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have not been perfected, others have been revoked, and some are believed to be fraudulent. But until they shall have been judicially investigated, they will continue to retard the settlement and improvement of the country. I therefore respectfully recommend that provision be made by law for the appointment of commissioners to examine all such claims with a view to their final adjustment.
I also beg leave to call your attention to the propriety of extending, at an early day, our system of land laws, with such modifications as may be necessary, over the State of California and the territories of Utah and New Mexico. The mineral lands of California will, of course, form an exception to any general system which may be adopted. Various methods of disposing of them have been suggested. I was at first inclined to favor the system of leasing, as it seemed to promise the largest revenue to the government, and to afford the best security against monopolies; but further reflection, and our experience in leasing the lead mines and selling lands upon credit, have brought my mind to the conclusion that there would be great difficulty in collecting the rents, and that the relation of debtor and creditor, between the citizens and the government, would be attended with many mischievous consequences. I therefore recommend that, instead of retaining the mineral lands under the permanent control of the government, they be divided into small parcels and sold, under such restrictions, as to quantity and time, as will insure the best price, and guard most effectually against combinations of capitalists to obtain monopolies.
The annexation of Texas and the acquisition of California and New Mexico have given increased importance to our Indian relations. The various tribes brought under our jurisdiction by these enlargements of our boundaries, are estimated to embrace a population of one hundred and twenty-four thousand.
Texas and New Mexico are surrounded by powerful tribes of Indians, who are a source of constant terror and annoyance tc the inhabitants. Separating into small predatory Dands, and always mounted, they overrun the country, devistating farms, destroying crops, driving off whole herds of cattle, and occasionally murdering the inhabitants or carrying them off into captivity. The great roads leading into the country aro infested with them, whereby travelling is rendered ext> mely dangerous, and immigration is almost entirely arrested. The Mexican frontier, which, by the 11th article of the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, we are bound to protect against the Indians within our border, is exposed to these incursions equally with our own. The military force stationed in that country (although forming a large portion of the army) is represented as entirely inadequate to our own protection and the fulfilment of our treaty stipulations with Mexico. The principal deficiency is in cavalry, and I recommend that Congress should, at as early a period as practicable, provide for the raising of one or more regiments of mounted men.
For further suggestions on this subject, and others connected with our domestic interests, and the defence of our frontier, I refer you to the reports of the Secretary of the Interior and of the Secretary of War.
I commend also to your favorable consideration the suggestion contained in the last-mentioned report, and in the letter of the General-in-chief, relative to the establishment of an asylum for the relief of disabled and destitute soldiers. This subject appeals so strongly to your sympathies, that it would be superfluous in me to say any thing more than barely to express my cordial approbation of the proposed object.
The navy continues to give protection to our commerce and other national interests in the different quarters of the globe, and with the exception of a single steamer on the northern lakes, the vessels in commission are distributed in six different squadrons.
The report of the head of that department will exhibit the services of these squadrons, and of the several vessels employed in each during the past year. It is a source of gratification, that while they have been constantly prepared for any hostile emergency, they have eve öywhere met with the respect and courtesy due as well to the dignity as to the peaceful dispositions and just purposes of the nation.
The two brigantines accepted by the government from a generous citizen of New York, and placed under the command of an officer of the navy, to proceed to the Arctic scas in quest of the British commander, Sir John Franklin, ana his companions, in compliance with the act of Congress, approved in May last, had, when last heard from, penetrated into a high northern latitude; but the success of this noble and humane enterprise is yet uncertain.
I invite your attention to the view of our present naval establishment and resources presented in the report of the Secretary of the Navy, and the suggestions therein made for its improvement, together with the naval policy recommended for the security of our Pacific coast, and the protection and extension of our commerce with Eastern Asia. Our facilities for a larger participation in the trade of the East, by means of our recent settlements on the shores of the Pacific, are too obvious to be overlooked or disregarded.
The questions in relation to rank in the army and navy, and ative rank between officers of the two branches of the service, presented to the executive by certain resolutions of the House of Representatives, at the last session of Congress, have been submitted to a board of officers in each branch of the service, and their report may be expected at an early day.
I also earnestly recommend the enactment of a law authorizing officers of the army and navy to be retired from the service when incompetent for its vigorous and active duties, taking care to make suitable provision for those who have faithfully served their country, and awarding distinctions, by retaining in appropriate commands those who have been particularly conspicuous for gallantry and good conduct. While the obligation of the country to maintain and honor those who, to the exclusion of other pursuits, have devoted themselves to its arduous service, is acknowledged, this obligation should not be permitted to interfere with the efficiency of the service itself.
I am gratified in being able to state, that the estimates of expenditure for the navy in the ensuing year are less, by more than one million of dollars, than those of the present, excepting the appropriation which may become necessary for the construction of a dock on the coast of the Pacific, propositions for which are now being considered, and on which a special report may be expected early in your pres. ent session.
There is an evident justness in the suggestion of he same report, that appropriations for the naval service proper should be separated from those for fixed and permanent oh. jects; such as building docks and navy-yards, and the fixtures attached; and from the extraordinary objects under the caro of the department which, however important, are not essentially naval.
A revision of the code for the government of the navy seems to require the immediate consideration of Congress. Its system of crimes and punishments had undergone no change for half a century, until the last session, though its defects have been often and ably pointed out, and the abolition of a particular species of corporal punishment, which then took place, without providing any substitute, has left the service in a state of defectiveness, which calls for prompt correction. I therefore recommend that the whole subject be revised without delay, and such a system established for the enforcement of discipline as shall be at once humane and effectual.
The accompanying report of the Postmaster-General presents a satisfactory view of the operations and condition of that department.
At the close of the last fiscal year, the length of the inland mail-routes in the United States (not embracing the service in Oregon and California) was one hundred and seventy-eight thousand six hundred and seventy-two miles ; the annual transportation thereon, forty-six million five hundred and forty-one thousand four hundred and twenty-three miles; and the annual cost of such transportation, two million seven hundred and twenty-four thousand four hundred and twenty-six dollars.
The increase of the annual transportation over that of the preceding year was three million nine hundred and ninetyseven thousand three hundred and fifty-four miles, and the increase in cost was three hundred and forty-two thousand four hundred and forty dollars.
The number of post-offices in the United States on the first day of July last, was eighteen thousand four hundred and seventeen-being an increase of sixteen hundred and seventy during the preceding year.
The gross revenues of the department for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1850, amounted to five million five hun. dred and fifty-two thousand nine hundred and seventy-one dollars and forty-eight cents, including the annual appropriation of two hundred thousand dollars for the franked matter of the departments, and excluding the foreign postages collected for and payable to the British government.
The expenditures for the same period were five million two hundred and twelve thousand nine hundred and fiftythree dollars and forty-three cents—leaving a balance of revenue over expenditures of three hundred and forty thousand and eighteen dollars and five cents.
I am happy to find that the fiscal condition of the department is such as to justify the Postmaster-General in recomending the reduction of our inland letter postage to three cents the single letter when prepaid, and five cents when not prepaid. He also recommends that the prepaid rate shall be reduced to two cents whenever the revenues of the department, after the reduction, shall exceed its expenditures by more than five per cent. for two consecutive years; that the postage upon California and other letters sent by our ocean steamers shall be much reduced ; and that the rates of postage on newspapers, pamphlets, periodicals, and other printed matter, shall be modified, and some reduction thereon made.
It cannot be doubted that the proposed reductions will, for the present, diminish the revenues of the department. It is believed that the deficiency, after the surplus already accumulated shall be exhausted, may be almost wholly met, either by abolishing the existing privileges of sending freo matter through the mails, or by paying out of the treasury to the Post-office Department a sum equivalent to the postage of which it is deprived by such privileges. The last is supposed to be the preferable mode, and will, if not entirely, so nearly supply that deficiency as to make any further appropriation that may be found necessary so inconsiderablo as to form no obstacle to the proposed reductions.
I entertain no doubt of the authority of Congress to make appropriations for leading objects in that class of public works comprising what are usually called works of internal improvement. This authority I suppose to be derived chiefly from the power of regulating commerce with foreign nations