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zeal and ability, and in all respects to my entire satisfaction. Although the prospect of a favorable termination was occasionally dimmed by counter pretensions, to which the United States could not assent, he yet had strong hopes of being able to arrive at a satisfactory settlement with the late Government. The negotiation has been renewed with the present authorities; and, sensible of the general and lively_confidence of our citizens in the justice and magnanimity of regenerated France, I regret the more not to have it in my power, yet, to announce the result so confidently anticipated. No ground, however, inconsistent with this expectation, has yet been taken; and I do not allow myself to doubt that justice will soon be done us. The amount of the claims, the length of time they have remained unsatisfied, and their incontrovertible justice, make an earnest prosecution of them by this Government an urgent duty. The illegality of the seizures and confiscations out of which they have arisen is not disputed; and whatever distinctions may have heretofore been set up in regard to the liability of the existing Government, it is quite clear that such considerations cannot now be interposed.
The commercial intercourse between the two countries is susceptible of highly advantageous improvements; but the sense of this injury has had, and must continue to have, a very unfavorable influence upon them. From its satisfactory adjustment, not only a firm and cordial friendship, but a progressive development of al! their relations, may be expected. It is, therefore, my earnest hope that this old and vexatious subject of difference may be speedily removed.
I feel that my confidence in our appeal to the motives which should govern a just and magnanimous nation, is alike warranted by the character of the French people, and by the high voucher we possess for the enlarged views and pure integrity of the monarch who now presides over their councils; and nothing shall be wanting on my part to meet any manifestation of the spirit we anticipate in one of corresponding frankness and liberality. The subjects of difference with Spain have been brought to the view of that Governinent, by our Minister there, with much force and propriety; and the strongest assurances have been received of their early and favorable consideration.
The steps which remained to place the matter in controversy between Great Britain and the United States fairly before the arbitrator, have all been taken in the same liberal and friendly spirit which characterised those before announced. Recent events have doubtless served to delay the decision, but our Minister at the court of the distinguished arbitrator has been assured that it will be made within the time contemplated by the treaty.
I am particularly gratified in being able to state that a decidedly favorable, and, as I hope, lasting change has been effected in our relations with the neighboring republic of Mexico. The unfortunate and unfounded suspicions in regard to our disposition, which it became my painful duty to advert to on a former occasion, have been, I believe, entirely removed; and the Government of Mexico has been made to understand the real character of the wishes and views of this in regard to that country. The consequence is, the establishment of friendship and mutual confidence. Such are the as
surances I have received, and I see no cause to doubt their sincerity.
I had reason to expect the conclusion of a commercial treaty with Mexico in season for communication on the present occasion. Circumstances
which are not explained, but which, I am persuaded, are not the result of an indisposition on her part to enter into it, have produced the delay.
There was reason to fear, in the course of the last summer, that the harmony of our relations might be disturbed by the acts of certain claimants, under Mexican grants, of territory which had hitherto been under our jurisdiction. The co-operation of the representative of Mexico near this Government was asked on the occasion, and was readily afforded. Instructions and advice have been given to the Governor of Arkansas and the officers in command in the adjoining Mexican State, by which, it is hoped, the quiet of that frontier will be preserved, until a final settlement of the dividing line shall have removed all ground of controversy.
The exchange of ratifications of the treaty concluded last year with Austria has not yet taken place. The delay has been occasioned by the non-arrival of the ratification of that Government within the time prescribed by the treaty. Renewed authority has been asked for by the representative of Austria; and, in the mean time, the rapidly increasing trade and navigation between the two countries have been placed upon the most liberal footing of our navigation acts.
Several alleged depredations have been recently committed on our commerce by the national vessels of Portugal. They have been made the subject of immediate remonstrance and reclamation. I am not yet possessed of sufficient information to express a definitive opinion of their character, but expect soon to receive it. No proper means shall be omitted to obtain for our citizens all the redress to which they may appear to be entitled.
Almost at the moment of the adjournment of your last session, two bills, the one entitled "An act for making appropriations for building light-houses, light-boats, beacons, and monuments, placing buoys, and for improving harbors and directing surveys," and the other, "An act to authorize a sub. scription for stock in the Louisville and Portland Canal Company," were submitted for my approval. It was not possible, within the time allowed me, before the close of the session, to give to these bills the consideration which was due to their character and importance; and I was compelled to retain them for that purpose. I now avail myself of this early opportunity to return them to the Houses in which they respectively originated, with the reasons which, after mature deliberation, compel me to withhold my appro
The practice of defraying out of the Treasury of the United States the expenses incurred by the establishment and support of light-houses, beacons, buoys, and public piers, within the bays, inlets, harbors, and ports of the United States, to render the navigation thereof safe and easy, is coeval with the adoption of the Constitution, and has been continued without interruption or dispute.
As our foreign commerce increased, and was extended into the interior of the country by the establishment of ports of entry and delivery upon our navigable rivers, the sphere of those expenditures received a corresponding enlargement. Light-houses, beacons, buoys, public piers, and the removal of sand-bars, sawyers, and other partial or temporary impediments in the navigable rivers and harbors which were embraced in the revenue districts from time to time established by law, were authorised upon the same principle, and the expense defrayed in the same manner. That these expenses have at times been extravagant and disproportionate, is very probable. The circumstances under which they are incurred are well calculated to lead tọ
such a result, unless their application is subjected to the closest scrutiny. The local advantages arising from the disbursement of public money too frequently, it is to be feared, invite appropriations for objects of this character that are neither necessary nor useful. The number of light-house keepers is already very large, and the bill before me proposes to add to it fiftyone more, of various descriptions. From representations upon the subject which are understood to be entitled to respect, I am induced to believe that there has not only been great improvidence in the past expenditures of the Government upon these objects, but that the security of navigation has, in some instances, been diminished by the multiplication of light-houses, and consequent change of lights, upon the coast. It is in this, as in other respects, our duty to avoid all unnecessary expense, as well as every increase of patronage not called for by the public service. But, in the discharge of that duty in this particular, it must not be forgotten that, in relation to our foreign commerce, the burden and benefit of protecting and accommodating it necessarily go together, and must do so as long as the public revenue is drawn from the people through the customhouse. It is indisputable, that whatever gives facility and security to navigation, cheapens imports: and all who consume them are alike interested in whatever produces this effect. If they consume, they ought, as they now do, to pay; otherwise, they do not pay. The consumer in the most inland State derives the same advantage from every necessary and prudent expenditure for the facility and security of our foreign commerce and navigation, that he does who resides in a maritime State. Local expenditures have not, of themselves, a correspondent operation.
From a bill making direct appropriations for such objects, I should not have withheld my assent. The one now returned does so in several particulars, but it also contains appropriations for surveys of a local character, which I cannot approve. It gives me satisfaction to find that no serious inconvenience has arisen from withholding my approval from this bill; nor will it, I trust, be cause of regret that an opportunity will be thereby afforded for Congress to review its provisions under circumstances better calculated for full investigation than those under which it was passed.
In speaking of direct appropriations, I mean not to include a practice which has obtained to some extent, and to which I have, in one instance, in a different capacity, given my assent-that of subscribing to the stock of pri-. vate associations. Positive experience, and a more thorough consideration of the subject, have convinced me of the impropriety as well as inexpediency of such investments. All improvements effected by the funds of the nation for general use should be open to the enjoyment of all our fellow-citizens, exempt from the payment of tolls, or any imposition of that character. The practice of thus mingling the concerns of the Government with those of the States or of individuals, is inconsistent with the object of its institution, and highly impolitic. The successful operation of the federal system can only be preserved by confining it to the few and simple, but yet important objects for which it was designed.
A different practice, if allowed to progress, would ultimately change the character of this Government, by consolidating into one the General and State Governments, which were intended to be kept forever distinct. I cannot perceive how bills authorizing such subscriptions can be otherwise regarded than as bills for revenue, and consequently subject to the rule in that respect prescribed by the Constitution. If the interest of the Govern
ment in private companies is subordinate to that of individuals, the management and control of a portion of the public funds is delegated to an authority unknown to the Constitution, and beyond the supervision of our constituents: if superior, its officers and agents will be constantly exposed to imputations of favoritism and oppression. Direct prejudice to the public interest, or an alienation of the affections and respect of portions of the people, may, therefore, in addition to the general discredit resulting to the Government from embarking with its constituents in pecuniary stipulations, be looked for as the probable fruit of such associations. It is no answer to this objection to say that the extent of consequences like these cannot be great from a limited and small number of investments: because experience in other matters teaches us, and we are not at liberty to disregard its admonitions, that, unless an entire stop be put to them, it will soon be impossible to prevent their accumulation, until they are spread over the whole country, and made to embrace many of the private and appropriate concerns of individuals.
The power which the General Government would acquire within the several States by becoming the principal stockholder in corporations, controlling every canal and each sixty or hundred miles of every important road, and giving a proportionate vote in all their elections, is almost inconceivable, and, in my view, dangerous to the liberties of the people.
This mode of aiding such works is, also, in its nature, deceptive, and in many cases conducive to improvidence in the administration of the national funds. Appropriations will be obtained with much greater facility, and granted with less security to the public interest, when the measure is thus disguised, than when definite and direct expenditures of money are asked for. The interests of the nation would doubtless be better served by avoiding all such indirect modes of aiding particular objects. In a Government. like ours, more especially, should all public acts be, as far as practicable, simple, undisguised, and intelligible, that they may become fit subjects for the approbation or animadversion of the people. The bill authorizing a subscription to the Louisville and Portland canal affords a striking illustration of the difficulty of withholding additional appropriations for the same object, when the first erroneous step has been taken by instituting a partnership between the Government and private companies. It proposes a third subscription on the part of the United States, when each preceding one was at the same time regarded as the extent of the aid which Government was to render to that work; and the accompanying bill for light-houses, &c. contains an appropriation for a survey of the bed of the river, with a view to its improvement, by removing the obstruction which the canal is designed to avoid. This improvement, if successful, would afford a free passage of the river, and render the canal entirely useless. To such improvidence is the course of legislation subject, in relation to internal improvements on local matters, even with the best intentions on the part of Congress.
Although the motives which have influenced me in this matter may be already sufficiently stated, I am, nevertheless, induced by its importance to add a few observations of a general character.
In my objections to the bills authorizing subscriptions to the Maysville and Rockville Road Companies, I expressed my views fully in regard to the power of Congress to construct roads and canals within a State, or to appropriate money for improvements of a local character. I, at the same time, intimated my belief that the right to make appropriations for such as
were of a national character had been so generally acted upon, and so long acquiesced in by the Federal and State Governments, and the constituents of each, as to justify its exercise on the ground of continued and uninterrupted usage; but that it was, nevertheless, highly expedient that appropriations, even of that character, should, with the exception made at the time, be deferred until the national debt is paid, and that, in the mean while, some general rule for the action of the Government in that respect ought to be established.
These suggestions were not necessary to the decision of the question then before me; and were, 1 readily admit, intended to awake the attention, and draw forth the opinions and observations, of our constituents, upon a subject of the highest importance to their interests, and one destined to exert a powerful influence upon the future operations of our political system. I know of no tribunal to which a public man in this country, in a case of doubt and difficulty, can appeal with greater advantage or more propriety than the judgment of the people; and although I must necessarily, in the discharge of my official duties, be governed by the dictates of my own judgment, I have no desire to conceal my anxious wish to conform, as far as I can, to the views of those for whom I act.
All irregular expressions of public opinion are of necessity attended with some doubt as to their accuracy; but, making full allowances on that account, I cannot, I think, deceive myself in believing that the acts referred to, as well as the suggestions which I allowed myself to make in relation to their bearing upon the future operations of the Government, have been approved by the great body of the people. That those whose immediate pecuniary interests are to be affected by proposed expen-litures should shrink from the application of a rule which prefers their more general and remote interests to those which are personal and immediate, is to be expected. But even such objections must, from the nature of our population, be but temporary in their duration; and if it were otherwise, our course should be the same; for the time is yet, I hope, far distant, when those entrusted with power to be exercised for the good of the whole, will consider it either honest or wise to purchase local favors at the sacrifice of principle and general good.
So understanding public sentiment, and thoroughly satisfied that the best interests of our common country imperiously require that the course which I have recommended in this regard should be adopted, I have, upon the most mature consideration, determined to pursue it.
It is due to candor, as well as to my own feelings, that I should express the reluctance and anxiety which I must at all times experience in exercising the undoubted right of the Executive to withhold his assent from bills on other grounds than their constitutionality. That this right should not be exercised on slight occasions, all will admit. It is only in matters of deep interest, when the principle involved may be justly regarded as next in importance to infractions of the Constitution itself, that such a step can be expected to meet with the approbation of the people. Such an occasion do I conscientiously believe the present to be. In the discharge of this delicate and highly responsible duty, I am sustained by the reflection that the exercise of this power has been deemed consistent with the obligation of official duty by several of my predecessors; and by the persuasion, too, that, whatever liberal institutions may have to fear from the encroachments of Executive power, which has been every where the cause of so much strife and bloody contention, but little danger is to be apprehended from a precedent