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Special Message

April 30, 1842

To the House of Representatives of the United States.

In compliance with your resolution of the 29th instant, I have the honor to transmit the reports of Messrs. Kelley and Steuart, two of the commissioners originally appointed, along with Mr. Poindexter, to investigate the affairs of the custom-house of New York, together with all the correspondence and testimony accompanying the same, and also the report of Mr. Poindexter, to which is annexed two letters, subscribed by Mr. Poindexter and Mr. Bradley. The last-named gentleman was substituted in the place of Mr. Kelley, whose inclinations and duties called him to his residence in Ohio after the return of the commissioners to this city, about the last of August. One of the letters just mentioned was addressed to the Secretary of the Treasury and bears date the 12th of April instant, and the other to myself, dated the 20th of this month. From the former you will learn that a most interesting portion of the inquiry instituted by this Department (viz, that relating to light-houses, buoys, beacons, revenue cutters, and revenue boats) is proposed to be made the subject of a further report by Messrs. Bradley and Poindexter. You will also learn, through the accompanying letter from Mr. Steuart, the reasons which have delayed him in making a supplemental and additional report to that already made by himself and Mr. Kelley, embracing his views and opinions upon the developments made subsequent to the withdrawal of Mr. Kelley from the commission and the substitution of Mr. Bradley in his place. I also transmit two documents furnished by Mr. Steuart, and which were handed by him to the Secretary of the Treasury on the 7th instant, the one being "memoranda of proceedings," etc., marked No. 1, and the other "letters accompanying memoranda," etc., marked No. 2.

The commission was instituted for the purpose of ascertaining existing defects in the custom-house regulations, to trace to their true causes past errors, to detect abuses, and by wholesome reforms to guard in future not only against fraud and peculation, but error and mismanagement. For these purposes a selection was made of persons of acknowledged intelligence and industry, and upon this task they have been engaged for almost an entire year, and their labors remain yet to be completed. The character of those labors may be estimated by the extent of Messrs. Kelley and Steuart's report, embracing about 100 pages of closely written manuscript, the voluminous memoranda and correspondence of Mr. Steuart, the great mass of evidence accompanying Messrs. Kelley and Steuart's report, and the report of Mr. Poindexter, extending over 394 pages, comprised in the volume accompanying this, and additional reports still remaining to be made, as before stated.

I should be better pleased to have it in my power to communicate the entire mass of reports made and contemplated to be made at one and the same time, and still more should I have been gratified if time could have been allowed me, consistently with the apparent desire of the House of Representatives to be put into immediate possession of these papers, to have compared or even to have read with deliberation the views presented by the commissioners as to proposed reforms in the revenue laws, together with the mass of documentary evidence and information by which they have been explained and enforced and which do not admit of a satisfactory comparison 'until the whole circle of reports be completed. Charges of malfeasance against some of those now in office will devolve upon the Executive a rigid investigation into their extent and character, and will in due season claim my attention. The readiness, however, with which the House proposes to enter upon the grave and difficult subjects which these papers suggest having anticipated that consideration of them by the Executive which their importance demands, it only remains for me, in lieu of specific recommendations, which under other circumstances it would have been my duty to make, to urge upon Congress the importance and necessity of introducing the earliest reforms in existing laws and usages, so as to guard the country in future against frauds in the collection of the revenues and the Treasury against peculation, to relieve trade and commerce from oppressive regulations, and to guard law and morality against violation and abuse.

As from their great volume it has been necessary to transmit the original papers to the House, I have to suggest the propriety of the House taking order for their restoration to the Treasury Department at such time as may comport with its pleasure.


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

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