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Special Message

February 23, 1844

To the House of Representatives:

I transmit herewith a communication from the Secretary of the Navy, to which I invite the particular attention of Congress. The act entitled "An act to authorize the President of the United States to direct transfers of appropriation in the naval service under certain circumstances" has this day met with my approval, under no expectation that it can be rendered available to the present wants of the service, but as containing an exposition of the views of Congress as to the entire policy of transfers from one head of appropriation to any other in the naval service and as a guide to the Executive in the administration of the duties of that Department. The restrictions laid upon the power to transfer by the latter clauses of the act have rendered its passage of no avail at the present moment.

It will, however, be perceived by the document accompanying the report of the Secretary that there has been realized by recent sales of old iron, copper, and other materials the sum of $116,922.79. These sales were ordered for the express purpose of enabling the Executive to complete certain ships now on the stocks, the completion of which is called for by the economical wants of the service; and the doubt existing as to the power of the Government to apply this sum to the objects contemplated proceeds from the fact that the late Secretary of the Navy directed them to be placed in the Treasury, although in doing so he had no intention of diverting them from their intended head of expenditure. The Secretary of the Treasury, however, has brought himself to the opinion that they could only be entered under the head of miscellaneous receipts, and therefore can only be withdrawn by authority of an express act of Congress. I would suggest the propriety of the passage of such an act without delay.

As intimately associated with the means of public defense, I can not forbear urging upon you the importance of constructing, upon the principles which have been brought into use in the construction of the Princeton , several ships of war of a larger class, better fitted than that ship to the heavy armament which should be placed on board of them. The success which has so eminently crowned this first experiment should encourage Congress to lose no time in availing the country of all the important benefits so obviously destined to flow from it. Other nations will speedily give their attention to the subject, and it would be criminal in the United States, the first to apply to practical purposes the great power which has been brought into use, to permit others to avail themselves of our improvements while we stood listlessly and supinely by. In the number of steam vessels of war we are greatly surpassed by other nations, and yet to Americans is the world indebted for that great discovery of the means of successfully applying steam power which has in the last quarter century so materially changed the condition of the world. We have now taken another and even bolder step, the results of which upon the affairs of nations remain still to be determined, and I can not but flatter myself that it will be followed up without loss of time to the full extent of the public demands. The Secretary of the Navy will be instructed to lay before you suitable estimates of the cost of constructing so many ships of such size and dimensions as you may think proper to order to be built.

The application of steam power to ships of war no longer confines us to the seaboard in their construction. The urgent demands of the service for the Gulf of Mexico and the substitution of iron for wood in the construction of ships plainly point to the establishment of a navy-yard at some suitable place on the Mississippi. The coal fields and iron mines of the extensive region watered by that noble river recommend such an establishment, while high considerations of public policy would lead to the same conclusion.

One of the complaints of the Western States against the actual operation of our system of government is that while large and increasing expenditures of public money are made on the Atlantic frontier the expenditures in the interior are comparatively small. The time has now arrived when this cause of complaint may be in a great measure removed by adopting the legitimate and necessary policy which I have indicated, thereby throwing around the States another bond of union.

I could not forego the favorable opportunity which has presented itself, growing out of the communication from the Secretary of the Navy, to urge upon you the foregoing recommendations.


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

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