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46TH CONGRESS, | HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES. Ex. Doc. 1,
LIST OF PAPERS AND FOLLOWED BY AN INDEX OF
PERSONS AND SUBJECTS.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES. : .
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives :
I congratulate you on the continued and increasing prosperity of our country. By the favor of Divine Providence we have been blessed, during the past year, with health, with abundant harvests, with profitable employment for all our people, and with contentment at home, and with peace and friendship with other nations. The occurrence of the twentyfourth election of Chief Magistrate has afforded another opportunity to the people of the United States to exhibit to the world a significant example of the peaceful and safe transmission of the power and authority of government from the public servants whose terms of office are about to expire, to their newly chosen successors. This example cannot fail to impress profoundly thoughtful people of other countries with the advantages which republican institutions afford. The immediate, general, and cheerful acquiescence of all good citizens in the result of the elecwyn, gives gratifying assurance to our country, and to its friends through
the world, that a government based on the free consent of an intel1. tand patriotic people possesses elements of strength, stability, and pei. anency not found in any other form of government.
Continued opposition to the full and free enjoyment of the rights of citizenship, conferred upon the colored people by the recent amendments to the Constitution, still prevails in several of the late slave-holding States. It has, perhaps, not been manifested in the recent election to any large extent in acts of violence or intimidation. It has, however, by fraudulent practices in connection with the ballots, with the regulations as to the places and manner of voting, and with counting, returning, and canvassing the votes cast, been successful in defeating the extrcise of the right preservative of all rights—the right of suffrage-which the Constitution expressly confers upon our enfranchised citizens.
It is the desire of the good people of the whole country that sectionalism as a factor in our politics should disappear. They prefer that no section of the country should be united in solid opposition to any other section. The disposition to refuse a prompt and hearty obedience to the equal-rights amendments to the Constitution is all that now stands in the way of a complete obliteration of sectional lines in our political contests. As long as either of these amendments is flagrantly violated
or disregarded, it is safe to assume that the people who placed them in the Constitution, as embodying the legitimate results of the war for the Union, and who believe them to be wise and necessary, will continue to act together, and to insist that they shall be obeyed. The paramount question still is as to the enjoyment of the right by every American citi. zen who has the requisite qualifications to freely cast his vote and to have it honestly counted. With this question rightly settled, the country will be relieved of the contentions of the past; bygones will indeed be bygones; and political and party issues, with respect to economy and efficiency of administration, internal improvements, the tariff, domestic taxation, education, finance, and other important subjects, will then receive their full share of attention; but resistance to and nullification of the results of the war will unite together in resolute purpose for their support all who maintain the authority of the government and the perpetuity of the Union, and who adequately appreciate the value of the victory achieved. This determination proceeds from no hostile sentiment or feeling to any part of the people of our country or to any of their interests. The inviolability of the amendments rests upon the fundamental principle of our government. They are the solemn expression of the will of the people of the United States.
The sentiment that the constitutional rights of all our citizens must be maintained, does not grow weaker. It will continue to control the government of the country. Happily, the history of the late election shows that in many parts of the country where opposition to the fifteenth amendment has heretofore prevailed, it is diminishing, and is likely to cease altogether, if firm and well-considered action is taken by Congress. I trust the House of Representatives and the Senate, which have the right to judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of their own members, will see to it that every case of violation of the letter or spirit of the fifteenth amendment is thoroughly investigated, and that no benefit from such violation shall accrue to any person or party. It will be the duty of the Executive, with sufficient appropriations for the purpose, to prosecute unsparingly all who have been engaged in depriving citizens of the rights guaranteed to them by the Constitution.
It is not, however, to be forgotten that the best and surest guarantee for the primary rights of citizenship is to be found in that capacity for self-protection which can belong only to a people whose right to universal suffrage is supported by universal education. The means at the command of the local and State authorities are, in many cases, wholly inadequate to furnish free instruction to all who need it. This is especially true where, before emancipation, the education of the people was neglected or prevented, in the interest of slavery. Firmly convinced that the subject of popular education deserves the earnest attention of the people of the whole country, with a view to wise and comprehensive action by the Government of the United States, I respectfully recommend that Congress, by suitable legislation and with proper safeguards, supplement the local educational funds in the several States where tho grave duties and responsibilities of citizenship have been devolved on uneducated people, by devoting to the purpose grants of the public lands, and, if necessary, by appropriations from the Treasury of the United States. Whatever government can fairly do to promote free popalar education ought to be done. Wherever general education is found, peace, virtue, and social order prevail, and civil and religious liberty are secure.
In my former annual messages, I have asked the attention of Congress to the urgent necessity of a reformation of the civil-service system of the government. My views concerning the dangers of patronage, or appointments for personal or partisan considerations, have been strengthened by my observation and experience in the Executive office, and I believe these dangers threaten the stability of the government. Abuses so serious in their nature cannot be permanently tolerated. They tend to become more alarming with the enlargement of administrative service, as the growth of the country in population increases the number of officers and placemen employed.
The reasons are imperative for the adoption of fixed rules for the regulation of appointments, promotions, and removals, establishing a uniform method, having exclusively in view, in every instance, the attainment of the best qualifications for the position in question. Such a method alone is consistent with the equal rights of all citizens, and the most economical and efficient administration of the public business.
Competitive examinations, in aid of impartial appointments and promotions, have been conducted for some years past in several of the executive departments, and by my direction this system has been adopted in the custom-houses and post-offices of the larger cities of the country. In the city of New York over two thousand positions in the civil service have been subject, in their appointments and tenure of place, to the operation of published rules for this purpose, during the past two years. The results of these practical trials have been very satisfactory, and have confirmed my opinion in favor of this system of selection. All are subjected to the same tests, and the result is free from prejudice by personal favor or partisan influence. It secures for the position applied for, the best qualifications attainable among the competing applicants. It is an effectual protection from the pressure of importunity which, under any other course pursued, largely exacts the time and attention of appointing officers, to their great detriment in the discharge of other official duties, preventing the abuse of the service for the mere furtherance of private or party purposes, and leaving the employé of the government, freed from the obligations imposed by patronage, to depend solely upon merit for retention and advancement, and with this constant incentive to exertion and improvement.
These invaluable results have been attained in a high degree in the