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THE GREAT CHICAGO FIRE
This conflagration occurred October 9 and 10, 1871. By it the city was almost entirely destroyed. More than two hundred million dollars' worth of property was destroyed, and one hundred thousand people were made homeless.
The effect of this event on the country was depressing, and the ablest, calmest and most conservative men of the Nation predicted it would usher in hard times. The optimistic and courageous spirit of the people of Chicago in immediately planning and commencing to build their city contributed more to dispel the gloom than any other factor. No more striking example of the real unity of these United States could be given than the promptness with which all sections join in relieving the distressed after a calamity like the Chicago, Boston and San Francisco fires.
Thereupon, on the 12th of October, 1871, a proclamation* was issued, in terms of the law, calling upon the members of those combinations to disperse within five days and to deliver to the marshal or military officers of the United States all arms, ammunition, uniforms, disguises, and other means and implements used by them for carrying out their unlawful purposes.
This warning not having been heeded, on the 17th of October another proclamationt was issued, suspending the privileges of the writ of habeas corpus in nine counties in that State.
Direction was given that within the counties so designated persons supposed, upon creditable information, to be members of such unlawful combinations should be arrested by the military forces of the United States and delivered to the marshal, to be dealt with according to law. In two of said counties, York and Spartanburg, many arrests have been made. At the last account the number of persons thus arrested was 168. Several hundred, whose criminality was ascertained to be of an inferior degree, were released for the present. These have generally made confessions of their guilt.
Great caution has been exercised in making these arrests, and, notwithstanding the large number, it is believed that no innocent person is now in custody. The prisoners will be held for regular trial in the judicial tribunals of the United States.
As soon as it appeared that the authorities of the United States were about to take vigorous measures to enforce the law, many persons absconded, and there is good ground for supposing that all of such persons nave violated the law. A full report of what has been done under this law will be submitted to Congress by the Attorney-General.
In Utah there still remains a remnant of barbarism, repugnant to civilization, to decency, and to the laws of the United States. Territorial officers, however, have been found who are willing to perform their duty in a spirit of equity and with a due sense of the necessity of sustaining the majesty of the law. Neither polygamy nor any other violation of existing statutes will be permitted within the territory of the United States. It is not with the religion of the self-styled Saints that we are now dealing, but with their practices. They will be protected in the worship of God according to the dictates of their consciences, but they will not be permitted to violate the laws under the cloak of religion.
It may be advisable for Congress to consider what, in the execution of the laws against polygamy, is to be the status of plural wives and their offspring. The propriety of Congress passing an enabling act authorizing the Territorial legislature of Utah to legitimize all children born prior to a time fixed in the act might be justified by its humanity to these innocent children. This is a suggestion only, and not a recommendation.
• See pp. 4089-4090.
# See op. 4090-4092.
The policy pursued toward the Indians has resulted favorably, so far as can be judged from the limited time during which it has been in operation. Through the exertions of the various societies of Christians to whom has been intrusted the execution of the policy, and the board of commissioners authorized by the law of April 10, 1869, many tribes of Indians have been induced to settle upon reservations, to cultivate the soil, to perform productive labor of various kinds, and to partially accept civilization. They are being cared for in such a way, it is hoped, as to induce those still pursuing their old habits of life to embrace the only opportunity which is left them to avoid extermination.
I recommend liberal appropriations to carry out the Indian peace policy, not only because it is humane, Christianlike, and economical, but because it is right.
I recommend to your favorable consideration also the policy of granting a Territorial government to the Indians in the Indian Territory west of Arkansas and Missouri and south of Kansas. In doing so every right guaranteed to the Indian by treaty should be secured. Such a course might in time be the means of collecting most of the Indians now between the Missouri and the Pacific and south of the British possessions inte one Territory or one State. The Secretary of the Interior has treated upon this subject at length, and I commend to you his suggestions.
I renew my recommendation that the public lands be regarded as a heritage to our children, to be disposed of only as required for occupation and to actual settlers. Those already granted have been in great part disposed of in such a way as to secure access to the balance by the hardy settler who may wish to avail himself of them, but caution should be exercised even in attaining so desirable an object.
Educational interest may well be served by the grant of the proceeds of the sale of public lands to settlers. I do not wish to be understood as recommending in the least degree a curtailment of what is being done by the General Government for the encouragement of education.
The report of the Secretary of the Interior submitted with this will give you all the information collected and prepared for publication in regard to the census taken during the year 1870; the operations of the Bureau of Education for the year; the Patent Office; the Pension Office; the Land Office, and the Indian Bureau.
The report of the Commissioner of Agriculture gives the operations of his Department for the year. As agriculture is the groundwork of our prosperity, too much importance can not be attached to the labors of this Department. It is in the hands of an able head, with able assistants, all zealously devoted to introducing into the agricultural productions of the nation all useful products adapted to any of the various climates and soils of our vast territory, and to giving all useful information as to the method of cultivation, the plants, cereals, and other products adapted to particular localities. Quietly but surely the Agricultural Bureau is' working a great national good, and if liberally supported the more widely its influence will be extended and the less dependent we shall be upon the products of foreign countries.
The subject of compensation to the heads of bureaus and officials holding positions of responsibility, and requiring ability and character to fill properly, is one to which your attention is invited. But few of the officials receive a compensation equal to the respectable support of a family, while their duties are such as to involve millions of interest. In private life services demand compensation equal to the services rendered; a wise economy would dictate the same rule in the Government service.
I have not given the estimates for the support of Government for the ensuing year, nor the comparative statement between the expenditures for the year just passed and the one just preceding, because all these figures are contained in the accompanying reports or in those presented directly to Congress. These estimates have my approval.
More than six years having elapsed since the last hostile gun was fired between the armies then arrayed against each other-one for the perpetuation, the other for the destruction, of the Union--it may well be considered whether it is not now time that the disabilities imposed by the fourteenth amendment should be removed. That amendment does not exclude the ballot, but only imposes the disability to hold offices upon certain classes. When the purity of the ballot is secure, majorities are sure to elect officers reflecting the views of the majority. I do not see the advantage or propriety of excluding men from office merely because they were before the rebellion of standing and character sufficient to be elected to positions requiring them to take oaths to support the Constitution, and admitting to eligibility those entertaining precisely the same views, but of less standing in their communities. It may be said that the former violated an oath, while the latter did not; the latter did not have it in their power to do so. If they had taken this oath, it can not be doubted they would have broken it as did the former class. If there are any great criminals, distinguished above all others for the part they took in opposition to the Government, they might, in the judgment of Congress, be excluded from such an amnesty.
This subject is submitted for your careful consideration.
The condition of the Southern States is, unhappily, not such as all true patriotic citizens would like to see. Social ostracism for opinion's sake, personal violence or threats toward persons entertaining political views opposed to those entertained by the majority of the old citizens, prevents immigration and the flow of much-needed capital into the States lately in rebellion. It will be a happy condition of the country when the old citizens of these States will take an interest in public affairs, promulgate ideas honestly entertain d, vote for men representing their views, and tolerate the same freedom of expression and ballot in those entertaining different political convictions.