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Special Message

February 13, 1843

To the House of Representatives:

I herewith transmit to the House of Representatives a report made to me on the 9th instant by the Secretary of the Treasury, on the subject of the present and prospective condition of the finances.

You will perceive from it that even if the receipts from the various sources of revenue for the current year shall prove not to have been overrated and the expenditures be restrained within the estimates, the Treasury will be exhausted before the close of the year, and that this will be the case although authority should be given to the proper Department to reissue Treasury notes. But the state of facts existing at the present moment can not fail to awaken a doubt whether the amount of the revenue for the respective quarters of the year will come up to the estimates, nor is it entirely certain that the expenditures which will be authorized by Congress may not exceed the aggregate sum which has hitherto been assumed as the basis of the Treasury calculations.

Of all the duties of the Government, none is more sacred and imperative than that of making adequate and ample provision for fulfilling with punctuality its pecuniary engagements and maintaining the public credit inviolate. Any failure in this respect not produced by unforeseen causes could only be regarded by our common constituents as a serious neglect of the public interests. I feel it, therefore, to be an indispensable obligation, while so much of the session yet remains unexpired as to enable Congress to give to the subject the consideration which its great importance demands, most earnestly to call its attention to the propriety of making further provision for the public service of the year.

The proper objects of taxation are peculiarly within the discretion of the Legislature, while it is the duty of the Executive to keep Congress duly advised of the state of the Treasury and to admonish it of any danger which there may be ground to apprehend of a failure in the means of meeting the expenditures authorized by law.

I ought not, therefore, to dissemble my fears that there will be a serious falling off in the estimated proceeds both of the customs and the public lands. I regard the evil of disappointment in these respects as altogether too great to be risked if by any possibility it may be entirely obviated.

While I am far from objecting, under present circumstances, to the recommendation of the Secretary that authority be granted him to reissue Treasury notes as they shall be redeemed, and to other suggestions which he has made on this subject, yet it appears to me to be worthy of grave consideration whether more permanent and certain supplies ought not to be provided. The issue of one note in redemption of another is not the payment of a debt, which must be made in the end by some form of public taxation.

I can not forbear to add that in a country so full of resources, of such abundant means if they be but judiciously called out, the revenues of the Government, its credit, and its ability to fulfill all its obligations ought not to be made dependent on temporary expedients or on calculations of an uncertain character. The public faith in this or in all things else ought to be placed beyond question and beyond contingency.

The necessity of further and full provision for supplying the wants of the Treasury will be the more urgent if Congress at this present session should adopt no plan for facilitating the financial operations of the Government and improving the currency of the country. By the aid of a wise and efficient measure of that kind not only would the internal business and prosperity of the country be revived and invigorated, but important additions to the amount of revenue arising from importations might also be confidently expected. Not only does the present condition of things in relation to the currency and commercial exchanges produce severe and distressing embarrassments in the business and pursuits of individuals, but its obvious tendency is to create also a necessity for the imposition of new burdens of taxation in order to secure the Government and the country against discredit from the failure of means to fulfill the public engagements.


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

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