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  Ulysses Grant - Second Annual Message (December 5, 1870)
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ContributorThomas Walker 
Post Date ,  12:am
DescriptionTo the Senate and House of Representatives:

A year of peace and general prosperity to this nation has passed since the last assembling of Congress. We have, through a kind Providence, been blessed with abundant crops, and have been spared from complications and war with foreign nations. In our midst comparative harmony has been restored. It is to be regretted, however, that a free exercise of the elective franchise has by violence and intimidation been denied to citizens in exceptional cases in several of the States lately in rebellion, and the verdict of the people has thereby been reversed. The States of Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas have been restored to representation in our national councils. Georgia, the only State now without representation, may confidently be expected to take her place there also at the beginning of the new year, and then, let us hope, will be completed the work of reconstruction. With an acquiescence on the part of the whole people in the national obligation to pay the public debt created as the price of our Union, the pensions to our disabled soldiers and sailors and their widows and orphans, and in the changes to the Constitution which have been made necessary by a great rebellion, there is no reason why we should not advance in material prosperity and happiness as no other nation ever did after so protracted and devastating a war.

Soon after the existing war broke out in Europe the protection of the United States minister in Paris was invoked in favor of North Germans domiciled in French territory. Instructions were issued to grant the protection. This has been followed by an extension of American protection to citizens of Saxony, Hesse and Saxe-Coburg, Gotha, Colombia, Portugal, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Venezuela in Paris. The charge was an onerous one, requiring constant and severe labor, as well as the exercise of patience, prudence, and good judgment. It has been performed to the entire satisfaction of this Government, and, as I am officially informed, equally so to the satisfaction of the Government of North Germany.

As soon as I learned that a republic had been proclaimed at Paris and that the people of France had acquiesced in the change, the minister of the United States was directed by telegraph to recognize it and to tender my congratulations and those of the people of the United States. The reestablishment in France of a system of government disconnected with the dynastic traditions of Europe appeared to be a proper subject for the felicitations of Americans. Should the present struggle result in attaching the hearts of the French to our simpler forms of representative government, it will be a subject of still further satisfaction to our people. While we make no effort to impose our institutions upon the inhabitants of other countries, and while we adhere to our traditional neutrality in civil contests elsewhere, we can not be indifferent to the spread of American political ideas in a great and highly civilized country like France.

We were asked by the new Government to use our good offices, jointly with those of European powers, in the interests of peace. Answer was made that the established policy and the true interests of the United States forbade them to interfere in European questions jointly with European powers. I ascertained, informally and unofficially, that the Government of North Germany was not then disposed to listen to such representations from any power, and though earnestly wishing to see the blessings of peace restored to the belligerents, with all of whom the United States are on terms of friendship, I declined on the part of this Government to take a step which could only result in injury to our true interests without advancing the object for which our intervention was invoked. Should the time come when the action of the United States can hasten the return of peace by a single hour, that action will be heartily taken. I deemed it prudent, in view of the number of persons of German and French birth living in the United States, to issue, soon after official notice of a state of war had been received from both belligerents, a proclamation defining the duties of the United States as a neutral and the obligations of persons residing within their territory to observe their laws and the laws of nations. This proclamation was followed by others, as circumstances seemed to call for them. The people, thus acquainted in advance of their duties and obligations, have assisted in preventing violations of the neutrality of the United States.
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