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Special Session Message

October 15, 1877

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:

The adjournment of the last Congress without making appropriations for the support of the Army for the present fiscal year has rendered necessary a suspension of payments to the officers and men of the sums due them for services rendered after the 30th day of June last. The Army exists by virtue of statutes which prescribe its numbers, regulate its organization and employment, and which fix the pay of its officers and men and declare their right to receive the same at stated periods. These statutes, however, do not authorize the payment of the troops in the absence of specific appropriations therefor. The Constitution has wisely provided that "no money shall be drawn from the Treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law;" and it has also been declared by statute that "no department of the Government shall expend in any one fiscal year any sum in excess of appropriations made by Congress for that fiscal year." We have, therefore, an Army in service, authorized by law and entitled to be paid, but no funds available for that purpose.

It may also be said, as an additional incentive to prompt action by Congress, that since the commencement of the fiscal year the Army, though without pay, has been constantly and actively employed in arduous and dangerous service, in the performance of which both officers and men have discharged their duty with fidelity and courage and without complaint. These circumstances, in my judgment, constituted an extraordinary occasion requiring that Congress be convened in advance of the time prescribed by law for your meeting in regular session. The importance of speedy action upon this subject on the part of Congress is so manifest that I venture to suggest the propriety of making the necessary appropriations for the support of the Army for the current year at its present maximum numerical strength of 25,000 men, leaving for future consideration all questions relating to an increase or decrease of the number of enlisted men. In the event of the reduction of the Army by subsequent legislation during the fiscal year, the excess of the appropriation could not be expended; and in the event of its enlargement the additional sum required for the payment of the extra force could be provided in due time. It would be unjust to the troops now in service, and whose pay is already largely in arrears, if payment to them should be further postponed until after Congress shall have considered all the questions likely to arise in the effort to fix the proper limit to the strength of the Army.

Estimates of appropriations for the support of the military establishment for the fiscal year ending Jane 30, 1878, were transmitted to Congress by the former Secretary of the Treasury at the opening of its session in December last. These estimates, modified by the present Secretary so as to conform to present requirements, are now renewed, amounting to $32,436,764.98, and, having been transmitted to both Houses of Congress, are submitted for your consideration.

There is also required by the Navy Department $2,03,861.24. This sum is made up of $1,446,688.16 due to officers and enlisted men for the last quarter of the last fiscal year; $311,953.50 due for advances made by the fiscal agent of the Government in London for the support of the foreign service; $50,000 due to the naval-hospital fund; $150,000 due for arrearages of pay to officers, and $45,219.58 for the support of the Marine Corps.

There will also be needed an appropriation of $262,535.22 to defray the unsettled expenses of the United States courts for the fiscal year ending June 30 last, now due to attorneys, clerks, commissioners, and marshals, and for rent of court rooms, the support of prisoners, and other deficiencies.

A part of the building of the Interior Department was destroyed by fire on the 24th of last month. Some immediate repairs and temporary structures have in consequence become necessary, estimates for which will be transmitted to Congress immediately, and an appropriation of the requisite funds is respectfully recommended.

The Secretary of the Treasury will communicate to Congress, in connection with the estimates for the appropriations for the support of the Army for the current fiscal year, estimates for such other deficiencies in the different branches of the public service as require immediate action and can not without inconvenience be postponed until the regular session.

I take this opportunity also to invite your attention to the propriety of adopting at your present session the necessary legislation to enable the people of the United States to participate in the advantages of the International Exhibition of Agriculture, Industry, and the Fine Arts which is to be held at Paris in 1878, and in which this Government has been invited by the Government of France to take part.

This invitation was communicated to this Government in May, 1876, by the minister of France at this capital, and a copy thereof was submitted to the proper committees of Congress at its last session, but no action was taken upon the subject.

The Department of State has received many letters from various parts of the country expressing a desire to participate in the exhibition, and numerous applications of a similar nature have also been made .at the United States legation at Paris.

The Department of State has also received official advice of the strong desire on the part of the French Government that the United States should participate in this enterprise, and space has hitherto been and still is reserved in the exhibition buildings for the use of exhibitors from the United States, to the exclusion of other parties who have been applicants therefor.

In order that our industries may be properly represented at the exhibition, an appropriation will be needed for the payment of salaries and expenses of commissioners, for the transportation of goods, and for other purposes in connection with the object in view; and as May next is the time fixed for the opening of the exhibition, if our citizens are to share the advantages of this international competition for the trade of other nations the necessity of immediate action is apparent.

To enable the United States to cooperate in the international exhibition which was held at Vienna in 1873, Congress then passed a joint resolution making an appropriation of $200,000 and authorizing the President to appoint a certain number of practical artisans and scientific men who should attend the exhibition and report their proceedings and observations to him. Provision was also made for the appointment of a number of honorary commissioners.

I have felt that prompt action by Congress in accepting the invitation of the Government of France is of so much interest to the people of this country and so suitable to the cordial relations between the Governments of the two countries that the subject might properly be presented for attention at your present session.

The Government of Sweden and Norway has addressed an official invitation to this Government to take part in the International Prison Congress to be held at Stockholm next year. The problem which the congress proposes to study--how to diminish crime--is one in which all civilized nations have an interest in common, and the congress of Stockholm seems likely to prove the most important convention ever held for the study of this grave question. Under authority of a joint resolution of Congress approved February 16, 1875, a commissioner was appointed by my predecessor to represent the United States upon that occasion, and the Prison Congress having been, at the earnest desire of the Swedish Government, postponed to 1878, his commission was renewed by me. An appropriation of $8,000 was made in the sundry civil act of 1875 to meet the expenses of the commissioner. I recommend the reappropriation of that sum for the same purpose, the former appropriation having been covered into the Treasury and being no longer available for the purpose without further action by Congress. The subject is brought to your attention at this time in view of circumstances which render it highly desirable that the commissioner should proceed to the discharge of his important duties immediately.

As the several acts of Congress providing for detailed reports from the different Departments of the Government require their submission at the beginning of the regular annual session, I defer until that time any further reference to subjects of public interest.


Rutherford B. Hayes, Special Session Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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