Thomas Jefferson Papers

Materials for the President’s Address to Congress, [ca. 22 November 1793]

Materials for the President’s Address to Congress

[ca. 22 Nov. 1793]

Notes Text.
Cases where individuals (as Henfield &c) organize themselves into military bodies within the US. or participate in acts of hostility by sea, where jurisdiction attaches to the person.     The Constitution having authorised the legislature exclusively to declare whether the nation, from a state of peace, shall go into that of war, it rests with their wisdom to consider
    What is the present legal mode of restraint? Binding to the good behavior? Military restraint? Or what? Or can the act only be punished after it is committed? Whether the restraints already provided by the laws are sufficient to prevent individuals from usurping, in effect, that power, by taking part, or arraying themselves to take part, by sea or by land, while under the jurisdiction of the US. in the hostilities of any one nation against any other with which the US. are at peace?
Vessels originally constituting themselves cruizers here, or those so constituted elsewhere and augmenting their force here, may they be seized and detained?     Whether the laws have provided with sufficient efficacy and explicitness, for arresting and restraining their preparations and enterprizes, and for indemnifying their effects?
By what branch of the government? e.g. the Polly or Republican at N. Y. the Jane at Philada. the Industry at Baltimore.
Their Prizes. May they be restored? e.g. the Lovely lass, Pr. Wm. Henry, Jane of Dublin, the Spanish prize &c
Captures within our waters, by whom to be restored? e.g. the Grange, the William, the Providence, the William Tell &c.     Whether within the territory of the US. or those limits on it’s shores to which reason and usage authorize them to extend their jurisdiction and protection, and to interdict every hostile act, even between hostile nations, the partition of the National authority between the civil and military organs is delineated with sufficient precision to leave no doubt which of the two is justified, and is bound, to interpose?
Cases of the Betsey, an American  vessel and Swedish cargo. The Maxwell, vessel and cargo  Swedish.     Whether either and Which of them is authorized to liberate our own property, or that of other peaceable nations, taken on the high-seas and brought into our ports?
    Merely an intimation to establish all these cases with the Judiciary.     Whether all such of these interferences as may be exercised by the judiciary bodies with equal efficacy, with more regularity, and with greater safety to the rights of individuals, citizen or alien, are already placed under their cognisance, so as to leave no room for diversity of judgment among them, no necessity or ground for any other branch to exercise them, merely that there may not be a defect of justice or protection, or a breach of public order?
    For a specification of some of these duties see Jay’s & Wilson’s charges. Are they all sufficiently provided with specific punishments?    Offences against the Law of Nations. Genet’s conduct is one. By that law the President may order him away. Has the law provided for the efficacy of this order?     And Whether the duties of a nation at peace towards those at war, imposed by the laws and usages of nature, and nations,1 and such other offences against the law of nations as present circumstances may produce are provided for by the municipal law with those details of internal2 sanction and coercion, the mode and measure of which that alone can establish?

[Upside down at foot of text:]

Other subjects3


Report of balances between the states.

Western Indians


Provision of arms made, and to be made.

Subsequent. Genet’s conduct

    England. Inexecution of treaty.

       Interception of our provisions.

    Spain. Boundary and navigation of Missisipi.

       Protection of Southern Indians.

MS (DLC: Washington Papers); in TJ’s hand; undated, but prepared no later than 23 Nov. 1793 and recorded in SJPL under 22 Nov. 1793 as “Materials for speech to Congress”; with list of topics upside down at foot of verso; bears check marks, probably added by Edmund Randolph, next to each paragraph of text and each item in list of topics; endorsed by Washington. PrC (DLC: TJ Papers, 95: 16291–2); partially blurred and clipped; at head of text by TJ in ink: “Materials for President’s speech to Congress”; lacks check marks.

At some point during an ongoing series of Cabinet meetings to prepare for the forthcoming meeting of Congress, the President had evidently requested that each Cabinet member prepare outlines of the topics and language to be included in his annual address. TJ’s submission—consisting of a column of suggested text for the portions of the address dealing with neutrality issues and a parallel column of notes identifying the specific problems each paragraph was addressing, together with a subjoined list of other topics meriting congressional notification—is conjecturally assigned to this date on the basis of SJPL. Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Edmund Randolph, and Henry Knox each prepared undated proposals that differed in detail and emphasis. Two of the suggestions, the President’s call for the establishment of a military academy to teach artillery and engineering and the recommendations by Hamilton and Knox for fortifying major harbors, aroused TJ’s opposition in subsequent Cabinet meetings (Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxiii, 160–1; Syrett, Hamilton description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends , xv, 429–30; Randolph, “Heads of subjects to be communicated to congress; some at the opening, others by messages,” DLC: Washington Papers; Knox’s submission, entirely in the form of draft language, is in same, both being filed at the end of November 1793). These documents must have been completed prior to 23 Nov. 1793, when the Cabinet, meeting in Hamilton’s absence, considered and emended a consolidated outline the Attorney General had compiled from them, all of which bear check marks presumably made by Randolph while preparing this comprehensive synopsis (Randolph, “Heads of Matter, to be communicated to congress, either in the speech, or by message, as collected from the notes of the President, and the other gentlemen,” DLC: Washington Papers). At this meeting Randolph was assigned the task of drafting the President’s annual address (Notes of Cabinet Meeting on the President’s Address to Congress, 23 Nov. 1793, and note; Notes of Cabinet Meeting on the President’s Address and Messages to Congress, 28 Nov. 1793, and note). The final version of the address did not use TJ’s language on problems associated with the neutrality crisis. Nor did it adopt his suggestion about the need to delineate more precisely the partition of the National authority between the Civil and Military organs beyond recommending that Congress regulate the jurisdiction of Federal courts in cases concerning the validity of prizes and property brought by belligerents into American ports and that, if such cases were to remain the province of the executive rather than the judiciary, a law would be desirable authorizing the President “to have facts ascertained by the Courts, when, for his own information, he shall request it.” However, the address did touch on all of the other subjects listed by TJ (Fitzpatrick, Writings description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends , xxxiii, 163–9).

Jay’s & Wilson’s charges: see TJ to Gouverneur Morris, 26 Aug. 1793, and note. For the subsequent messages to Congress, see George Washington to the Senate and the House of Representatives, [2], [14] Dec. 1793.

1TJ first wrote “of nations” and then reworked the phrase to read as above.

2Word interlined.

3These words cut off in PrC.

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