State of the Union Addresses of Zachary Taylor
The addresses are separated by three asterisks: ***
Dates of addresses by Zachary Taylor in this eBook:
December 4, 1849
State of the Union Address
December 4, 1849
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
Sixty years have elapsed since the establishment of this Government, and the Congress of the United States again assembles to legislate for an empire of freemen. The predictions of evil prophets, who formerly pretended to foretell the downfall of our institutions, are now remembered only to be derided, and the United States of America at this moment present to the world the most stable and permanent Government on earth.
Such is the result of the labors of those who have gone before us. Upon Congress will eminently depend the future maintenance of our system of free government and the transmission of it unimpaired to posterity.
We are at peace with all the other nations of the world, and seek to maintain our cherished relations of amity with them. During the past year we have been blessed by a kind Providence with an abundance of the fruits of the earth, and although the destroying angel for a time visited extensive portions of our territory with the ravages of a dreadful pestilence, yet the Almighty has at length deigned to stay his hand and to restore the inestimable blessing of general health to a people who have acknowledged His power, deprecated His wrath, and implored His merciful protection.
While enjoying the benefits of amicable intercourse with foreign nations, we have not been insensible to the distractions and wars which have prevailed in other quarters of the world. It is a proper theme of thanksgiving to Him who rules the destinies of nations that we have been able to maintain amidst all these contests an independent and neutral position toward all belligerent powers.
Our relations with Great Britain are of the most friendly character. In consequence of the recent alteration of the British navigation acts, British vessels, from British and other foreign ports, will under our existing laws, after the 1st day of January next, be admitted to entry in our ports with cargoes of the growth, manufacture, or production of any part of the world on the same terms as to duties, imposts, and charges as vessels of the United States with their cargoes, and our vessels will be admitted to the same advantages in British ports, entering therein on the same terms as British vessels. Should no order in council disturb this legislative arrangement, the late act of the British Parliament, by which Great Britain is brought within the terms proposed by the act of Congress of the 1st of March, 1817, it is hoped will be productive of benefit to both countries.
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 to 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 apprised 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 officers, rendered under the permission of the late Secretary of the Navy. This permission was granted during an armistice between that Empire and the Kingdom 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 apprise the minister of the German Empire accredited to this Government of my 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 the treaty were deemed by me to be due to the honor 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 connection 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 has for a long time been in attendance at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and although a minister appointed to represent that Empire was received and accredited here, yet no such government as that of the German Empire has been definitively constituted. Mr. Donelson, our representative at Frankfort, remained there several months in the expectation that 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 event 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 exists 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 apprised that a considerable number of adventurers were engaged 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 honor 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 books, I hold it to be the duty of the Executive faithfully 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