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from the public domain, constituted ample resources for borrowing all the money necessary to complete the works, and for paying the interest on the then existing debts, and those which it would be necessary to contract, and for extinguishing the principal as fast as it would become due. I demonstrated that the danger to which the credit of the state was exposed, arose, not from any cause merely local or temporary, nor at all from the extent of our unfinished works, nor from the amount of our indebtedness, nor from the firmness with which we had persevered in our improvements during the three previous years, but from the failure of the confidence of foreign capitalists, and even of the American people themselves, in the financial wisdom and integrity of the governments of other states.
I submitted as a course proper in the emergency, that care should be taken to foster our own credit by stating justly, and without exaggeration, the actual indebtedness of the state; by husbanding our revenues; by preventing our conditional guaranties from becoming fixed debts; by scrupulously performing our engagements with contractors; by prosecuting the unfinished works firmly, and even with sacrifices, if necessary; always adhering, however, to the fundamental condition that no more money should be borrowed in any one year than a sum, the interest of which could be paid with the current revenues, to be ascertained from the actual receipts of the preceding year; and by constituting a sinking fund with the moneys annually received from the proceeds of the national domain, together with a sufficient portion of the surplus revenues, which should be inviolably pledged, and steadily applied to the constant diminution and final extinguishment of the principal of our debt.
And to these suggestions, relating to the direct action of the legislature, I added others, earnestly recommending that the influence of this state should be exerted to secure the adoption of national measures which the exigency rendered necessary. Prominent among those measures were tariff laws, the restoration of the currency, and some mode of enabling the indebted states to render their portions of the proceeds of the public lands immediately available for the payment of their pressing engagements. And I also urged that the false and fatal principle of repudiating public debts, which as yet had not been openly promulgated, should be met by this state with such an expression of disappro
bation and rebuke, as would convince the world that come what might of trial and disaster, so far as our action and influence could be effectual, the faith of not only this, but all the states of the American Union, should be preserved for ever inviolable.
The policy thus recommended did not prevail, and the evils then apprehended are fully realized. State after state, some with unavailing struggles, but others without any, have neglected to perform their fiscal engagements, and thus a dark stain is diffusing itself over the escutcheon of our country. The credit even of the Union is virtually destroyed, and our own is impaired, notwithstanding our great resources and the convulsive efforts which have been made to induce a discrimination between that credit and the broken faith of other states.
Under these circumstances, I must adhere to the views before submitted, and invite their reconsideration; and to avoid any misapprehension, I recommend that the legislature rescind the law directing the discontinuance of the public works; render to the New York and Erie Railroad Company the aid necessary to enable them to recover their credit and resume their operations; and direct the fiscal officers of the state, instead of reserving surplus revenues from the canals for the payment of debts due at distant periods, to apply such revenues, with the proceeds from the national domain, to the prosecution of the public works, upon the plan before submitted, until the works shall be completed and become productive; and provide other and additional temporary means, if necessary, for that important object. And I further recommend that the legislature urge upon Congress, and especially upon the president, the necessity of tariff laws adequate to revive our industry and commerce, and restore the credit of the general government; of a sound currency upon a specie basis and of uniform value throughout the Union; and above all, of such measures as shall secure to the several states not only their distributive shares of the public lands, but such further constitutional aid based upon those lands, as will enable them promptly to recover their credit.
It can not be denied that the time which has elapsed and the policy which has been pursued, have increased the difficulties to be overcome, and yet with proper effort the ground we have lost may be recovered. We are oppressed, not so much by opposing
forces as by our own irresolution, and a small portion of that energy which was put forth when our system of improvement was undertaken, would secure its re-establishment and successful triumph. It was not then thought unbecoming for the state to invoke the co-operation of the Union and of the several states in aid of our efforts, and surely it can not be deemed discourteous now to urge upon them the adoption of measures which will enable them to perform their own obligations, the neglect of which has involved, however unjustly, the whole country in a common calamity.
Whatever may be the decision of the legislature on these momentous questions, it is at all events desirable to mitigate, as far as may be, the misfortunes in which the community is involved, and above all to abstain from any measure which would aggravate existing evils. I do therefore most earnestly protest against any further sacrifices of works already completed, or in progress of construction, as being alike wanting in magnanimity and wisdom; and while I ask for the New York and Erie railroad no preference over the works in which the state is directly engaged, or over those of similar character in other localities, yet in view of the imminent jeopardy in which that great enterprise is now placed, I recommend that the proceedings for its sale be discontinued; and whatever else may be omitted, I again urge that adequate measures be adopted to secure the immediate resumption and speedy completion of that work, which, under better auspices, would add dignity and lustre to the character of the republic. I also earnestly recommend that instructions be given to the canal commissioners, requiring them to complete and put in operation without further delay, at least the nearly finished portions of the enlarged Erie canal.
The people, however, look not for temporary or partial relief, but for the re-establishment of the system of internal improvement upon broad and impregnable foundations. Our fellowcitizens urge us to resume the public works, by pleading the distress which their suspension has already produced. They point us to labor unemployed, and masses impoverished; to agriculture unrewarded and burdened; to trade diminished and discouraged; to credit paralyzed; to land and property depreciated and passing from hands hardened with the labor of production, into others that wait to gather the ripened fruits of industry;
to disappointed expectations built on the public faith, which no damages can reach or compensate; to dilapidated structures with increasing expenditures; to diminished revenues and protracted taxation; to increasing and hopeless embarrassment and decaying enterprise; and to a long and cheerless decline from a career in which so much has been won for the interests and honor of the state.
But we need no such painful incentives. Progressive physical improvement, comprehending the north as well as the south, the east and the west, opening every necessary channel, and disclosing every resource which nature has bestowed, is emphatically the policy of the state. And we are required to return to the course we have left, by every consideration of duty to ourselves, to posterity, to our country, and to mankind.
In closing this, my last general communication to the legis lature, it would evince singular insensibility not to anticipate my retirement from the trust which I have received from my fellowcitizens. Far from indulging a belief that errors have not occurred in conducting the civil administration of a state embracing such great and various interests, I am, nevertheless, solaced by the reflection, that no motive has ever influenced me inconsistent with the highest regard for the interests and honor. of the state, and with the equality justly due to all its citizens. It may be, that in seeking to perfect the diffusion of knowledge, or in desiring to raise from degradation or wretchedness less favored classes, unjustly depressed by the operation of unequal laws or adventitious circumstances; or, in aiming to carry into remote and sequestered regions, the physical and commercial advantages already afforded to more and fortunate and prosperous districts, I have urged too earnestly, what seemed to me the claims of humanity, justice, and equity; yet, remembering the generous appreciation which those efforts have met, I shall carry with me into retirement, a profound sense of obligation, and a spirit of enduring gratitude. I shall never cease to invoke in behalf of the people of this state, a continuance of the invaluable privileges, civil and religious, which they now enjoy, and to implore that great and beneficent Being who directs and regulates the destinies of nations, to promote and watch over this commonwealth, in its continual advancement throughout all succeeding ages.