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protection of that Divine Being whose strengthening support I humbly solicit, and whom I fervently pray to look down upon us all. May it be among the dispensations of his providence to bless our beloved country with honors and with length of days; may her ways be ways of pleasantness, and all her paths be peace.
VAN BUREN'S FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE.
DECEMBER 4, 1837. To the Senate
and House of Representatives : We have reason to renew the expression of our devout gratitude to the Giver of all good for his benign protection. Our country presents on every side the evidences of that continued favor under whose auspices it has gradually risen from a few feeble and dependent colonies to a prosperous and powerful confederacy. We are blessed with domestic tranquillity and all the elements of national prosperity. The pestilence which, invading for a time some flourishing portions of the Union, interrupted the general prevalence of unusual health, has happily been limited in extent, and arrested in its fatal career. The industry and prudence of our citizens are gradually relieving them from the pecuniary embarrassments under which portions of them have labored; judicious legislation, and the natural and boundless resources of the country, have afforded wise and timely aid to private enterprise; and the activity always characteristic of our people has already in a great degree resumed its usual and profitable channels.
The condition of our foreign relations has not materially changed since the last annual message of my predecessor. We remain in peace with all nations; and no efforts on my part, consistent with the preservation of our rights and the honor of our country, shall be spared to maintain a position so consonant to our institutions. We have faithfully sustained the foreign policy with which the United States,
under the guidance of their first President, took their stand in the family of nations that of regulating their intercourse with other powers by the approved principles of private life; asking and according equal rights and equal privileges; rendering and demanding justice in all cases; advancing their own and discussing the pretensions of others, with candor, directness, and sincerity; appealing at all times to reason, but never yielding to force, nor seeking to acquire any thing for themselves by its exercise.
A rigid adherence to this policy has left this government with scarcely a claim upon its justice, for injuries arising from acts committed by its authority. The most imposing and perplexing of those of the United States upon foreign governments for aggressions upon our citizens, were disposed of by my predecessor. Independently of the benefits conferred upon our citizens by restoring to the mercantile community so many millions of which they had been *wrongfully divested, a great service was also rendered to his country by the satisfactory adjustment of so many ancient and irritating subjects of contention; and it reflects no ordinary credit on his successful administration of public affairs, that this great object was accomplished without compromising, on any occasion, either the honor or the peace of the nation.
With European powers, no new subjects of difficulty have arisen; and those which were under discussion, although not terminated, do not present a more unfavorable aspect for the future preservation of that good understanding which it has ever been our desire to cultivate.
Of pending questions, the most important is that which exists with the government of Great Britain, in respect to our north-eastern boundary. It is with unfeigned regret that the people of the United States must look back upon the abortive efforts made by the executive, for a period of more than half a century, to determine, what no nation should suffer long to remain in dispute, the true line which divides its possessions from those of other powers. The nature of the settlement on the borders of the United States, and of the neighboring territory, was for a season such, that this, perhaps, was not indispensable to a faithful performance of the duties of the federal government.
Time has, however, changed this state of things; and has brought about a condition of affairs, in which the true interests of both countries imperatively require that this question should be put at rest. It is not to be disguised, that with full confidence, often expressed, in the desire of the British government to terminate it, we are apparently as far from its adjustment as we were at the time of signing the treaty of peace in 1783. The sole result of long-pending negotiations, and a perplexing arbitration, appears to be a conviction, on its part, that a conventional line must be adopted, from the impossibility of ascertaining the true one according to the description contained in that treaty. Without coinciding in this opinion, which is not thought to be well founded, my predecessor gave the strongest proof of the earnest desire of the United States to terminate satisfactorily this dispute, by proposing the substitution of a conventional line, if the consent of the states interested in the question could be obtained.
To this proposition, no answer has yet been received. The attention of the British government, however, has been earnestly invited to the subject, and its reply cannot, I am confident, be much longer delayed. The general relations between Great Britain and the United States are of the most friendly character, and I am well satisfied of the sincere disposition of that government to maintain them upon their present footing. This disposition has also, I am persuaded, become more general with the people of England than at any previous period. It is scarcely necessary to say to you, how cordially it is reciprocated by the government and the people of the United States. The conviction, which must be common to all, of the injurious consequences that result from keeping open this irritating question, and the certainty that its final settlement cannot be much longer deferred, will, I trust, lead to an early and satisfactory adjustment. At your last session, I laid before you the recent communications between the two governments, and between this government and that of the state of Maine, in whose solicitude, concerning a subject in which she has so deep an interest, every portion of the Union participates. The feelings produced by a temporary interruption of
those harmonious relations between France and the United States, which are due as well to the recollections of former times as to a correct appreciation of existing interests, have been happily succeeded by a cordial disposition on both sides to cultivate an active friendship in their future intercourse. The opinion, undoubtedly correct, and steadily entertained by us, that the commercial relations at present existing between the two countries, are susceptible of great and reciprocally beneficial improvements, is obviously gaining ground in France; and I am assured of the disposition of that government to favor the accomplishment of such an object. This disposition shall be met in a proper spirit on our part. The few and comparatively unimportant questions that remain to be adjusted between us, can, I have no doubt, be settled with entire satisfaction, and without difficulty.
Between Russia and the United States, sentiments of good-will continue to be mutually cherished. Our minister recently accredited to that court, has been received with a frankness and cordiality, and with evidences of respect for his country, which leaves us no room to doubt the preservation in future of those amicable and liberal relations which have so long and so uninterruptedly existed between the two countries. . On the few subjects under discussion between us, an early and just decision is confidently anticipated.
A correspondence has been opened with the government of Austria, for the establishment of diplomatic relations, in conformity with the wishes of Congress, as indicated by an appropriation act of the session of 1837, and arrangements made for the purpose, which will be duly carried into effect.
With Austria and Prussia, and with the states of the German empire, now composing with the latter the Commercial League, our political relations are of the most friendly character, while our commercial intercourse is gradually extending, with benefit to all who are engaged
Civil war yet rages in Spain, producing intense suffering to its own people, and to other nations inconvenience and regret. Our citizens who have claims
country will be prejudiced for a time by the condition of its treasury, the inevitable consequence of long-continued and exhausting internal wars. The last instalment of the interest of the debt due under the convention with the queen of Spain has not been paid ; and similar failures may be expected to happen until a portion of the resources of her kingdom can be devoted to the extinguishment of its foreign debt.
Having received satisfactory evidence that discriminating tonnage duties were charged upon vessels of the United States in the ports of Portugal, a proclamation was issued on the 11th day of October last, in compliance with the act of May 25th, 1832, declaring that fact, and the duties on foreign tonnage, which were levied upon Portuguese vessels in the United States, previously to the passage of that act, are accordingly revived.
The act of July 4th, 1836, suspending the discriminating duties upon the produce of Portugal imported into this country in Portuguese vessels, was passed, upon the application of that government, through its representative here, under the belief that no similar discrimination existed in Portugal to the prejudice of the United States. I regret to state that such duties are now exacted, in that country, upon
of American vessels; and as the act referred to vests no discretion in the executive, it is for Congress to determine upon the expediency of further legislation upon the subject. Against these discriminations, affecting the vessels of this country and their cargoes, seasonable remonstrance was made, and notice was given to the Portuguese government, that, unless they should be discontinued, the adoption of countervailing measures on the part of the United States would become necessary; but the reply of that government, received at the department of state through our charge d'affaires at Lisbon, in the month of September last, afforded no ground to hope for the abandonment of a system so little in harmony with the treatment shown to the vessels of Portugal and their cargoes, in the ports of this country, and so contrary to the expectations we hạd a right to entertain.
With Holland, Sweden, Denmark, Naples, and Bel