Chester A. Arthur photo

Special Message

January 17, 1884

To the Senate and House of Representatives:

I transmit, for the consideration of Congress, a communication from the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy, on the subject of an expedition for the relief of Lieutenant A. W. Greely and his party, composing what is known as the "Lady Franklin Bay Expedition," which was sent to the arctic regions in 1881 under the provisions of the acts of Congress approved May 1, 1880, and March 3, 1881.

In the plans for the relief of this party, as arranged with Lieutenant Greely, it was contemplated that an effort would be made to communicate with him and furnish him any needed assistance in 1882 and again in 1883.

Subsequently legislation was enacted which required the expedition of 1883 to bring the party home. It was a part of the arrangement that if communication should not be made with him on or before the 1st of September, 1883, he should, with his party, abandon his station at Lady Franklin Bay not later than the above-mentioned date and proceed southward, and would find a well-supplied relief station at the entrance to Smiths Sound, a point where it would not be difficult to reach him during a part of each year. The expeditions of 1882 and 1883 were sent, but neither one of them was able to communicate with Lieutenant Greely; and the last one failed to accomplish any part of its object beyond leaving a very small quantity of stores in the neighborhood of the entrance to Smiths Sound.

The situation of Lieutenant Greely and his party under these circumstances is one of great peril, and in presenting the preliminary views of the board appointed by me to take into consideration an expedition for their relief I urgently recommend prompt action by Congress to enable the recommendations of the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy to be carried out without delay.


Chester A. Arthur, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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