The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7

A disloyal portion of the American people have during the whole year
been engaged in an attempt to divide and destroy the Union. A nation
which endures factious domestic division is exposed to disrespect
abroad, and one party, if not both, is sure sooner or later to invoke
foreign intervention.

Nations thus tempted to interfere are not always able to resist the
counsels of seeming expediency and ungenerous ambition, although
measures adopted under such influences seldom fail to be unfortunate
and injurious to those adopting them.

The disloyal citizens of the United States who have offered the ruin
of our country in return for the aid and comfort which they have
invoked abroad have received less patronage and encouragement than
they probably expected. If it were just to suppose, as the
insurgents have seemed to assume, that foreign nations in this case,
discarding all moral, social, and treaty obligations, would act
solely and selfishly for the most speedy restoration of commerce,
including especially the acquisition of cotton, those nations appear
as yet not to have seen their way to their object more directly or
clearly through the destruction than through the preservation of the
Union. If we could dare to believe that foreign nations are actuated
by no higher principle than this, I am quite sure a sound argument
could be made to show them that they can reach their aim more readily
and easily by aiding to crush this rebellion than by giving
encouragement to it.

The principal lever relied on by the insurgents for exciting foreign
nations to hostility against us, as already intimated, is the
embarrassment of commerce. Those nations, however, not improbably
saw from the first that it was the Union which made as well our
foreign as our domestic commerce. They can scarcely have failed to
perceive that the effort for disunion produces the existing
difficulty, and that one strong nation promises more durable peace
and a more extensive, valuable, and reliable commerce than can the
same nation broken into hostile fragments.

It is not my purpose to review our discussions with foreign states,
because, whatever might be their wishes or dispositions, the
integrity of our country and the stability of our government mainly
depend not upon them, but on the loyalty, virtue, patriotism, and
intelligence of the American people. The correspondence itself, with
the usual reservations, is herewith submitted.

I venture to hope it will appear that we have practiced prudence and
liberality toward foreign powers, averting causes of irritation and
with firmness maintaining our own rights and honor.

Since, however, it is apparent that here, as in every other state,
foreign dangers necessarily attend domestic difficulties, I recommend
that adequate and ample measures be adopted for maintaining the
public defenses on every side. While under this general
recommendation provision for defending our seacoast line readily
occurs to the mind, I also in the same connection ask the attention
of Congress to our great lakes and rivers. It is believed that some
fortifications and depots of arms and munitions, with harbor and
navigation improvements, all at well-selected points upon these,
would be of great importance to the national defense and preservation
I ask attention to the views of the Secretary of War, expressed in
his report, upon the same general subject.

I deem it of importance that the loyal regions of east Tennessee and
western North Carolina should be connected with Kentucky and other
faithful parts of the Union by rail-road. I therefore recommend, as
a military measure, that Congress provide for the construction of
such rail-road as speedily as possible. Kentucky will no doubt
co-operate, and through her Legislature make the most judicious
selection of a line. The northern terminus must connect with some
existing railroad, and whether the route shall be from Lexington or
Nicholasville to the Cumberland Gap, or from Lebanon to the Tennessee
line, in the direction of Knoxville, or on some still different line,
can easily be determined. Kentucky and the General Government
co-operating, the work can be completed in a very short time, and
when done it will be not only of vast present usefulness but also a
valuable permanent improvement, worth its cost in all the future.

Some treaties, designed chiefly for the interests of commerce, and
having no grave political importance, have been negotiated, and will
be submitted to the Senate for their consideration.

Although we have failed to induce some of the commercial powers to
adopt a desirable melioration of the rigor of maritime war, we have
removed all obstructions from the way of this humane reform except
such as are merely of temporary and accidental occurrence.

I invite your attention to the correspondence between her Britannic
Majesty’s minister accredited to this government and the Secretary of
State relative to the detention of the British ship Perthshire in
June last by the United States steamer Massachusetts for a supposed
breach of the blockade. As this detention was occasioned by an
obvious misapprehension of the facts, and as justice requires that we
should commit no belligerent act not founded in strict right as
sanctioned by public law, I recommend that an appropriation be made
to satisfy the reasonable demand of the owners of the vessel for her

I repeat the recommendation of my predecessor in his annual message
to Congress in December last in regard to the disposition of the
surplus which will probably remain after satisfying the claims of
American citizens against China, pursuant to the awards of the
commissioners under the act of the 3d of March, 1859. If, however,
it should not be deemed advisable to carry that recommendation into
effect, I would suggest that authority be given for investing the
principal, or the proceeds of the surplus referred to, in good
securities, with a view to the satisfaction of such other just claims
of our citizens against China as are not unlikely to arise hereafter
in the course of our extensive trade with that empire.

By the act of the 5th of August last Congress authorized the
President to instruct the commanders of suitable vessels to defend
themselves against and to capture pirates. His authority has been
exercised in a single instance only. For the more effectual
protection of our extensive and valuable commerce in the Eastern seas
especially, it seems to me that it would also be advisable to
authorize the commanders of sailing vessels to recapture any prizes
which pirates may make of United States vessels and their cargoes,
and the consular courts now established by law in Eastern countries
to adjudicate the cases in the event that this should not be objected
to by the local authorities.

If any good reason exists why we should persevere longer in
withholding our recognition of the independence and sovereignty of
Haiti and Liberia, I am unable to discern it. Unwilling, however, to
inaugurate a novel policy in regard to them without the approbation
of Congress, I submit for your consideration the expediency of an
appropriation for maintaining a charge d’affaires near each of those
new States. It does not admit of doubt that important commercial
advantages might be secured by favorable treaties with them.

The operations of the treasury during the period which has elapsed
since your adjournment have been conducted with signal success. The
patriotism of the people has placed at the disposal of the government
the large means demanded by the public exigencies. Much of the
national loan has been taken by citizens of the industrial classes,
whose confidence in their country’s faith and zeal for their
country’s deliverance from present peril have induced them to
contribute to the support of the government the whole of their
limited acquisitions. This fact imposes peculiar obligations to
economy in disbursement and energy in action.

The revenue from all sources, including loans, for the financial year
ending on the 30th of June, 1861, was $86,835,900.27, and the
expenditures for the same period, including payments on account of
the public debt, were $84,578,834.47, leaving a balance in the
treasury on the 1st of July of $2,257,065.80. For the first quarter
of the financial year ending on the 3oth of September, 1861, the
receipts from all sources, including the balance of the 1st of July,
were $102,532,509.27, and the expenses $98,239733.09, leaving a
balance on the 1st of October, 1861, of $4,292,776.18.

Estimates for the remaining three quarters of the year and for the
financial year 1863, together with his views of ways and means for
meeting the demands contemplated by them, will be submitted to
Congress by the Secretary of the Treasury. It is gratifying to know
that the expenditures made necessary by the rebellion are not beyond
the resources of the loyal people, and to believe that the same
patriotism which has thus far sustained the government will continue
to sustain it till peace and union shall again bless the land.

I respectfully refer to the report of the Secretary of War for
information respecting the numerical strength of the army and for
recommendations having in view an increase of its efficiency and the
well-being of the various branches of the service intrusted to his
care. It is gratifying to know that the patriotism of the people has
proved equal to the occasion, and that the number of troops tendered
greatly exceeds the force which Congress authorized me to call into
the field.

I refer with pleasure to those portions of his report which make
allusion to the creditable degree of discipline already attained by
our troops and to the excellent sanitary condition of the entire

The recommendation of the Secretary for an organization of the
militia upon a uniform basis is a subject of vital importance to the
future safety of the country, and is commended to the serious
attention of Congress.

The large addition to the regular army, in connection with the
defection that has so considerably diminished the number of its
officers, gives peculiar importance to his recommendation for
increasing the corps of cadets to the greatest capacity of the
Military Academy.

By mere omission, I presume, Congress has failed to provide chaplains
for hospitals occupied by volunteers. This subject was brought to my
notice, and I was induced to draw up the form of a letter, one copy
of which, properly addressed, has been delivered to each of the
persons, and at the dates respectively named and stated in a
schedule, containing also the form of the letter, marked A, and
herewith transmitted.

These gentlemen, I understand, entered upon the duties designated at
the times respectively stated in the schedule, and have labored
faithfully therein ever since. I therefore recommend that they be
compensated at the same rate as chaplains in the army. I further
suggest that general provision be made for chaplains to serve at
hospitals, as well as with regiments.

The report of the Secretary of the Navy presents in detail the
operations of that branch of the service, the activity and energy
which have characterized its administration, and the results of
measures to increase its efficiency and power such have been the
additions, by construction and purchase, that it may almost be said a
navy has been created and brought into service since our difficulties

Besides blockading our extensive coast, squadrons larger than ever
before assembled under our flag have been put afloat and performed
deeds which have increased our naval renown.

I would invite special attention to the recommendation of the
Secretary for a more perfect organization of the navy by introducing
additional grades in the service.

The present organization is defective and unsatisfactory, and the
suggestions submitted by the department will, it is believed, if
adopted, obviate the difficulties alluded to, promote harmony, and
increase the efficiency of the navy.

There are three vacancies on the bench of the Supreme Court–two by
the decease of Justices Daniel and McLean and one by the resignation
of Justice Campbell. I have so far forborne making nominations to
fill these vacancies for reasons which I will now state. Two of the
outgoing judges resided within the States now overrun by revolt, so
that if successors were appointed in the same localities they could
not now serve upon their circuits; and many of the most competent men
there probably would not take the personal hazard of accepting to
serve, even here, upon the Supreme bench. I have been unwilling to
throw all the appointments north-ward, thus disabling myself from
doing justice to the South on the return of peace; although I may
remark that to transfer to the North one which has heretofore been in
the South would not, with reference to territory and population, be

During the long and brilliant judicial career of Judge McLean his
circuit grew into an empire-altogether too large for any one judge to
give the courts therein more than a nominal attendance–rising in
population from 1,470,018 in 1830 to 6,151,405 in 1860.

Besides this, the country generally has outgrown our present judicial
system. If uniformity was at all intended, the system requires that
all the States shall be accommodated with circuit courts, attended by
Supreme judges, while, in fact, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas,
Florida, Texas, California, and Oregon have never had any such
courts. Nor can this well be remedied without a change in the
system, because the adding of judges to the Supreme Court, enough for
the accommodation of all parts of the country with circuit courts,
would create a court altogether too numerous for a judicial body of
any sort. And the evil, if it be one, will increase as new States
come into the Union. Circuit courts are useful or they are not
useful. If useful, no State should be denied them; if not useful, no
State should have them. Let them be provided for all or abolished as
to all.

Three modifications occur to me, either of which, I think, would be
an improvement upon our present system. Let the Supreme Court be of
convenient number in every event; then, first, let the whole country
be divided into circuits of convenient size, the Supreme judges to
serve in a number of them corresponding to their own number, and
independent circuit judges be provided for all the rest; or,
secondly, let the Supreme judges be relieved from circuit duties and
circuit judges provided for all the circuits; or, thirdly, dispense
with circuit courts altogether, leaving the judicial functions wholly
to the district courts and an independent Supreme Court.

I respectfully recommend to the consideration of Congress the present
condition of the statute laws, with the hope that Congress will be
able to find an easy remedy for many of the inconveniences and evils
which constantly embarrass those engaged in the practical
administration of them. Since the Organization of the government,
Congress has enacted some 5000 acts and joint resolutions, which fill
more than 6000 closely printed pages and are scattered through many
volumes. Many of these acts have been drawn in haste and without
sufficient caution, so that their provisions are often obscure in
themselves or in conflict with each other, or at least so doubtful as
to render it very difficult for even the best-informed persons to
ascertain precisely what the statute law really is.

It seems to me very important that the statute laws should be made as
plain and intelligible as possible, and be reduced to as small a
compass as may consist with the fullness and precision of the will of
the Legislature and the perspicuity of its language. This well done
would, I think, greatly facilitate the labors of those whose duty it
is to assist in the administration of the laws, and would be a
lasting benefit to the people, by placing before them in a more
accessible and intelligible form the laws which so deeply concern
their interests arid their duties.

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