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A slight interruption of diplomatic intercourse which occurred between this government and France, I am happy to say, has been terminated, and our minister there has been received. It is, therefore, unnecessary to refer now to the circumstances which led to that interruption. I need not express to you the sincere satisfaction with which we shall welcome the arrival of another envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from a sister republic, 10 which we have so long been, and still remain, bound by the strongest ties of amity.
Shortly after I had entered upon the discharge of the executive duties, I was apprized that a war steamer, belonging to the German empire, was being fitted out in the harbor of New York, with the aid of some of our naval oificers, rendered under the permission of the late secretary of the navy. This permission was granted during an armistice between that'empire and ihe king. dom of Denmark, which had been engaged in the Schleswig-Holstein war. Apprehensive that this act of intervention, on our part, might be viewed as a violation of our neutral obligations, incurred by the treaty with Denmark, and of the provisions of the act of Congress of the 20th of April, 1818, I directed that no further aid should be rendered by any agent or officer of the navy; and I instructed the secretary of state to apprize the minister of the German empire, accredited to this government, of iny determination to execute the law of the United States, and to maintain the faith of treaties with all nations. The correspondence, which ensued between the department of state and the minister of the German empire, is herewith laid before you. The execution of the law and the observance of ihe treaty were deemed by me to be due to the honour of the country, as well as to the sacred obligations of the constitution. I shall not fail to pursue the same course, should a similar case arise with any other nation. Having avowed the opinion, on taking the oath of office, that, in disputes between conflicting foreign governments, it is our interest, not less than our duty, to remain strictly neutral, I shall not abandon it. You will perceive from the correspondence submitted to you, in connexion with this subject, that the course adopted in this case has been properly regarded by the belligerent powers interested in the matter.
Although a minister of the United States to the German empire was appointed by my predecessor in August, 1848, and bas, for a long time, been in attendance at Frankfort-on-the-Maine; and, although a minister appointed to represent that empire was received and accredited here, yet no such govern. ment as that of the German empire has been definitively constituted. Mr. Donelson, our representative at Frankfort, remained there several months, in the expectation ihat a union of the German states, under one constitution or form of government, might, at length, be organized. It is believed by those well acquainted with the existing relations between Prussia and the states of Germany, that no such union can be permanently established without her cooperation. In the events of the formation of such a union, and the organization of a central power in Germany, of which she should form a part, it would become necessary to withdraw our minister at Berlin; but while Prussia erists as an independent kingdom, and diplomatic relations are maintained with her, there can be no necessity for the continuance of the mission to Frankfort. I have, therefore, recalled Mr. Donelson, and directed the archives of the legation at Frankfort to be transferred to the American legation at Berlin.
Having been apprized that a considerable number of adventurers were en. gaged in fitting out a military expedition, within the United States, against a foreign country; and believing, from the best information I could obtain, that it was destined to invade the island of Cuba, I deemed it due to the friendly relations existing between the United States and Spain-to the treaty between the two nations—to the laws of the United States, and, above all, to the American honour, to exert the lawful authority of this government in suppressing the expedition and preventing the invasion.
To this end, I issued a proclamation, enjoining it upon the officers of the United States, civil and military, to use all lawful means within their power. A copy of that proclamation is herewith submitted. The expedition has been suppressed. So long as the act of Congress, of the 20th of April, 1818, which owes its existence to the law of nations, and to the policy of Washington himself, shall remain on our statute-book, I hold it to be the duty of the executive taithfully to obey its injunctions.
While this expedition was in progress, I was informed that a foreigner, who claimed our protection, had been clandestinely, and, as was supposed, forcibly carried off in a vessel from New Orleans to the island of Cuba. I immediately caused such steps to be taken as I thought necessary, in case the information I had received should prove correct, to vindicate the honour of the country, and the right of every person seeking an asylum on our soil to the protection of our laws. The person alleged to have been abducted was promptly restored, and the circumstances of the case are now about to undergo investigation before a judicial tribunal. I would respectfully suggest, that although the crime charged to have been committed in this case is held odious as be. ing in conflict with our opinions on the subject of national sovereignty and personal freedom, there is no prohibition of it, or punishment for it, provided in any act of Congress. The expediency of supplying this defect in our cri. minal code is, therefore, recommended to your consideration.
I have scrupulously avoided any interference in the wars and contentions which have recently distracted Europe.
During the late conflict between Austria and Hungary, there seemed to be a prospect that the latter might become an independent nation. However faint that prospect at the time appeared, I thought it my duty, in accordance with the general sentiment of the American people, who deeply sympathized with the Magyar patriots, to stand prepared, upon the contingency of ihe establishment by her of a permanent government, to be the first to welcome independent Hungary into the family of nations. For this purpose I invested an agent, then in Europe, with power to declare our willingness promptly to recognise her independence in the event of her ability to sustain it. The powerful intervention of Russia, in the contest, extinguished the hopes of the struggling Magyars. The United States did not, at any time, interfere in the contest; but the feelings of the nation were strongly enlisted in the cause, and by the sufferings of a brave people, who had made a gallant though unsuccessful effort to be free.
Our claims upon Portugal have been, during the past year, prosecuted with renewed vigour, and it has been my object to employ every effort of honourable diplomacy to procure their adjustment. Our late Charge d'Affaires at Lisbon, the Hon. George W. Hopkins, made able and energetic, but unsuccessful efforts to settle these unpleasant matters of controversy, and to obtain indemnity for the wrongs which were the subjects of complaint. Our present Charge d'Affaires at that court will, also, bring to the prosecution of these claims ability and zeal. The revolutionary and distracted condition of Portugal, in past times, has been represented as one of the leading causes of her delay in indemnifying our suffering citizens. But I must now say it is matter of profound regret that these claims have not yet been settled. The omission of Portugal to do justice to the American claimants has now assumed a character so grave and serious, that I shall shortly make it the subject of a spe. cial message to Congress, with a view to such ultimate action as its wisdom and patriotism may suggest.
With Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Italian States, we still maintain our accustomed amicable relations.
During the recent revolutions in the papal states, our Charge d'Affaires at
Rome has been unable to present his letter of credence, which, indeed, he was directed by my predecessor to withhold until he should receive further orders. Such was the unsettled condition of things in those states, that it was not deemed expedient 10 give him any instructions on the subject of presenting his credential letter different from those with which he had been fur. nished by the late administration, until the 25th of June last, when, in consequence of the wanit of accurate information of the exact state of things, at that distance from us, he was instructed to exercise his own discretion in present. ing himself to the then existing government, if, in his judgment, sufficiently stable; or, if not, to await further events. Since that period, Rome has undergone another revolution, and he abides the establishment of a government sufficiently permanent 10 justify him in opening diplomatic intercourse with it.
With the republic of Mexico it is our true policy to cultivate the most friendly relations. Since the ratification of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, nothing has occurred of a serious character to disturb them. A faithful observance of the treaty, and a sincere respect for her rights, cannot fail to secure the lasting confidence and friendship of that republic. The message of my predecessor to the house of representatives, of the 8th of February last, communicating, in compliance with a resolution of that body, a copy of a paper called a protocol, signed at Queretaro, on the 30th of May, 1848, by the commissioners of the United States and the minister of foreign affairs of the Mexican government, having been a subject of correspondence between the department of state and the envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary of ihat republic accredited to this government, a transcript of that correspondence is herewith submitted.
The commissioner on the part of the United States for marking the boundary between the two republics, though delayed in reaching San Diego by unforeseen obstacles, arrived at that place within a short period after the time required by the treaty, and was there joined by the commissioner on the part of Mexico. They entered upon their duties, and, at the date of the latest intelligence from that quarter, some progress had been made in the survey. The expenses incident to the organization of the commission, and to its conveyance to the point where its operations were to begin, have so much reduced the fund appropriated by Congress, that a' further sum, to cover the charges which must be incurred during the present fiscal year, will be neces. sary. The great length of frontier along which the boundary extends, the nature of the adjacent territory, and the difficulty of obtaining supplies, except at or near the extremes of the line, render it also indispensable that a liberal provision should be made to meet ihe necessary charges during the fiscal year ending on the 301h of June, 1851. 1 accordingly recommend this subject to your attention.
In the adjustment of the claims of American citizens on Mexico, provided for by the late treaty, the employment of counsel, on the part of the government, may become important for the purpose of assisting the commissioners in protecting the interests of the United States. I recommend this subject to the early and favourable consideration of Congress.
Complaints have been made in regard to the inefficiency of the means provided by the government of New Grenada for transporting the United States mail across the Isthmus of Panama, pursuant to our postal convention with that republic, of the 6th of March, 1844. Our Charge d'Affaires at Bogota has been directed to make such representations to the government of New Grenada as will, it is hoped, lead to a prompt removal of this cause of complaint.
The sanguinary civil war with which the republic of Venezuela has for some time past been ravaged, has been brought to a close. In its progress, the rights of some of our citizens resident or trading there have been violated. The restoration of order will afford the Venezuelan government an opportunity to examine and redress these grievances, and others of long standing, which our representatives at Caraccas have, hitherto, ineffectually urged upon the attention of that government.
The extension of the coast of the United States on the Pacific, and the unexampled rapidity with which the inhabitants of California, especially, are increasing in numbers, have imparted new consequence to our relations with the other countries whose territories border upon that ocean. It is probable that the intercourse between those countries and our possessions in that quarter, particularly with the republic of Chili, will become extensive and mutually advantageous, in proportion as California and Oregon shall increase in population and wealth. It is desirable, therefore, that this government should do every thing in its power to foster and strengthen its relations with those states, and that the spirit of amity between us should be mutual and cordial.
I recommend the observance of the same course towards all other American States. The United States stand as the great American power to which, as their natural ally and friend, they will always be disposed first to look for mediation and assistance, in the event of any collision between them and any European nation. As such, we may often kindly mediate in their behalf, without entangling ourselves in foreign wars or unnecessary controversies. Whenever the faith of our treaties with any of them shall require our interference, we must necessarily interpose.
A convention has been negotiated with Brazil, providing for the satisfaction of American claims on that government, and it will be submitted to the senate. Since the last session
of Congress, we have received an envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary from that empire, and our relations with it are founded upon the most amicable understanding.
Your attention is earnestly invited to an amendment of our existing laws relating to the African slave trade, with a view to the effectual suppression of that barbarous traffic. It is not to be denied that this trade is still, in part, carried on by means of vessels built in the United States, and owned or navigated by some of our citizens. The correspondence between the department of state and the minister and consul of the United States at Rio de Janeiro, which has from time to time been laid before Congress, represents that it is a customary device to evade the penalties of our laws by means of sea-letters. Vessels sold in Brazil, when provided with such papers by the consul, instead of returning to the United States for a new register, proceed at once to the coast of Africa, for the purpose of obtaining cargoes of slaves.
Much additional information of the same character has recently been transmitted to the department of state. It has not been considered ihe policy of our laws to subject an American citizen, who, in a foreign country, purchases a vessel built in the United States, to the inconvenience of sending her home for a new register, before permitting her to proceed on a voyage. Any alteration of the laws, which might have a tendency to impede the free transfer of property in vessels between our citizens, or the free navigation of those vessels between different parts of the world, when employed in lawful com. merce, should be well and cautiously considered; but I trust that your wisdom will devise a method by which our general policy, in this respect, may be preserved, and at the same time the abuse of our fag, by means of sealetters, in the manner indicated, may be prevented.
Having ascertained that there is no prospect of the re-union of the five States of Central America, which formerly composed the republic of that name, we have separately negotiated with some of them treaties of amity and commerce, which will be laid before the senate.
A contract having been concluded with the State of Nicaragua, by a company composed of American citizens, for the purpose of constructing a ship
canal through the territory of that State, to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, I have directed the negotiation of a treaty with Nicaragua, pledging both governments to protect those who shall engage in and perfect the work. All other nations are invited by the State of Nicaragua to enter into the same treaty stipulations with her, and the benefit to be derived by each from such an arrangement, will be the protection of this great inter-oceanic communi. cation ayainst any power which might seek to obstruct it, or to monopolize its advantages. All States, entering into such a treaty, will enjoy the right of passage through the canal on payment of the same tolls.
The work, if constructed under these guarantees, will become a bond of peace, instead of a subject of contention and strife, between the nations of the earth. Should the great maritime states of Europe consent to this arrangement, (and we have no reason to suppose that a proposition so fair and honourable will be opposed by any,) the energies of their people and ours will cooperate in promoting the success of the enterprise. I do not recommend any appropriation from the national treasury for this purpose, nor do I believe that such an appropriation is necessary. Private enterprise, if properly protected, will complete the work, should it prove to be feasible. The parties who have procured the charter from Nicaragua, for its construction, desire no assist. ance from this government beyond its protection; and they profess that, having examined the proposed line of communication, they will be ready to commence the undertaking whenever that protection shall be extended to them. Should there appear to be reason, on examining the whole evidence, to entertain a serious doubt of the practicability of constructing such a canal, that doubt could be speedily solved by an actual exploration of the route.
Should such a work be constructed, under the common protection of all nations, for equal benefits to all, it would be neither just nor expedient that any great maritime state should command the communication. The territory through which the canal may be opened ought to be freed from the claims of any foreign power. No such power should occupy such a position that would enable it hereafter to exercise so controlling an influence over the commerce of the world, or to obstruct a highway which ought to be dedicated to the common uses of mankind.
The routes across the Isthmus, at Tehuantepec and Panama, are also worthy of our serious consideration. They did not fail to engage the attention of my predecessor. The negotiator of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was instructed to offer a very large sum of money for the right of transit across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.
The Mexican government did not accede to the proposition for the purchase of the right of way, probably because it had already contracted with private individuals for the construction of a passage from the Goasacvalco river to Tehuantepec. I shall not renew any proposition to purchase, for money, a right which ought to be equally secured to all nations, on payment of a reasonable toll to the owners of ihe improvement, who would, doubtless, be well contented with that compensation and the guarantees of the maritime States of the world, in separate treaties negotiated with Mexico, binding her and them to protect those who should construct the work. Such guarantees would do more to secure the completion of the communication through the territory of Mexico, than any other reasonable consideration that could be of fered; and as Mexico herself would be the greatest gainer by the opening of This communication between the Gulf and ihe Pacific ocean, it is presumed that she would not hesitate to yield her aid, in the manner proposed, to ac. complish an improvement so important to her own best interests.
We have reason to hope that the proposed rail-road across the Isthmus of Panama will be successfully constructed, under the protection of the late treaty with New Grenada, ratified and exchanged by my predecessor on the