|The American Presidency Project|
|• William McKinley|
|First Annual Message|
|December 6, 1897|
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
It gives me pleasure to extend greeting to the Fifty-fifth Congress, assembled in regular session at the seat of Government, with many of whose Senators and Representatives I have been associated in the legislative service. Their meeting occurs under felicitous conditions, justifying sincere congratulation and calling for our grateful acknowledgment to a beneficent Providence which has so signally blessed and prospered us as a nation. Peace and good will with all the nations of the earth continue unbroken.
A matter of genuine satisfaction is the growing feeling of fraternal regard and unification of all sections of our country, the incompleteness of which has too long delayed realization of the highest blessings of the Union. The spirit of patriotism is universal and is ever increasing in fervor. The public questions which now most engross us are lifted far above either partisanship, prejudice, or former sectional differences. They affect every part of our common country alike and permit of no division on ancient lines. Questions of foreign policy, of revenue, the soundness of the currency, the inviolability of national obligations, the improvement of the public service, appeal to the individual conscience of every earnest citizen to whatever party he belongs or in whatever section of the country he may reside.
The extra session of this Congress which closed during July last enacted important legislation, and while its full effect has not yet been realized, what it has already accomplished assures us of its timeliness and wisdom. To test its permanent value further time will be required, and the people, satisfied with its operation and results thus far, are in no mind to withhold from it a fair trial.
Tariff legislation having been settled by the extra session of Congress, the question next pressing for consideration is that of the currency.
The work of putting our finances upon a sound basis, difficult as it may seem, will appear easier when we recall the financial operations of the Government since 1866. On the 30th day of June of that year we had outstanding demand liabilities in the sum of $728,868,447.41. On the 1st of January, 1879, these liabilities had been reduced to$443,889,495.88. Of our interest-bearing obligations, the figures are even more striking. On July 1, 1866, the principal of the interest-bearing debt of the Government was $2,332,331,208. On the 1st day of July, 1893, this sum had been reduced to $585,137,100, or an aggregate reduction of $1,747,294,108. The interest-bearing debt of the United States on the 1st day of December, 1897, was $847,365,620. The Government money now outstanding (December 1) consists of $346,681,016 of United States notes, $107,793,280 of Treasury notes issued by authority of the law of 1890, $384,963,504 of silver certificates, and $61,280,761 of standard silver dollars.
With the great resources of the Government, and with the honorable example of the past before us, we ought not to hesitate to enter upon a currency revision which will make our demand obligations less onerous to the Government and relieve our financial laws from ambiguity and doubt.
The brief review of what was accomplished from the close of the war to 1893, makes unreasonable and groundless any distrust either of our financial ability or soundness; while the situation from 1893 to 1897 must admonish Congress of the immediate necessity of so legislating as to make the return of the conditions then prevailing impossible.
There are many plans proposed as a remedy for the evil. Before we can find the true remedy we must appreciate the real evil. It is not that our currency of every kind is not good, for every dollar of it is good; good because the Government's pledge is out to keep it so, and that pledge will not be broken. However, the guaranty of our purpose to keep the pledge will be best shown by advancing toward its fulfillment.
The evil of the present system is found in the great cost to the Government of maintaining the parity of our different forms of money, that is, keeping all of them at par with gold. We surely cannot be longer heedless of the burden this imposes upon the people, even under fairly prosperous conditions, while the past four years have demonstrated that it is not only an expensive charge upon the Government, but a dangerous menace to the National credit.
It is manifest that we must devise some plan to protect the Government against bond issues for repeated redemptions. We must either curtail the opportunity for speculation, made easy by the multiplied redemptions of our demand obligations, or increase the gold reserve for their redemption. We have $900,000,000 of currency which the Government by solemn enactment has undertaken to keep at par with gold. Nobody is obliged to redeem in gold but the Government. The banks are not required to redeem in gold. The Government is obliged to keep equal with gold all its outstanding currency and coin obligations, while its receipts are not required to be paid in gold. They are paid in every kind of money but gold, and the only means by which the Government can with certainty get gold is by borrowing. It can get it in no other way when it most needs it. The Government without any fixed gold revenue is pledged to maintain gold redemption, which it has steadily and faithfully done, and which, under the authority now given, it will continue to do.
The law which requires the Government, after having redeemed its United States notes, to pay them out again as current funds, demands a constant replenishment of the gold reserve. This is especially so in times of business panic and when the revenues are insufficient to meet the expenses of the Government. At such times the Government has no other way to supply its deficit and maintain redemption but through the increase of its bonded debt, as during the Administration of my predecessor, when $262,315,400 of four-and-a-half per cent bonds were issued and sold and the proceeds used to pay the expenses of the Government in excess of the revenues and sustain the gold reserve. While it is true that the greater part of the proceeds of these bonds were used to supply deficient revenues, a considerable portion was required to maintain the gold reserve.
With our revenues equal to our expenses, there would be no deficit requiring the issuance of bonds. But if the gold reserve falls below $100,000,000, how will it be replenished except by selling more bonds? Is there any other way practicable under existing law? The serious question then is, Shall we continue the policy that has been pursued in the past; that is, when the gold reserve reaches the point of danger, issue more bonds and supply the needed gold, or shall we provide other means to prevent these recurring drains upon the gold reserve? If no further legislation is had and the policy of selling bonds is to be continued, then Congress should give the Secretary of the Treasury authority to sell bonds at long or short periods, bearing a less rate of interest than is now authorized by law.
I earnestly recommend, as soon as the receipts of the Government are quite sufficient to pay all the expenses of the Government, that when any of the United States notes are presented for redemption in gold and are redeemed in gold, such notes shall be kept and set apart, and only paid out in exchange for gold. This is an obvious duty. If the holder of the United States note prefers the gold and gets it from the Government, he should not receive back from the Government a United States note without paying gold in exchange for it. The reason for this is made all the more apparent when the Government issues an interest-bearing debt to provide gold for the redemption of United States notes--a non-interest-bearing debt. Surely it should not pay them out again except on demand and for gold. If they are put out in any other way, they may return again to be followed by another bond issue to redeem them--another interest-bearing debt to redeem a non-interest-bearing debt.
In my view, it is of the utmost importance that the Government should be relieved from the burden of providing all the gold required for exchanges and export. This responsibility is alone borne by the Government, without any of the usual and necessary banking powers to help itself. The banks do not feel the strain of gold redemption. The whole strain rests upon the Government, and the size of the gold reserve in the Treasury has come to be, with or without reason, the signal of danger or of security. This ought to be stopped.
If we are to have an era of prosperity in the country, with sufficient receipts for the expenses of the Government, we may feel no immediate embarrassment from our present currency; but the danger still exists, and will be ever present, menacing us so long as the existing system continues. And, besides, it is in times of adequate revenues and business tranquillity that the Government should prepare for the worst. We cannot avoid, without serious consequences, the wise consideration and prompt solution of this question.
The Secretary of the Treasury has outlined a plan, in great detail, for the purpose of removing the threatened recurrence of a depleted gold reserve and save us from future embarrassment on that account. To this plan I invite your careful consideration.
I concur with the Secretary of the Treasury in his recommendation that National banks be allowed to issue notes to the face value of the bonds which they have deposited for circulation, and that the tax on circulating notes secured by deposit of such bonds be reduced to one-half of one per cent per annum. I also join him in recommending that authority be given for the establishment of National banks with a minimum capital of $25,000. This will enable the smaller villages and agricultural regions of the country to be supplied with currency to meet their needs.
I recommend that the issue of National bank notes be restricted to the denomination of ten dollars and upwards. If the suggestions I have herein made shall have the approval of Congress, then I would recommend that National banks be required to redeem their notes in gold.
The most important problem with which this Government is now called upon to deal pertaining to its foreign relations concerns its duty toward Spain and the Cuban insurrection. Problems and conditions more or less in common with those now existing have confronted this Government at various times in the past. The story of Cuba for many years has been one of unrest, growing discontent, an effort toward a larger enjoyment of liberty and self-control, of organized resistance to the mother country, of depression after distress and warfare, and of ineffectual settlement to be followed by renewed revolt. For no enduring period since the enfranchisement of the continental possessions of Spain in the Western Continent has the condition of Cuba or the policy of Spain toward Cuba not caused concern to the United States.
The prospect from time to time that the weakness of Spain's hold upon the island and the political vicissitudes and embarrassments of the home Government might lead to the transfer of Cuba to a continental power called forth between 1823 and 1860 various emphatic declarations of the policy of the United States to permit no disturbance of Cuba' s connection with Spain unless in the direction of independence or acquisition by us through purchase, nor has there been any change of this declared policy since upon the part of the Government.
The revolution which began in 1868 lasted for ten years despite the strenuous efforts of the successive peninsular governments to suppress it. Then as now the Government of the United States testified its grave concern and offered its aid to put an end to bloodshed in Cuba. The overtures made by General Grant were refused and the war dragged on, entailing great loss of life and treasure and increased injury to American interests, besides throwing enhanced burdens of neutrality upon this Government. In 1878 peace was brought about by the truce of Zanjon, obtained by negotiations between the Spanish commander, Martinez de Campos, and the insurgent leaders.
The present insurrection broke out in February, 1895. It is not my purpose at this time to recall its remarkable increase or to characterize its tenacious resistance against the enormous forces massed against it by Spain. The revolt and the efforts to subdue it carried destruction to every quarter of the island, developing wide proportions and defying the efforts of Spain for its suppression. The civilized code of war has been disregarded, no less so by the Spaniards than by the Cubans.
The existing conditions can not but fill this Government and the American people with the gravest apprehension. There is no desire on the part of our people to profit by the misfortunes of Spain. We have only the desire to see the Cubans prosperous and contented, enjoying that measure of self-control which is the inalienable right of man, protected in their right to reap the benefit of the exhaustless treasures of their country.
The offer made by my predecessor in April, 1896, tendering the friendly offices of this Government, failed. Any mediation on our part was not accepted. In brief, the answer read: "There is no effectual way to pacify Cuba unless it begins with the actual submission of the rebels to the mother country." Then only could Spain act in the promised direction, of her own motion and after her own plans.
The cruel policy of concentration was initiated February 16, 1896. The productive districts controlled by the Spanish armies were depopulated. The agricultural inhabitants were herded in and about the garrison towns, their lands laid waste and their dwellings destroyed. This policy the late cabinet of Spain justified as a necessary measure of war and as a means of cutting off supplies from the insurgents. It has utterly failed as a war measure. It was not civilized warfare. It was extermination.
Against this abuse of the rights of war I have felt constrained on repeated occasions to enter the firm and earnest protest of this Government. There was much of public condemnation of the treatment of American citizens by alleged illegal arrests and long imprisonment awaiting trial or pending protracted judicial proceedings. I felt it my first duty to make instant demand for the release or speedy trial of all American citizens under arrest. Before the change of the Spanish cabinet in October last twenty-two prisoners, citizens of the United States, had been given their freedom.
For the relief of our own citizens suffering because of the conflict the aid of Congress was sought in a special message, and under the appropriation of May 24, 1897, effective aid has been given to American citizens in Cuba, many of them at their own request having been returned to the United States.
The instructions given to our new minister to Spain before his departure for his post directed him to impress upon that Government the sincere wish of the United States to lend its aid toward the ending of the war in Cuba by reaching a peaceful and lasting result, just and honorable alike to Spain and to the Cuban people. These instructions recited the character and duration of the contest, the widespread losses it entails, the burdens and restraints it imposes upon us, with constant disturbance of national interests, and the injury resulting from an indefinite continuance of this state of things. It was stated that at this juncture our Government was constrained to seriously inquire if the time was not ripe when Spain of her own volition, moved by her own interests and every sentiment of humanity, should put a stop to this destructive war and make proposals of settlement honorable to herself and just to her Cuban colony. It was urged that as a neighboring nation, with large interests in Cuba, we could be required to wait only a reasonable time for the mother country to establish its authority and restore peace and order within the borders of the island; that we could not contemplate an indefinite period for the accomplishment of this result.
No solution was proposed to which the slightest idea of humiliation to Spain could attach, and, indeed, precise proposals were withheld to avoid embarrassment to that Government. All that was asked or expected was that some safe way might be speedily provided and permanent peace restored. It so chanced that the consideration of this offer, addressed to the same Spanish administration which had declined the tenders of my predecessor, and which for more than two years had poured men and treasure into Cuba in the fruitless effort to suppress the revolt, fell to others. Between the departure of General Woodford, the new envoy, and his arrival in Spain the statesman who had shaped the policy of his country fell by the hand of an assassin, and although the cabinet of the late premier still held office and received from our envoy the proposals he bore, that cabinet gave place within a few days thereafter to a new administration, under the leadership of Sagasta.
The reply to our note was received on the 23d day of October. It is in the direction of a better understanding. It appreciates the friendly purposes of this Government. It admits that our country is deeply affected by the war in Cuba and that its desires for peace are just. It declares that the present Spanish government is bound by every consideration to a change of policy that should satisfy the United States and pacify Cuba within a reasonable time. To this end Spain has decided to put into effect the political reforms heretofore advocated by the present premier, without halting for any consideration in the path which in its judgment leads to peace. The military operations, it is said, will continue, but will be humane and conducted with all regard for private rights, being accompanied by political action leading to the autonomy of Cuba while guarding Spanish sovereignty. This, it is claimed, will result in investing Cuba with a distinct personality, the island to be governed by an executive and by a local council or chamber, reserving to Spain the control of the foreign relations, the army and navy, and the judicial administration. To accomplish this the present government proposes to modify existing legislation by decree, leaving the Spanish Cortes, with the aid of Cuban senators and deputies, to solve the economic problem and properly distribute the existing debt.
In the absence of a declaration of the measures that this Government proposes to take in carrying out its proffer of good offices, it suggests that Spain be left free to conduct military operations and grant political reforms, while the United States for its part shall enforce its neutral obligations and cut off the assistance which it is asserted the insurgents receive from this country. The supposition of an indefinite prolongation of the war is denied. It is asserted that the western provinces are already well-nigh reclaimed, that the planting of cane and tobacco therein has been resumed, and that by force of arms and new and ample reforms very early and complete pacification is hoped for.
The immediate amelioration of existing conditions under the new administration of Cuban affairs is predicted, and therewithal the disturbance and all occasion for any change of attitude on the part of the United States. Discussion of the question of the international duties and responsibilities of the United States as Spain understands them is presented, with an apparent disposition to charge us with failure in this regard. This charge is without any basis in fact. It could not have been made if Spain had been cognizant of the constant efforts this Government has made, at the cost of millions and by the employment of the administrative machinery of the nation at command, to perform its full duty according to the law of nations. That it has successfully prevented the departure of a single military expedition or armed vessel from our shores in violation of our laws would seem to be a sufficient answer. But of this aspect of the Spanish note it is not necessary to speak further now. Firm in the conviction of a wholly performed obligation, due response to this charge has been made in diplomatic course.
Throughout all these horrors and dangers to our own peace this Government has never in any way abrogated its sovereign prerogative of reserving to itself the determination of its policy and course according to its own high sense of right and in consonance with the dearest interests and convictions of our own people should the prolongation of the strife so demand.
Of the untried measures there remain only: Recognition of the insurgents as belligerents; recognition of the independence of Cuba; neutral intervention to end the war by imposing a rational compromise between the contestants, and intervention in favor of one or the other party. I speak not of forcible annexation, for that can not be thought of. That, by our code of morality, would be criminal aggression.
Recognition of the belligerency of the Cuban insurgents has often been canvassed as a possible, if not inevitable, step both in regard to the previous ten years' struggle and during the present war. I am not unmindful that the two Houses of Congress in the spring of 1896 expressed the opinion by concurrent resolution that a condition of public war existed requiring or justifying the recognition of a state of belligerency in Cuba, and during the extra session the Senate voted a joint resolution of like import, which, however, was not brought to a vote in the House of Representatives. In the presence of these significant expressions of the sentiment of the legislative branch it behooves the Executive to soberly consider the conditions under which so important a measure must needs rest for justification. It is to be seriously considered whether the Cuban insurrection possesses beyond dispute the attributes of statehood, which alone can demand the recognition of belligerency in its favor. Possession, in short, of the essential qualifications of sovereignty by the insurgents and the conduct of the war by them according to the received code of war are no less important factors toward the determination of the problem of belligerency than are the influences and consequences of the struggle upon the internal polity of the recognizing state.
The wise utterances of President Grant in his memorable message of December 7, 1875, are signally relevant to the present situation in Cuba, and it may be wholesome now to recall them. At that time a ruinous conflict had for seven years wasted the neighboring island. During all those years an utter disregard of the laws of civilized warfare and of the just demands of humanity, which called forth expressions of condemnation from the nations of Christendom, continued unabated. Desolation and ruin pervaded that productive region, enormously affecting the commerce of all commercial nations, but that of the United States more than any other by reason of proximity and larger trade and intercourse. At that juncture General Grant uttered these words, which now, as then, sum up the elements of the problem:
A recognition of the independence of Cuba being, in my opinion, impracticable and indefensible, the question which next presents itself is that of the recognition of belligerent rights in the parties to the contest.Turning to the practical aspects of a recognition of belligerency and reviewing its inconveniences and positive dangers, still further pertinent considerations appear. In the code of nations there is no such thing as a naked recognition of belligerency, unaccompanied by the assumption of international neutrality. Such recognition, without more, will not confer upon either party to a domestic conflict a status not theretofore actually possessed or affect the relation of either party to other states. The act of recognition usually takes the form of a solemn proclamation of neutrality, which recites the de facto condition of belligerency as its motive. It announces a domestic law of neutrality in the declaring state. It assumes the international obligations of a neutral in the presence of a public state of war. It warns all citizens and others within the jurisdiction of the proclaimant that they violate those rigorous obligations at their own peril and can not expect to be shielded from the consequences. The right of visit and search on the seas and seizure of vessels and cargoes and contraband of war and good prize under admiralty law must under international law be admitted as a legitimate consequence of a proclamation of belligerency. While according the equal belligerent rights defined by public law to each party in our ports disfavors would be imposed on both, which, while nominally equal, would weigh heavily in behalf of Spain herself. Possessing a navy and controlling the ports of Cuba, her maritime rights could be asserted not only for the military investment of the island, but up to the margin of our own territorial waters, and a condition of things would exist for which the Cubans within their own domain could not hope to create a parallel, while its creation through aid or sympathy from within our domain would be even more impossible than now, with the additional obligations of international neutrality we would perforce assume.
The enforcement of this enlarged and onerous code of neutrality would only be influential within our own jurisdiction by land and sea and applicable by our own instrumentalities. It could impart to the United States no jurisdiction between Spain and the insurgents. It would give the United States no right of intervention to enforce the conduct of the strife within the paramount authority of Spain according to the international code of war.
For these reasons I regard the recognition of the belligerency of the Cuban insurgents as now unwise, and therefore inadmissible. Should that step hereafter be deemed wise as a measure of right and duty, the Executive will take it.
Intervention upon humanitarian grounds has been frequently suggested and has not failed to receive my most anxious and earnest consideration. But should such a step be now taken, when it is apparent that a hopeful change has supervened in the policy of Spain toward Cuba? A new government has taken office in the mother country. It is pledged in advance to the declaration that all the effort in the world can not suffice to maintain peace in Cuba by the bayonet; that vague promises of reform after subjugation afford no solution of the insular problem; that with a substitution of commanders must come a change of the past system of warfare for one in harmony with a new policy, which shall no longer aim to drive the Cubans to the "horrible alternative of taking to the thicket or succumbing in misery;" that reforms must be instituted in accordance with the needs and circumstances of the time, and that these reforms, while designed to give full autonomy to the colony and to create a virtual entity and self-controlled administration, shall yet conserve and affirm the sovereignty of Spain by a just distribution of powers and burdens upon a basis of mutual interest untainted by methods of selfish expediency.
The first acts of the new government lie in these honorable paths. The policy of cruel rapine and extermination that so long shocked the universal sentiment of humanity has been reversed. Under the new military commander a broad clemency is proffered. Measures have already been set on foot to relieve the horrors of starvation. The power of the Spanish armies, it is asserted, is to be used not to spread ruin and desolation, but to protect the resumption of peaceful agricultural pursuits and productive industries. That past methods are futile to force a peace by subjugation is freely admitted, and that ruin without conciliation must inevitably fail to win for Spain the fidelity of a contented dependency.
Decrees in application of the foreshadowed reforms have already been promulgated. The full text of these decrees has not been received, but as furnished in a telegraphic summary from our minister are: All civil and electoral rights of peninsular Spaniards are, in virtue of existing constitutional authority, forthwith extended to colonial Spaniards. A scheme of autonomy has been proclaimed by decree, to become effective upon ratification by the Cortes. It creates a Cuban parliament, which, with the insular executive, can consider and vote upon all subjects affecting local order and interests, possessing unlimited powers save as to matters of state, war, and the navy, as to which the Governor-General acts by his own authority as the delegate of the central Government. This parliament receives the oath of the Governor-General to preserve faithfully the liberties and privileges of the colony, and to it the colonial secretaries are responsible. It has the right to propose to the central Government, through the Governor-General, modifications of the national charter and to invite new projects of law or executive measures in the interest of the colony.
Besides its local powers, it is competent, first, to regulate electoral registration and procedure and prescribe the qualifications of electors and the manner of exercising suffrage; second, to organize courts of justice with native judges from members of the local bar; third, to frame the insular budget, both as to expenditures and revenues, without limitation of any kind, and to set apart the revenues to meet the Cuban share of the national budget, which latter will be voted by the national Cortes with the assistance of Cuban senators and deputies; fourth, to initiate or take part in the negotiations of the national Government for commercial treaties which may affect Cuban interests; fifth, to accept or reject commercial treaties which the national Government may have concluded without the participation of the Cuban government; sixth, to frame the colonial tariff, acting in accord with the peninsular Government in scheduling articles of mutual commerce between the mother country and the colonies. Before introducing or voting upon a bill the Cuban government or the chambers will lay the project before the central Government and hear its opinion thereon, all the correspondence in such regard being made public. Finally, all conflicts of jurisdiction arising between the different municipal, provincial, and insular assemblies, or between the latter and the insular executive power, and which from their nature may not be referable to the central Government for decision, shall be submitted to the courts.
That the government of Sagasta has entered upon a course from which recession with honor is impossible can hardly be questioned; that in the few weeks it has existed it has made earnest of the sincerity of its professions is undeniable. I shall not impugn its sincerity, nor should impatience be suffered to embarrass it in the task it has undertaken. It is honestly due to Spain and to our friendly relations with Spain that she should be given a reasonable chance to realize her expectations and to prove the asserted efficacy of the new order of things to which she stands irrevocably committed. She has recalled the commander whose brutal orders inflamed the American mind and shocked the civilized world. She has modified the horrible order of concentration and has undertaken to care for the helpless and permit those who desire to resume the cultivation of their fields to do so, and assures them of the protection of the Spanish Government in their lawful occupations. She has just released the Competitor prisoners, heretofore sentenced to death, and who have been the subject of repeated diplomatic correspondence during both this and the preceding Administration.
Not a single American citizen is now in arrest or confinement in Cuba of whom this Government has any knowledge. The near future will demonstrate whether the indispensable condition of a righteous peace, just alike to the Cubans and to Spain as well as equitable to all our interests so intimately involved in the welfare of Cuba, is likely to be attained. If not, the exigency of further and other action by the United States will remain to be taken. When that time comes that action will be determined in the line of indisputable right and duty. It will be faced, without misgiving or hesitancy in the light of the obligation this Government owes to itself, to the people who have confided to it the protection of their interests and honor, and to humanity.
Sure of the right, keeping free from all offense ourselves, actuated only by upright and patriotic considerations, moved neither by passion nor selfishness. the Government will continue its watchful care over the rights and property of American citizens and will abate none of its efforts to bring about by peaceful agencies a peace which shall be honorable and enduring. If it shall hereafter appear to be a duty imposed by our obligations to ourselves, to civilization and humanity to intervene with force, it shall be without fault on our part and only because the necessity for such action will be so clear as to command the support and approval of the civilized world.
By a special message dated the 16th day of June last, I laid before the Senate a treaty signed that day by the plenipotentiaries of the United States and of the Republic of Hawaii, having for its purpose the incorporation of the Hawaiian Islands as an integral part of the United States and under its sovereignty. The Senate having removed the injunction of secrecy, although the treaty is still pending before that body, the subject may be properly referred to in this Message because the necessary action of the Congress is required to determine by legislation many details of the eventual union should the fact of annexation be accomplished, as I believe it should be.
While consistently disavowing from a very early period any aggressive policy of absorption in regard to the Hawaiian group, a long series of declarations through three-quarters of a century has proclaimed the vital interest of the United States in the independent life of the Islands and their intimate commercial dependence upon this country. At the same time it has been repeatedly asserted that in no event could the entity of Hawaiian statehood cease by the passage of the Islands under the domination or influence of another power than the United States. Under these circumstances, the logic of events required that annexation, heretofore offered but declined, should in the ripeness of time come about as the natural result of the strengthening ties that bind us to those Islands, and be realized by the free will of the Hawaiian State.
That treaty was unanimously ratified without amendment by the Senate and President of the Republic of Hawaii on the 10th of September last, and only awaits the favorable action of the American Senate to effect the complete absorption of the Islands into the domain of the United States. What the conditions of such a union shall be, the political relation thereof to the United States, the character of the local administration, the quality and degree of the elective franchise of the inhabitants, the extension of the federal laws to the territory or the enactment of special laws to fit the peculiar condition thereof, the regulation if need be of the labor system therein, are all matters which the treaty has wisely relegated to the Congress.
If the treaty is confirmed as every consideration of dignity and honor requires, the wisdom of Congress will see to it that, avoiding abrupt assimilation of elements perhaps hardly yet fitted to share in the highest franchises of citizenship, and having due regard to the geographical conditions, the most just provisions for self-rule in local matters with the largest political liberties as an integral part of our Nation will be accorded to the Hawaiians. No less is due to a people who, after nearly five years of demonstrated capacity to fulfill the obligations of self-governing statehood, come of their free will to merge their destinies in our body-politic.
The questions which have arisen between Japan and Hawaii by reason of the treatment of Japanese laborers emigrating to the Islands under the Hawaiian-Japanese convention of 1888, are in a satisfactory stage of settlement by negotiation. This Government has not been invited to mediate, and on the other hand has sought no intervention in that matter, further than to evince its kindliest disposition toward such a speedy and direct adjustment by the two sovereign States in interest as shall comport with equity and honor. It is gratifying to learn that the apprehensions at first displayed on the part of Japan lest the cessation of Hawaii's national life through annexation might impair privileges to which Japan honorably laid claim, have given place to confidence in the uprightness of this Government, and in the sincerity of its purpose to deal with all possible ulterior questions in the broadest spirit of friendliness.
As to the representation of this Government to Nicaragua, Salvador, and Costa Rica, I have concluded that Mr. William L. Merry, confirmed as minister of the United States to the States of Nicaragua, Salvador and Costa Rica, shall proceed to San Jose, Costa Rica, and there temporarily establish the headquarters of the United States to those three States. I took this action for what I regarded as the paramount interests of this country. It was developed upon an investigation by the Secretary of State that the Government of Nicaragua, while not unwilling to receive Mr. Merry in his diplomatic quality, was unable to do so because of the compact concluded June 20, 1895, whereby that Republic and those of Salvador and Honduras, forming what is known as the Greater Republic of Central America, had surrendered to the representative Diet thereof their right to receive and send diplomatic agents. The Diet was not willing to accept him because he was not accredited to that body. I could not accredit him to that body because the appropriation law of Congress did not permit it. Mr. Baker, the present minister at Managua, has been directed to present his letters of recall.
Mr. W. Godfrey Hunter has likewise been accredited to the Governments of Guatemala and Honduras, the same as his predecessor. Guatemala is not a member of the Greater Republic of Central America, but Honduras is. Should this latter Government decline to receive him, he has been instructed to report this fact to his Government and await its further instructions.
A subject of large importance to our country, and increasing appreciation on the part of the people, is the completion of the great highway of trade between the Atlantic and Pacific, known as the Nicaragua Canal. Its utility and value to American commerce is universally admitted. The Commission appointed under date of July 24 last "to continue the surveys and examinations authorized by the act approved March 2, 1895," in regard to "the proper route, feasibility, and cost of construction of the Nicaragua Canal, with a view of making complete plans for the entire work of construction of such canal," is now employed in the undertaking. In the future I shall take occasion to transmit to Congress the report of this Commission, making at the same time such further suggestions as may then seem advisable.
Under the provisions of the act of Congress approved March 3, 1897, for the promotion of an international agreement respecting bimetallism, I appointed on the 14th day of April, 1897, Hon. Edward O. Wolcott of Colorado, Hon. Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, and Hon. Charles J. Paine of Massachusetts, as special envoys to represent the United States. They have been diligent in their efforts to secure the concurrence and cooperation of European countries in the international settlement of the question, but up to this time have not been able to secure an agreement contemplated by their mission.
The gratifying action of our great sister Republic of France in joining this country in the attempt to bring about an agreement among the principal commercial nations of Europe, whereby a fixed and relative value between gold and silver shall be secured, furnishes assurance that we are not alone among the larger nations of the world in realizing the international character of the problem and in the desire of reaching some wise and practical solution of it. The British Government has published a resume of the steps taken jointly by the French ambassador in London and the special envoys of the United States, with whom our ambassador at London actively co-operated in the presentation of this subject to Her Majesty's Government. This will be laid before Congress.
Our special envoys have not made their final report, as further negotiations between the representatives of this Government and the Governments of other countries are pending and in contemplation. They believe that doubts which have been raised in certain quarters respecting the position of maintaining the stability of the parity between the metals and kindred questions may yet be solved by further negotiations.
Meanwhile it gives me satisfaction to state that the special envoys have already demonstrated their ability and fitness to deal with the subject, and it is to be earnestly hoped that their labors may result in an international agreement which will bring about recognition of both gold and silver as money upon such terms, and with such safeguards as will secure the use of both metals upon a basis which shall work no injustice to any class of our citizens.
In order to execute as early as possible the provisions of the third and fourth sections of the Revenue Act, approved July 24, 1897, I appointed the Hon. John A. Kasson of Iowa, a special commissioner plenipotentiary to undertake the requisite negotiations with foreign countries desiring to avail themselves of these provisions. The negotiations are now proceeding with several Governments, both European and American. It is believed that by a careful exercise of the powers conferred by that Act some grievances of our own and of other countries in our mutual trade relations may be either removed, or largely alleviated, and that the volume of our commercial exchanges may be enlarged, with advantage to both contracting parties.
Most desirable from every standpoint of national interest and patriotism is the effort to extend our foreign commerce. To this end our merchant marine should be improved and enlarged. We should do our full share of the carrying trade of the world. We do not do it now. We should be the laggard no longer. The inferiority of our merchant marine is justly humiliating to the national pride. The Government by every proper constitutional means, should aid in making our ships familiar visitors at every commercial port of the world, thus opening up new and valuable markets to the surplus products of the farm and the factory.
The efforts which had been made during the two previous years by my predecessor to secure better protection to the fur seals in the North Pacific Ocean and Bering Sea, were renewed at an early date by this Administration, and have been pursued with earnestness. Upon my invitation, the Governments of Japan and Russia sent delegates to Washington, and an international conference was held during the months of October and November last, wherein it was unanimously agreed that under the existing regulations this species of useful animals was threatened with extinction, and that an international agreement of all the interested powers was necessary for their adequate protection.
The Government of Great Britain did not see proper to be represented at this conference, but subsequently sent to Washington, as delegates, the expert commissioners of Great Britain and Canada who had, during the past two years, visited the Pribilof Islands, and who met in conference similar commissioners on the part of the United States. The result of this conference was an agreement on important facts connected with the condition of the seal herd, heretofore in dispute, which should place beyond controversy the duty of the Governments concerned to adopt measures without delay for the preservation and restoration of the herd. Negotiations to this end are now in progress, the result of which I hope to be able to report to Congress at an early day.
International arbitration cannot be omitted from the list of subjects claiming our consideration. Events have only served to strengthen the general views on this question expressed in my inaugural address. The best sentiment of the civilized world is moving toward the settlement of differences between nations without resorting to the horrors of war. Treaties embodying these humane principles on broad lines, without in any way imperiling our interests or our honor, shall have my constant encouragement.
The acceptance by this Government of the invitation of the Republic of France to participate in the Universal Exposition of 1900, at Paris, was immediately followed by the appointment of a special commissioner to represent the United States in the proposed exposition, with special reference to the securing of space for an adequate exhibit on behalf of the United States.
The special commissioner delayed his departure for Paris long enough to ascertain the probable demand for space by American exhibitors. His inquiries developed an almost unprecedented interest in the proposed exposition, and the information thus acquired enabled him to justify an application for a much larger allotment of space for the American section than had been reserved by the exposition authorities. The result was particularly gratifying, in view of the fact that the United States was one of the last countries to accept the invitation of France.
The reception accorded our special commissioner was most cordial, and he was given every reasonable assurance that the United States would receive a consideration commensurate with the proportions of our exhibit. The report of the special commissioner as to the magnitude and importance of the coming exposition, and the great demand for space by American exhibitors, supplies new arguments for a liberal and judicious appropriation by Congress, to the end that an exhibit fairly representative of the industries and resources of our country may be made in an exposition which will illustrate the world's progress during the nineteenth century. That exposition is intended to be the most important and comprehensive of the long series of international exhibitions, of which our own at Chicago was a brilliant example, and it is desirable that the United States should make a worthy exhibit of American genius and skill and their unrivaled achievements in every branch of industry.
The present immediately effective force of the Navy consists of four battle ships of the first class, two of the second, and forty-eight other vessels, ranging from armored cruisers to torpedo boats. There are under construction five battle ships of the first class, sixteen torpedo boats, and one submarine boat. No provision has yet been made for the armor of three of the five battle ships, as it has been impossible to obtain it at the price fixed by Congress. It is of great importance that Congress provide this armor, as until then the ships are of no fighting value.
The present naval force, especially in view of its increase by the ships now under construction, while not as large as that of a few other powers, is a formidable force; its vessels are the very best of each type; and with the increase that should be made to it from time to time in the future, and careful attention to keeping it in a high state of efficiency and repair, it is well adapted to the necessities of the country.
The great increase of the Navy which has taken place in recent years was justified by the requirements for national defense, and has received public approbation. The time has now arrived, however, when this increase, to which the country is committed, should, for a time, take the form of increased facilities commensurate with the increase of our naval vessels. It is an unfortunate fact that there is only one dock on the Pacific Coast capable of docking our largest ships, and only one on the Atlantic Coast, and that the latter has for the last six or seven months been under repair and therefore incapable of use. Immediate steps should be taken to provide three or four docks of this capacity on the Atlantic Coast, at least one on the Pacific Coast, and a floating dock in the Gulf. This is the recommendation of a very competent Board, appointed to investigate the subject. There should also be ample provision made for powder and projectiles, and other munitions of war, and for an increased number of officers and enlisted men. Some additions are also necessary to our navy-yards, for the repair and care of our large number of vessels. As there are now on the stocks five battle ships of the largest class, which cannot be completed for a year or two, I concur with the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy for an appropriation authorizing the construction of one battle ship for the Pacific Coast, where, at present, there is only one in commission and one under construction, while on the Atlantic Coast there are three in commission and four under construction; and also that several torpedo boats be authorized in connection with our general system of coast defense.
The Territory of Alaska requires the prompt and early attention of Congress. The conditions now existing demand material changes in the laws relating to the Territory. The great influx of population during the past summer and fall and the prospect of a still larger immigration in the spring will not permit us to longer neglect the extension of civil authority within the Territory or postpone the establishment of a more thorough government.
A general system of public surveys has not yet been extended to Alaska and all entries thus far made in that district are upon special surveys. The act of Congress extending to Alaska the mining laws of the United States contained the reservation that it should not be construed to put in force the general land laws of the country. By act approved March 3, 1891, authority was given for entry of lands for town-site purposes and also for the purchase of not exceeding one hundred and sixty acres then or thereafter occupied for purposes of trade and manufacture. The purpose of Congress as thus far expressed has been that only such rights should apply to that Territory as should be specifically named.
It will be seen how much remains to be done for that vast and remote and yet promising portion of our country. Special authority was given to the President by the Act of Congress approved July 24, 1897, to divide that Territory into two land districts and to designate the boundaries thereof and to appoint registers and receivers of said land offices, and the President was also authorized to appoint a surveyor-general for the entire district. Pursuant to this authority, a surveyor-general and receiver have been appointed, with offices at Sitka. If in the ensuing year the conditions justify it, the additional land district authorized by law will be established, with an office at some point in the Yukon Valley. No appropriation, however, was made for this purpose, and that is now necessary to be done for the two land districts into which the Territory is to be divided.
I concur with the Secretary of War in his suggestions as to the necessity for a military force in the Territory of Alaska for the protection of persons and property. Already a small force, consisting of twenty-five men, with two officers, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Randall, of the Eighth Infantry, has been sent to St. Michael to establish a military post.
As it is to the interest of the Government to encourage the development and settlement of the country and its duty to follow up its citizens there with the benefits of legal machinery, I earnestly urge upon Congress the establishment of a system of government with such flexibility as will enable it to adjust itself to the future areas of greatest population.
The startling though possibly exaggerated reports from the Yukon River country, of the probable shortage of food for the large number of people who are wintering there without the means of leaving the country are confirmed in such measure as to justify bringing the matter to the attention of Congress. Access to that country in winter can be had only by the passes from Dyea and vicinity, which is a most difficult and perhaps an impossible task. However, should these reports of the suffering of our fellow-citizens be further verified, every effort at any cost should be made to carry them relief.
For a number of years past it has been apparent that the conditions under which the Five Civilized Tribes were established in the Indian Territory under treaty provisions with the United States, with the right of self-government and the exclusion of all white persons from within their borders, have undergone so complete a change as to render the continuance of the system thus inaugurated practically impossible. The total number of the Five Civilized Tribes, as shown by the last census, is 45,494, and this number has not materially increased; while the white population is estimated at from 200,000 to 250,000 which, by permission of the Indian Government has settled in the Territory. The present area of the Indian Territory contains 25,694,564 acres, much of which is very fertile land. The United States citizens residing in the Territory, most of whom have gone there by invitation or with the consent of the tribal authorities, have made permanent homes for themselves. Numerous towns have been built in which from 500 to 5,000 white people now reside. Valuable residences and business houses have been erected in many of them. Large business enterprises are carried on in which vast sums of money are employed, and yet these people, who have invested their capital in the development of the productive resources of the country, are without title to the land they occupy, and have no voice whatever in the government either of the Nations or Tribes. Thousands of their children who were born in the Territory are of school age, but the doors of the schools of the Nations are shut against them, and what education they get is by private contribution. No provision for the protection of the life or property of these white citizens is made by the Tribal Governments and Courts.
The Secretary of the Interior reports that leading Indians have absorbed great tracts of land to the exclusion of the common people, and government by an Indian aristocracy has been practically established, to the detriment of the people. It has been found impossible for the United States to keep its citizens out of the Territory, and the executory conditions contained in the treaties with these Nations have for the most part become impossible of execution. Nor has it been possible for the Tribal Governments to secure to each individual Indian his full enjoyment in common with Other Indians of the common property of the Nations. Friends of the Indians have long believed that the best interests of the Indians of the Five Civilized Tribes would be found in American citizenship, with all the rights and privileges which belong to that condition.
By section 16, of the act of March 3, 1893, the President was authorized to appoint three commissioners to enter into negotiations with the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee (or Creek), and Seminole Nations, commonly known as the Five Civilized Tribes in the Indian Territory. Briefly, the purposes of the negotiations were to be: The extinguishment of Tribal titles to any lands within that Territory now held by any and all such Nations or Tribes, either by cession of the same or some part thereof to the United States, or by allotment and division of the same in severalty among the Indians of such Nations or Tribes respectively as may be entitled to the same, or by such other method as may be agreed upon between the several Nations and Tribes aforesaid, or each of them, with the United States, with a view to such an adjustment upon the basis of justice and equity as may, with the consent of the said Nations of Indians so far as may be necessary, be requisite and suitable to enable the ultimate creation of a State or States of the Union which shall embrace the lands within said Indian Territory.
The Commission met much opposition from the beginning. The Indians were very slow to act, and those in control manifested a decided disinclination to meet with favor the propositions submitted to them. A little more than three years after this organization the Commission effected an agreement with the Choctaw Nation alone. The Chickasaws, however, refused to agree to its terms, and as they have a common interest with the Choctaws in the lands of said Nations, the agreement with the latter Nation could have no effect without the consent of the former. On April 23, 1897, the Commission effected an agreement with both tribes-- the Choctaws and Chickasaws. This agreement, it is understood, has been ratified by the constituted authorities of the respective Tribes or Nations parties thereto, and only requires ratification by Congress to make it binding.
On the 27th of September, 1897, an agreement was effected with the Creek Nation, but it is understood that the National Council of said Nation has refused to ratify the same. Negotiations are yet to be had with the Cherokees, the most populous of the Five Civilized Tribes, and with the Seminoles, the smallest in point of numbers and territory.
The provision in the Indian Appropriation Act, approved June 10, 1896, makes it the duty of the Commission to investigate and determine the rights of applicants for citizenship in the Five Civilized Tribes, and to make complete census rolls of the citizens of said Tribes. The Commission is at present engaged in this work among the Creeks, and has made appointments for taking the census of these people up to and including the 30th of the present month.
Should the agreement between the Choctaws and Chickasaws be ratified by Congress and should the other Tribes fail to make an agreement with the Commission, then it will be necessary that some legislation shall be had by Congress, which, while just and honorable to the Indians, shall be equitable to the white people who have settled upon these lands by invitation of the Tribal Nations.
Hon. Henry L. Dawes, Chairman of the Commission, in a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, under date of October 11, 1897, says: "Individual ownership is, in their (the Commission's) opinion, absolutely essential to any permanent improvement in present conditions, and the lack of it is the root of nearly all the evils which so grievously afflict these people. Allotment by agreement is the only possible method, unless the United States Courts are clothed with the authority to apportion the lands among the citizen Indians for whose use it was originally granted."
I concur with the Secretary of the Interior that there can be no cure for the evils engendered by the perversion of these great trusts, excepting by their resumption by the Government which created them.
The recent prevalence of yellow fever in a number of cities and towns throughout the South has resulted in much disturbance of commerce, and demonstrated the necessity of such amendments to our quarantine laws as will make the regulations of the national quarantine authorities paramount. The Secretary of the Treasury, in the portion of his report relating to the operation of the Marine Hospital Service, calls attention to the defects in the present quarantine laws, and recommends amendments thereto which will give the Treasury Department the requisite authority to prevent the invasion of epidemic diseases from foreign countries, and in times of emergency, like that of the past summer, will add to the efficiency of the sanitary measures for the protection of the people, and at the same time prevent unnecessary restriction of commerce. I concur in his recommendation.
In further effort to prevent the invasion of the United States by yellow fever, the importance of the discovery of the exact cause of the disease, which up to the present time has been undetermined, is obvious, and to this end a systematic bacteriological investigation should be made. I therefore recommend that Congress authorize the appointment of a commission by the President, to consist of four expert bacteriologists, one to be selected from the medical officers of the Marine Hospital Service, one to be appointed from civil life, one to be detailed from the medical officers of the Army, and one from the medical officers of the Navy.
The Union Pacific Railway, Main Line, was sold under the decree of the United States Court for the District of Nebraska, on the 1st and 2d of November of this year. The amount due the Government consisted of the principal of the subsidy bonds, $27,236,512, and the accrued interest thereon, $31,211,711.75, making the total indebtedness, $58,448,223.75. The bid at the sale covered the first mortgage lien and the entire mortgage claim of the Government, principal and interest.
The sale of the subsidized portion of the Kansas Pacific Line, upon which the Government holds a second mortgage lien, has been postponed at the instance of the Government to December 16, 1897. The debt of this division of the Union Pacific Railway to the Government on November 1, 1897, was the principal of the subsidy bonds, $6,303,000, and the unpaid and accrued interest thereon, $6,626,690.33, making a total of $12,929,690.33.
The sale of this road was originally advertised for November 4, but for the purpose of securing the utmost public notice of the event it was postponed until December 16, and a second advertisement of the sale was made. By the decree of the Court, the upset price on the sale of the Kansas Pacific will yield to the Government the sum of $2,500,000 over all prior liens, costs, and charges. If no other or better bid is made, this sum is all that the Government will receive on its claim of nearly $13,000,000. The Government has no information as to whether there will be other bidders or a better bid than the minimum amount herein stated. The question presented therefore is: Whether the Government shall, under the authority given it by the act of March 3, 1887, purchase or redeem the road in the event that a bid is not made by private parties covering the entire Government claim. To qualify the Government to bid at the sales will require a deposit of $900,000, as follows: In the Government cause $500,000 and in each of the first mortgage causes $200,000, and in the latter the deposit must be in cash. Payments at the sale are as follows: Upon the acceptance of the bid a sum which with the amount already deposited shall equal fifteen per cent of the bid; the balance in installments of twenty-five per cent thirty, forty, and fifty days after the confirmation of the sale. The lien on the Kansas Pacific prior to that of the Government on the 30th July, 1897, principal and interest, amounted to $7,281,048.11. The Government, therefore, should it become the highest bidder, will have to pay the amount of the first mortgage lien.
I believe that under the act of 1887 it has the authority to do this and in absence of any action by Congress I shall direct the Secretary of the Treasury to make the necessary deposit as required by the Court's decree to qualify as a bidder and to bid at the sale a sum which will at least equal the principal of the debt due to the Government; but suggest in order to remove all controversy that an amendment of the law be immediately passed explicitly giving such powers and appropriating in general terms whatever sum is sufficient therefor.
In so important a matter as the Government becoming the possible owner of railroad property which it perforce must conduct and operate, I feel constrained to lay before Congress these facts for its consideration and action before the consummation of the sale. It is clear to my mind that the Government should not permit the property to be sold at a price which will yield less than one-half of the principal of its debt and less than one-fifth of its entire debt, principal and interest. But whether the Government, rather than accept less than its claim, should become a bidder and thereby the owner of the property, I submit to the Congress for action.
The Library building provided for by the act of Congress approved April 15, 1886, has been completed and opened to the public. It should be a matter of congratulation that through the foresight and munificence of Congress the nation possesses this noble treasure-house of knowledge. It is earnestly to be hoped that having done so much toward the cause of education, Congress will continue to develop the Library in every phase of research to the end that it may be not only one of the most magnificent but among the richest and most useful libraries in the world.
The important branch of our Government known as the Civil Service, the practical improvement of which has long been a subject of earnest discussion, has of late years received increased legislative and Executive approval. During the past few months the service has been placed upon a still firmer basis of business methods and personal merit. While the right of our veteran soldiers to reinstatement in deserving cases has been asserted, dismissals for merely political reasons have been carefully guarded against, the examinations for admittance to the service enlarged and at the same time rendered less technical and more practical; and a distinct advance has been made by giving a hearing before dismissal upon all cases where incompetency is charged or demand made for the removal of officials in any of the Departments. This order has been made to give to the accused his right to be heard but without in anyway impairing the power of removal, which should always be exercised in cases of inefficiency and incompetency, and which is one of the vital safeguards of the civil service reform system, preventing stagnation and deadwood and keeping every employee keenly alive to the fact that the security of his tenure depends not on favor but on his own tested and carefully watched record of service.
Much of course still remains to be accomplished before the system can be made reasonably perfect for our needs. There are places now in the classified service which ought to be exempted and others not classified may properly be included. I shall not hesitate to exempt cases which I think have been improperly included in the classified service or include those which in my judgment will best promote the public service. The system has the approval of the people and it will be my endeavor to uphold and extend it.
I am forced by the length of this Message to omit many important references to affairs of the Government with which Congress will have to deal at the present session. They are fully discussed in the departmental reports, to all of which I invite your earnest attention.
The estimates of the expenses of the Government by the several Departments will, I am sure, have your careful scrutiny. While the Congress may not find it an easy task to reduce the expenses of the Government, it should not encourage their increase. These expenses will in my judgment admit of a decrease in many branches of the Government without injury to the public service. It is a commanding duty to keep the appropriations within the receipts of the Government, and thus avoid a deficit.
|Citation: William McKinley: "First Annual Message", December 6, 1897. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=29538.|
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