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I have transferred the Indian agencies from Upper Missouri and Council Bluffs to Santa Fé and Salt Lake, and have caused to be appointed sub-agents in the valleys of the Gila, the Sacramento, and San Joaquin rivers. Still further legal provisions will be necessary for the effective and successful extension of our system of Indian intercourse over the new territories. I recommend the establishment of a branch mint in California, as it will, in my opinion, afford important facilities to those engaged in mining, as well as to the government in the disposition of the mineral lands. I also recommend that commissions be organized by Congress to examine and decide upon the validity of the present subsisting land titles in California and New Mexico; and that provision be made for the establishment of offices of surveyor-general in New Mexico, California, and Oregon, and for the surveying and bringing into market the public lands in those territories. Those lands, remote in position and difficult of access, ought to be disposed of on terms liberal to all, but especially favorable to the early emigrants. In order that the situation and character of the principal mineral deposits in California may be ascertained, I recommend that a geological and mineralogical exploration be connected with the linear surveys, and that the mineral lands be divided into small lots suitable for mining, and be disposed of, by sale or lease, so as to give our citizens an opportunity of procuring a permanent right of property in the soil. This would seem to be as important to the success of mining as of agricultural pursuits. The great mineral wealth of California, and the advantages which its ports and harbors, and those of Oregon; afford to commerce, especially with the islands of the Pacific and Indian oceans, and the populous regions of Eastern Asia, make it certain that there will arise in a few years large and prosperous communities on our western coast. . It therefore becomes important that a line of communication, the best and most expeditious which the nature of the country will admit, should be opened within the territory of the United States, from the navigable waters of the Atlantic on the Gulf of Mexico, to the Pacific. Opinion, as elicited and expressed by two large and respectable conventions, lately
assembled at St. Louis and Memphis, points to a railroad as that which, if practicable, will best meet the wishes and wants of the country. But while this, if in successful operation, would be a work of great national importance, and of a value to the country which it would be difficult to estimate, it ought also to be regarded as an undertaking of vast magnitude and expense, and one which must, if it be indeed practicable, encounter many difficulties in its construction and use. Therefore, to avoid failure and disappointment, to enable Congress to judge whether, in the condition of the country through which it must pass, the work be feasible; and, if it be found so, whether it should be undertaken as a national improvement, or left to individual enterprise; and, in the latter alternative, what aid, if any, ought to be extended to it by the government, I recommend, as a preliminary measure, a careful reconnoissance of the several proposed routes by a scientific corps, and a report as to the practicability of making such a road, with an estimate of the cost of its construction and support. For further views on these and other matters connected with the duties of the Home Department, I refer you to the report of the Secretary of the Interior. I recommend early appropriations for continuing the river and harbor improvements which have been already begun, and also for the construction of those for which estimates have been made, as well as for examinations and estimates preparatory to the commencement of such others as the wants of the country, and especially the advance of our population over new districts and the extension of commerce may render necessary. An estimate of the amount which ten be advantageously expended within the next fiscal year, under the direction of the Bureau of Topographical Engineers accompanies the report of the Secretary of War, to which I respectfully invite the attention of Congress. The cession of territory made by the late treaty with Mexico has greatly extended our exposed frontier, and rendered its defence more difficult. That treaty has also brought us under obligations to Mexico, to comply with which a military force is requisite. But our military establishment is not materially changed, as to its efficiency, from the condition in which it stood before the commence. ment of the Mexican war. Some addition to it will there. fore be necessary; and I recommend to the favorable consideration of Congress an increase of the several corps of the army at our distant western posts, as proposed in the accompanying report of the Secretary of War. Great embarrassment has resulted from the effect upon rank, in the army, heretofore given to brevet and staff commissions. The views of the Secretary of War on this subject are deemed important, and, if carried into effect, will, it is believed, promote the harmony of the service. The plan proposed for retiring disabled officers, and providing an asylum for such of the rank and file as from age, wounds, and other infirmities occasioned by service, have become unfit to perform their respective duties, is recommended as a means of increasing the efficiency of the army, and as an act of justice due from a grateful country to the faithful soldier. The accompanying report of the Secretary of the Navy presents a full and satisfactory account of the condition and operations of the naval service during the past year. Our citizens engaged in the legitimate pursuits of commerce have enjoyed its benefits. Wherever our national vessels have gone, they have been received with respect, our officers have been treated with kindness and courtesy, and they have on all occasions pursued a course of strict neutrality, in accordance with the policy of our government. The naval force at present in commission is as large as is admissible, with the number of men authorized by Congress to be employed. I invite your attention to the recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy on the subject of a reorganization of the navy, in its various grades of officers, and the establishing of a retired list for such of the officers as are disqualified for active and effective service. Should Congress adopt some such measure as is recommended, it will greatly increase the efficiency of the navy, and reduce its expenditures. I also ask your attention to the views expressed by him in reference to the employment of war-steamers, and in regard to the contracts for the transportation of the United States mails and the operation of the system upon the pros. perity of the navy.
By an act of Congress passed August 14, 1848, provision was made for extending post-office and mail accommodations to California and Oregon. Exertions have been made to execute that law; but the limited provisions of the act, the inadequacy of the means it authorizes, the ill adaptation of our post-office laws to the situation of that country, and the measure of compensation for services allowed by those laws, compared with the prices of labor and rents in California, render those exertions, in a great degree, ineffectual. More particular and efficient provision by law is required on this subject. The act of 1845, reducing postage, has now, by its operation during four years, produced results fully showing that the income from such reduced postage is sufficient to sustain the whole expense of the service of the post-office department, not including the cost of transportation in mail steamers on the lines from New York to Chagres, and from Panama to Astoria, which have not been considered by Congress as properly belonging to the mail service. It is submitted to the wisdom of Congress whether a further reduction of postage should not now be made, more particularly on the letter correspondence. This should be relieved from the unjust burden of transportation and delivering the franked matter of Congress, for which public service provision should be made from the treasury. I confidently believe that a change may safely be made, reducing all single letter postage to the uniform rate of five cents, regardless of distance, without thereby imposing any greater tax on the treasury than would constitute a very moderate compensation for this public service; and I therefore respectfully recommend such a reduction. Should Congress prefer to abolish the franking privilege entirely, it seems probable that no demand on the treasury would result from the proposed reduction of postage. Whether any further diminution should now be made, or the result of the reduction to five cents, which I have recommended, should be first tested, is submitted to your decision. Since the commencement of the last session of Congress, a postal treaty with Great Britain has been received and ratified, and such regulations have been formed by the Postfice Departments of the two countries, in pursuance of that
treaty, as to carry its provisions into full operation. The attempt to extend this same arrangement, through England to France, has not been equally successful; but the purpose has not been abandoned. For a particular statement of the condition of the postoffice department, and other matters connected with that branch of the public service, I refer you to the report of the Postmaster-General. By the act of the 3d of March, 1849, a board was constituted to make arrangements for taking the seventh census, composed of the Secretary of State, the Attorney-General, and the Postmaster-General; and it was made the duty of this board “to prepare, and cause to be printed, such forms and schedules as might be necessary for the full enumeration of the inhabitants of the United States; and also proper forms and schedules for collecting, in statistical tables, under proper heads, such information as to mines, agriculture, commerce, manufactures, education, and other topics, as would exhibit a full view of the pursuits, industry, education, and resources of the country.” The duties enjoined upon the census board thus established having been performed, it now rests with Congress to enact a law for carrying into effect the provisions of the constitution which requires an actual enumeration of the people of the Uuited States within the ensuing year. Among the duties assigned by the constitution to the neral government is one of local and limited application, but not on that account the less obligatory; I allude to the trust committed to Congress as the exclusive legislator and sole guardian of the interests of the District of Columbia. I beg to commend these interests to your kind attention. As the national metropolis, the city of Washington must be an object of general interest; and founded, as it was, under the auspices of him whose immortal name it bears, its claims to the fostering care of Congress present themselves with additional strength. Whatever can contribute to its prosperity must enlist the feelings of its constitutional guardians, and command their favorable consideration. Our government is one of limited powers, and its successful administration eminently depends on the confinement of each of its co-ordinate branches within its own appropriate