The Writings of Abraham Lincoln Vol. 1-7




December 1, 1862.


SIR:–Three hundred Indians have been sentenced to death in Minnesota
by a military commission, and execution only awaits my action. I
wish your legal opinion whether if I should conclude to execute only
a part of them, I must myself designate which, or could I leave the
designation to some officer on the ground?

Yours very truly,


DECEMBER 1, 1862.

your last annual assembling another year of health and bountiful
harvests has passed; and while it has not pleased the Almighty to
bless us with a return of peace, we can but press on, guided by the
best light he gives us, trusting that in his own good time and wise
way all will yet be well.

The correspondence touching foreign affairs which has taken place
during the last year is herewith submitted, in virtual compliance
with a request to that effect, made by the House of Representatives
near the close of the last session of Congress.

If the condition of our relations with other nations is less
gratifying than it has usually been at former periods, it is
certainly more satisfactory than a nation so unhappily distracted as
we are might reasonably have apprehended. In the month of June last
there were some grounds to expect that the maritime powers which, at
the beginning of our domestic difficulties, so unwisely and
unnecessarily, as we think, recognized the insurgents as a
belligerent, would soon recede from that position, which has proved
only less injurious to themselves than to our own country. But the
temporary reverses which afterward befell the national arms, and
which were exaggerated by our own disloyal citizens abroad, have
hitherto delayed that act of simple justice.

The civil war, which has so radically changed, for the moment, the
occupations and habits of the American people, has necessarily
disturbed the social condition, and affected very deeply the
prosperity, of the nations with which we have carried on a commerce
that has been steadily increasing throughout a period of half a
century. It has, at the same time, excited political ambitions and
apprehensions which have produced a profound agitation throughout the
civilized world. In this unusual agitation we have forborne from
taking part in any controversy between foreign states, and between
parties or factions in such states. We have attempted no
propagandism and acknowledged no revolution, but we have left to
every nation the exclusive conduct and management of its own affairs.
Our struggle has been, of course, contemplated by foreign nations
with reference less to its own merits than to its supposed and often
exaggerated effects and consequences resulting to those nations
themselves, nevertheless, complaint on the part of this government,
even if it were just, would certainly be unwise.

The treaty with Great Britain for the suppression of the slave trade
has been put into operation with a good prospect of complete success.
It is an occasion of special pleasure to acknowledge that the
execution of it on the part of her Majesty’s government has been
marked with a jealous respect for the authority of the United States
and the rights of their moral and loyal citizens.

The convention with Hanover for the abolition of the state dues has
been carried into full effect under the act of Congress for that

A blockade of 3000 miles of seacoast could not be established and
vigorously enforced in a season of great commercial activity like the
present without committing occasional mistakes and inflicting
unintentional injuries upon foreign nations and their subjects.

A civil war occurring in a country where foreigners reside and carry
on trade under treaty stipulations is necessarily fruitful of
complaints of the violation of neutral rights. All such collisions
tend to excite misapprehensions, and possibly to produce mutual
reclamations between nations which have a common interest in
preserving peace and friendship. In clear cases of these kinds I
have so far as possible heard and redressed complaints which have
been presented by friendly powers. There is still, however, a large
and an augmenting number of doubtful cases upon which the government
is unable to agree with the governments whose protection is demanded
by the claimants. There are, moreover, many cases in which the
United States or their citizens suffer wrongs from the naval or
military authorities of foreign nations which the governments of
those states are not at once prepared to redress. I have proposed to
some of the foreign states thus interested mutual conventions to
examine and adjust such complaints. This proposition has been made
especially to Great Britain, to France, to Spain, and to Prussia. In
each case it has been kindly received, but has not yet been formally

I deem it my duty to recommend an appropriation in behalf of the
owners of the Norwegian bark Admiral P. Tordenskiold, which vessel
was in May, 1861, prevented by the commander of the blockading force
off Charleston from leaving that port with cargo, notwithstanding a
similar privilege had shortly before been granted to an English
vessel. I have directed the Secretary of State to cause the papers
in the case to be communicated to the proper committees.

Applications have been made to me by many free Americans of African
descent to favor their emigration, with a view to such colonization
as was contemplated in recent acts of Congress, Other parties, at
home and abroad–some from interested motives, others upon patriotic
considerations, and still others influenced by philanthropic
sentiments–have suggested similar measures, while, on the other
hand, several of the Spanish American republics have protested
against the sending of such colonies to their respective territories.
Under these circumstances I have declined to move any such colony to
any state without first obtaining the consent of its government, with
an agreement on its part to receive and protect such emigrants in all
the rights of freemen; and I have at the same time offered to the
several states situated within the Tropics, or having colonies there,
to negotiate with them, subject to the advice and consent of the
Senate, to favor the voluntary emigration of persons of that class to
their respective territories, upon conditions which shall be equal,
just, and humane. Liberia and Haiti are as yet the only countries to
which colonists of African descent from here could go with certainty
of being received and adopted as citizens; and I regret to say such
persons contemplating colonization do not seem so willing to migrate
to those countries as to some others, nor so willing as I think their
interest demands. I believe, however, opinion among them in this
respect is improving, and that ere long there will be an augmented
and considerable migration to both these countries from the United

The new commercial treaty between the United States and the Sultan of
Turkey has been carried into execution.

A commercial and consular treaty has been negotiated, subject to the
Senate’s consent, with Liberia, and a similar negotiation is now
pending with the Republic of Haiti. A considerable improvement of
the national commerce is expected to result from these measures.

Our relations with Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Russia,
Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, the Netherlands, Italy, Rome, and
the other European states remain undisturbed. Very favorable
relations also continue to be maintained with Turkey, Morocco, China,
and Japan.

During the last year there has not only been no change of our
previous relations with the independent states of our own continent,
but more friendly sentiments than have heretofore existed are
believed to be entertained by these neighbors, whose safety and
progress are so intimately connected with our own. This statement
especially applies to Mexico, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Peru,
and Chile.

The commission under the convention with the Republic of New Granada
closed its session without having audited and passed upon all the
claims which were submitted to it. A proposition is pending to
revive the convention, that it may be able to do more complete
justice. The joint commission between the United States and the
Republic of Costa Rica has completed its labors and submitted its

I have favored the project for connecting the United States with
Europe by an Atlantic telegraph, and a similar project to extend the
telegraph from San Francisco to connect by a Pacific telegraph with
the line which is being extended across the Russian Empire.

The Territories of the United States, with unimportant exceptions,
have remained undisturbed by the civil war; and they are exhibiting
such evidence of prosperity as justifies an expectation that some of
them will soon be in a condition to be organized as States and be
constitutionally admitted into the Federal Union.

The immense mineral resources of some of those Territories ought to
be developed as rapidly as possible. Every step in that direction
would have a tendency to improve the revenues of the government and
diminish the burdens of the people. It is worthy of your serious
consideration whether some extraordinary measures to promote that end
cannot be adopted. The means which suggests itself as most likely to
be effective is a scientific exploration of the mineral regions in
those Territories with a view to the publication of its results at
home and in foreign countries–results which cannot fail to be

The condition of the finances win claim your most diligent
consideration. The vast expenditures incident to the military and
naval operations required for the suppression of the rebellion have
hitherto been met with a promptitude and certainty unusual in similar
circumstances, and the public credit has been fully maintained. The
continuance of the war, however, and the increased disbursements made
necessary by the augmented forces now in the field demand your best
reflections as to the best modes of providing the necessary revenue
without injury to business and with the least possible burdens upon

The suspension of specie payments by the banks soon after the
commencement of your last session made large issues of United States
notes unavoidable. In no other way could the payment of troops and
the satisfaction of other just demands be so economically or so well
provided for. The judicious legislation of Congress, securing the
receivability of these notes for loans and internal duties and making
them a legal tender for other debts, has made them an universal
currency, and has satisfied, partially at least, and for the time,
the long-felt want of an uniform circulating medium, saving thereby
to the people immense sums in discounts and exchanges.

A return to specie payments, however, at the earliest period
compatible with due regard to all interests concerned should ever be
kept in view. Fluctuations in the value of currency are always
injurious, and to reduce these fluctuations to the lowest possible
point will always be a leading purpose in wise legislation.
Convertibility, prompt and certain convertibility, into coin is
generally acknowledged to be the best and surest safeguard against
them; and it is extremely doubtful whether a circulation of United
States notes payable in coin and sufficiently large for the wants of
the people can be permanently, usefully, and safely maintained.

Is there, then, any other mode in which the necessary provision for
the public wants can be made and the great advantages of a safe and
uniform currency secured?

I know of none which promises so certain results and is at the same
time so unobjectionable as the organization of banking associations,
under a general act of Congress, well guarded in its provisions. To
such associations the government might furnish circulating notes, on
the security of United States bonds deposited in the treasury.
These notes, prepared under the supervision of proper officers, being
uniform in appearance and security and convertible always into coin,
would at once protect labor against the evils of a vicious currency
and facilitate commerce by cheap and safe exchanges.

A moderate reservation from the interest on the bonds would
compensate the United States for the preparation and distribution of
the notes and a general supervision of the system, and would lighten
the burden of that part of the public debt employed as securities.
The public credit, moreover, would be greatly improved and the
negotiation of new loans greatly facilitated by the steady market
demand for government bonds which the adoption of the proposed system
would create.

It is an additional recommendation of the measure, of considerable
weight, in my judgment, that it would reconcile as far as possible
all existing interests by the opportunity offered to existing
institutions to reorganize under the act, substituting only the
secured uniform national circulation for the local and various
circulation, secured and unsecured, now issued by them.

The receipts into the treasury from all sources, including loans and
balance from the preceding year, for the fiscal year ending on the
30th June, 1862, were $583,885,247.06, of which sum $49,056,397.62
were derived from customs; $1,795,331.73 from the direct tax; from
public lands, $152,203.77; from miscellaneous sources, $931,787.64;
from loans in all forms, $529,692,460.50. The remainder,
$2,257,065.80, was the balance from last year.

The disbursements during the same period were: For congressional,
executive, and judicial purposes, $5,939,009.29; for foreign
intercourse, $1,339,710.35; for miscellaneous expenses, including the
mints, loans, post-office deficiencies, collection of revenue, and
other like charges, $14,129,771.50; for expenses under the Interior
Department, $3,102,985.52; under the War Department, $394,368,407.36;
under the Navy Department, $42,674,569.69; for interest on public
debt, $13,190,324.45; and for payment of public debt, including
reimbursement of temporary loan and redemptions, $96,096,922.09;
making an aggregate of $570,841,700.25, and leaving a balance in the
treasury on the 1st day of July, 1862, of $13,043,546.81.

It should be observed that the sum of $96,096,922.09, expended for
reimbursements and redemption of public debt, being included also in
the loans made, may be properly deducted both from receipts and
expenditures, leaving the actual receipts for the year
$487,788,324.97, and the expenditures $474,744,778.16.

Other information on the subject of the finances will be found in the
report of the Secretary of the Treasury, to whose statements and
views I invite your most candid and considerate attention.

The reports of the Secretaries of War and of the Navy are herewith
transmitted. These reports, though lengthy, are scarcely more than
brief abstracts of the very numerous and extensive transactions and
operations conducted through those departments. Nor could I give a
summary of them here upon any principle which would admit of its
being much shorter than the reports themselves. I therefore content
myself with laying the reports before you and asking your attention
to them.

It gives me pleasure to report a decided improvement in the financial
condition of the Post-Office Department as compared with several
preceding years. The receipts for the fiscal year 1861 amounted to
$8,349,296.40, which embraced the revenue from all the States of the
Union for three quarters of that year. Notwithstanding the cessation
of revenue from the so-called seceded States during the last fiscal
year, the increase of the correspondence of the loyal States has been
sufficient to produce a revenue during the same year of
$8,299,820.90, being only $50,000 less than was derived from all the
States of the Union during the previous year. The expenditures show
a still more favorable result. The amount expended in 1861 was
$13,606,759.11. For the last year the amount has been reduced to
$11,125,364.13, showing a decrease of about $2,481,000 in the
expenditures as compared with the preceding year, and about
$3,750,000 as compared with the fiscal year 1860. The deficiency in
the department for the previous year was $4,551,966.98. For the last
fiscal year it was reduced to $2,112,814.57. These favorable results
are in part owing to the cessation of mail service in the
insurrectionary States and in part to a careful review of all
expenditures in that department in the interest of economy. The
efficiency of the postal service, it is believed, has also been much
improved. The Postmaster-General has also opened a correspondence
through the Department of State with foreign governments proposing a
convention of postal representatives for the purpose of simplifying
the rates of foreign postage and to expedite the foreign mails. This
proposition, equally important to our adopted citizens and to the
commercial interests of this country, has been favorably entertained
and agreed to by all the governments from whom replies have been

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