Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

From the organization of the Government, the importance of encouraging, by all possible means, the increase of our agricultural productions has been acknowledged and urged upon the attention of Congress and the people as the surest and readiest means of increasing our substantial and enduring prosperity.

The words of Washington are as applicable to-day as when, in his eighth annual message, he said: “It is not to be doubted that with reference either to individual or national welfare, agriculture is of primary importance. In proportion as nations advance in population and other circumstances of maturity, this truth becomes more apparent, and renders the cultivation of the soil more and more an object of public patronage. Institutions for promoting it grow up, supported by the public purse—and to what object can it be dedicated with greater propriety? Among the means which have been employed to this end, none have been attended with greater success than the establishment of boards composed of proper characters, charged with collecting and diffusing information, and enabled, by premiums and small pecuniary aids, to encourage and assist the spirit of discovery and improvement, this species of establishment contributing doubly to the increase of improvement by stimulating to enterprise and experiment, and by drawing to a common centre the results everywhere of individual skill and observation, and spreading them thence over the whole nation. Experience accordingly hath shown that they are very cheap instruments of immense national benefit."

The preponderance of the agricultural, over any other interest in the United States, entitles it to all the consideration claimed for it by Washington. About one-half of the population of the United States is engaged in agriculture. The value of the agricultural products of the United States for the year 1878, is estimated at three thousand millions of dollars. The exports of agricultural products for the year 1877, as appears from the report of the Bureau of Statistics, were five hundred and twenty-four millions of dollars. The great extent of our country, with its diversity of soil and climate, enables us to produce within our own borders, and by our own labor, not only the necessaries but most of the luxuries that are consumed in civilized countries. Yet, notwithstanding our advantages of soil, climate, and intercommunication, it appears from the statistical statements in the report of the Commissioner of Agriculture, that we import annually from foreign lands many millions of dollars' worth of agricultural products which could be raised in our own country.

Numerous questions arise in the practice of advanced agriculture which can only be answered by experiments, often costly and sometimes fruitless, which are beyond the means of private individuals, and are a just and proper charge on the whole nation for the benefit of the nation. It is good policy, especially in times of depression and uncertainty in other business pursuits, with a vast area of uncultivated, and hence unproductive territory, wisely opened to homestead settlement, to encourage,

[merged small][ocr errors]

by every proper and legitimate means, the occupation and tillage of the soil. The efforts of the Department of Agriculture to stimulate old and introduce new agricultural industries, to improve the quality and increase the quantity of our products, to determine the value of old or establish the importance of new methods of culture, are worthy of your careful and favorable consideration, and assistance by such appropriations of money and enlargement of facilities as may seem to be demanded by the present favorable conditions for the growth and rapid development of this iinportant interest.

The abuse of animals in transit is widely attracting public attention. A national convention of societies specially interested in the subject has recently met at Baltimore, and the facts developed, both in regard to cruelties to animals and the effect of such cruelties upon the public health, would seem to demand the careful consideration of Congress, and the enactment of more efficient laws for the prevention of these abuses.

The report of the Commissioner of the Bureau of Education shows very gratifying progress throughout the country, in all the interests committed to the care of this important office. The report is especially encouraging with respect to the extension of the advantages of the common-school system, in sections of the country where the general enjoyment of the privilege of free schools is not yet attained.

To education more than to any other agency we are to look, as the resource for the advancement of the people, in the requisite knowledge and appreciation of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and I desire to repeat the suggestion contained in my former message in behalf of the enactment of appropriate measures by Congress for the purpose of supplementing, with national aid, the local systems of education in the several States.

Adequate accommodations for the great library, which is overgrow. ing the capacity of the rooms now occupied at the Capitol, should be provided without further delay. This invaluable collection of books, manuscripts, and illustrative art, has grown to such proportions, in connection with the copyright system of the country, as to demand the prompt and careful attention of Congress to save it from injury in its present crowded and insufficient quarters. As this library is national in its character, and must, from the nature of the case, increase even more rapidly in the future than in the past, it cannot be doubted that the people will sanction any wise expenditure to preserve it and to enlarge its usefulness.

The appeal of the Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for the means to organize, exhibit, and make available for the public benefit the articles now stored away belonging to the National Museum, I heartily recommend to your favorable consideration.

The attention of Congress is again invited to the condition of the river-front of the city of Washington. It is a matter of vital importance to the health of the residents of the National Capital, both temporary

and permanent, that the low lands in front of the city, now subject to tidal overflow, should be reclaimed. In their present condition, these flats obstruct the drainage of the city, and are a dangerous source of malarial poison. The reclamation will improve the navigation of the river, by restricting and consequently deepening its channel; and is also of importance, when considered in connection with the extension of the public ground and the enlargement of the park, west and south of the Washington Monument. The report of the board of survey, hereto. fore ordered by act of Congress, on the improvement of the harbor of Washington and Georgetown, is respectfully commended to consideration.

The report of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia presents a detailed statement of the affairs of the District.

The relative expenditures by the United States and the District for local purposes is contrasted, showing that the expenditures by the people of the District greatly exceed those of the General Government. The exhibit is made in connection with estimates for the requisite repair of the defective pavements and sewers of the city, which is a work of immediate necessity, and, in the same connection, a plan is presented for the permanent funding of the outstanding securities of the District.

The benevolent, reformatory, and penal institutions of the District are all entitled to the favorable attention of Congress. The Reform School needs additional buildings and teachers. Appropriations which will place all of these institutions in a condition to become models of usefulness and beneficence, will be regarded by the country as liberality wisely bestowed.

The commissioners, with evident justice, request attention to the discrimination made by Congress against the District in the donation of land for the support of the public schools, and ask that the same liberality that has been shown to the inhabitants of the various States and Territories of the United States, may be extended to the Distriet of Columbia

The commissioners also invite attention to the damage inflicted upon public and private interests by the present location of the depots and switching-tracks of the several railroads entering the city, and ask for legislation looking to their removal. The recommendations and suy. gestions contained in the report will, I trust, receive the careful consideration of Congress.

Sufficient time has, perhaps, not elapsed since the reorganization of the government of the District, under the recent legislation of Congress, for the expression of a confident opinion as to its successful operation; but the practical results already attained are so satisfactory that the friends of the new government may well urge upon Congress the wisdom of its continuance, without essential modification, until, by actual experience, its advantages and defects may be more fully ascertained.

R. B. HAYES. EXECUTIVE MANSION, December 2, 1878.

FOREIGN RELATIONS.

« ForrigeFortsett »