Martin van Buren photo

Special Message

June 07, 1838

To the Senate of the United States:

Having received satisfactory assurances from the Government of Ecuador of its desire to negotiate a treaty of commerce on the most liberal principles in place of the expired treaty made with the Republic of Colombia, heretofore regulating our intercourse with Ecuador, it is my design to give the requisite authority for that purpose to the charge d'affaires of the United States about to be appointed for Peru, with instructions to stop in Ecuador on his way to Lima as the agent of the United States to accomplish that object. The only additional charges to be incurred will be the expense of his journey from Panama to Quito, and from thence to the place of embarkation for Lima, to be paid out of the foreign-intercourse fund. I make this communication to the Senate that an opportunity may be afforded for the expression of an opinion, if it shall be deemed necessary, on the exercise of such a power by the Executive without applying to the Senate for its approbation and consent. In debate it has been sometimes asserted that this power, frequently exercised without question or complaint, and leading to no practical evil, as no arrangement made under such circumstances can be obligatory upon the United States without being submitted to the approbation of the Senate, is an encroachment upon its rightful authority. It appears to have been considered that the annual appropriation of a gross sum for the expenses of foreign intercourse is intended, among other objects, to provide for the cost of such agencies, and that the authority granted is the same as that frequently given to the Secretary of State to form treaties with the representatives or agents of foreign governments, upon the granting of which the Senate never have been consulted.

Desiring in this and in all other instances to act with the most cautious respect to the claims of other branches of the Government, I bring this subject to the notice of the Senate that if it shall be deemed proper to raise any question it may be discussed and decided before and not after the power shall have been exercised.


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

Filed Under



Simple Search of Our Archives