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The death of King Kalakaua in the United States afforded occasion to testify our friendship for Hawaii by conveying the King's body to his own land in a naval vessel with all due honors. The Government of his successor, Queen Liliuokolani is seeking to promote closer commercial relations with the United States. Surveys for the much-needed submarine cable from our Pacific coast to Honolulu are in progress, and this enterprise should have the suitable promotion of the two Governments. I strongly recommend that provision be made for improving the harbor of Pearl River and equipping it as a naval station.
The arbitration treaty formulated by the International American Conference lapsed by reason of the failure to exchange ratifications fully within the limit of time provided; but several of the Governments concerned have expressed a desire to save this important result of the conference by an extension of the period. It is, in my judgment, incumbent upon the United States to conserve the influential initiative it has taken in this measure by ratifying the instrument and by advocating the proposed extension of the time for exchange. These views have been made known to the other signatories.
This Government has found occasion to express in a friendly spirit, but with much earnestness, to the Government of the Czar its serious concern because of the harsh measures now being enforced against the Hebrews in Russia. By the revival of antisemitic laws, long in abeyance, great numbers of those unfortunate people have been constrained to abandon their homes and leave the Empire by reason of the impossibility of finding subsistence within the pale to which it is sought to confine them. The immigration of these people to the United States-many other countries being closed to them-is largely increasing and is likely to assume proportions which may make it difficult to find homes and employment for them here and to seriously affect the labor market. It is estimated that over 1,000,000 will be forced from Russia within a few years. The Hebrew is never a beggar; he has always kept the law-life by toil-often under severe and oppressive civil restrictions. It is also true that no race, sect, or class has more fully cared for its own than the Hebrew race. But the sudden transfer of such a multitude under conditions that tend to strip them of their small accumulations and to depress their energies and courage is neither good for them nor for us.
The banishment, whether by direct decree or by not less certain indirect methods, of so large a number of men and women is not a local question. A decree to leave one country is in the nature of things an order to enter another-some other. This consideration, as well as the suggestion of humanity, furnishes ample ground for the remonstrances which we have presented to Russia, while our historic friendship for that Government can not fail to give the assurance that our representations are those of a sincere wellwisher.
The annual report n the Maritime Canal Company of Nicaragua
shows that much costly and necessary preparatory work has been done during the year in the construction of shops, railroad tracks, and harbor piers and breakwaters, and that the work of canal construction has made sonie progress.
I deem it to be a matter of the highest concern to the United States that this canal, connecting the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and giving to us a short water communication between our ports upon those two great seas, should be speedily constructed and at the smallest practicable limit of cost. The gain in freights to the people and the direct saving to the Government of the United States in the use of its naval vessels would pay the entire cost of this work within a short series of years. The report of the Secretary of the Navy shows the saving in our aval expenditures which would result.
The Senator from Alabama (Mr. Morgan) in his argument upon this subject before the Senate at the last session did not overestimate the importance of this work when he said that “the canal is the most important subject now connected with the commercial growth and progress of the United States."
If this work is to be promoted by the usual financial methods and without the aid of this Government, the expenditures in its interestbearing securities and stock will probably be twice the actual cost. This will necessitate higher tolls and constitute a heavy and altogether needless burden upon our commerce and that of the world. Every dollar of the bonds and stock of the company should represent a dollar expended in the legitimate and economical prosecution of the work. This is only possible by giving to the bonds the guaranty of the United States Government. Such a guaranty would secure the ready sale at par of a 3 per cent bond from time to time as the money was needed. I do not doubt that built upon these business methods the canal would when fully inaugurated earn its fixed charges and operating expenses. But if its bonds are to be marketed at heavy discounts and every bond sold is to be accompanied by a gift of stock, as has come to be expected by investors in such enterprises, the traffic will be seriously burdened to pay interest and dividends. I am quite willing to recommend Government promotion in the prosecution of a work which, if no other means offered for securing its completion, is of such transcendent interest that the Government should, in my opinion, secure it by direct appropriations from its Treasury.
A guaranty of the bonds of the canal company to an amount necessary to the completion of the canal could, I think, be so given as not to involve any serious risk of ultimate loss. The things to be carefully guarded are the completion of the work within the limits of the guaranty, the subrogation of the United States to the rights of the first-mortgage bondholders for any amounts it may have to pay, and in the meantime a control of the stock of the company as a security against mismanagement and loss. I
most sincerely hope that neither party nor sectional lines will be drawn upon this great American project, so full of interest to the people of all our States and so influential in its effects upon the prestige and prosperity of our common country.
The island of Navassa, in the West Indian group, has, under the provisions of Title VII of the Revised Statutes, been recognized by the President as appertaining to the United States. It contains guano deposits, is owned by the Navassa Phosphate Company, and is occupied solely by its employees. In September, 1889, a revolt took place among these laborers, resulting in the killing of some of the agents of the company, caused, as the laborers claimed, by cruel treatment. These men were arrested and tried in the United States court at Baltimore, under section 5576 of the statute referred to, as if the offenses had been committed on board a merchant vessel of the United States on the high seas. There appeared on the trial and otherwise came to me such evidences of the bad treatment of the men that in consideration of this and of the fact that the men had no access to any public officer or tribunal for protection or the redress of their wrongs I commuted the death sentences that had been passed by the court upon three of them. In April last my attention was again called to this island and to the unregulated condition of things there by a letter from a colored laborer, who complained that he was wrongfully detained upon the island by the phosphate company after the expiration of his contract of service. A naval vessel was sent to examine into the case of this man and generally into the condition of things on the island. It was found that the laborer referred to had been detained beyond the contract limit and that a condition of revolt again existed among the laborers. A board of naval officers reported, among other things, as follows:
We would desire to state further that the discipline maintained on the island seems to be that of a convict establishment without its comforts and cleanliness, and that until more attention is paid to the shipping of laborers by placing it under Govern. ment supervision to prevent misunderstanding and misrepresentation, and until some amelioration is shown in the treatment of the laborers, these disorders will be of constant occurrence.
I recommend legislation that shall place labor contracts upon this and other islands having the relation that Navassa has to the United States under the supervision of a court commissioner, and that shall provide at the expense of the owners an officer to reside upon the island, with
power to judge and adjust disputes and to enforce a just and humane treatment of the employees. It is inexcusable that American laborers should be left within our own jurisdiction without access to any Government officer or tribunal for their protection and the redress of their wrongs.
International copyright has been secured, in accordance with the conditions of the act of March 3, 1891, with Belgium, France, Great Britain and the British possessions, and Switzerland, the laws of those countries permitting to our citizens the benefit of copyright on substantially the same basis as to their own citizens or subjects.
With Germany a special convention has been negotiated upon this subject which will bring that country within the reciprocal benefits of our legislation.
The general interest in the operations of the Treasury Department has been much augmented during the last year by reason of the conflicting predictions, which accompanied and followed the tariff and other legislation of the last Congress affecting the revenues, as to the results of this legislation upon the Treasury and upon the country. On the one hand it was contended that imports would so fall off as to leave the Treasury bankrupt and that the prices of articles entering into the living of the people would be so enhanced as to disastrously affect their comfort and happiness, while on the other it was argued that the loss to the revenue, largely the result of placing sugar on the free list, would be a direct gain to the people; that the prices of the necessaries of life, including those most highly protected, would not be enhanced; that labor would have a larger market and the products of the farm advanced prices, while the Treasury surplus and receipts would be adequate to meet the appropriations, including the large exceptional expenditures for the refunding to the States of the direct tax and the redemption of the 4%per cent bonds.
It is not my purpose to enter at any length into a discussion of the effects of the legislation to which I have referred; but a brief examination of the statistics of the Treasury and a general glance at the state of business throughout the country will, I think, satisfy any impartial inquirer that its results have disappointed the evil prophecies of its opponents and in a large measure realized the hopeful predictions of its friends. Rarely, if ever before, in the history of the country has there been a time when the proceeds of one day's labor or the product of one farmed acre would purchase so large an amount of those things that enter into the living of the masses of the people. I believe that a full test will develop the fact that the tariff act of the Fifty-first Congress is very favorable in its average effect upon the prices of articlc.j entering into common use.
During the twelve months from October 1, 1890, to September 30, 1891, the total value of our foreign commercc (iriports and exports combined) was $1,747,806,406, which was the largest of any year in the history of the United States. The largest in any previous year was in 1890, when Jur commerce amounted to $1,647,139,093, and the last year exceeds this enormous aggregate by over one hundred millions. It is interesting, and to some will be surprising, to know that during the year ending September 30, 1891, our imports of merchandise amounted to $824,715,270, which was an increase of more than $11,000,000 over the value of the imports of the corresponding months of the preceding year, when the imports of merchandise were unusually large in anticipation of the tariff
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legislation then pending. The average annual value of the imports of merchandise for the ten years from 1881 to 1890 was $692,186,522, and during the year ending September 30, 1891, this annual average was exceeded by $132,528,469.
The value of free imports during the twelve months ending September 30, 1891, was $118,092,387 more than the value of free imports during the corresponding twelve months of the preceding year, and there was during the same period a decrease of $106,846,508 in the value of imports of dutiable merchandise. The percentage of merchandise admitted free of duty during the year to which I have referred, the first under the new tariff, was 48.18, while during the preceding twelve months, under the old tariff, the percentage was 34.27, an increase of 13.91 per cent. If we take the six months ending September 30 last, which covers the time during which sugars have been admitted free of duty, the per cent of value of merchandise imported free of duty is found to be 55.37, which is a larger percentage of free imports than during any prior fiscal year in the history of the Government.
If we turn to exports of merchandise, the statistics are full of gratification. The value of such exports of merchandise for the twelve months ending September 30, 1891, was $923,091,136, while for the corresponding previous twelve months it was $860, 177,115, an increase of $62,914,021, which is nearly three times the average annual increase of exports of merchandise for the preceding twenty years. This exceeds in amount and value the exports of merchandise during any year in the history of the Government. The increase in the value of exports of agricultural products during the year referred to over the corresponding twelve months of the prior year was $45,846, 197, while the increase in the value of exports of manufactured products was $16,838,240.
There is certainly nothing in the condition of trade, foreign or domestic, there is certainly nothing in the condition of our people of any class, to suggest that the existing tariff and revenue legislation bears oppressively upon the people or retards the commercial development of the nation. It may be argued that our condition would be better if tariff legislation were upon a free-trade basis; but it can not be denied that all the conditions of prosperity and of general contentment are present in a larger degree than ever before in our history, and that, too, just when it was prophesied they would be in the worst state. Agitation for radical changes in tariff and financial legislation can not help but may seriously impede business, to the prosperity of which some degree of stability in legislation is essential.
I think there are conclusive evidences that the new tariff has created several great industries, which will within a few years give employment to several hundred thousand American working men and women. In view of the somewhat overcrowded condition of the labor market of the United States, every patriotic citizen should rejoice at such a result.