George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 11 January 1792

To the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States, [Philadelphia] January the 11th 1792.

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.

I lay before you, in confidence, two Reports made to me by the Secretary for the department of War, relatively to the present state of affairs on the western frontiers of the United States.1

In these Reports the causes of the present war with the Indians; the measures taken by the Executive to terminate it amicably; and the military preparations for the late Campaign are stated and explained; and also a plan suggested of such further measures on the occasion as appear just and expedient.

I am pursuaded, Gentlemen, that you will take this important subject into your immediate & serious consideration, and that the result of your deliberations will be the adoption of such wise and efficient measures as will reflect honor on our national Councils, and promote the welfare of our Country.2

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DLC:GW.

1For the enclosed reports, see Henry Knox to GW, 26 Dec. 1791, nn. 1 and 2.

2Tobias Lear delivered GW’s message and the enclosed reports to the House of Representatives on 11 Jan. 1792, and the gallery was cleared before they were read that day, as the reports were transmitted in confidence. Discussion of the reports resumed on 16 Jan., and two days later the House resolved itself into a committee of the whole to consider them. The House on 19 Jan. ordered the secretary of the treasury to report on whether additional revenues would be necessary to provide for the proposed increase in the military establishment, and Alexander Hamilton reported on 23 Jan. (Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 10:531–36). In the meantime the House had appointed a committee to bring in a bill, which reported on 25 Jan. a bill “for making further and more effectual provision for the protection of the frontiers of the United States.” When the committee of the whole took up the bill the next day, a motion immediately was made to strike out the second section that provided for the addition of three regiments to the army. Rejection of this provision would force the administration to make do with the existing army, which was clearly inadequate to suppress the hostile Indian nations of the Northwest. Without additional troops the army would have to remain on the defensive, and the administration might be forced to make peace on unfavorable terms. Critics of the administration charged that the Indian war was “as unjustly undertaken as it has since been unwisely and unsuccessfully conducted” and that white settlers probably were more guilty of inciting hostilities than the Indians. The debate lasted three days. On 30 Jan. the House voted 34–18 against striking out the second section of the bill. The next day was taken up with minor amendments, and the bill passed the House on 1 Feb. by a vote of 29 to 19. It was sent to the Senate on 2 Feb. (see Annals of Congress, description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends 2d Cong., 327–29, 337–55).

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