Grover Cleveland (December 7, 1896)
To the Congress of the United States:
As representatives of the people in the legislative branch of their Government,
you have assembled at a time when the strength and excellence of our free institutions
and the fitness of our citizens to enjoy popular rule have been again made manifest.
A political contest involving momentous consequences, fraught with feverish
apprehension, and creating aggressiveness so intense as to approach bitterness
and passion has been waged throughout our land and determined by the decree
of free and independent suffrage without disturbance of our tranquillity or
the least sign of weakness in our national structure.
When we consider these incidents and contemplate the peaceful obedience and
manly submission which have succeeded a heated clash of political opinions,
we discover abundant evidence of a determination on the part of our countrymen
to abide by every verdict of the popular will and to be controlled at all times
by an abiding faith in the agencies established for the direction of the affairs
of their Government.
Thus our people exhibit a patriotic disposition which entitles them to demand
of those who undertake to make and execute their laws such faithful and unselfish
service in their behalf as can only be prompted by a serious appreciation of
the trust and confidence which the acceptance of public duty invites.
In obedience to a constitutional requirement I herein submit to the Congress
certain information concerning national affairs, with the suggestion of such
legislation as in my judgment is necessary and expedient. To secure brevity
and avoid tiresome narration I shall omit many details concerning matters within
Federal control which, though by no means unimportant, are more profitably discussed
in departmental reports. I shall also further curtail this communication by
omitting a minute recital of many minor incidents connected with our foreign
relations which have heretofore found a place in Executive messages, but are
now contained in a report of the Secretary of State, which is herewith submitted.
At the outset of a reference to the more important matters affecting our relations
with foreign powers it would afford me satisfaction if I could assure the Congress
that the disturbed condition in Asiatic Turkey had during the past year assumed
a less hideous and bloody aspect and that, either as a consequence of the awakening
of the Turkish Government to the demands of humane civilization or as the result
of decisive action on the part of the great nations having the right by treaty
to interfere for the protection of those exposed to the rage of mad bigotry
and cruel fanaticism, the shocking features of the situation had been mitigated.
Instead, however, of welcoming a softened disposition or protective intervention,
we have been afflicted by continued and not unfrequent reports of the wanton
destruction of homes and the bloody butchery of men, women, and children, made
martyrs to their profession of Christian faith.
While none of our citizens in Turkey have thus far been killed or wounded,
though often in the midst of dreadful scenes of danger, their safety in the
future is by no means assured. Our Government at home and our minister at Constantinople
have left nothing undone to protect our missionaries in Ottoman territory, who
constitute nearly all the individuals residing there who have a right to claim
our protection on the score of American citizenship. Our efforts in this direction
will not be relaxed; but the deep feeling and sympathy that have been aroused
among our people ought not to so far blind their reason and judgment as to lead
them to demand impossible things. The outbreaks of the blind fury which lead
to murder and pillage in Turkey occur suddenly and without notice, and an attempt
on our part to force such a hostile presence there as might be effective for
prevention or protection would not only be resisted by the Ottoman Government,
but would be regarded as an interruption of their plans by the great nations
who assert their exclusive right to intervene in their own time and method for
the security of life and property in Turkey.
Several naval vessels are stationed in the Mediterranean as a measure of caution
and to furnish all possible relief and refuge in case of emergency.
We have made claims against the Turkish Government for the pillage and destruction
of missionary property at Harpoot and Marash during uprisings at those places.
Thus far the validity of these demands has not been admitted, though our minister,
prior to such outrages and in anticipation of danger, demanded protection for
the persons and property of our missionary citizens in the localities mentioned
and notwithstanding that strong evidence exists of actual complicity of Turkish
soldiers in the work of destruction and robbery.
The facts as they now appear do not permit us to doubt the justice of these
claims, and nothing will be omitted to bring about their prompt settlement.
A number of Armenian refugees having arrived at our ports, an order has lately
been obtained from the Turkish Government permitting the wives and children
of such refugees to join them here. It is hoped that hereafter no obstacle will
be interposed to prevent the escape of all those who seek to avoid the perils
which threaten them in Turkish dominions.
Our recently appointed consul to Erzerum is at his post and discharging the
duties of his office, though for some unaccountable reason his formal exequatur
from the Sultan has not been issued.
I do not believe that the present somber prospect in Turkey will be long permitted
to offend the sight of Christendom. It so mars the humane and enlightened civilization
that belongs to the close of the nineteenth century that it seems hardly possible
that the earnest demand of good people throughout the Christian world for its
corrective treatment will remain unanswered.
The insurrection in Cuba still continues with all its perplexities. It is difficult
to perceive that any progress has thus far been made toward the pacification
of the island or that the situation of affairs as depicted in my last annual
message has in the least improved. If Spain still holds Havana and the seaports
and all the considerable towns, the insurgents still roam at will over at least
two-thirds of the inland country. If the determination of Spain to put down
the insurrection seems but to strengthen with the lapse of time and is evinced
by her unhesitating devotion of largely increased military and naval forces
to the task, there is much reason to believe that the insurgents have gained
in point of numbers and character and resources and are none the less inflexible
in their resolve not to succumb without practically securing the great objects
for which they took up arms. If Spain has not yet reestablished her authority,
neither have the insurgents yet made good their title to be regarded as an independent
state. Indeed, as the contest has gone on the pretense that civil government
exists on the island, except so far as Spain is able to maintain it, has been
practically abandoned. Spain does keep on foot such a government, more or less
imperfectly, in the large towns and their immediate suburbs; but that exception
being made, the entire country is either given over to anarchy or is subject
to the military occupation of one or the other party. It is reported, indeed,
on reliable authority that at the demand of the commander in chief of the insurgent
army the putative Cuban government has now given up all attempt to exercise
its functions, leaving that government confessedly (what there is the best reason
for supposing it always to have been in fact) a government merely on paper.
Were the Spanish armies able to meet their antagonists in the open or in pitched
battle, prompt and decisive results might be looked for, and the immense superiority
of the Spanish forces in numbers, discipline, and equipment could hardly fail
to tell greatly to their advantage. But they are called upon to face a foe that
shuns general engagements, that can choose and does choose its own ground, that
from the nature of the country is visible or invisible at pleasure, and that
fights only from ambuscade and when all the advantages of position and numbers
are on its side. In a country where all that is indispensable to life in the
way of food, clothing, and shelter is so easily obtainable, especially by those
born and bred on the soil, it is obvious that there is hardly a limit to the
time during which hostilities of this sort may be prolonged. Meanwhile, as in
all cases of protracted civil strife, the passions of the combatants grow more
and more inflamed and excesses on both sides become more frequent and more deplorable.
They are also participated in by bands of marauders, who, now in the name of
one party and now in the name of the other, as may best suit the occasion, harry
the country at will and plunder its wretched inhabitants for their own advantage.
Such a condition of things would inevitably entail immense destruction of property,
even if it were the policy of both parties to prevent it as far as practicable;
but while such seemed to be the original policy of the Spanish Government, it
has now apparently abandoned it and is acting upon the same theory as the insurgents,
namely, that the exigencies of the contest require the wholesale annihilation
of property that it may not prove of use and advantage to the enemy.
It is to the same end that, in pursuance of general orders, Spanish garrisons
are now being withdrawn from plantations and the rural population required to
concentrate itself in the towns. The sure result would seem to be that the industrial
value of the island is fast diminishing and that unless there is a speedy and
radical change in existing conditions it will soon disappear altogether. That
value consists very largely, of course, in its capacity to produce sugar--a
capacity already much reduced by the interruptions to tillage which have taken
place during the last two years. It is reliably asserted that should these interruptions
continue during the current year, and practically extend, as is now threatened,
to the entire sugar-producing territory of the island, so much time and so much
money will be required to restore the land to its normal productiveness that
it is extremely doubtful if capital can be induced to even make the attempt.
The spectacle of the utter ruin of an adjoining country, by nature one of the
most fertile and charming on the globe, would engage the serious attention of
the Government and people of the United States in any circumstances. In point
of fact, they have a concern with it which is by no means of a wholly sentimental
or philanthropic character. It lies so near to us as to be hardly separated
from our territory. Our actual pecuniary interest in it is second only to that
of the people and Government of Spain. It is reasonably estimated that at least
from $30,000,000 to $50,000,000 of American capital are invested in plantations
and in railroad, mining, and other business enterprises on the island. The volume
of trade between the United States and Cuba, which in 1889 amounted to about
$64,000,000, rose in 1893 to about $103,000,000, and in 1894, the year before
the present insurrection broke out, amounted to nearly $96,000,000. Besides
this large pecuniary stake in the fortunes of Cuba, the United States finds
itself inextricably involved in the present contest in other ways, both vexatious
Many Cubans reside in this country, and indirectly promote the insurrection
through the press, by public meetings, by the purchase and shipment of arms,
by the raising of funds, and by other means which the spirit of our institutions
and the tenor of our laws do not permit to be made the subject of criminal prosecutions.
Some of them, though Cubans at heart and in all their feelings and interests,
have taken out papers as naturalized citizens of the United States--a proceeding
resorted to with a view to possible protection by this Government, and not unnaturally
regarded with much indignation by the country of their origin. The insurgents
are undoubtedly encouraged and supported by the widespread sympathy the people
of this country always and instinctively feel for every struggle for better
and freer government, and which, in the case of the more adventurous and restless
elements of our population, leads in only too many instances to active and personal
participation in the contest. The result is that this Government is constantly
called upon to protect American citizens, to claim damages for injuries to persons
and property, now estimated at many millions of dollars, and to ask explanations
and apologies for the acts of Spanish officials whose zeal for the repression
of rebellion sometimes blinds them to the immunities belonging to the unoffending
citizens of a friendly power. It follows from the same causes that the United
States is compelled to actively police a long line of seacoast against unlawful
expeditions, the escape of which the utmost vigilance will not always suffice
These inevitable entanglements of the United States with the rebellion in Cuba,
the large American property interests affected, and considerations of philanthropy
and humanity in general have led to a vehement demand in various quarters for
some sort of positive intervention on the part of the United States. It was
at first proposed that belligerent rights should be accorded to the insurgents--a
proposition no longer urged because untimely and in practical operation dearly
perilous and injurious to our own interests. It has since been and is now sometimes
contended that the independence of the insurgents should be recognized; but
imperfect and restricted as the Spanish government of the island may be, no
other exists there, unless the will of the military officer in temporary command
of a particular district can be dignified as a species of government. It is
now also suggested that the United States should buy the island--a suggestion
possibly worthy of consideration if there were any evidence of a desire or willingness
on the part of Spain to entertain such a proposal. It is urged finally that,
all other methods failing, the existing internecine strife in Cuba should be
terminated by our intervention, even at the cost of a war between the United
States and Spain--a war which its advocates confidently prophesy could neither
be large in its proportions nor doubtful in its issue.
The correctness of this forecast need be neither affirmed nor denied. The United
States has, nevertheless, a character to maintain as a nation, which plainly
dictates that right and not might should be the rule of its conduct. Further,
though the United States is not a nation to which peace is a necessity, it is
in truth the most pacific of powers and desires nothing so much as to live in
amity with all the world. Its own ample and diversified domains satisfy all
possible longings for territory, preclude all dreams of conquest, and prevent
any casting of covetous eyes upon neighboring regions, however attractive. That
our conduct toward Spain and her dominions has constituted no exception to this
national disposition is made manifest by the course of our Government, not only
thus far during the present insurrection, but during the ten years that followed
the rising at Yara in 1868. No other great power, it may safely be said, under
circumstances of similar perplexity, would have manifested the same restraint
and the same patient endurance. It may also be said that this persistent attitude
of the United States toward Spain in connection with Cuba unquestionably evinces
no slight respect and regard for Spain on the part of the American people. They
in truth do not forget her connection with the discovery of the Western Hemisphere,
nor do they underestimate the great qualities of the Spanish people nor fail
to fully recognize their splendid patriotism and their chivalrous devotion to
the national honor.
They view with wonder and admiration the cheerful resolution with which vast
bodies of men are sent across thousands of miles of ocean and an enormous debt
accumulated that the costly possession of the gem of the Antilles may still
hold its place in the Spanish crown. And yet neither the Government nor the
people of the United States have shut their eyes to the course of events in
Cuba or have failed to realize the existence of conceded grievances which have
led to the present revolt from the authority of Spain--grievances recognized
by the Queen Regent and by the Cortes, voiced by the most patriotic and enlightened
of Spanish statesmen, without regard to party, and demonstrated by reforms proposed
by the executive and approved by the legislative branch of the Spanish Government.
It is in the assumed temper and disposition of the Spanish Government to remedy
these grievances, fortified by indications of influential public opinion in
Spain, that this Government has hoped to discover the most promising and effective
means of composing the present strife with honor and advantage to Spain and
with the achievement of all the reasonable objects of the insurrection.
It would seem that if Spain should offer to Cuba genuine autonomy--a measure
of home rule which, while preserving the sovereignty of Spain, would satisfy
all rational requirements of her Spanish subjects--there should be no just reason
why the pacification of the island might not be effected on that basis. Such
a result would appear to be in the true interest of all concerned. It would
at once stop the conflict which is now consuming the resources of the island
and making it worthless for whichever party may ultimately prevail. It would
keep intact the possessions of Spain without touching her honor, which will
be consulted rather than impugned by the adequate redress of admitted grievances.
It would put the prosperity of the island and the fortunes of its inhabitants
within their own control without severing the natural and ancient ties which
bind them to the mother country, and would yet enable them to test their capacity
for self-government under the most favorable conditions. It has been objected
on the one side that Spain should not promise autonomy until her insurgent subjects
lay down their arms; on the other side, that promised autonomy, however liberal,
is insufficient, because without assurance of the promise being fulfilled.
But the reasonableness of a requirement by Spain of unconditional surrender
on the part of the insurgent Cubans before their autonomy is conceded is not
altogether apparent. It ignores important features of the situation--the stability
two years' duration has given to the insurrection; the feasibility of its indefinite
prolongation in the nature of things, and, as shown by past experience, the
utter and imminent ruin of the island unless the present strife is speedily
composed; above all, the rank abuses which all parties in Spain, all branches
of her Government, and all her leading public men concede to exist and profess
a desire to remove. Facing such circumstances, to withhold the proffer of needed
reforms until the parties demanding them put themselves at mercy by throwing
down their arms has the appearance of neglecting the gravest of perils and inviting
suspicion as to the sincerity of any professed willingness to grant reforms.
The objection on behalf of the insurgents that promised reforms can not be relied
upon must of course be considered, though we have no right to assume and no
reason for assuming that anything Spain undertakes to do for the relief of Cuba
will not be done according to both the spirit and the letter of the undertaking.
Nevertheless, realizing that suspicions and precautions on the part of the
weaker of two combatants are always natural and not always unjustifiable, being
sincerely desirous in the interest of both as well as on its own account that
the Cuban problem should be solved with the least possible delay, it was intimated
by this Government to the Government of Spain some months ago that if a satisfactory
measure of home rule were tendered the Cuban insurgents and would be accepted
by them upon a guaranty of its execution the United States would endeavor to
find a way not objectionable to Spain of furnishing such graranty. While no
definite response to this intimation has yet been received from the Spanish
Government, it is believed to be not altogether unwelcome, while, as already
suggested, no reason is perceived why it should not be approved by the insurgents.
Neither party can fail to see the importance of early action, and both must
realize that to prolong the present state of things for even a short period
will add enormously to the time and labor and expenditure necessary to bring
about the industrial recuperation of the island. It is therefore fervently hoped
on all grounds that earnest efforts for healing the breach between Spain and
the insurgent Cubans upon the lines above indicated may be at once inaugurated
and pushed to an immediate and successful issue. The friendly offices of the
United States, either in the manner above outlined or in any other way consistent
with our Constitution and laws, will always be at the disposal of either party.
Whatever circumstances may arise, our policy and our interests would constrain
us to object to the acquisition of the island or an interference with its control
by any other power.
It should be added that it can not be reasonably assumed that the hitherto
expectant attitude of the United States will be indefinitely maintained. While
we are anxious to accord all due respect to the sovereignty of Spain, we can
not view the pending conflict in all its features and properly apprehend our
inevitably close relations to it and its possible results without considering
that by the course of events we may be drawn into such an unusual and unprecedented
condition as will fix a limit to our patient waiting for Spain to end the contest,
either alone and in her own way or with our friendly cooperation.
When the inability of Spain to deal successfully with the insurrection has
become manifest and it is demonstrated that her sovereignty is extinct in Cuba
for all purposes of its rightful existence, and when a hopeless struggle for
its reestablishment has degenerated into a strife which means nothing more than
the useless sacrifice of human life and the utter destruction of the very subject-matter
of the conflict, a situation will be presented in which our obligations to the
sovereignty of Spain will be superseded by higher obligations, which we can
hardly hesitate to recognize and discharge. Deferring the choice of ways and
methods until the time for action arrives, we should make them depend upon the
precise conditions then existing; and they should not be determined upon without
giving careful heed to every consideration involving our honor and interest
or the international duty we owe to Spain. Until we face the contingencies suggested
or the situation is by other incidents imperatively changed we should continue
in the line of conduct heretofore pursued, thus in all circumstances exhibiting
our obedience to the requirements of public law and our regard for the duty
enjoined upon us by the position we occupy in the family of nations.
A contemplation of emergencies that may arise should plainly lead us to avoid
their creation, either through a careless disregard of present duty or even
an undue stimulation and ill-timed expression of feeling. But I have deemed
it not amiss to remind the Congress that a time may arrive when a correct policy
and care for our interests, as well as a regard for the interests of other nations
and their citizens, joined by considerations of humanity and a desire to see
a rich and fertile country intimately related to us saved from complete devastation,
will constrain our Government to such action as will subserve the interests
thus involved and at the same time promise to Cuba and its inhabitants an opportunity
to enjoy the blessings of peace.
The Venezuelan boundary question has ceased to be a matter of difference between
Great Britain and the United States, their respective Governments having agreed
upon the substantial provisions of a treaty between Great Britain and Venezuela
submitting the whole controversy to arbitration. The provisions of the treaty
are so eminently just and fair that the assent of Venezuela thereto may confidently
Negotiations for a treaty of general arbitration for all differences between
Great Britain and the United States are far advanced and promise to reach a
successful consummation at an early date.
The scheme of examining applicants for certain consular positions to test their
competency and fitness, adopted under an Executive order issued on the 20th
of September, 1895, has fully demonstrated the usefulness of this innovation.
In connection with this plan of examination promotions and transfers of deserving
incumbents have been quite extensively made, with excellent results.
During the past year 35 appointments have been made in the consular service,
27 of which were made to fill vacancies caused by death or resignation or to
supply newly created posts, 2 to succeed incumbents removed for cause, 2 for
the purpose of displacing alien consular officials by American citizens, and
4 merely changing the official title of incumbent from commercial agent to consul.
Twelve of these appointments were transfers or promotions from other positions
under the Department of State, 4 of those appointed had rendered previous service
under the Department, 8 were made of persons who passed a satisfactory examination,
7 were appointed to places not included in the order of September 20, 1895,
and 4 appointments, as above stated, involved no change of incumbency. The inspection
of consular offices provided for by an appropriation for that purpose at the
last session of the Congress has been productive of such wholesome effects that
I hope this important work will in the future be continued. I know of nothing
that can be done with the same slight expense so improving to the service.
I desire to repeat the recommendation contained in my last annual message in
favor of providing at public expense official residences for our ambassadors
and ministers at foreign capitals. The reasons supporting this recommendation
are strongly stated in the report of the Secretary of State, and the subject
seems of such importance that I hope it may receive the early attention of the
We have during the last year labored faithfully and against unfavorable conditions
to secure better preservation of seal life in the Bering Sea. Both the United
States and Great Britain have lately dispatched commissioners to these waters
to study the habits and condition of the seal herd and the causes of their rapid
decrease. Upon the reports of these commissioners, soon to be submitted, and
with the exercise of patience and good sense on the part of all interested parties,
it is earnestly hoped that hearty cooperation may be secured for the protection
against threatened extinction of seal life in the Northern Pacific and Bering
The Secretary of the Treasury reports that during the fiscal year ended June
30, 1896, the receipts of the Government from all sources amounted to $409,475,408.78.
During the same period its expenditures were $434,678,654.48, the excess of
expenditures over receipts thus amounting to $25,203,245.70. The ordinary expenditures
during the year were $4,015,852.21 less than during the preceding fiscal year.
Of the receipts mentioned there was derived from customs the sum of $160,021,751.67
and from internal revenue $146,830,615.66. The receipts from customs show an
increase of $7,863,134.22 over those from the same source for the fiscal year
ended June 30, 1895, and the receipts from internal revenue an increase of $3,584,537.91.
The value of our imported dutiable merchandise during the last fiscal year
was $369,757,470 and the value of free goods imported $409,967,470, being an
increase of $6,523,675 in the value of dutiable goods and $41,231,034 in the
value of free goods over the preceding year. Our exports of merchandise, foreign
and domestic, amounted in value to $882,606,938, being an increase over the
preceding year of $75,068,773. The average ad valorem duty paid on dutiable
goods imported during the year was 39.94 per cent and on free and dutiable goods
taken together 20.55 per cent.
The cost of collecting our internal revenue was 2.78 per cent, as against 2.81
per cent for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1895. The total production of distilled
spirits, exclusive of fruit brandies, was 86,588,703 taxable gallons, being
an increase of 6,639,108 gallons over the preceding year. There was also an
increase of 1,443,676 gallons of spirits produced from fruit as compared with
the preceding year. The number of barrels of beer produced was 35,859,250, as
against 33,589,784 produced in the preceding fiscal year, being all increase
of 2,269,466 barrels.
The total amount of gold exported during the last fiscal year was $112,409,947
and of silver $60,541,670, being an increase of $45,941,466 of gold and $13,246,384
of silver over the exportations of the preceding fiscal year. The imports of
gold were $33,525,065 and of silver $28,777,186, being $2,859,695 less of gold
and $8,566,007 more of silver than during the preceding year.
The total stock of metallic money in the United States at the close of the
last fiscal year, ended on the 30th day of June, 1896, was $1,228,326,035, of
which $599,597,964 was in gold and $628,728,071 in silver.
On the 1st day of November, 1896, the total stock of money of all kinds in
the country was $2,285,410,590, and the amount in circulation, not including
that in the Treasury holdings, was $1,627,055,641, being $22.63 per capita upon
an estimated population of 71,902,000.
The production of the precious metals in the United States during the calendar
year 1895 is estimated to have been 2,254,760 fine ounces of gold, of the value
of $46,610,000, and 55,727,000 fine ounces of silver, of the commercial value
of $36,445,000 and the coinage value of $72,051,000. The estimated production
of these metals throughout the world during the same period was 9,688,821 fine
ounces of gold, amounting to $200,285,700 in value, and 169,189,249 fine ounces
of silver, of the commercial value of $110,654,000 and of the coinage value
of $218,738,100 according to our ratio.
The coinage of these metals in the various countries of the world during the
same calendar year amounted to $232,701,438 in gold and $121,996,219 in silver.
The total coinage at the mints of the United States during the fiscal year
ended June 30, 1896, amounted to $71,188,468.52, of which $58,878,490 was in
gold coins and $12,309,978.52 in standard silver dollars, subsidiary coins,
and minor coins
The number of national banks organized from the time the law authorizing their
creation was passed up to October 31, 1896, was 5,051, and of this number 3,679
were at the date last mentioned in active operation, having authorized capital
stock of $650,014,895, held by 288,902 shareholders, and circulating notes amounting
The total outstanding circulating notes of all national banks on the 31st day
of October, 1896, amounted to $234,553,807, including unredeemed but fully secured
notes of banks insolvent and in process of liquidation. The increase in national-bank
circulation during the year ending on that day was $21,099,429. On October 6,
1896, when the condition of national banks was last reported, the total resources
of the 3,679 active institutions were $3,263,685,313.83, which included $1,893,268,839.31
in loans and discounts and $362,165,733.85 in money of all kinds on hand. Of
their liabilities $1,597,891,058.03 was due to individual depositors and $209,944,019
consisted of outstanding circulating notes.
There were organized during the year preceding the date last mentioned 28 national
banks, located in 15 States, of which 12 were organized in the Eastern States,
with a capital of $1,180,000, 6 in the Western States, with a capital of $875,000,
and 10 in the Southern States, with a capital of $1,190,000. During the year,
however, 37 banks voluntarily abandoned their franchises under the national
law, and in the case of 27 others it was found necessary to appoint receivers.
Therefore, as compared with the year preceding, there was a decrease of 36 in
the number of active banks.
The number of existing banks organized under State laws is 5,708. The number
of immigrants arriving in the United States during the fiscal year was 343,267,
of whom 340,468 were permitted to land and 2,799 were debarred on various grounds
prescribed by law and returned to the countries whence they came at the expense
of the steamship companies by which they were brought in. The increase in immigration
over the preceding year amounted to 84,731. It is reported that with some exceptions
the immigrants of the past year were of a hardy laboring class, accustomed and
able to earn a support for themselves, and it is estimated that the money brought
with them amounted to at least $5,000,000, though it was probably much in excess
of that sum, since only those having less than $30 are required to disclose
the exact amount, and it is known that many brought considerable sums of money
to buy land and build homes. Including all the immigrants arriving who were
over 14 years of age, 28.63 per cent were illiterate, as against 20.37 per cent
of those of that age arriving during the preceding fiscal year. The number of
immigrants over 14 years old, the countries from which they came, and the percentage
of illiterates among them were as follows: Italy, 57,515, with 54.59 per cent;
Ireland, 37,496, with 7 per cent; Russia, 35,188, with 41.14 per cent; Austria-Hungary
and provinces, 57,053, with 38.92 per cent; Germany, 25,334, with 2.96 per cent;
Sweden, 18,821, with 1.16 per cent; while from Portugal there came 2,067, of
whom 77.69 per cent were illiterate. There arrived from Japan during the year
only 1,110 immigrants, and it is the opinion of the immigration authorities
that the apprehension heretofore existing to some extent of a large immigration
from Japan to the United States is without any substantial foundation.
From the Life-Saving Service it is reported that the number of disasters to
documented vessels within the limits of its operations during the year was 437.
These vessels had on board 4,608 persons, of whom 4,595 were saved and 13 lost.
The value of such vessels is estimated at $8,880,140 and of their cargoes $3,846,380,
making the total value of property imperiled $12,726,520. Of this amount $11,292,707
was saved and $1,432,750 was lost. Sixty-seven of the vessels were totally wrecked.
There were besides 243 casualties to small undocumented craft, on board of which
there were 594 persons, of whom 587 were saved and 7 were lost. The value of
the property involved in these latter casualties is estimated at $119,265, of
which $114,915 was saved and $4,350 was lost. The life-saving crews during the
year also rescued or assisted numerous other vessels and warned many from danger
by signals, both by day and night. The number of disasters during the year exceeded
that of any previous year in the history of the service, but the saving of both
life and property was greater than ever before in proportion to the value of
the property involved and to the number of persons imperiled.
The operations of the Marine-Hospital Service, the Revenue-Cutter Service,
the Steamboat-Inspection Service, the Light-House Service, the Bureau of Navigation,
and other branches of public work attached to the Treasury Department, together
with various recommendations concerning their support and improvement, are fully
stated in the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, to which the attention
of the Congress is especially invited.
The report of the Secretary of War exhibits satisfactory conditions in the
several branches of the public service intrusted to his charge.
The limit of our military force as fixed by law is constantly and readily maintained.
The present discipline and morale of our Army are excellent, and marked progress
and efficiency are apparent throughout its entire organization.
With the exception of delicate duties in the suppression of slight Indian disturbances
along our southwestern boundary, in which the Mexican troops cooperated, and
the compulsory but peaceful return, with the consent of Great Britain, of a
band of Cree Indians from Montana to the British possessions, no active operations
have been required of the Army during the year past.
Changes in methods of administration, the abandonment of unnecessary posts
and consequent concentration of troops, and the exercise of care and vigilance
by the various officers charged with the responsibility in the expenditure of
the appropriations have resulted in reducing to a minimum the cost of maintenance
of our military establishment.
During the past year the work of constructing permanent infantry and cavalry
posts has been continued at the places heretofore designated. The Secretary
of War repeats his recommendation that appropriations for barracks and quarters
should more strictly conform to the needs of the service as judged by the Department
rather than respond to the wishes and importunities of localities. It is imperative
that much of the money provided for such construction should now be allotted
to the erection of necessary quarters for the garrisons assigned to the coast
defenses, where many men will be needed to properly care for and operate modern
guns. It is essential, too, that early provision be made to supply the necessary
force of artillery to meet the demands of this service.
The entire Army has now been equipped with the new magazine arms, and wise
policy demands that all available public and private resources should be so
employed as to provide within a reasonable time a sufficient number to supply
the State militia with these modern weapons and provide an ample reserve for
The organized militia numbers 112,879 men. The appropriations for its support
by the several States approximate $2,800,000 annually, and $400,000 is contributed
by the General Government. Investigation shows these troops to be usually well
drilled and inspired with much military interest, but in many instances they
are so deficient in proper arms and equipment that a sudden call to active duty
would find them inadequately prepared for field service. I therefore recommend
that prompt measures be taken to remedy this condition and that every encouragement
be given to this deserving body of unpaid and voluntary citizen soldiers, upon
whose assistance we must largely rely in time of trouble.
During the past year rapid progress has been made toward the completion of
the scheme adopted for the erection and armament of fortifications along our
seacoast, while equal progress has been made in providing the material for submarine
defense in connection with these works.
It is peculiarly gratifying at this time to note the great advance that has
been made in this important undertaking since the date of my annual message
to the Fifty-third Congress at the opening of its second session, in December,
1893. At that time I informed the Congress of the approaching completion of
nine 12-inch, twenty 10-inch, and thirty-four 8-inch high-power steel guns and
seventy-five 12-inch rifled mortars.
This total then seemed insignificant when compared with the great work remaining
to be done. Yet it was none the less a source of satisfaction to every citizen
when he reflected that it represented the first installment of the new ordnance
of American design and American manufacture and demonstrated our ability to
supply from our own resources guns of unexcelled power and accuracy.
At that date, however, there were practically no carriages upon which to mount
these guns and only thirty-one emplacements for guns and sixty-four for mortars.
Nor were all these emplacements in condition to receive their armament. Only
one high-power gun was at that time in position for the defense of the entire
Since that time the number of guns actually completed has been increased to
a total of twenty-one 12-inch, fifty-six 10-inch, sixty-one 8-inch high-power
breech-loading steel guns, ten rapid-fire guns, and eighty 12-inch rifled mortars.
In addition there are in process of construction one 16-inch-type gun, fifty
12-inch, fifty-six 10-inch, twenty-seven 8-inch high-power guns, and sixty-six
12-inch rifled mortars; in all, four hundred and twenty-eight guns and mortars.
During the same year, immediately preceding the message referred to, the first
modern gun carriage had been completed and eleven more were in process of construction.
All but one were of the nondisappearing type. These, however, were not such
as to secure necessary cover for the artillery gunners against the intense fire
of modern machine rapid-fire and high-power guns.
The inventive genius of ordnance and civilian experts has been taxed in designing
carriages that would obviate this fault, resulting, it is believed, in the solution
of this difficult problem. Since 1893 the number of gun carriages constructed
or building has been raised to a total of 129, of which 90 are on the disappearing
principle, and the number of mortar carriages to 152, while the 95 emplacements
which were provided for prior to that time have been increased to 280 built
This improved situation is largely due to the recent generous response of Congress
to the recommendations of the War Department.
Thus we shall soon have complete about one-fifth of the comprehensive system
the first step in which was noted in my message to the Congress of December
When it is understood that a masonry emplacement not only furnishes a platform
for the heavy modern high-power gun, but also in every particular serves the
purpose and takes the place of the fort of former days, the importance of the
work accomplished is better comprehended.
In the hope that the work will be prosecuted with no less vigor in the future,
the Secretary of War has submitted an estimate by which, if allowed, there will
be provided and either built or building by the end of the next fiscal year
such additional guns, mortars, gun carriages, and emplacements as will represent
not far from one-third of the total work to be done under the plan adopted for
our coast defenses, thus affording a prospect that the entire work will be substantially
completed within six years. In less time than that, however, we shall have attained
a marked degree of security.
The experience and results of the past year demonstrate that with a continuation
of present careful methods the cost of the remaining work will be much less
than the original estimate.
We should always keep in mind that of all forms of military preparation coast
defense alone is essentially pacific in its nature. While it gives the sense
of security due to a consciousness of strength, it is neither the purpose nor
the effect of such permanent fortifications to involve us in foreign complications,
but rather to guarantee us against them. They are not temptation to war, but
security against it. Thus they are thoroughly in accord with all the traditions
of our national diplomacy.
The Attorney-General presents a detailed and interesting statement of the important
work done under his supervision during the last fiscal year.
The ownership and management by the Government of penitentiaries for the confinement
of those convicted in United States courts of violations of Federal laws, which
for many years has been a subject of Executive recommendation, have at last
to a slight extent been realized by the utilization of the abandoned military
prison at Fort Leavenworth as a United States penitentiary.
This is certainly a movement in the right direction, but it ought to be at
once supplemented by the rebuilding or extensive enlargement of this improvised
prison and the construction of at least one more, to be located in the Southern
States. The capacity of the Leavenworth penitentiary is so limited that the
expense of its maintenance, calculated at a per capita rate upon the number
of prisoners it can accommodate, does not make as economical an exhibit as it
would if it were larger and better adapted to prison purposes; but I am thoroughly
convinced that economy, humanity, and a proper sense of responsibility and duty
toward those whom we punish for violations of Federal law dictate that the Federal
Government should have the entire control and management of the penitentiaries
where convicted violators are confined.
It appears that since the transfer of the Fort Leavenworth Military Prison
to its new uses the work previously done by prisoners confined there, and for
which expensive machinery has been provided, has been discontinued. This work
consisted of the manufacture of articles for army use, now done elsewhere. On
all grounds it is exceedingly desirable that the convicts confined in this penitentiary
be allowed to resume work of this description.
It is most gratifying to note the satisfactory results that have followed the
inauguration of the new system provided for by the act of May 28, 1896, under
which certain Federal officials are compensated by salaries instead of fees.
The new plan was put in operation on the 1st day of July, 1896, and already
the great economy it enforces, its prevention of abuses, and its tendency to
a better enforcement of the laws are strikingly apparent. Detailed evidence
of the usefulness of this long-delayed but now happily accomplished reform will
be found clearly set forth in the Attorney-General's report.
Our Post-Office Department is in good condition, and the exhibit made of its
operations during the fiscal year ended June 30, 1896, if allowance is made
for imperfections in the laws applicable to it, is very satisfactory. The total
receipts during the year were $82,499,208.40. The total expenditures were $90,626,296.84,
exclusive of the $1,559,898.27 which was earned by the Pacific Railroad for
transportation and credited on their debt to the Government. There was an increase
of receipts over the previous year of $5,516,080.21, or 7.1 per cent, and an
increase of expenditures of $3,836,124.02, or 4.42 per cent. The deficit was
$1,679,956.19 less than that of the preceding year. The chief expenditures of
the postal service are regulated by law and are not in the control of the Postmaster-General.
All that he can accomplish by the most watchful administration and economy is
to enforce prompt and thorough collection and accounting for public moneys and
such minor savings in small expenditures and in letting those contracts, for
post-office supplies and star service, which are not regulated by statute.
An effective cooperation between the Auditor's Office and the Post-Office Department
and the making and enforcement of orders by the Department requiring immediate
notification to their sureties of all delinquencies on the part of postmasters,
and compelling such postmasters to make more frequent deposits of postal funds,
have resulted in a prompter auditing of their accounts and much less default
to the Government than heretofore.
The year's report shows large extensions of both star-route service and railway
mail service, with increased postal facilities. Much higher accuracy in handling
mails has also been reached, as appears by the decrease of errors in the railway
mail service and the reduction of mail matter returned to the Dead-Letter Office.
The deficit for the last year, although much less than that of the last and
preceding years, emphasizes the necessity for legislation to correct the growing
abuse of second-class rates, to which the deficiency is mainly attributable.
The transmission at the rate of 1 cent a pound of serial libraries, advertising
sheets," house organs" (periodicals advertising some particular "house" or institution),
sample copies, and the like ought certainly to be discontinued. A glance at
the revenues received for the work done last year will show more plainly than
any other statement the gross abuse of the postal service and the growing waste
of its earnings.
The free matter carried in the mails for the Departments, offices, etc., of
the Government and for Congress, in pounds, amounted to 94,480,189.
If this is offset against buildings for post-offices and stations, the rental
of which would more than compensate for such free postal service, we have this
Weight of mail matter (other than above) transmitted through the mails
for the year ending June 30, 1896.
|1. Domestic and foreign letters and postal cards, etc||65,337,343 ||$60,624,464|
|2. Newspapers and periodicals, 1 cent per pound ||348,988,648 ||2,996,403|
|3. Books, seeds, etc., 8 cents a pound ||78,701,148 ||10,324,069|
|4. Parcels, etc., 16 cents a pound ||19,950,187 ||3,129,321|
The remainder of our postal revenue, amounting to something more than $5,000,000,
was derived from box rents, registry fees, money-order business, and other similar
The entire expenditures of the Department, including pay for transportation
credited to the Pacific railroads, were $92,186,195.11, which may be considered
as the cost of receiving, carrying, and delivering the above mail matter. It
thus appears that though the second-class matter constituted more than two-thirds
of the total that was carried, the revenue derived from it was less than one-thirtieth
of the total expense.
|The average revenue was--|| |
|From each pound of first-class matter .........cents||93.0|
|From each pound of second class ...............mills||8.5|
|From each pound of third class ...................cents||13.1|
|From each pound of fourth class ..................do||15.6|
Of the second class 52,348,297 was county-free matter.
The growth in weight of second-class matter has been from 299,000,000 pounds
in 1894 to 312,000,000 in 1895 and to almost 349,000,000 in 1896, and it is
quite evident this increasing drawback is far outstripping any possible growth
of postal revenues.
Our mail service should of course be such as to meet the wants and even the
conveniences of our people at a direct charge upon them so light as perhaps
to exclude the idea of our Post-Office Department being a money-making concern;
but in the face of a constantly recurring deficiency in its revenues and in
view of the fact that we supply the best mail service in the world it seems
to me it is quite time to correct the abuses that swell enormously our annual
deficit. If we concede the public policy of carrying weekly newspapers free
in the county of publication, and even the policy of carrying at less than one-tenth
of their cost other bona fide newspapers and periodicals, there can be no excuse
for subjecting the service to the further immense and increasing loss involved
in carrying at the nominal rate of 1 cent a pound the serial libraries, sometimes
including trashy and even harmful literature, and other matter which under the
loose interpretation of a loose statute have been gradually given second-class
rates, thus absorbing all profitable returns derived from first-class matter,
which pays three or four times more than its cost, and producing a large annual
loss to be paid by general taxation. If such second-class matter paid merely
the cost of its handling, our deficit would disappear and a surplus result which
might be used to give the people still better mail facilities or cheaper rates
of letter postage. I recommend that legislation be at once enacted to correct
these abuses and introduce better business ideas in the regulation of our postal
Experience and observation have demonstrated that certain improvements in the
organization of the Post-Office Department must be secured before we can gain
the full benefit of the immense sums expended in its administration. This involves
the following reforms, which I earnestly recommend:
There should be a small addition to the existing inspector service, to be employed
in the supervision of the carrier force, which now numbers 13,000 men and performs
its service practically without the surveillance exercised over all other branches
of the postal or public service. Of course such a lack of supervision and freedom
from wholesome disciplinary restraints must inevitably lead to imperfect service.
There should also be appointed a few inspectors who could assist the central
office in necessary investigation concerning matters of post-office leases,
post-office sites, allowances for rent, fuel, and lights, and in organizing
and securing the best results from the work of the 14,000 clerks now employed
in first and second class offices.
I am convinced that the small expense attending the inauguration of these reforms
would actually be a profitable investment.
I especially recommend such a recasting of the appropriations by Congress for
the Post-Office Department as will permit the Postmaster-General to proceed
with the work of consolidating post-offices. This work has already been entered
upon sufficiently to fully demonstrate by experiment and experience that such
consolidation is productive of better service, larger revenues, and less expenditures,
to say nothing of the further advantage of gradually withdrawing post-offices
from the spoils system.
The Universal Postal Union, which now embraces all the civilized world and
whose delegates will represent 1,000,000,000 people, will hold its fifth congress
in the city of Washington in May, 1897. The United States may be said to have
taken the initiative which led to the first meeting of this congress, at Berne
in 1874, and the formation of the Universal Postal Union, which brings the postal
service of all countries to every man's neighborhood and has wrought marvels
in cheapening postal rates and securing absolutely safe mail communication throughout
the world. Previous congresses have met in Berne, Paris, Lisbon, and Vienna,
and the respective countries in which they have assembled have made generous
provision for their accommodation and for the reception and entertainment of
In view of the importance of this assemblage and of its deliberations and of
the honors and hospitalities accorded to our representatives by other countries
on similar occasions, I earnestly hope that such an appropriation will be made
for the expenses necessarily attendant upon the coming meeting in our capital
city as will be worthy of our national hospitality and indicative of our appreciation
of the event.
The work of the Navy Department and its present condition are fully exhibited
in the report of the Secretary.
The construction of vessels for our new Navy has been energetically prosecuted
by the present Administration upon the general lines previously adopted, the
Department having seen no necessity for radical changes in prior methods, under
which the work was found to be progressing in a manner highly satisfactory.
It has been decided, however, to provide in every shipbuilding contract that
the builder should pay all trial expenses, and it has also been determined to
pay no speed premiums in future contracts. The premiums recently earned and
some yet to be decided are features of the contracts made before this conclusion
On March 4, 1893, there were in commission but two armored vessels--the double-turreted
monitors Miantonomoh and Monterey. Since that date, of vessels theretofore authorized,
there have been placed in their first commission 3 first-class and 2 second-class
battle ships, 2 armored cruisers, 1 harbor-defense ram, and 5 double-turreted
monitors, including the Maine and the Puritan, just completed. Eight new unarmored
cruisers and 2 new gunboats have also been commissioned. The Iowa, another battle
ship, will be completed about March 1, and at least 4 more gunboats will be
ready for sea in the early spring.
It is gratifying to state that our ships and their outfits are believed to
be equal to the best that can be manufactured elsewhere, and that such notable
reductions have been made in their cost as to justify the statement that quite
a number of vessels are now being constructed at rates as low as those that
prevail in European shipyards.
Our manufacturing facilities are at this time ample for all possible naval
contingencies. Three of our Government navy-yards--those at Mare Island, Cal.,
Norfolk, Va., and Brooklyn, N. Y.--are equipped for shipbuilding, our ordnance
plant in Washington is equal to any in the world, and at the torpedo station
we are successfully making the highest grades of smokeless powder. The first-class
private shipyards at Newport News, Philadelphia, and San Francisco are building
battle ships; eleven contractors, situated in the States of Maine, Rhode Island,
Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, and the State of Washington, are
constructing gunboats or torpedo boats; two plants are manufacturing large quantities
of first-class armor, and American factories are producing automobile torpedoes,
powder, projectiles, rapid-fire guns, and everything else necessary for the
complete outfit of naval vessels.
There have been authorized by Congress since March, 1893, 5 battle ships, 6
light-draft gunboats, 16 torpedo boats, and 1 submarine torpedo boat. Contracts
for the building of all of them have been let. The Secretary expresses the opinion
that we have for the present a sufficient supply of cruisers and gunboats, and
that hereafter the construction of battle ships and torpedo boats will supply
Much attention has been given to the methods of carrying on departmental business.
Important modifications in the regulations have been made, tending to unify
the control of shipbuilding as far as may be under the Bureau of Construction
and Repair, and also to improve the mode of purchasing supplies for the Navy
by the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. The establishment under recent acts
of Congress of a supply fund with which to purchase these supplies in large
quantities and other modifications of methods have tended materially to their
cheapening and better quality.
The War College has developed into an institution which it is believed will
be of great value to the Navy in teaching the science of war, as well as in
stimulating professional zeal in the Navy, and it will be especially useful
in the devising of plans for the utilization in case of necessity of all the
naval resources of the United States.
The Secretary has persistently adhered to the plan he found in operation for
securing labor at navy-yards through boards of labor employment, and has done
much to make it more complete and efficient. The naval officers who are familiar
with this system and its operation express the decided opinion that its results
have been to vastly improve the character of the work done at our yards and
greatly reduce its cost.
Discipline among the officers and men of the Navy has been maintained to a
high standard and the percentage of American citizens enlisted has been very
The Secretary is considering and will formulate during the coming winter a
plan for laying up ships in reserve, thereby largely reducing the cost of maintaining
our vessels afloat. This plan contemplates that battle ships, torpedo boats,
and such of the cruisers as are not needed for active service at sea shall be
kept in reserve with skeleton crews on board to keep them in condition, cruising
only enough to insure the efficiency of the ships and their crews in time of
The economy to result from this system is too obvious to need comment.
The Naval Militia, which was authorized a few years ago as an experiment, has
now developed into a body of enterprising young men, active and energetic in
the discharge of their duties and promising great usefulness. This establishment
has nearly the same relation to our Navy as the National Guard in the different
States bears to our Army, and it constitutes a source of supply for our naval
forces the importance of which is immediately apparent.
The report of the Secretary of the Interior presents a comprehensive and interesting
exhibit of the numerous and important affairs committed to his supervision.
It is impossible in this communication to do more than briefly refer to a few
of the subjects concerning which the Secretary gives full and instructive information.
The money appropriated on account of this Department and for its disbursement
for the fiscal year ended June 30, 1896, amounted to more than $157,000,000,
or a greater sum than was appropriated for the entire maintenance of the Government
for the two fiscal years ended June 30, 1861.
Our public lands, originally amounting to 1,840,000,000 acres, have been so
reduced that only about 600,000,000 acres still remain in Government control,
excluding Alaska. The balance, being by far the most valuable portion, has been
given away to settlers, to new States, and to railroads or sold at a comparatively
nominal sum. The patenting of land in execution of railroad grants has progressed
rapidly during the year, and since the 4th day of March, 1893, about 25,000,000
acres have thus been conveyed to these corporations.
I agree with the Secretary that the remainder of our public lands should be
more carefully dealt with and their alienation guarded by better economy and
The commission appointed from the membership of the National Academy of Sciences,
provided for by an act of Congress, to formulate plans for a national forestry
system will, it is hoped, soon be prepared to present the result of thorough
and intelligent examination of this important subject.
The total Indian population of the United States is 177,235, according to a
census made in 1895, exclusive of those within the State of New York and those
comprising the Five Civilized Tribes. Of this number there are approximately
38,000 children of school age. During the year 23,393 of these were enrolled
in schools. The progress which has attended recent efforts to extend Indian-school
facilities and the anticipation of continued liberal appropriations to that
end can not fail to afford the utmost satisfaction to those who believe that
the education of Indian children is a prime factor in the accomplishment of
It may be said in general terms that in every particular the improvement of
the Indians under Government care has been most marked and encouraging.
The Secretary, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the agents having charge
of Indians to whom allotments have been made strongly urge the passage of a
law prohibiting the sale of liquor to allottees who have taken their lands in
severalty. I earnestly join in this recommendation and venture to express the
hope that the Indian may be speedily protected against this greatest of all
obstacles to his well-being and advancement.
The condition of affairs among the Five Civilized Tribes, who occupy large
tracts of land in the Indian Territory and who have governments of their own,
has assumed such an aspect as to render it almost indispensable that there should
be an entire change in the relations of these Indians to the General Government.
This seems to be necessary in furtherance of their own interests, as well as
for the protection of non-Indian residents in their territory. A commission
organized and empowered under several recent laws is now negotiating with these
Indians for the relinquishment of their courts and the division of their common
lands in severalty and are aiding in the settlement of the troublesome question
of tribal membership. The reception of their first proffers of negotiation was
not encouraging, but through patience and such conduct on their part as demonstrated
that their intentions were friendly and in the interest of the tribes the prospect
of success has become more promising. The effort should be to save these Indians
from the consequences of their own mistakes and improvidence and to secure to
the real Indian his rights as against intruders and professed friends who profit
by his retrogression. A change is also needed to protect life and property through
the operation of courts conducted according to strict justice and strong enough
to enforce their mandates.
As a sincere friend of the Indian, I am exceedingly anxious that these reforms
should be accomplished with the consent and aid of the tribes and that no necessity
may be presented for radical or drastic legislation I hope, therefore, that
the commission now conducting negotiations will soon be able to report that
progress has been made toward a friendly adjustment of existing difficulties.
It appears that a very valuable deposit of gilsonite or asphaltum has been
found on the reservation in Utah occupied by the Uncompahgre Ute Indians. Every
consideration of care for the public interest and every sensible business reason
dictate such management or disposal of this important source of public revenue
as will except it from the general rules and incidents attending the ordinary
disposition of public lands and secure to the Government a fair share at least
of its advantages in place of its transfer for a nominal sum to interested individuals.
I indorse the recommendation made by the present Secretary of the Interior,
as well as his predecessor, that a permanent commission, consisting of three
members, one of whom shall be an army officer, be created to perform the duties
now devolving upon the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioner of Indian Affairs.
The management of the Bureau involves such numerous and diverse details and
the advantages of an uninterrupted policy are so apparent that I hope the change
suggested will meet the approval of the Congress.
The diminution of our enormous pension roll and the decrease of pension expenditure,
which have been so often confidently for told, still fail in material realization.
The number of pensioners on the polls at the close of the fiscal year ended
June 30, 1896, was 970,678. This is the largest number ever reported. The amount
paid exclusively for pensions during the year was $138,214,761.94, a slight
decrease from that of the preceding year, while the total expenditures on account
of pensions, including the cost of maintaining the Department and expenses attending
pension distribution, amounted to $142,206,550.59, or within every small fraction
of one-third of the entire expense of supporting the Government during the same
year. The number of new pension certificates issued was 90,640. Of these, 40,374
represent original allowances of claims and 15,878 increases of existing pensions.
The number of persons receiving pensions from the United States, but residing
in foreign countries, at the close of the last fiscal year was 3,781, and the
amount paid to them during the year was $582,735.38.
The sum appropriated for the payment of pensions for the current fiscal year,
ending June 30, 1897, is $140,000,000, and for the succeeding year it is estimated
that the same amount will be necessary.
The Commissioner of Pensions reports that during the last fiscal year 339 indictments
were found against violators of the pension laws. Upon these indictments 167
In my opinion, based upon such statements as these and much other information
and observation, the abuses which have been allowed to creep into our pension
system have done incalculable harm in demoralizing our people and undermining
good citizenship. I have endeavored within my sphere of official duty to protect
our pension roll and make it what it should be, a roll of honor, containing
the names of those disabled in their country's service and worthy of their country's
affectionate remembrance. When I have seen those who pose as the soldiers' friends
active and alert in urging greater laxity and more reckless pension expenditure,
while nursing selfish schemes, I have deprecated the approach of a situation
when necessary retrenchment and enforced economy may lead to an attack upon
pension abuses so determined as to overlook the discrimination due to those
who, worthy of a nation's care, ought to live and die under the protection of
a nation's gratitude.
The Secretary calls attention to the public interests involved in an adjustment
of the obligations of the Pacific railroads to the Government. I deem it to
be an important duty to especially present this subject to the consideration
of the Congress.
On January 1, 1897, with the amount already matured, more than $13,000,000
of the principal of the subsidy bonds issued by the United States in aid of
the construction of the Union Pacific Railway, including its Kansas line, and
more than $6,000,000 of like bonds issued in aid of the Central Pacific Railroad,
including those issued to the Western Pacific Railroad Company, will have fallen
due and been paid or must on that day be paid by the Government. Without any
reference to the application of the sinking fund now in the Treasury, this will
create such a default on the part of these companies to the Government as will
give it the right to at once institute proceedings to foreclose its mortgage
lien. In addition to this indebtedness, which will be due January 1, 1897, there
will mature between that date and January 1, 1899, the remaining principal of
such subsidy bonds, which must also be met by the Government. These amount to
more than $20,000,000 on account of the Union Pacific lines and exceed $21,000,000
on account of the Central Pacific lines.
The situation of these roads and the condition of their indebtedness to the
Government have been fully set forth in the reports of various committees to
the present and prior Congresses, and as early as 1887 they were thoroughly
examined by a special commission appointed pursuant to an act of Congress. The
considerations requiring an adjustment of the Government's relations to the
companies have been clearly presented and the conclusion reached with practical
uniformity that if these relations are not terminated they should be revised
upon a basis securing their safe continuance.
Under section 4 of the act of Congress passed March 3, 1887, the President
is charged with the duty, in the event that any mortgage or other incumbrance
paramount to the interest of the United States in the property of the Pacific
railroads should exist and be lawfully liable to be enforced, to direct the
action of the Departments of Treasury and of justice in the protection of the
interest of the United States by redemption or through judicial proceedings,
including foreclosures of the Government liens.
In view of the fact that the Congress has for a number of years almost constantly
had under consideration various plans for dealing with the conditions existing
between these roads and the Government, I have thus far felt justified in withholding
action under the statute above mentioned.
In the case of the Union Pacific Company, however, the situation has become
especially and immediately urgent. Proceedings have been instituted to foreclose
a first mortgage upon those aided parts of the main lines upon which the Government
holds a second and subordinate mortgage lien. In consequence of those proceedings
and increasing complications, added to the default occurring on the 1st day
of January, 1897, a condition will be presented at that date, so far as this
company is concerned, that must emphasize the mandate of the act of 1887 and
give to Executive duty under its provisions a more imperative aspect. Therefore,
unless Congress shall otherwise direct or shall have previously determined upon
a different solution of the problem, there will hardly appear to exist any reason
for delaying beyond the date of the default above mentioned such Executive action
as will promise to subserve the public interests and save the Government from
the loss threatened by further inaction.
The Department of Agriculture is so intimately related to the welfare of our
people and the prosperity of our nation that it should constantly receive the
care and encouragement of the Government. From small beginnings it has grown
to be the center of agricultural intelligence and the source of aid and encouragement
to agricultural efforts. Large sums of money are annually appropriated for the
maintenance of this Department, and it must be confessed that the legislation
relating to it has not always been directly in the interest of practical farming
or properly guarded against waste and extravagance. So far, however, as public
money has been appropriated fairly and sensibly to help those who actually till
the soil, no expenditure has been more profitably made or more generally approved
by the people.
Under the present management of the Department its usefulness has been enhanced
in every direction, and at the same time strict economy has been enforced to
the utmost extent permitted by Congressional action. From the report of the
Secretary it appears that through careful and prudent financial management he
has annually saved a large sum from his appropriations, aggregating during his
incumbency and up to the close of the present fiscal year nearly one-fifth of
the entire amount appropriated. These results have been accomplished by a conscientious
study of the real needs of the farmer and such a regard for economy as the genuine
farmer ought to appreciate, supplemented by a rigid adherence to civil-service
methods in a Department which should be conducted in the interest of agriculture
instead of partisan politics.
The Secretary reports that the value of our exports of farm products during
the last fiscal year amounted to $570,000,000, an increase of $17,000,000 over
those of the year immediately preceding. This statement is not the less welcome
because of the fact that, notwithstanding such increase, the proportion of exported
agricultural products to our total exports of all descriptions fell off during
the year. The benefits of an increase in agricultural exports being assured,
the decrease in its proportion to our total exports is the more gratifying when
we consider that it is owing to the fact that such total exports for the year
increased more than $75,000,000.
The large and increasing exportation of our agricultural products suggests
the great usefulness of the organization lately established in the Department
for the purpose of giving to those engaged in farming pursuits reliable information
concerning the condition, needs, and advantages of different foreign markets.
Inasmuch as the success of the farmer depends upon the advantageous sale of
his products, and inasmuch as foreign markets must largely be the destination
of such products, it is quite apparent that a knowledge of the conditions and
wants that affect those markets ought to result in sowing more intelligently
and reaping with a better promise of profit. Such information points out the
way to a prudent foresight in the selection and cultivation of crops and to
a release from the bondage of unreasoning monotony of production, a glutted
and depressed market, and constantly recurring unprofitable toil.
In my opinion the gratuitous distribution of seeds by the Department as at
present conducted ought to be discontinued. No one can read the statement of
the Secretary on this subject and doubt the extravagance and questionable results
of this practice. The professed friends of the farmer, and certainly the farmers
themselves, are naturally expected to be willing to rid a Department devoted
to the promotion of farming interests of a feature which tends so much to its
The Weather Bureau, now attached to the Department of Agriculture, has continued
to extend its sphere of usefulness, and by an uninterrupted improvement in the
accuracy of its forecasts has greatly increased its efficiency as an aid and
protection to all whose occupations are related to weather conditions.
Omitting further reference to the operations of the Department, I commend the
Secretary's report and the suggestions it contains to the careful consideration
of the Congress.
The progress made in civil-service reform furnishes a cause for the utmost
congratulation. It has survived the doubts of its friends as well as the rancor
of its enemies and has gained a permanent place among the agencies destined
to cleanse our politics and to improve, economize, and elevate the public service.
There are now in the competitive classified service upward of 84,000 places,
more than half of these having been included from time to time since March 4,
1893. A most radical and sweeping extension was made by Executive order dated
the 6th day of May, 1896, and if fourth-class postmasterships are not included
in the statement it may be said that practically all positions contemplated
by the civil-service law are now classified. Abundant reasons exist for including
these postmaster-ships, based upon economy, improved service, and the peace
and quiet of neighborhoods. If, however, obstacles prevent such action at present,
I earnestly hope that Congress will, without increasing post-office appropriations,
so adjust them as to permit in proper eases a consolidation of these post-offices,
to the end that through this process the result desired may to a limited extent
The civil-service rules as amended during the last year provide for a sensible
and uniform method of promotion, basing eligibility to better positions upon
demonstrated efficiency and faithfulness. The absence of fixed rules on this
subject has been an infirmity in the system more and more apparent as its other
benefits have been better appreciated.
The advantages of civil-service methods in their business aspects are too well
understood to require argument. Their application has become a necessity to
the executive work of the Government. But those who gain positions through the
operation of these methods should be made to understand that the nonpartisan
scheme through which they receive their appointments demands from them by way
of reciprocity nonpartisan and faithful performance of duty under every Administration
and cheerful fidelity to every chief. While they should be encouraged to decently
exercise their rights of citizenship and to support through their suffrages
the political beliefs they honestly profess, the noisy, pestilent, and partisan
employee, who loves political turmoil and contention or who renders lax and
grudging service to an Administration not representing his political views,
should be promptly and fearlessly dealt with in such a way as to furnish a warning
to others who may be likewise disposed.
The annual report of the Commissioners will be duly transmitted, and I commend
the important matter they have in charge to the careful consideration of the
The Interstate Commerce Commission has during the last year supplied abundant
evidence of its usefulness and the importance of the work committed to its charge.
Public transportation is a universal necessity, and the question of just and
reasonable charges therefor has become of vital importance not only to shippers
and carriers, but also to the vast multitude of producers and consumers. The
justice and equity of the principles embodied in the existing law passed for
the purpose of regulating these charges are everywhere conceded, and there appears
to be no question that the policy thus entered upon has a permanent place in
As the present statute when enacted was in the nature of the case more or less
tentative and experimental, it was hardly expected to supply a complete and
adequate system. While its wholesome effects are manifest and have amply justified
its enactment, it is evident that all desired reforms in transportation methods
have not been fully accomplished. In view of the judicial interpretation which
some provisions of this statute have received and the defects disclosed by the
efforts made for its enforcement, its revision and amendment appear to be essential,
to the end that it may more effectually reach the evils designed to be corrected.
I hope the recommendations of the Commission upon this subject will be promptly
and favorably considered by the Congress.
I desire to recur to the statements elsewhere made concerning the Government's
receipts and expenditures for the purpose of venturing upon some suggestions
touching our present tariff law and its operation.
This statute took effect on the 28th day of August, 1894. Whatever may be its
shortcomings as a complete measure of tariff reform, it must be conceded that
it has opened the way to a freer and greater exchange of commodities between
us and other countries, and thus furnished a wider market for our products and
The only entire fiscal year during which this law has been in force ended on
the 30th day of June, 1896. In that year our imports increased over those of
the previous year more than $6,500,000, while the value of the domestic products
we exported and which found markets abroad was nearly $70,000,000 more than
during the preceding year.
Those who insist that the cost to our people of articles coming to them from
abroad for their needful use should only be increased through tariff charges
to an extent necessary to meet the expenses of the Government, as well as those
who claim that tariff charges may be laid upon such articles beyond the necessities
of Government revenue and with the additional purpose of so increasing their
price in our markets as to give American manufacturers and producers better
and more profitable opportunities, must agree that our tariff laws are only
primarily justified as sources of revenue to enable the Government to meet the
necessary expenses of its maintenance. Considered as to its efficiency in this
aspect, the present law can by no means fall under just condemnation. During
the only complete fiscal year of its operation it has yielded nearly $8,000,000
more revenue than was received from tariff duties in the preceding year. There
was, nevertheless, a deficit between our receipts and expenditures of a little
more than $25,000,000 This, however, was not unexpected.
The situation was such in December last, seven months before the close of the
fiscal year, that the Secretary of the Treasury foretold a deficiency of $17,000,000.
The great and increasing apprehension and timidity in business circles and the
depression in all activities intervening since that time, resulting from causes
perfectly well understood and entirely disconnected with our tariff law or its
operation, seriously checked the imports we would have otherwise received and
readily account for the difference between this estimate of the Secretary and
the actual deficiency, as well as for a continued deficit. Indeed, it must be
confessed that we could hardly have had a more unfavorable period than the last
two years for the collection of tariff revenue. We can not reasonably hope that
our recuperation from this business depression will be sudden, but it has already
set in with a promise of acceleration and continuance.
I believe our present tariff law, if allowed a fair opportunity, will in the
near future yield a revenue which, with reasonably economical expenditures,
will overcome all deficiencies. In the meantime no deficit that has occurred
or may occur need excite or disturb us. To meet any such deficit we have in
the Treasury in addition to a gold reserve of one hundred millions a surplus
of more than $128,000,000 applicable to the payment of the expenses of the Government,
and which must, unless expended for that purpose, remain a useless hoard, or,
if not extravagantly wasted, must in any event be perverted from the purpose
of its exaction from our people. The payment, therefore, of any deficiency in
the revenue from this fund is nothing more than its proper and legitimate use.
The Government thus applying a surplus fortunately in its Treasury to the payment
of expenses not met by its current revenues is not at all to be likened to a
man living beyond his income and thus incurring debt or encroaching on his principal.
It is not one of the functions of our Government to accumulate and make additions
to a fund not needed for immediate expenditure. With individuals it is the chief
object of struggle and effort. The application of an accumulated fund by the
Government to the payment of its running expenses is a duty. An individual living
beyond his income and embarrassing himself with debt or drawing upon his accumulated
fund of principal is either unfortunate or improvident. The distinction is between
a government charged with the duty of expending for the benefit of the people
and for proper purposes all the money it receives from any source, and the individual,
who is expected to manifest a natural desire to avoid debt or to accumulate
as much as possible and to live within the income derived from such accumulations,
to the end that they may be increased or at least remain unimpaired for the
future use and enjoyment of himself or the objects of his love and affection
who may survive him.
It is immeasurably better to appropriate our surplus to the payment of justifiable
expenses than to allow it to become an invitation to reckless appropriations
and extravagant expenditures.
I suppose it will not be denied that under the present law our people obtain
the necessaries of a comfortable existence at a cheaper rate than formerly.
This is a matter of supreme importance, since it is the palpable duty of every
just government to make the burdens of taxation as light as possible. The people
should not be required to relinquish this privilege of cheaper living except
under the stress of their Government's necessity made plainly manifest.
This reference to the condition and prospects of our revenues naturally suggests
an allusion to the weakness and vices of our financial methods. They have been
frequently pressed upon the attention of Congress in previous Executive communications
and the inevitable danger of their continued toleration pointed out. Without
now repeating these details, I can not refrain from again earnestly presenting
the necessity of the prompt reform of a system opposed to every rule of sound
finance and shown by experience to be fraught with the gravest peril and perplexity.
The terrible Civil War, which shook the foundations of our Government more than
thirty years ago, brought in its train the destruction of property, the wasting
of our country's substance, and the estrangement of brethren. These are now
past and forgotten. Even the distressing loss of life the conflict entailed
is but a sacred memory which fosters patriotic sentiment and keeps alive a tender
regard for those who nobly died. And yet there remains with us to-day in full
strength and activity, as an incident of that tremendous struggle, a feature
of its financial necessities not only unsuited to our present circumstances,
but manifestly a disturbing menace to business security and an ever-present
agent of monetary distress.
Because we may be enjoying a temporary relief from its depressing influence,
this should not lull us into a false security nor lead us to forget the suddenness
of past visitations.
I am more convinced than ever that we can have no assured financial peace and
safety until the Government currency obligations upon which gold may be demanded
from the Treasury are withdrawn from circulation and canceled. This might be
done, as has been heretofore recommended, by their exchange for long-term bonds
bearing a low rate of interest or by their redemption with the proceeds of such
bonds. Even if only the United States notes known as greenbacks were thus retired
it is probable that the Treasury notes issued in payment of silver purchases
under the act of July 14, 1890, now paid in gold when demanded, would not create
much disturbance, as they might from time to time, when received in the Treasury
by redemption in gold or otherwise, be gradually and prudently replaced by silver
This plan of issuing bonds for the purpose of redemption certainly appears
to be the most effective and direct path to the needed reform. In default of
this, however, it would be a step in the right direction if currency obligations
redeemable in gold whenever so redeemed should be canceled instead of being
reissued. This operation would be a slow remedy, but it would improve present
National banks should redeem their own notes. They should be allowed to issue
circulation to the par value of bonds deposited as security for its redemption
and the tax on their circulation should be reduced to one-fourth of 1 per cent.
In considering projects for the retirement of United States notes and Treasury
notes issued under the law of 1890, I am of the opinion that we have placed
too much stress upon the danger of contracting the currency and have calculated
too little upon the gold that would be added to our circulation if invited to
us by better and safer financial methods. It is not so much a contraction of
our currency that should be avoided as its unequal distribution.
This might be obviated and any fear of harmful contraction at the same time
removed by allowing the organization of smaller banks and in less populous communities
than are now permitted, and also authorizing existing banks to establish branches
in small communities under proper restrictions.
The entire case may be presented by the statement that the day of sensible
and sound financial methods will not dawn upon us until our Government abandons
the banking business and the accumulation of funds and confines its monetary
operations to the receipt of the money contributed by the people for its support
and to the expenditure of such money for the people's benefit.
Our business interests and all good citizens long for rest from feverish agitation
and the inauguration by the Government of a reformed financial policy which
will encourage enterprise and make certain the rewards of labor and industry.
Another topic in which our people rightfully take a deep interest may be here
briefly considered. I refer to the existence of trusts and other huge aggregations
of capital the object of which is to secure the monopoly of some particular
branch of trade, industry, or commerce and to stifle wholesome competition.
When these are defended, it is usually on the ground that though they increase
profits they also reduce prices, and thus may benefit the public. It must be
remembered, however, that a reduction of prices to the people is not one of
the real objects of these organizations, nor is their tendency necessarily in
that direction. If it occurs in a particular case it is only because it accords
with the purposes or interests of those managing the scheme.
Such occasional results fall far short of compensating the palpable evils charged
to the account of trusts and monopolies. Their tendency is to crush out individual
independence and to hinder or prevent the free use of human faculties and the
full development of human character. Through them the farmer, the artisan, and
the small trader is in danger of dislodgment from the proud position of being
his own master, watchful of all that touches his country's prosperity, in which
he has an individual lot, and interested in all that affects the advantages
of business of which he is a factor, to be relegated to the level of a mere
appurtenance to a great machine, with little free will, with no duty but that
of passive obedience, and with little hope or opportunity of rising in the scale
of responsible and helpful citizenship.
To the instinctive belief that such is the inevitable trend of trusts and monopolies
is due the widespread and deep-seated popular aversion in which they are held
and the not unreasonable insistence that, whatever may be their incidental economic
advantages, their general effect upon personal character, prospects, and usefulness
can not be otherwise than injurious.
Though Congress has attempted to deal with this matter by legislation, the
laws passed for that purpose thus far have proved ineffective, not because of
any lack of disposition or attempt to enforce them, but simply because the laws
themselves as interpreted by the courts do not reach the difficulty. If the
insufficiencies of existing laws can be remedied by further legislation, it
should be done. The fact must be recognized, however, that all Federal legislation
on this subject may fall short of its purpose because of inherent obstacles
and also because of the complex character of our governmental system, which,
while making the Federal authority supreme within its sphere, has carefully
limited that sphere by metes and bounds that can not be transgressed. The decision
of our highest court on this precise question renders it quite doubtful whether
the evils of trusts and monopolies can be adequately treated through Federal
action unless they seek directly and purposely to include in their objects transportation
or intercourse between States or between the United States and foreign countries.
It does not follow, however, that this is the limit of the remedy that may
be applied. Even though it may be found that Federal authority is not broad
enough to fully reach the case, there can be no doubt of the power of the several
States to act effectively in the premises, and there should be no reason to
doubt their willingness to judiciously exercise such power.
In concluding this communication its last words shall be an appeal to the Congress
for the most rigid economy in the expenditure of the money it holds in trust
for the people. The way to perplexing extravagance is easy, but a return to
frugality is difficult. When, however, it is considered that those who bear
the burdens of taxation have no guaranty of honest care save in the fidelity
of their public servants, the duty of all possible retrenchment is plainly manifest.
When our differences are forgotten and our contests of political opinion are
no longer remembered, nothing in the retrospect of our public service will be
as fortunate and comforting as the recollection of official duty well performed
and the memory of a constant devotion to the interests of our confiding fellow-countrymen.