have been informed on a previous occasion, lo propose to the British government, through its minister at Washington, that early steps should be taken to adjust the points at difference on the line of boundary from the entrance of Lake Superior to the most northwestern point of the Lake of the Woods, by the arbitration of a friendly power, in conformity with the seventh article of the treaty of Ghent. No answer has yet been returned by the British government to this proposition.
With Austria, France, Prussia, Russia, and the remaining powers of Europe, I am happy to inform you our relations continue to be of the most friendly character. With Belgium, a treaty of commerce and navigation, based upon liberal principles of reciprocity and equality, was concluded in March last, and, having been ratified by the Belgian government, will be duly laid before the Senate. It is a subject of congratulation that it provides for the satisfactory adjustment of a long-standing question of controversy; thus removing the only obstacle which could obstruct the friendly and mutually advantageous intercourse between the two nations. A messenger has been despatched with the Hanoverian treaty to Berlin, where, according to stipulation, the ratifications are to be exchanged. I am happy to announce to you that, after many delays and difficulties, a treaty of commerce and navigation, beliveen the United States and Portugal, was concluded and signed at Lisbon, on the 26th of August last, by the plenipotentiaries of the two governments. Its stipulations are founded upon
those principles of mutual liberality and advantage which the United States have always sought to make the basis of their intercourse with foreign powers, and it is hoped they will tend to foster and strengthen the commercial intercourse of the two countries.
Under the appropriation of the last session of Congress, an agent has