A Supplement to A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents
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A Supplement to A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents


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Title: Messages and Papers of William McKinley V.2.
Author: William McKinley
Editor: James D. Richardson
Release Date: December 24, 2004 [EBook #14446]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, David Garcia and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.
A Supplement to
Prefatory Note
As the exigencies which prompted, at a late date, the change of plans in the compilation of this work, left the messages and papers of the McKinley administration incomplete and defective, it has been felt that the time has now arrived for their collection. In this supplement are included the messages, proclamations and executive orders of President McKinley which do not appear in Volume X, and those of his successor, President Roosevelt, to date. They set forth the home affairs of the nation, and illustrate the stability of the government and institutions of the United States. They demonstrate that affairs were conducted with attention and directness unaffected by the apparently distracting, but glorious, incidents, which marked her interposition by arms and the extension of her sheltering aegis to Cuba. They teach us that the foundations of this country are deep-rooted and that the process of nation-building, as recounted in these volumes, has proceeded upon right lines and with an unbounded fidelity to principle and purpose.
WASHINGTON, D.C.,October 1, 1902.
William McKinley
March 4, 1897, to September 14, 1901
Additional Messages, Proclamations, Executive Orders and Last Public Utterance to the People at Buffalo
William McKinley
(For portrait and early biographical sketch see Vol. X, pp. 125, 126, 127) At the National Republican Convention which met at Philadelphia in June, 1901, William McKinley was again nominated the Republican candidate for the Presidency of the United States. At the November election he was re-elected, receiving 292 electoral votes, against 155 votes for William J. Bryan. In September, 1901, he accepted an invitation to be present at the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo. On September 5 he delivered his last public utterance to the people, in the Temple of Music, to a vast audience. The next day, returning from a short trip to Niagara Falls, he yielded to the wishes of the people and held a reception in the Temple. Among those who, passing in single file, took him by the hand, was one who approached with his hand wrapped and held to his breast as though injured. Concealed within the covering was a loaded revolver; and as he gave his other hand to the President, a token of friendship, he quickly fired two shots, from the effects of which the President sank into the arms of those near him. He was taken to the residence of Mr. John G. Milburn, President of the Exposition Company, where on September 14, 1901, after an unexpected relapse, he died. The body was taken to Washington, D.C., and the state funeral was held in the rotunda of the Capitol. Thence the body was taken to his home in Canton, Ohio, for interment.
The period covered by the administration of William McKinley was, undoubtedly, more crowded with events calculated to try and to touch the very heart of the nation than was any period since the Civil War. The United States has passed through crisis after crisis in quick succession and has emerged not only in safety but with untarnished honor, increased glory, and the great consciousness of solidarity and unification. This is attested by the wise management of affairs in connection with the Nicaragua Canal; the increase of the navy, the formation of an army and the imposition of taxes which in no way impeded the march of industry; the settlement of railway claims; and the successful starting in life of Cuba and the administration of far colonial affairs. Aside from the wise counsels of the Executive of the nation, the calmness and cool action of the people, amid distracting and perplexing events, have contributed to the honor of the nation in no slight degree. All of this, and more, was abundantly testified to, at the time of the deplorable circumstances attending William McKinley's death by the unexampled outburst throughout the world of sympathy with the bereaved nation and of admiration for the man.
Fellow-Citizens: In obedience to the will of thepeople, and in theirpresence, byauthorit the yin me b vested y this oath, I assume the
arduous and responsible duties of President of the United States, relying upon the support of my countrymen and invoking the guidance of Almighty God. Our faith teaches that there is no safer reliance than upon the God of our fathers, who has so singularly favored the American people in every national trial, and who will not forsake us so long as we obey His commandments and walk humbly in His footsteps.
The responsibilities of the high trust to which I have been called—always of grave importance—are augmented by the prevailing business conditions, entailing idleness upon willing labor and loss to useful enterprises. The country is suffering from industrial disturbances from which speedy relief must be had. Our financial system needs some revision; our money is all good now, but its value must not further be threatened. It should all be put on an enduring basis, not subject to easy attack, nor its stability to doubt or dispute. Our currency should continue under the supervision of the Government. The several forms of our paper money offer, in my judgment, a constant embarrassment to the Government and a safe balance in the Treasury. Therefore I believe it necessary to devise a system which, without diminishing the circulating medium or offering a premium for its contraction, will present a remedy for those arrangements which, temporary in their nature, might well in the years of our prosperity have been displaced by wiser provisions. With adequate revenue secured, but not until then, we can enter upon such changes in our fiscal laws as will, while insuring safety and volume to our money, no longer impose upon the Government the necessity of maintaining so large a gold reserve, with its attendant and inevitable temptations to speculation. Most of our financial laws are the outgrowth of experience and trial, and should not be amended without investigation and demonstration of the wisdom of the proposed changes. We must be both "sure we are right," and "make haste slowly." If, therefore, Congress, in its wisdom, shall deem it expedient to create a commission to take under early consideration the revision of our coinage, banking and currency laws, and give them that exhaustive, careful and dispassionate examination that their importance demands, I shall cordially concur in such action. If such power is vested in the President, it is my purpose to appoint a commission of prominent, well-informed citizens of different parties, who will command public confidence, both on account of their ability and special fitness for the work. Business experience and public training may thus be combined, and the patriotic zeal of the friends of the country be so directed that such a report will be made as to receive the support of all parties, and our finances cease to be the subject of mere partisan contention. The experiment is, at all events, worth a trial, and, in my opinion, it can but prove beneficial to the entire country.
The question of international bimetallism will have early and earnest attention. It will be my constant endeavor to secure it by co-operation with the other great commercial powers of the world. Until that condition is realized when the parity between our gold and silver money springs from and is supported by the relative value of the two metals, the value of the silver already coined and of that which may hereafter be coined, must be kept constantly at par with gold by every resource at our command. The credit of the Government, the integrity of its currency, and the inviolability of its obligations must be preserved. This was the commanding verdict of the people, and it will not be unheeded.
Economy is demanded in every branch of the Government at all times, but especially in periods, like the present, of depression in business and distress among the people. The severest economy must be observed in all pub lic expenditures, and extravagance stopped wherever it is found, and prevented wherever in the future it may be developed. If the revenues are to remain as now, the only relief that can come must be from decreased expenditures. But the present must not become the permanent condition of the Government. It has been our uniform practice to retire, not increase our outstanding obligations, and this policy must again be resumed and vigorously enforced. Our revenues should always be large enough to meet with ease and promptness not only our current needs and the principal and interest of the public debt, but to make proper and liberal provision for that most deserving body of public creditors, the soldiers and sailors and the widows and orphans who are the pensioners of the United States.
The Government should not be permitted to run behind or increase its debt in times like the present. Suitably to provide against this is the mandate of duty—the certain and easy remedy for most of our financial difficulties. A deficiency is inevitable so long as the expenditures of the Government exceed its receipts. It can only be met by loans or an increased revenue. While a large annual surplus of revenue may invite waste and extravagance, inadequate revenue creates distrust and undermines public and private credit. Neither should be encouraged. Between more loans and more revenue there ought to be but one opinion. We should have more revenue, and that without delay, hindrance, or postponement. A surplus in the Treasury created by loans is not a permanent or safe reliance. It will suffice while it lasts, but it can not last long while the outlays of the Government are greater than its receipts, as has been the case during the past two years. Nor must it be forgotten that however much such loans may temporarily relieve the situation, the Government is still indebted for the amount of the surplus thus accrued, which it must ultimately pay, while its ability to pay is not strengthened, but weakened by a continued deficit. Loans are imperative in great emergencies to preserve the Government or its credit, but a failure to supply needed revenue in time of peace for the maintenance of either has no justification.
The best way for the Government to maintain its credit is to pay as it goes—not by resorting to loans, but by keeping out of debt—through an adequate income secured by a system of taxation, external or internal, or both. It is the settled policy of the Government, pursued from the beginning and practised by all parties and Administrations, to raise the bulk of our revenue from taxes upon foreign productions entering the United States for sale and consumption, and avoiding, for the most part, every form of direct taxation, except in time of war. The country is clearly opposed to any needless additions to the subject of internal taxation, and is committed by its latest popular utterance to the system of tariff taxation. There can be no misunderstanding, either, about the principle upon which this tariff taxation shall be levied. Nothing has ever been made plainer at a general election than that the controlling principle in the raising of revenue from duties on imports is zealous care for American interests and American labor. The people have declared that such legislation should be had as will give ample protection and encouragement to the industries and the development of our country. It is, therefore, earnestly hoped and expected that Congress will, at the earliest practicable moment, enact revenue legislation that shall be fair, reasonable, conservative, and just, and which, while supplying sufficient revenue for public purposes, will still be signally beneficial and helpful to every section and every enterprise of the people. To this policy we are all, of whatever party, firmly bound by the voice of the people—a power vastly more potential than the expression of any political platform. The paramount duty of Congress is to stop deficiencies by the restoration of that protective legislation which has always been the firmest prop of the Treasury. The passage of such a law or laws would strengthen the credit of the Government both at home and abroad,
and go far toward stopping the drain upon the gold reserve held for the redemption of our currency, which has been heavy and well-nigh constant for several years. In the revision of the tariff especial attention should be given to the re-enactment and extension of the reciprocity principle of the law of 1890, under which so great a stimulus was given to our foreign trade in new and advantageous markets for our surplus agricultural and manufactured products. The brief trial given this legislation amply justifies a further experiment and additional discretionary power in the making of commercial treaties, the end in view always to be the opening up of new markets for the products of our country, by granting concessions to the products of other lands that we need and cannot produce ourselves, and which do not involve any loss of labor to our own people, but tend to increase their employment. The depression of the past four years has fallen with especial severity upon the great body of toilers of the country, and upon none more than the holders of small farms. Agr iculture has languished and labor suffered. The revival of manufacturing will be a relief to both. No portion of our population is more devoted to the institution of free government nor more loyal in their support, while none bears more cheerfully or fully its proper share in the maintenance of the Government or is better entitled to its wise and liberal care and protection. Legislation helpful to producers is beneficial to all. The depressed condition of industry on the farm and in the mine and factory has lessened the ability of the people to meet the demands upon them, and they rightfully expect that not only a system of revenue shall be established that will secure the largest income with the least burden, but that every means will be taken to decrease, rather than increase, our public expenditures. Business conditions are not the most promising. It will take time to restore the prosperity of former years. If we cannot promptly attain it, we can resolutely turn our faces in that direction and aid its return by friendly legislation. However troublesome the situation may appear, Congress will not, I am sure, be found lacking in disposition or ability to relieve it as far as legislation can do so. The restoration of confidence and the revival of business, which men of all parties so much desire, depend more largely upon the prompt, energetic, and intelligent action of Congress than upon any other single agency affecting the situation.
It is inspiring, too, to remember that no great emergency in the one hundred and eight years of our eventful national life has ever arisen that has not been met with wisdom and courage by the American people, with fidelity to their best interests and highest destiny, and to the honor of the American name. These years of glorious history have exalted mankind and advanced the cause of freedom throughout the world, and immeasurably strengthened the precious free institutions which we enjoy. The people love and will sustain these institutions. The great essential to our happiness and prosperity is that we adhere to the principles upon which the Government was established and insist upon their faithful observance. Equality of rights must prevail, and our laws be always and everywhere respected and obeyed. We may have failed in the discharge of our full duty as citizens of the great Republic, but it is consoling and encouraging to realize that free speech, a free press, free thought, free schools, the free and unmolested right of religious liberty and worship, and free and fair elections are dearer and more universally enjoyed to-day than ever before. These guaranties must be sacredly preserved and wisely strengthened. The constituted authorities must be cheerfully and vigorously upheld. Lynchings must not be tolerated in a great and civilized country like the United States; courts, not mobs, must execute the penalties of the law. The preservation of public order, the right of discussion, the integrity of courts, and the orderly administration of justice must continue forever the rock of safety upon which our Government securely rests.
One of the lessons taught by the late election, which all can rejoice in, is that the citizens of the United States are both law-respecting and law-abiding people, not easily swerved from the path of patriotism and honor. This is in entire accord with the genius of our institutions, and but emphasizes the advantages of inculcating even a greater love for law and order in the future. Immunity should be granted to none who violate the laws, whether individuals, corporations, or communities; and as the Constitution imposes upon the President the duty of both its own execution, and of the statutes enacted in pursuance of its provisions, I shall endeavor carefully to carry them into effect. The declaration of the party now restored to power has been in the past that of "opposition to all combinations of capital organized in trusts, or otherwise, to control arbitrarily the condition of trade among our citizens," and it has supported "such legislation as will prevent the execution of all schemes to oppress the people by undue charges on their supplies, or by unjust rates for the transportation of their products to the market." This purpose will be steadily pursued, both by the enforcement of the laws now in existence and the recommendation and support of such new statutes as may be necessary to carry it into effect.
Our naturalization and immigration laws should be further improved to the constant promotion of a safer, a better, and a higher citizenship. A grave peril to the Republic would be a citizenship too ignorant to understand or too vicious to appreciate the great value and beneficence of our institutions and laws, and against all who come here to make war upon them our gates must be promptly and tightly closed. Nor must we be unmindful of the need of improvement among our own citizens, but with the zeal of our forefathers encourage the spread of knowledge and free education. Illiteracy must be banished from the land if we shall attain that high destiny as the foremost of the enlightened nations of the world which, under Providence, we ought to achieve.
Reforms in the civil service must go on; but the changes should be real and genuine, not perfunctory, or prompted by a zeal in behalf of any party simply because it happens to be in power. As a member of Congress I voted and spoke in favor of the present law, and I shall attempt its enforcement in the spirit in which it was enacted. The purpose in view was to secure the most efficient service of the best men who would accept appointment under the Government, retaining faithful and devoted public servants in office, but shielding none, under the authority of any rule or custom, who are inefficient, incompetent, or unworthy. The best interests of the country demand this, and the people heartily approve the law wherever and whenever it has been thus administrated.
Congress should give prompt attention to the restoration of our American merchant marine, once the pride of the seas in all the great ocean highways of commerce. To my mind, few more important subjects so imperatively demand its intelligent consideration. The United States has progressed with marvelous rapidity in every field of enterprise and endeavor until we have become foremost in nearly all the great lines of inland trade, commerce, and industry. Yet, while this is true, our American merchant marine has been steadily declining until it is now lower, both in the percentage of tonnage and the number of vessels employed, than it was prior to the Civil War. Commendable progress has been made of late years in the
upbuilding of the American Navy, but we must supplement these efforts by providing as a proper consort for it a merchant marine amply sufficient for our own carrying trade to foreign countries. The question is one that appeals both to our business necessities and the patriotic aspirations of a great people.
It has been the policy of the United States since the foundation of the Government to cultivate relations of peace and amity with all the nations of the world, and this accords with my conception of our duty now. We have cherished the policy of non-interference with the affairs of foreign governments wisely inaugurated by Washington, keeping ourselves free from entanglement, either as allies or foes, content to leave undisturbed with them the settlement of their own domestic concerns. It will be our aim to pursue a firm and dignified foreign policy, which shall be just, impartial, ever watchful of our national honor, and always insisting upon the enforcement of the lawful rights of American citizens everywhere. Our diplomacy should seek nothing more and accept nothing less than is due us. We want no wars of conquest; we must avoid the temptation of territorial aggression. War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed; peace is preferable to war in almost every contingency. Arbitration is the true method of settlement of international as well as local or individual differences. It was recognized as the be st means of adjustment of differences between emplo yers and employees by the Forty-ninth Congress, in 1886, and its application was extended to our diplomatic relations by the unanimous concurrence of the Senate and House of the Fifty-first Congress in 1890. The latter resolution was accepted as the basis of negotiations with us by the British House of Commons in 1893, and upon our invitation a treaty of arbitration between the United States and Great Britain was signed at Washington and transmitted to the Senate for its ratification in January last. Since this treaty is clearly the result of our own initiative; since it has been recognized as the leading feature of our foreign policy throughout our entire national history—the adjustment of difficulties by judicial methods rather than force of arms—and since it presents to the world the glorious example of reason and peace, not passion and war, controlling the relations between two of the greatest nations in the world, an example certain to be followed by others, I respectfully urge the early action of the Senate thereon, not merely as a matter of policy, but as a duty to mankind. The importance and moral influence of the ratification of such a treaty can hardly be overestimated in the cause of advancing civilization. It may well engage the best thought of the statesmen and people of every country, and I cannot but consider it fortunate that it was reserved to the United States to have the leadership in so grand a work.
It has been the uniform practice of each President to avoid, as far as possible, the convening of Cong ress in extraordinary session. It is an example which, under ordinary circumstances and in the absence of a public necessity, is to be commended. But a failure to convene the representatives of the people in Congress in extra session when it involves neglect of a public duty places the responsibility of such neglect upon the Executive himself. The condition of the public Treasury, as has been indicated, demands the immediate consideration of Congress. It alone has the power to provide revenues for the Government. Not to convene it under such circumstances I can view in no other sense than the neglect of a plain duty. I do not sympathize with the sentiment that Congress in session is dangerous to our general business interests. Its members are the agents of the people, and their presence at the seat of Government in the execution of the sovereign will should not operate as an injury, but a benefit. There could be no better time to put the Government upon a sound financial and economic basis than now. The people have only recently voted that this should be done, and nothing is more binding upon the agents of their will than the obli gation of immediate action. It has always seemed to me that the postponement of the meeting of Congress until more than a year after it has been chosen deprived Congress too often of the inspiration of the popular will and the country of the corresponding benefits. It is evident, therefore, that to postpone action in the presence of so great a necessity would be unwise on the part of the Executive because unjust to the interests of the people. Our action now will be freer from mere partisan consideration than if the question of tariff revision was postponed until the regular session of Congress. We are nearly two years from a Congressional election, and politics cannot so greatly distract us as if such contest was immediately pending. We can approach the problem calmly and patriotically, without fearing its effect upon an early election.
Our fellow-citizens who may disagree with us upon the character of this legislation prefer to have the question settled now, even against their preconceived views, and perhaps settled so reasonably, as I trust and believe it will be, as to insure great permanence, than to have further uncertainty menacing the vast and varied business interests of the United States. Again, whatever action Congress may take will be given a fair opportunity for trial before the people are called to pass judgment upon it, and this I consider a great essential to the rightful and lasting settlement of the question. In view of these considerations, I shall deem it my duty as President to convene Congress in extraordinary session on Monday, the 15th day of March, 1897.
In conclusion, I congratulate the country upon the fraternal spirit of the people and the manifestations of good will everywhere so apparent. The recent election not only most fortunately demonstrated the obliteration of sectional or geographical lines, but to some extent also the prejudices which for years have distracted our councils and marred our true greatness as a nation. The triumph of the people, whose verdict is carried into effect to-day, is not the triumph of one section, nor wholly of one party, but of all sections and all the people. The North and the South no longer divide on the old lines, but upon principles and policies; and in this fact surely every lover of the country can find cause for true felicitation. Let us rejoice in and cultivate this spirit; it is ennobling and will be both a gain and a blessing to our beloved country. It will be my constant aim to do nothing, and permit nothing to be done, that will arrest or disturb this growing sentiment of unity and co-operation, this revival of esteem and affiliation which now animates so many thousands in both the old antagonistic sections, but I shall cheerfully do everything possible to promote and increase it.
Let me again repeat the words of the oath administered by the Chief Justice which, in their respective spheres, so far as applicable, I would have all my countrymen observe: "I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." This is the obligation I have reverently taken before the Lord Most High. To keep it will be my single purpose, my constant prayer; and I shall confidently rely upon the forbearance and assistance of all the people in the discharge of my solemn responsibilities.
To the Congress of the United States:
Regretting the necessity which has required me to call you together, I feel that your assembling in extraordinary session is indispensable because of the condition in which we find the revenues of the Government. It is conceded that its current expenditures are greater than its receipts, and that such a condition has existed for now more than three years. With unlimited means at our command, we are presenting the remarkable spectacle of increasing our public debt by borrowing money to meet the ordinary outlays incident upon even an economical and prudent administration of the Government. An examination of the subject discloses this fact in every detail and leads inevitably to the conclusion that the condition of the revenue which allows it is unjustifiable and should be corrected.
We find by the reports of the Secretary of the Treasury that the revenues for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1892, from all sources were $425,868,260.22, and the expenditures for all purposes were $415,953,806.56, leaving an e xcess of receipts over expenditures of $9,914,453.66. During that fiscal year $40,570,467.98 were paid upon the public debt, which had been reduced since March 1, 1889, $259,076,890, and the annual interest charge decreased $11,684,576.60. The receipts of the Government from all sources during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1893, amounted to $461,716,561.94, audits expenditures to $459,374,887.65, showing an excess of receipts over expenditures of $2,341,674.29.
Since that time the receipts of no fiscal year, and with but few exceptions of no month of any fiscal year, have exceeded the expenditures. The receipts of the Government, from all sources, during the fiscal year ending June 30, 1894, were $372,802,498.29, and its expenditures $442,605,758.87, leaving a deficit, the first since the resumpti on of specie payments, of $69,803,260.58. Notwithstanding there was a decrease of $16,769,128.78 in the ordinary expenses of the Government, as compared with the previous fiscal year, its income was still not sufficient to provide for its daily necessities, and the gold reserve in the Treasury for the redemption of greenbacks was drawn upon to meet them. But this did not suffice, and the Government then resorted to loans to replenish the reserve.
In February, 1894, $50,000,000 in bonds were issued, and in November following a second issue of $50,000,000 was deemed necessary. The sum of $117,171,795 was realized by the sale of these bonds, but the reserve was steadily decreased until, on February 8, 1895, a third sale of $62,315,400 in bonds, for $65,116,244, was announced to Congress.
The receipts of the Government for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1895, were $390,373,203.30 and the expenditures $433,178,426.48, showing a deficit of $42,805,223.18. A further loan of $100,000,000 was negotiated by the Government in February, 1896, the sale netting $111,166,246, and swelling the aggregate of bonds issued within three years to $262,315,400. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 1896, the revenues of the Government from all sources amounted to $409,475,408.78, while its expenditures were $434,6 78,654.48, or an excess of expenditures over receip ts of $25,203,245.70. In other words, the total receipts for the three fiscal years ending June 30, 1896, were insufficient by $137,811,729.46 to meet the total expenditures.
Nor has this condition since improved. For the first half of the present fiscal year, the receipts of the Government, exclusive of postal revenues, were $157,507,603.76, and its expenditures, exclusive of postal service, $195,410,000.22, or an excess of expenditures over receipts of $37,902,396.46. In January of this year, the receipts, exclusive of postal revenues, were $24,316,994.05, and the expenditures , exclusive of postal service, $30,269,389.29, a de ficit of $5,952,395.24 for the month. In February of this year, the receipts, exclusive of postal revenues, were $24,400,997.38, and expenditures, exclusive of postal service, $28,796,056.66, a deficit of $4,395,059.28; or a total defi ciency of $186,061,580.44 for the three years and eight months ending March 1, 1897. Not only are we without a surplus in the Treasury, but with an increase in the public debt there has been a corresponding increase in the annual interest charge, from $22,893,883.20 in 1892, the lowest of any year since 1862, to $34,387,297.60 in 1896, or an incre ase of $11,493,414.40.
It may be urged that even if the revenues of the Government had been sufficient to meet all its ordinary expenses during the past three years, the gold reserve would still have been insufficient to meet the demands upon it, and that bonds would necessarily have been issued for its repletion. Be this as it may, it is clearly manifest, without denying or affirming the correctness of such a conclusion, that the debt would have been decreased in at least the amount of the deficiency, and business confidence immeasurably strengthened throughout the country.
Congress should promptly correct the existing condition. Ample revenues must be supplied not only for the ordinary expenses of the Government, but for the prompt payment of liberal pensions and the liquidation of the principal and interest of the public debt. In raising revenue, duties should be so levied upon foreign products as to preserve the home market, so far as possible, to our own producers; to revive and increase manufactures; to relieve and encourage agriculture; to increase our domestic and foreign commerce; to aid and develop mining and building; and to render to labor in every field of useful occupation the liberal wages and adequate rewards to which skill and industry are justly entitled. The necessity of the passage of a tariff law which shall provide ample revenue, need not be further urged. The imperative demand of the hour is the prompt enactment of such a measure, and to this object I earnestly recommend that Congress shall make every endeavor. Before other business is transacted, let us first provide sufficient revenue to faithfully administer the Government without the contracting of further debt, or the continued disturbance of our finances.
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
Information which has recently come to me from the governors of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana, and from prominent citizens of these States and Tennessee, warrants the conclusion that widespread distress, involving the destruction of a large amount of property and loss of human life, has resulted from the floods which have submerged that section of the country. These are stated, on reliable authority, to be the most destructive floods that have ever devastated the Mississippi Valley, the water being much higher than the highest stage it has reached before. From Marion, Ark., north of Memphis, to Greenville, Miss., a distance of more than 250 miles by river, it is reported there are now at least fifty towns and villages under water, and a territory extending from 100 miles north of Memphis to 200 miles south, and from 5 to 40 miles wide, is submerged. Hundreds of thousands of acres of cultivated soil, with growing crops, are i ncluded in the submerged territory. In this section alone there are from 50,000 to 60,000 people whose property has been destroyed and whose business has been suspended. Growing crops have been ruined, thousands of cattle have been drowned, and the inhabitants of certain areas threatened with starvation. As a great majority of the sufferers are small farmers, they have thus been left entirely destitute, and will be unprepared for work even after the floods have subsided.
The entire Mississippi Valley in Arkansas is flooded and communication with many points cut off. In Mississippi a like condition exists. The levees in Louisiana, with a single exception, have held; but the water is rising and the situation there is reported as being extremely critical.
Under such circumstances the citizens of these States look for the co-operation and support of the National Government in relieving the pressing cases of destitution for food, clothing, and shelter, which are beyond the reach of local efforts. The authorities who have communicated with the Executive recognize that their first and most energetic duty is to provide as far as possible the means of caring for their own citizens; but nearly all of them agree in the opinion that after their resources have been exhausted a sum aggregating at least $150,000 and possibly $200,000 will be required for immediate use.
Precedents are not wanting that in such emergencies as this Congress has taken prompt, generous, and i ntelligent action, involving the expenditure of considerable sums of money, with satisfactory results. In 1874 $5 90,000 was appropriated, and in 1882 $350,000 was also appropriated for relief in same direction, besides large sums in other years.
The citizens' relief committee of Memphis has taken prompt action, has already cared for from 6,000 to 7,000 refugees from the flooded districts, and they are still arriving in that city in large numbers daily. Supplies and provisions have been sent to the various points in Arkansas and Mississippi by this committee, but the utmost that can be done by these efforts is to partly relieve the most acute cases of suffering. No action has yet been taken for the great majority of the inhabitants living in the interior, whose condition has already been described.
Under these conditions and having exerted themselves to the fullest extent, the local authorities have reluctantly confessed their inability to further cope with this distressing situation unaided by relief from the Government. It has therefore seemed to me that the representatives of the people should be promptly informed of the nature and extent of the suffering and needs of these stricken people, and I have communicated these facts in the hope and belief that the legislative branch of the Government will promptly re-enforce the work of the local authorities in the States named.
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
EXECUTIVE MANSION,Washington, April 14, 1897.
I transmit herewith for the consideration of the respective Houses of the Congress, a report of the Secretary of State representing the appropriateness of early action in order that the Government of the United States may be enabled to accept the invitation of that of the French Republic to participate in the Universal Exposition to be held at Paris in 1900.
The recommendations of this report have my most cordial approval, and I urge upon the Congress such timely provision for this great international enterprise as will fittingly respond to the widely testified wish and expectation of our inventors and producers that they may have adequate opportunity again, as in the past, to fortify the important positions that have won in the world's competitive fields of discovery and industry. Nor are the traditional friendships of the United States and France and the mutual advantages to accrue from their enlarged commercial intercourse less important factors than the individual interests to be fostered by renewed participation in a great French exposition, especially when it is remembered that the present display is projected with a degree of completeness and on a scale of magnificence beyond any of the European exhibitions that have marked the close of the century.
It is proper that I should emphasize the need of early action, for if the present session pass without suitable provision being made, the postponement of the matter for nearly a year longer could not but operate greatly to the disadvantage of the United States, in view of the elaborate preparations already making by other governments, and of the danger that further delay may result in an inadequate allotment of space to this country as well as an incomplete organization of the American exhibit.
EXECUTIVE MANSION,Washington, May 3, 1897.
To the Congress of the United States: I transmit a report from the Secretary of State reciting the circumstances attending the lynching at Hahnville, La., on the night of August 8, 1896, of three Italian subjects, named Salvatore Arena, Giuseppe Venturelia, and Lorenzo Salardino, and I recommend the appropriation by Congress, without admitting the liability of the Government of the United States in the premises, of the sum of $6,000, to be paid by the Secretary of State to the Government of Italy, and to be distributed by that government in such manner as it may deem proper among the heirs of the three Italian subjects above named. WILLIAM McKINLEY. EXECUTIVE MANSION,Washington, May 13, 1897. To the Senate of the United States: I transmit herewith, in response to the Senate resolution of April 22, 1897, addressed to the Secretary of State, a report from that officer relative to diplomatic and consular reports on postal savings banks systems in foreign countries. WILLIAM McKINLEY.
To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:
Official information from our consuls in Cuba establishes the fact that a large number of American citizens in the island are in a state of destitution, suffering for want of food and medicines. This applies particularly to the rural districts of the central and eastern parts.
The agricultural classes have been forced from their farms into the nearest towns, where they are without work or money. The local authorities of the several towns, however kindly disposed, are unable to relieve the needs of their own people, and are altogether powerless to help our citizens.
The latest report of Consul-General Lee estimates six to eight hundred Americans are without means of support. I have assured him that provision would be made at once to relieve them. To that end I recommend that Congress make an appropriation of not less than $50,000, to be immediately available for use, under the direction of the Secretary of State.
It is desirable that a part of the sum which may be appropriated by Congress should, in the discretion of the Secretary of State, also be used for the transportation of American citizens who, desiring to return to the United States, are without means to do so.
EXECUTIVE MANSION,July 1, 1897. To the Congress of the United States: On the 15th ultimo all the buildings of the immigration station at Ellis Island, New York, excepting the heating plant and lighting apparatus, were destroyed by fire. I transmit herewith a letter from the Secretary of the Treasury, which states the fact and explains the need of rebuilding. In order that there may be no delay in this important work, I recommend that an appropriation be made at once of $600,000, the sum estimated by the Secretary of the Treasury as required for this purpose. WILLIAM McKINLEY.
To the Senate of the United States:
EXECUTIVE MANSION,Washington, July 23, 1897.
I transmit herewith a report from the Acting Secretary of State, with an accompanying paper, in response to the resolution of the Senate of July 12, 1897, requesting the Secretary of State to send to the diplomatic representatives of the United States abroad a circular letter, similar to the one sent by Secretary Elaine on May 20, 1881, instructing them to obtain from the several foreign governments to which they are accredited as full information as possible (including copy of laws relating thereto)to the nature and as practical workings(i ncluding expenses, receipts, and rates) of thepostal telegraphs,
telephones, and postal savings banks of such countries as have adopted the same.
To the Congress of the United States: In my message convening the Congress in extraordinary session I called attention to a single subject—that of providing revenue adequate to meet the reasonable and proper expenses of the Government. I believed that to be the most pressing subject for settlement then. A bill to provide the necessary revenues for the Government has already passed the House of Representatives and the Senate and awaits executive action. Another question of very great importance is that of the establishment of our currency and banking system on a better basis, which I commented upon in my inaugural address in the following words: Our financial system needs some revision; our money is all good now, but its value must not further be threatened. It should all be put upon an enduring basis, not subject to easy attack, nor its stability to doubt or dispute. The several forms of our paper money offer, in my judgment, a constant embarrassment to the Government and imperil a safe balance in the Treasury. Nothing was settled more clearly at the late national election than the determination upon the part of the people to keep their currency stable in value and equal to that of the most advanced nations of the world. The soundness of our currency is nowhere questioned. No loss can occur to its holders. It is the system which should be simplified and strengthened, keeping our money just as good as it is now with less expense to the Government and the people. The sentiment of the country is strongly in favor of early action by Congress in this direction, to revise our currency laws and remove them from partisan contention. A notable assembly of business men with delegates from twenty-nine States and Territories was held at Indianapolis in January of this year. The financial situation commanded their earnest attention, and after a two days' session the convention recommended to Congress the appointment of a monetary commission. I recommend this report to the consideration of Congress. The authors of the report recommend a commission "to make a thorough investigation of the monetary affairs and needs of this country in all relations and aspects, and to make proper suggestions as to any evils found to exist and the remedies therefor." This subject should receive the attention of Congress at its special session. It ought not to be postponed until the regular session. I therefore urgently recommend that a special commission be created, non-partisan in its character, to be composed of well-informed citizens of different parties who will command the confidence of Congress and the country because of their special fitness for the work, whose duty it shall be to make recommendations of whatever changes in our present banking and currency laws may be found necessary and expedient, and to report their conclusions on or before the 1st day of November next, in order that the same may be transmitted by me to Congress for its consideration at its first regular session.
It is to be hoped that the report thus made will be so comprehensive and sound as to receive the support of all parties and the favorable action of Congress. At all events, such a report cannot fail to be of value to the executive branch of the Government, as well as to those charged with public legislation, and to greatly assist in the establishment of an improved system of finance.
To the Senate and House of Representatives:
EXECUTIVE MANSION,December 6, 1897.
It gives me pleasure to extend greeting to the Fifty-fifth Congress, assembled in regular session at the seat of Government, with many of whose Senators and Representatives I have been associated in the legislative service. Their meeting occurs under felicitous conditions, justifying sincere congratulation and calling for our grateful acknowledgment to a beneficent Providence which has so signally blessed and prospered us as a nation. Peace and good will with all the nations of the earth continue unbroken.
A matter of genuine satisfaction is the growing feeling of fraternal regard and unification of all sections of our country, the incompleteness of which has too long delayed realization of the highest blessings of the Union. The spirit of patriotism is universal and is ever increasing in fervor. The public questions which now most engross us are lifted far above either partisanship, prejudice, or former sectional differences. They affect every part of our common country alike and permit of
no division on ancient lines. Questions of foreign policy, of revenue, the soundness of the currency, the inviolability of national obligations, the improvement of the public service, appeal to the individual conscience of every earnest citizen to whatever party he belongs or in whatever section of the country he may reside. The extra session of this Congress which closed during July last enacted important legislation, and while its full effect has not yet been realized, what it has already accomplished assures us of its timeliness and wisdom. To test its permanent value further time will be required, and the people, satisfied with its operation and results thus far, are in no mind to withhold from it a fair trial. Tariff legislation having been settled by the extra session of Congress, the question next pressing for consideration is that of the currency. The work of putting our finances upon a sound basis, difficult as it may seem, will appear easier when we recall the financial operations of the Government since 1866. On the 30th day of June of that year we had outstanding demand liabilities in the sum of $728,868,447.41. On the 1 st of January, 1879, these liabilities had been red uced to $443,889,495.88. Of our interest-bearing obligations, the figures are even more striking. On July 1, 1866, the principal of the interest-bearing debt of the Government was $2,332,331,208. On the 1st day of July, 1893, this sum had been reduced to $585,037,100, or an aggregate reduction of $1,747,294,108. The interest-bearing debt of the United States on the 1st day of December, 1897, was $847,365,620. The Government money now outstanding (December 1) consists of $346,681,016 of United States notes, $107,793,280 o f Treasury notes issued by authority of the law of 1890, $384,963,504 of silver certificates, and $61,280,761 of standard silver dollars. With the great resources of the Government, and with the honorable example of the past before us, we ought not to hesitate to enter upon a currency revision which will make our demand obligations less onerous to the Government and relieve our financial laws from ambiguity and doubt.
The brief review of what was accomplished from the close of the war to 1893, makes unreasonable and groundless any distrust either of our financial ability or soundness; while the situation from 1893 to 1897 must admonish Congress of the immediate necessity of so legislating as to make the return of the conditions then prevailing impossible.
There are many plans proposed as a remedy for the evil. Before we can find the true remedy we must appreciate the real evil. It is not that our currency of every kind is not good, for every dollar of it is good; good because the Government's pledge is out to keep it so, and that pledge will not be broken. However, the guaranty of our purpose to keep the pledge will be best shown by advancing toward its fulfillment.
The evil of the present system is found in the great cost to the Government of maintaining the parity of our different forms of money, that is, keeping all of them at par with gold. We surely cannot be longer heedless of the burden this imposes upon the people, even under fairly prosperous conditions, while the past four years have demonstrated that it is not only an expensive charge upon the Government, but a dangerous menace to the National credit.
It is manifest that we must devise some plan to protect the Government against bond issues for repeated redemptions. We must either curtail the opportunity for speculation, made easy by the multiplied redemptions of our demand obligations, or increase the gold reserve for their redemption. We have $900,000,000 of currency which the Government by solemn enactment has undertaken to keep at par with gold. Nobody is obliged to redeem in gold but the Government. The banks are not required to redeem in gold. The Government is obliged to keep equal with gold all its outstanding currency and coin obligations, while its receipts are not required to be paid in gold. They are paid in every kind of money but gold, and the only means by which the Government can with certainty get gold is by borrowing. It can get it in no other way when it most needs it. The Government without any fixed gold revenue is pledged to maintain gold redemption, which it has steadily and faithfully done, and which, under the authority now given, it will continue to do.
The law which requires the Government, after having redeemed its United States notes, to pay them out again as current funds, demands a constant replenishment of the gold reserve. This is especially so in times of business panic and when the revenues are insufficient to meet the expenses of the Government. At such times the Government has no other way to supply its deficit and maintain redemption but through the increase of its bonded debt, as during the Administration of my predecessor, when $262,315,400 of four-and-a-half per cent bonds were issued and sold and the proceeds used to pay the expenses of the Government in excess of the revenues and sustain the gold reserve. While it is true that the greater part of the proceeds of these bonds were used to supply deficient revenues, a considerable portion was required to maintain the gold reserve.
With our revenues equal to our expenses, there would be no deficit requiring the issuance of bonds. But if the gold reserve falls below $100,000,000, how will it be re plenished except by selling more bonds? Is there any other way practicable under existing law? The serious question then is, Shall we continue the policy that has been pursued in the past; that is, when the gold reserve reaches the point of danger, issue more bonds and supply the needed gold, or shall we provide other means to prevent these recurring drains upon the gold reserve? If no further legislation is had and the policy of selling bonds is to be continued, then Congress should give the Secretary of the Treasury authority to sell bonds at long or short periods, bearing a less rate of interest than is now authorized by law.
I earnestly recommend, as soon as the receipts of the Government are quite sufficient to pay all the expenses of the Government, that when any of the United States notes are presented for redemption in gold and are redeemed in gold, such notes shall be kept and set apart, and only paid out in exchange for gold. This is an obvious duty. If the holder of the United States note prefers the gold and gets it from the Government, he should not receive back from the Government a United States note without paying gold in exchange for it. The reason for this is made all the more apparent when the Government issues an interest-bearing debt to provide gold for the redemption of United States notes—a non-interest-bearing debt. Surely it should not pay them out again except on demand and for gold. If they are put out in any other way, they may return again to be followed by another bond issue to redeem them—another interest-bearing debt to redeem a
non-interest-bearing debt.
In my view, it is of the utmost importance that the Government should be relieved from the burden of providing all the gold required for exchanges and export. This responsibility is alone borne by the Government, without any of the usual and necessary banking powers to help itself. The banks do not feel the strain of gold redemption. The whole strain rests upon the Government, and the size of the gold reserve in the Treasury has come to be, with or without reason, the signal of danger or of security. This ought to be stopped.
If we are to have an era of prosperity in the country, with sufficient receipts for the expenses of the Government, we may feel no immediate embarrassment from our present currency; but the danger still exists, and will be ever present, menacing us so long as the existing system continues. And, besides, it is in times of adequate revenues and business tranquillity that the Government should prepare for the worst. We cannot avoid, without serious consequences, the wise consideration and prompt solution of this question.
The Secretary of the Treasury has outlined a plan, in great detail, for the purpose of removing the threatened recurrence of a depleted gold reserve and save us from future embarrassment on that account. To this plan I invite your careful consideration.
I concur with the Secretary of the Treasury in his recommendation that National banks be allowed to issue notes to the face value of the bonds which they have deposited for circulation, and that the tax on circulating notes secured by deposit of such bonds be reduced to one-half of one per cent per annum. I also join him in recommending that authority be given for the establishment of National banks with a minimum capital of $25,000. This will enable the smaller villages and agricultural regions of the country to be supplied with currency to meet their needs.
I recommend that the issue of National bank notes be restricted to the denomination of ten dollars and upwards. If the suggestions I have herein made shall have the approval of Congress, then I would recommend that National banks be required to redeem their notes in gold.
[See Vol. X, pp. 127-136.]
Not a single American citizen is now in arrest or confinement in Cuba of whom this Government has any knowledge. The near future will demonstrate whether the indispensable condition of a righteous peace, just alike to the Cubans and to Spain as well as equitable to all our interests so intimately involved in the welfare of Cuba, is likely to be attained. If not, the exigency of further and other action by the United States will remain to be taken. When that time comes that action will be determined in the line of indisputable right and duty. It will be faced, without misgiving or hesitancy in the light of the obligation this Government owes to itself, to the people who have confided to it the protection of their interests and honor, and to humanity.
Sure of the right, keeping free from all offense ourselves, actuated only by upright and patriotic considerations, moved neither by passion nor selfishness, the Government will continue its watchful care over the rights and property of American citizens and will abate none of its efforts to bring about by peaceful agencies a peace which shall be honorable and enduring. If it shall hereafter appear to be a duty imposed by our obligations to ourselves, to civilization and humanity to intervene with force, it shall be without fault on our part and only because the necessity for such action will be so clear as to command the support and approval of the civilized world.
By a special message dated the 16th day of June las t, I laid before the Senate a treaty signed that da y by the plenipotentiaries of the United States and of the Republic of Hawaii, having for its purpose the incorporation of the Hawaiian Islands as an integral part of the United States and under its sovereignty. The Senate having removed the injunction of secrecy, although the treaty is still pending before that body, the subject may be properly referred to in this Message because the necessary action of the Congress is required to determine by legislation many deta ils of the eventual union should the fact of annexation be accomplished, as I believe it should be.
While consistently disavowing from a very early period any aggressive policy of absorption in regard to the Hawaiian group, a long series of declarations through three-quarters of a century has proclaimed the vital interest of the United States in the independent life of the Islands and their intimate commercial dependence upon this country. At the same time it has been repeatedly asserted that in no event could the entity of Hawaiian statehood cease by the passage of the Islands under the domination or influence of another power than the United States. Under these circumstances, the logic of events required that annexation, heretofore offered but declined, should in the ripeness of time come about as the natural result of the strengthening ties that bind us to those Islands, and be realized by the free will of the Hawaiian State.
That treaty was unanimously ratified without amendment by the Senate and President of the Republic of Hawaii on the 10th of September last, and only awaits the favorable action of the American Senate to effect the complete absorption of the Islands into the domain of the United States. What the conditions of such a union shall be, the political relation thereof to the United States, the character of the local administration, the quality and degree of the elective franchise of the inhabitants, the extension of the federal laws to the territory or the enactment of special laws to fit the peculiar condition thereof, the regulation if need be of the labor system therein, are all matters which the treaty has wisely relegated to the Congress.
If the treaty is confirmed as every consideration of dignity and honor requires, the wisdom of Congress will see to it that, avoiding abrupt assimilation of elements perhaps hardly yet fitted to share in the highest franchises of citizenship, and having due regard to the geographical conditions, the most just provisions for self-rule in local matters with the largest political liberties as an integral part of our Nation will be accorded to the Hawaiians. No less is due to a people who, after nearly five years of demonstrated capacity to fulfill the obligations of self-governing statehood, come of their free will to merge their destinies in our body-politic.