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RELATING TO THE
THE UNITED STATES,
TRANSMITTED TO CONGRESS,
PRECEDED BY A
LIST OF PAPERS AND FOLLOWED BY AN INDEX OF
PERSONS AND SUBJECTS.
Fellou-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives :
Our heartfelt gratitude is due to the Divine Being, who holds in His hands the destinies of nations, for the continued bestowal, during the last year, of countless blessings upon our country.
We are at peace with all other nations. Our public credit has greatly improved, and is, perhaps, now stronger than ever before. Abundant harvests have rewarded the labors of those who till the soil, our manufacturing industries are reviving, and it is believed that general prosperity, which has been so long anxiously looked for, is at last within our reach.
The enjoyment of health by our people generally has, however, been interrupted, during the past season, by the prevalence of a fatal pestilence, the yellow-fever, in some portions of the southern States, creating an emergency which called for prompt and extraordinary measures of relief. The disease appeared as an epidemic at New Orleans and at other places on the lower Mississippi, soon after midsummer. It was rapidly spread by fugitives from the infected cities and towns, and did not disappear until early in November. The States of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee have suffered severely. About one hundred thousand cases are believed to have occurred, of which about twenty thousand, according to intelligent estimates, proved fatal. It is impossible to estimate with any approach to accuracy the loss to the country occasioned by this epidemic. It is to be reckoned by the hundred millions of dollars. The suffering and destitution that resulted, excited the deepest sympathy in all parts of the Union. Physicians and nurses hastened from every quarter to the assistance of the afflicted communities. Voluntary contributions of money and supplies, in every needed form, were speedily and generously furnished. The Government was able to respond in some measure to the call for help, by providing tents, medicines, and food for the sick and destitute, the requisite directions for the purpose being given, in the confident expectation that this action of the Executive would receive the sanction of Congress. About eighteen hundred tents, and rations of the value of about twenty-five thousand dollars, were sent to cities and towns which applied for them, full details of which will be furnished to Congress by the proper Department.
The fearful spread of this pestilence, has awakened a very general public sentiment in favor of national sanitary administration, which shall not only control quarantine, but have the sanitary supervision of
internal commerce in times of epidemics, and hold an advisory relation to the State and municipal health authorities, with power to deal with whatever endangers the public health, and which the municipal and State authorities are unable to regulate. The national quarantine act approved April 29, 1878, which was passed too late in the last session of Congress to provide the means for carrying it into practical operation, during the past season, is a step in the direction here indicated. In view of the necessity for the most effective measures, by quarantine and otherwise, for the protection of our sea-ports, and the country generally, from this and other epidemics, it is recommended that Congress give to the whole subject early and careful consideration.
The permanent pacification of the country by the complete protection of all citizens in every civil and political right continues to be of paramount interest with the great body of our people. Every step in this direction is welcomed with public approval, and every interruption of steady and uniform progress to the desired consummation awakens general uneasiness and wide-spread condemnation. The recent congressional elections have furnished a direct and trustworthy test of the advance thus far made in the practical establishment of the right of suffrage, secured by the Constitution to the liberated race in the Southern States. All disturbing influences, real or imaginary, had been removed from all of these States.
The three constitutional amendments, which conferred freedom and equality of civil and political rights upon the colored people of the South, were adopted by the concurrent action of the great body of good citizens who maintained the authority of the National Government and the integrity and perpetuity of the Union at such a cost of treasure and life, as a wise and necessary embodiment in the organic law of the just results of the war. The people of the former slave-holding States accepted these results, and gave, in every practicable form, assurances that the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth amendments, and laws passed in pursuance thereof, should, in good faith, be enforced, rigidly and impartially, in letter and spirit, to the end that the humblest citizen, without distinction of race or color, should, under them, receive full and equal protection in person and property and in political rights and privileges. By these constitutional amendments, the southern section of the Union obtained a large increase of political power in Congress and in the Electoral College, and the country justly expected that elections would proceed, as to the enfranchised race, upon the same circumstances of legal and constitutional freedom and protection which obtained in all the other States of the Union. The friends of law and order looked forward to the conduct of these elections, as offering to the general judg. ment of the country an important opportunity to measure the degree in which the right of suffrage could be exercised by the colored people, and would be respected by their fellow-citizens; but a more general enjoyment of freedom of suffrage by the colored people, and a more just.
and generous protection of that freedom by the communities of which they form a part, were generally anticipated than the record of the elections discloses. In some of those States in which the colored people have been unable to make their opinions felt in the elections, the result is mainly due to influences not easily measured or remedied by legal protection; but in the States of Louisiana and South Carolina at large, and in some particular congressional districts outside of those States, the records of the elections seem to compel the conclusion that the rights of the colored voters have been overridden, and their participation in the elections not permitted to be either general or free.
It will be for the Congress for which these elections were held, to make such examinations into their conduct as may be appropriate to determine the validity of the claims of members to their seats. In the meanwhile it becomes the duty of the Executive and Judicial Departments of the Government, each in its province, to inquire into and punish violations of the laws of the United States which have occurred. I can but repeat what I said in this connection in my last message, that whatever authority rests with me to this end I shall not hesitate to put forth, and I am unwilling to forego a renewed appeal to the legislatures, the courts, the executive authorities, and the people of the States where these wrongs have been perpetrated, to give their assistance towards bringing to justice the offenders and preventing a repetition of the crimes. No means within my power will be spared to obtain a full and fair investigation of the alleged crimes, and to secure the conviction and just punishment of the guilty.
It is to be observed that the principal appropriation made for the Department of Justice at the last session contained the following clause: "And for defraying the expenses which may be incurred in the enforcement of the act approved February twenty-eighth, eighteen hundred and seventy-one, entitled "An act to amend an act approved May thirtieth, eighteen hundred and seventy, entitled An act to enforce the rights of citizens of the United States to vote in the several States of the Union, and for other purposes,' or any acts amendatory thereof or supplementary thereto."
It is the opinion of the Attorney General that the expenses of these proceedings will largely exceed the amount which was thus provided, and I rely confidently upon Congress to make adequate appropriations to enable the Executive Department to enforce the laws.
I respectfully urge upon your attention that the congressional elections, in every district, in a very important sense, are justly a matter of political interest and concern throughout the whole country. Each State, every political party, is entitled to the share of power which is conferred by the legal and constitutional suffrage. It is the right of every citizen, possessing the qualifications prescribed by law, to cast one unintimidated ballot, and to have his ballot honestly counted. So long as the exercise of this power and the enjoyment of this right are