Alexander Hamilton Papers

Draft of George Washington’s Fourth Annual Address to Congress, [15–31 October 1792]

Draft of George Washington’s
Fourth Annual Address to Congress1

[Philadelphia, October 15–31, 1792]

It is an abatement of the satisfaction, with which I meet you, on the present occasion, that in felicitating you on a continuance of the national prosperity, generally, I am not able to add to it information, that the Indian hostilities, which have for some time distressed our N Western frontier, have terminated.

You will doubtless learn, with as much concern as I communicate it, that reiterated endeavours to effect a pacifaction have hitherto issued only in new and outrageous proofs of persevering hostility on the part of the tribes, with whom we are in contest. An earnest desire to procure tranquillity to the frontier, to stop the further effusion of blood, to arrest the progress of expence, to promote the prevalent wish of the Country for peace, have led to strenuous efforts, through various channels, to effect that desireable end; in which neither my own calculations of the event, nor any scruples which may have occurred concerning the dignity of government have been permitted to outweigh the important considerations that have been mentioned.

A detail of the measures, which have been adopted, will be laid before you, from which I persuade myself it will appear to you, that means as proper and as efficacious, as could have been devised have been employed. The issue indeed of some of them is yet depending; but while a favourable one is not to be despaired of, every antecedent and collateral circumstance, discourages an expectation of it.

In the course of these attempts, some valuable citizens have fallen victims to their zeal for the public service. A sanction hitherto commonly respected even among savages has not been sufficient to protect from slaughter the messengers of peace.

It will I presume be duly considered whether the occasion does not call for an exercise of liberality towards the families of the deceased.

It must add to your concern to know that, in addition to the continuation of hostile appearances among the tribes, North of the Ohio, some threatening symptoms have lately been revived among some of those South of it. According to the last accounts, an attack upon the settlements within the Territory of the US2

Further evidence however is necessary to ascertain the reality and extent of the evil; and in the mean time defensive precautions only have been permitted.

It is not understood that any breach of Treaty or aggression, on the part of the UStates or their Citizens is even alleged, as a pretext for the spirit of hostility in this quarter. Other causes for it are indicated which it would be premature to particularise.

I have reason to believe that every practicable exertion has been made to be prepared for the alternative of a continuance of the War in pursuance of the provision made by law.3 A large proportion of the troops authorised to be raised have been recruited—but the number is still incomplete. A particular statement from the proper department, on this subject, and in relation to some other points, which have been suggested, will afford more precise information as a guide to the Legislative consulations; and among other things will enable Congress to judge whether some additional stimulous to the recruiting service may not be adviseable.

In looking forward to the future expences of the operations which may be necessary, I derive consolation from the information, I receive, that as far as the product of the revenues for the present year is known at the Treasury, there is a strong prospect that no additional burthens on the community will be requisite for the supplies of the ensuing year. This however will be better ascertained, in the course of the present session; and it is proper to add, that the information proceeds upon the supposition of no material extension of the spirit of hostility.4

I cannot dismiss the subject of Indian affairs, without recalling to your attention, the necessity of more adequate provision, for giving energy to the laws throughout our Interior Frontier, so as effectually to restrain depredations upon the Indians, without which every pacific system must prove abortive; and also for enabling the employment of qualified persons to reside as Agents among the Indians; an expedient of material importance in the sucessful management of Indian affairs. If some efficacious plan could be devised for carrying on Trade with the Indians upon a scale adequate to their wants and under regulations calculated to protect them from extortion and imposition, it would prove here-after a powerful mean of preserving peace and a good understanding with them.

The prosperous state of our Revenue has been intimated. This would be still more the case, were it not for the impediments which in some places continue to embarrass the collection of the duties on home made spirits. These impediments have lessened and are lessening, as to local extent, and as applied to the community at large the spirit of acquiescence in the law5 appears to be progressive.

But symptoms of an increased opposition having recently manifested themselves in certain quarters, particularly in one where the enjoyment of immediate benefits from the common contributions of the country was to have been expected to fortify the general sense of respect and duty towards the government and its laws and the disposition to share in the public burthens—I thought a special interposition, on my part had become proper and adviseable; and under this impression I have issued a proclamation6

Measures have also been begun for the prosecution of offenders: and Congress may be assured that nothing within constitutional and legal limits which may depend on me shall be wanting to assert and maintain the just authority of the laws. In fulfilling this trust, I shall count intirely upon the full cooperation of the other departments of Government and upon the zealous support of all good citizens.

I cannot forbear to bring again into the view of the Legislature the expediency of a Revision of the Judiciary system. A representation from the Judges of the Supreme Court,7 which will be laid before you points out some of the inconveniences that are experienced. In the course of the administration of the laws, considerations arise out of the structure of that system, which tend to impede their execution. As connected with this subject, some provisions respecting the taking of bail upon processes out of the Courts of the United States, and a supplementary definition of offences against the constitution and laws, and of the punishments for such offences are presumed to merit particular attention.8

The interests of a nation when well understood will be found to coincide with their moral duties. Among these, it is an important one to cultivate peace and friendship with our neighbours. To do this we should make provision for rendering the justice we must sometimes require from them. I recommend therefore to your consideration whether the laws of the Union should not be extended to restrain our citizens from committing acts of violence within the territories of other nations, which would be punished were they committed within our own. And in general the maintenance of a friendly intercourse with foreign Nations will be presented to your attention, by the expiration of the law9 for that purpose, which takes place, if not renewed at the close of the present session.

In execution of the authority given by the Legislature measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our Mint;10 others have been employed at home. Provision has been made of the requisite buildings, and these are now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has been also a small beginning in the coinage of half dismes and cents; the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them.11

The regulation of foreign coins in correspondency with the principles of our national coinage will I doubt not be resumed and completed, being a matter essential to the due operation of the system and to order in our pecuniary concerns.

It is represented that the regulations contained in the law which establishes the Post Office operate in experiment against the transmission of News Papers to distant parts of the Country.12 Should this, upon due inquiry, be found to be the fact, the Legislative wisdom will doubtless apply a remedy; under a full conviction of the great importance of facilitating the circulation of political intelligence and information.

Information has been received of the adoption of a Constitution for the State of Kentuke.13 An event so interesting to the happiness of the part of the nation to which it relates, cannot but make a correspondent impression. The Communications concerning it will be laid before you.

It is proper likewise to inform you, that since my last communication on the subject, in further execution of the Acts severally making provision for the public Debt and for the Reduction thereof14 three new loans have been effected one for 3000000 of florins at Antwerp at 4½ per Ct and  15 per Ct charges and two others each for 3000000 of florins at Amsterdam at 4 per&  16 Ct per Ct. charges.17 Among the objects to which these funds have been directed to be applied, the payment of the debts due to certain foreign officers according to the provision made for that purpose during the last session18 is included.

H of R.19

I entertain a strong hope that the state of the National Finances is now sufficiently matured to enable you to enter upon systematic and effectual arrangements for the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt, according to the right, which has been reserved to the Government. No measure can be regarded as more desireable whether viewed with an eye to its intrinsic importance or to the general sentiment and wish of the Nation.

Provision likewise is requisite for the reimbursement of the loan which has been made of the Bank of the UStates pursuant to  20 Section of the Act by which it is incorporated. In fulfilling the public stipulation, in this particular, a valuable saving may it is expected be made.

Appropriations for the service of the ensuing year and for such extraordinaries as may have occurred will demand and I doubt not will engage your early attention.

Senate & H of Repres

I content myself with recalling your attention generally to such objects suggested in my former communications as have not yet been finally acted upon and as are not previously particularised.

The results of your joint deliberations, hitherto, will, I trust, be productive of solid and durable advantages to our constituents; which by conciliating more and more their approbation may tend to strengthen and confirm their attachment to that Constitution of Government upon which depend under Divine Providence, union safety and prosperity.

Still further to secure these inestimable ends, there is nothing, which can have so powerful a tendency as the careful cultivation of harmony combined with a due regard to stability in the public councils.

ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1On August 26, 1792, Washington wrote to H requesting suggestions on “matters … of general import that may be fit subjects for the speech at the opening of the ensuing Session” of Congress. He sent similar requests to Henry Knox, Edmund Randolph, and Thomas Jefferson (Washington to Knox, September 3, 1792, LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; Randolph to Washington, October 28, 1792, ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; Washington to Jefferson, August 23, 1792, LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

Knox sent his proposals to Washington on October 14, 1792, and on the following day Jefferson submitted two paragraphs to Washington which H used in his draft of the President’s message (Knox to Washington, ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; Jefferson to Washington, AD, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).

The President’s message, which was delivered to Congress on November 6, 1792, was derived essentially from H’s draft, although it contained a few changes and additions, some of which had been suggested by Knox and Jefferson subsequent to H’s draft (Knox to Washington, October 27, 1792, LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; Jefferson to Washington, November 1, 1792, AD, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress; AL, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). In HCLW description begins Henry Cabot Lodge, ed., The Works of Alexander Hamilton (New York, 1904). description ends , VIII, 102–09, this document is dated November 6, 1793.

2At this point H left several lines blank in his draft and in the middle of the blank space wrote: “were meditated on the part of.”

On October 27, 1792, Knox wrote to Washington: “The statement relatively to the Cherokees will be made tomorrow, or next day at the furthest. The intelligence received this afternoon from Governor [William] Blount [of the Southwest Territory J renders alterations necessary” (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress). In the address delivered by Washington two paragraphs concerning Indian depredations were inserted at this point (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXII, 206–07).

3H is referring to “An Act for making farther and more effectual Provision for the Protection of the Frontiers of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 241–43 [March 5, 1792]).

4In MS, “hostilility.”

5The excise was collected under “An Act repealing, after the last day of June next, the duties hereto-fore laid upon Distilled Spirits imported from abroad, and laying others in their stead, and also upon Spirits distilled within the United States, and for appropriating the same” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 199–214 [March 3, 1791]) as amended by “An Act concerning the Duties on Spirits distilled within the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 267–71 [May 8, 1792]).

6See “Draft of a Proclamation Concerning Opposition to the Excise Law,” September 7, 1792.

At this point in the MS H left several lines blank. In the address as delivered by Washington this sentence was completed as follows: “… warning against all unlawful combinations and proceedings, having for their object or tending to obstruct the operation of the law in question, and announcing that all lawful ways and means would be strictly put in execution for bringing to justice the infractors thereof, and securing obedience thereto” (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXII, 208–09).

7On November 7, 1792, Washington submitted to Congress the representations of the judges of the Supreme Court and of the Circuit Court of North Carolina (LC, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress; printed in ASP description begins American State Papers, Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States (Washington, 1832–1861). description ends , Miscellaneous, I, 51–53).

8On October 28, 1792, Randolph replied to Washington’s request for information for his message to Congress as follows:

“On revolving the subjects, with which I am officially connected, I discover none, deserving the notice of congress, except those, which are comprehended in the necessity of reforming our judicial system. The detail of them would be almost infinite; and certainly too minute for a communication from the executive: Nor can the congress forget the admonitions, which they have already received on this head. And yet I am so deeply impressed with the dangers to which the government is exposed from this quarter, that it would be a happy circumstance, if they could be stimulated to the discussion.

“Were I to indulge myself in a general review of our political situation, I should probably repeat without use topics, which have presented themselves to your own mind, or which have been suggested more accurately by others, to whose departments they belong: I confess indeed, that I feel at the present crisis these strong solicitudes: that the public be assured of stability in the existing fiscal arrangements; that the redemption of the public debt be commenced at no distant day; that the land office, if the hostility of the Indians will permit, be employed, as one of the instruments of redemption; that the state-governments be prohibited from intermeddling with the Indian tribes, to the utmost limit of the constitution; that some temporary mode be provided for the relief of many crippled soldiers, who must beg or starve, until the schism between the legislative and judiciary shall be adjusted; and that the violence of the sanguine states, which may be disappointed on the final settlement of their accounts with the United States may in some manner or other be softened.

“I cannot undertake to say, that these hints are capable of being carried into practice, or are intitled to your attention. But I submit them, according to your instructions, without a comment; as you will know how to appreciate them.” (ALS, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress.)

9Section 2 of “An Act providing the means of intercourse between the United States and foreign nations” provided that the “act shall continue and be in force for the space of two years, and from thence until the end of the next session of Congress there-after” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 129 [July 1, 1790]).

10Section 2 of “An Act establishing a Mint, and regulating the Coins of the United States” provided that the director of the mint should employ necessary workmen subject to the approbation of the President (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 246 [April 2, 1792]).

11The two preceding paragraphs were written by Jefferson and sent to Washington on October 15, 1792 (see note 1). On November 1, 1792, Jefferson submitted the following alterations which Washington incorporated in his speech to Congress:

“Instead of the paragraph ‘The interests of a nation &c.—within our own,’ formerly proposed, the following substitute is thought better.

“All observations are unnecessary on the value of peace with other nations. It would be wise however, by timely provisions, to guard against those acts of our own citizens, which might tend to disturb it, and to put ourselves in a condition to give that satisfaction to foreign nations, which we may sometimes have occasion to require from them. I particularly recommend to your consideration the means of preventing those aggressions by our citizens on the territory of other nations, and other infractions of the law of Nations, which, furnishing just subject of complaint, might endanger our peace with them. And in general the maintenance &c.” (AD, letterpress copy, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress.) On November 1, 1792, Jefferson wrote a second letter to Washington in which he suggested minor changes to his first letter (AL, George Washington Papers, Library of Congress).

12Section 22 of “An Act to establish the Post-Office and Post Roads within the United States” stated the rates to be charged upon newspapers (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 238 [February 20, 1792]).

13Kentucky adopted a constitution on April 19, 1792, at a convention held at Danville, Kentucky. On October 20, 1792, Washington acknowledged a letter from Samuel McDowel which enclosed a copy of the constitution (ALS, RG 59, Miscellaneous Letters, 1793–1799, National Archives).

14“An Act making provision for the (payment of the) Debt of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 138–44 [August 4, 1790]) and “An Act making Provision for the Reduction of the Public Debt” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 186–87 [August 12, 1790]).

15Space left blank in MS.

16Space left blank in MS.

17In the President’s speech the description of the foreign loans reads as follows: “… three new loans have been effected, each for three millions of Florins. One at Antwerp, at the annual interest of four and one half per Cent, with an Allowance of four per Cent in lieu of all charges; and the other two at Amsterdam, at the annual interest of four per Cent, with an allowance of five and one half per Cent in one case, and of five per Cent in the other in lieu of all charges. The rates of these loans, and the circumstances under which they have been made, are confirmations of the high state of our Credit abroad” (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXII, 211).

On November 3, 1792, Washington wrote to Jefferson in reply to Jefferson’s second letter of November 1, 1792 (see note 11): “The erasures from the Speech—as you advise⟨d⟩—are made, except exchange the word ‘high’ for ‘just.’ If facts will justify the former (as I think they indubitably do) policy, I conceive, is much in its favor. For while so many unpleasant things are announced as the Speech contains, it cannot be amiss to accompany them with communications of a more agreeable nature” (ALS, Thomas Jefferson Papers, Library of Congress).

18“An Act supplementary to the act making provision for the Debt of the United States” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 281–83 [May 8, 1792]).

19In the margin opposite this abbreviation H wrote: “Qr as to Regulation of Compensations.” No reference to compensations was made in Washington’s speech to Congress.

20Space left blank in MS. Section 11 of “An Act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States” reads as follows: “And be it further enacted, That it shall be lawful for the President of the United States, at any time or times, within eighteen months after the first day of April next, to cause a subscription to be made to the stock of the said corporation, as part of the afore-said capital stock of ten millions of dollars, on behalf of the United States, to an amount not exceeding two millions of dollars; to be paid out of the monies which shall be borrowed by virtue of either of the acts, the one entitled ‘An act making provision for the debt of the United States,’ and the other entitled ‘An act making provision for the reduction of the public debt,’ borrowing of the bank an equal sum, to be applied to the purposes, for which the said monies shall have been procured; reimbursable in ten years, by equal annual instalments; or at any time sooner, or in any greater proportions, that the government may think fit” (1 Stat. description begins The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America (Boston, 1845). description ends 196 [February 25, 1791]).

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