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To the Congress of the United States:
In discharge of a constitutional duty, and following a well established precedent in the Executive office, I herewith transmit to the Congress at its re-assembling, certain information concerning the state of the Union, together with such recommendations for legislative consideration, as appear necessary and expedient.
Our Government has consistently maintained its relations of friendship toward all other powers, and of neighborly interest toward those whose possessions are contiguous to our own. Few questions have arisen during the past year with other governments, and none of those are beyond the reach of settlement in friendly counsel.
We are as yet without provision for the settlement of claims of citizens of the United States against Chile for injuries during the late war with Peru and Bolivia. The mixed commissions, organized under claims conventions, concluded by the Chilean government with certain European states, have developed an amount of friction which we trust can be avoided in the convention which our representative at Santiago is authorized to negotiate.
The cruel treatment of inoffensive Chinese, has, I regret to say, been repeated in some of the far western states and territories, and acts of violence against those people, beyond the power of the local constituted authorities to prevent, and difficult to punish, are reported even in distant Alaska. Much of this violence can be traced to race prejudice and competition of labor, which cannot, however, justify the oppression of strangers whose safety is guaranteed by our treaty with China equally with the most favored nations.
In opening our vast domain to alien elements, the purpose of our law-givers was to invite assimilation, and not to provide an arena for endless antagonisms. The paramount duty of maintaining public order and defending the interests of our own people, may require the adoption of measures of restriction, but they should not tolerate the oppression of individuals of a special race. I am not without assurance that the government of China, whose friendly disposition towards us I am most happy to recognize, will meet us half way in
devising a comprehensive remedy, by which an effective limitation of Chinese emigration, joined to protection of those Chinese subjects who remain in this country, may be secured.
Legislation is needed to execute the provisions of our Chinese convention of 1880 touching the opium traffic.
While the good will of the Colombian government toward our country is manifest, the situation of American interests on the Isthmus of Panama has at times excited concern, and invited friendly action looking to the performance of the engagements of the two nations concerning the territory embraced in the interoceanic transit. With the subsidence of the Isthmian disturbances, and the erection of the State of Panama into a federal district under the direct government of the constitutional administration at Bogotá, a new order of things has been inaugurated which, although as yet somewhat experimental and affording scope for arbitrary exercise of power by the delegates of the national authority, promises much improvement.
The sympathy between the people of the United States and France, born during our colonial struggle for independence and continuing to-day, has received a fresh impulse in the successful completion and dedication of the colossal statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” in New York harbor—the gift of Frenchmen to Americans.
A convention between the United States and certain other powers for the protection of submarine cables was signed at Paris on March 14, 1884, and has been duly ratified and proclaimed by this Government. By agreement between the high contracting parties this convention is to go into effect on the ist of January next, but the legislation required for its execution in the United States has not yet been adopted. I earnestly recommend its enactment.
Cases have continued to occur in Germany giving rise to much correspondence in relation to the privilege of sojourn of our naturalized citizens of German origin revisiting the land of their birth, yet I am happy to state that our relations with that country have lost none of their accustomed cordiality.
The claims for interest upon the amount of tonnage dues illegally exacted from certain German steamship lines were favorably reported in both Houses of Congress at the last session, and I trust will receive final and favorable action at an early day.
The recommendations contained in my last annual message in relation to a mode of settlement of the fishery rights in the waters of
British North America—so long a subject of anxious difference between the United States and Great Britain—was met by an adverse vote of the Senate on April 13th last; and thereupon negotiations were instituted to obtain an agreement with Her Britannic Majesty's government for the promulgation of such joint interpretation and definition of the article of the Convention of 1818, relating to the territorial waters and inshore fisheries of the British Provinces, as should secure the Canadian rights from encroachment by United States fishermen, and, at the same time, ensure the enjoyment by the latter of the privileges guaranteed to them by such convention.
The questions involved are of long standing, of grave consequence, and from time to time for nearly three-quarters of a century, have given rise to earnest international discussions, not unaccompanied by irritation.
Temporary arrangements by treaties have served to allay frictionwhich, however, has revived as each treaty was terminated. The last arrangement, under the treaty of 1871, was abrogated after due notice by the United States on June 30, 1885, but I was enabled to obtain for our fishermen for the remainder of that season, enjoyment of the full privileges accorded by the terminated treaty.
The Joint High Commission by whom the treaty had been negotiated-although invested with plenary power to make a permanent settlement-were content with a temporary arrangement, after the termination of which the question was relegated to the stipulations of the treaty of 1818, as to the first article of which no construction satisfactory to both countries has ever been agreed upon.
The progress of civilization and growth of population in the British Provinces to which the fisheries in question are contiguous, and the expansion of commercial intercourse between them and the United States, present to-day a condition of affairs scarcely realizable at the date of the negotiations of 1818.
New and vast interests have been brought into existence ; modes of intercourse between the respective countries have been invented and multiplied ; the methods of conducting the fisheries have been wholly changed ; and all this is necessarily entitled to candid and careful consideration in the adjustment of the terms and conditions of intercourse and commerce between the United States and their neighbors along a frontier of over 3,500 miles.
This propinquity, community of language and occupation, and similarity of political and social institutions, indicate the practicability and obvious wisdom of maintaining mutually beneficial and friendly relations.
Whilst I am unfeignedly desirous that such relations should exist between us and the inhabitants of Canada, yet the action of their officials during the past season towards our fishermen has been such as to seriously threaten their continuance.
Although disappointed in my efforts to secure a satisfactory settlement of the fishery question, negotiations are still pending, with reasonable hope that before the close of the present session of Congress announcement may be made that an acceptable conclusion has been reached.
As at an early day there may be laid before Congress the correspondence of the Department of State in relation to this important subject, so that the history of the past fishing season may be fully disclosed and the action and the attitude of the Administration clearly co:nprehended, a more extended reference is not deemed necessary in this communication.
The recommendation, submitted last year, that provision be made for a preliminary reconnoissance of the conventional boundary line between Alaska and British Columbia is renewed.
I express my unhesitating conviction that the intimacy of our relations with Hawaii should be emphasized. As a result of the reciprocity treaty of 1875, those islands, on the highway of Oriental and Australasian traffic, are virtually an outpost of American commerce and a stepping-stone to the growing trade of the Pacific. The Polynesian Island groups have been so absorbed by other and more powerful governments, that the Hawaiian Islands are left almost alone in the enjoyment of their autonomy, which it is important for us should be preserved. Our treaty is now terminable on one year's notice, but propositions to abrogate it would be, in my judgment, most ill-advised. The paramount influence we have there acquired, once relinquished, could only with difficulty be regained, and a valuable ground of vantage for ourselves might be converted into a stronghold for our commercial competitors. I earnestly recommend that the existing treaty stipulations be extended for a further term of seven years. A recently signed treaty to this end is now before the Senate.
The importance of telegraphic communication between those islands and the United States should not be overlooked.
The question of a general revision of the treaties of Japan is again under discussion at Tokio. As the first to open relations with that empire, and as the nation in most direct commercial relation with Japan, the United States have lost no opportunity to testify their consistent friendship by supporting the just claims of Japan to autonomy and independence among nations.