To the United States Senate and House of Representatives
[3 December 1793]
Fellow Citizens of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives
Since the commencement of the term, for which I have been again called into office, no fit occasion has arisen for expressing to my fellow Citizens at large, the deep and respectful sense, which I feel, of the renewed testimony of public approbation. While on the one hand, it awakened my gratitude for all those instances of affectionate partiality, with which I have been honored by my Country; on the other, it could not prevent an earnest wish for that retirement, from which no private consideration should ever have torn me. But influenced by the belief, that my conduct would be estimated according to its real motives; and that the people, and the authorities derived from them, would support exertions, having nothing personal for their object, I have obeyed the suffrage which commanded me to resume the Executive power; and I humbly implore that Being, on whose Will the fate of Nations depends, to crown with success our mutual endeavours for the general happiness.
As soon as the War in Europe had embraced those Powers, with whom the United States have the most extensive relations; there was reason to apprehend that our intercourse with them might be interrupted, and our disposition for peace, drawn into question, by the suspicions, too often entertained by belligerent Nations. It seemed therefore to be my duty, to admonish our Citizens of the consequences of a contraband trade, and of hostile Acts to any of the parties; and to obtain by a declaration of the existing legal state of things, an easier admission of our right to the immunities, belonging to our situation. Under these impressions the Proclamation, which will be laid before you, was issued.1
In this posture of affairs, both new & delicate, I resolved to adopt general rules, which should conform to the Treaties, and assert the priviledges, of the United States. These were reduced into a system, which will be communicated to you.2 Although I have not thought myself at liberty to forbid the Sale of the prizes, permitted by our treaty of Commerce with France to be brought into our ports; I have not refused to cause them to be restored, when they were taken within the protection of our territory; or by vessels commissioned, or equipped in a warlike form within the limits of the United States.3
It rests with the wisdom of Congress to correct, improve or enforce this plan of proceedure; and it will probably be found expedient, to extend the legal code, and the Jurisdiction of the Courts of the United States, to many cases which, though dependent on principles, already recognized, demand some further provisions.
Where individuals shall, within the United States, array themselves in hostility against any of the powers at war; or enter upon Military expeditions, or enterprizes within the jurisdiction of the United States; or usurp and exercise judicial authority within the United States; or where the penalties on violations of the law of Nations may have been indistinctly marked, or are inadequate; these offences cannot receive too early and close an attention, and require prompt and decisive remedies.
Whatsoever those remedies may be, they will be well administered by the Judiciary, who possess a long established course of investigation, effectual process, and Officers in the habit of executing it.
In like manner; as several of the Courts have doubted, under particular circumstances, their power to liberate the vessels of a Nation at peace, and even of a citizen of the United States, although siezed under a false colour of being hostile property; and have denied their power to liberate certain captures within the protection of our territory; it would seem proper to regulate their jurisdiction in these points.4 But if the Executive is to be the resort in either of the two last mentioned cases, it is hoped, that he will be authorized by law, to have facts ascertained by the Courts, when, for his own information, he shall request it.
I cannot recommend to your notice measures for the fulfilment of our duties to the rest of the world, without again pressing upon you the necessity of placing ourselves in a condition of compleat defence, and of exacting from them the fulfilment of their duties towards us. The United States ought not to endulge a persuasion, that, contrary to the order of human events, they will for ever keep at a distance those painful appeals to arms, with which the history of every other nation abounds. There is a rank due to the United States among Nations, which will be withheld, if not absolutely lost, by the reputation of weakness. If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known, that we are at all times ready for War. The documents, which will be presented to you, will shew the amount, and kinds of Arms and Military stores now in our Magazines and Arsenals: and yet an addition even to these supplies cannot with prudence be neglected; as it would leave nothing to the uncertainty of procuring a warlike apparatus, in the moment of public danger.5
Nor can such arrangements, with such objects, be exposed to the censure or jealousy of the warmest friends of Republican Government. They are incabable of abuse in the hands of the Militia, who ought to possess a pride in being the depositary of the force of the Republic, and may be trained to a degree of energy, equal to every military exigency of the United States. But it is an inquiry, which cannot be too solemnly pursued, whether the act “more effectually to provide for the national defence by establishing an uniform Militia throughout the United States” has organized them so as to produce their full effect; whether your own experience in the several States has not detected some imperfections in the scheme; and whether a material feature in an improvement of it, ought not to be, to afford an opportunity for the study of those branches of the Military art, which can scarcely ever be attained by practice alone?6
The connexion of the United States with Europe, has become extremely interesting. The occurrences, which relate to it, and have passed under the knowledge of the Executive, will be exhibited to Congress in a subsequent communication.7
When we contemplate the war on our frontiers, it may be truly affirmed, that every reasonable effort has been made to adjust the causes of dissention with the Indians, North of the Ohio. The Instructions given to the Commissioners evince a moderation and equity, proceeding from a sincere love of peace, and a liberality, having no restriction but the essential interests and dignity of the United States.8 The attempt, however, of an amicable negotiation having been frustrated, the troops have marched to act offensively. Although the proposed treaty did not arrest the progress of Military preparation; it is doubtful, how far the advance of the Season, before good faith justified active movements, may retard them, during the remainder of the year. From the papers and intelligence, which relate to this important subject, you will determine, whether the deficiency in the number of Troops, granted by law, shall be compensated by succours of Militia; or additional encouragements shall be proposed to recruits.
An anxiety has been also demonstrated by the Executive, for peace with the Creeks and the Cherokees. The former have been relieved with Corn and with clothing, and offensive measures against them prohibited during the recess of Congress. To satisfy the complaints of the latter, prosecutions have been instituted for the violences committed upon them. But the papers, which will be delivered to you, disclose the critical footing on which we stand in regard to both those tribes; and it is with Congress to pronounce, what shall be done.9
After they shall have provided for the present emergency, it will merit their most serious labours, to render tranquillity with the Savages permanent, by creating ties of interest. Next to a vigorous execution of justice on the violators of peace, the establishment of commerce with the Indian nations in behalf of the United States, is most likely to conciliate their attachment. But it ought to be conducted without fraud, without extortion, with constant and plentiful supplies; with a ready market for the commodities of the Indians, and a stated price for what they give in payment, and receive in exchange. Individuals will not pursue such a traffic, unless they be allured by the hope of profit; but it will be enough for the the United States to be reembursed only. Should this recommendation accord with the opinion of Congress, they will recollect, that it cannot be accomplished by any means yet in the hands of the Executive. Gentlemen of the House of Representatives
The Commissioners, charged with the settlement of Accounts between the United and Individual States, concluded their important functions, within the time limited by Law; and the balances, struck in their report, which will be laid before Congress, have been placed on the Books of the Treasury.10
On the first day of June last, an instalment of one million of florins became payable on the loans of the United States in Holland. This was adjusted by a prolongation of the period of reimbursement, in nature of a new loan, at an interest of five per cent for the term of ten years; and the expences of this operation were a commission of three prCent.11
The first instalment of the loan of two millions of dollars from the Bank of the United States, has been paid, as was directed by Law. For the second it is necessary, that provision should be made.12
No pecuniary consideration is more urgent, than the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt: on none can delay be more injurious, or an œconomy of time more valuable.
The productiveness of the public revenues hitherto, has continued to equal the anticipations which were formed of it; but it is not expected to prove commensurate with all the objects, which have been suggested. Some auxiliary provisions will, therefore, it is presumed, be requisite; and it is hoped that these may be made, consistently with a due regard to the convenience of our Citizens, who cannot but be sensible of the true wisdom of encountering a small present addition to their contributions, to obviate a future accumulation of burthens.
But here, I cannot forbear to recommend a repeal of the tax on the transportation of public prints. There is no resource so firm for the Government of the United States, as the affections of the people guided by an enlightened policy; and to this primary good, nothing can conduce more, than a faithful representation of public proceedings, diffused, without restraint, throughout the United States.13
An estimate of the appropriations, necessary for the current service of the ensuing year, and a statement of a purchase of Arms and Military stores, made during the recess, will be presented to Congress.14 Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.
The several subjects, to which I have now referred, open a wide range to your deliberations; and involve some of the choicest interests of our common Country. Permit me to bring to your remembrance the magnitude of your task. Without an unprejudiced coolness, the welfare of the Government may be hazarded; without harmony, as far as consists with freedom of sentiment, its dignity may be lost. But, as the Legislative proceedings of the United States will never, I trust, be reproached for the want of temper or of candour; so shall not the public happiness languish, from the want of ⟨my strenuous and warmest co-operation.
AD[S] (fragment), DNA: RG 46, Third Congress, 1793–95, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; Copy, RG 233, Third Congress, 1793–95, House Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals; LB, DLC:GW; Translation (French), DLC: Genet Papers. The last page of the AD[S] is missing; the words in angle brackets are taken from the copy.
The letter-book copy states that at 12 o’clock on this date, GW, attended by his cabinet, “proceeded to the Senate chamber, where finding both Houses of Congress assembled, he deliver’d to them the following Speech,” and that Bartholomew Dandridge, Jr., delivered to Congress copies of the proclamation and rules mentioned in the address (see notes 1 and 2 below).
This speech was printed in the General Advertiser (Philadelphia), 4 Dec., and other newspapers.
4. Richard Peters, the federal district judge for Pennsylvania, had ruled in the cases of the British vessels William and Fanny, allegedly seized within territorial waters, that his court did not have jurisdiction (Federal Cases description begins The Federal Cases: Comprising Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit and District Courts of the United States from the Earliest Times to the Beginning of the Federal Reporter. 30 vols. St. Paul, 1894–97. description ends , 9:57–62, 17:942–48). In the case of the sloop Betsey, an American vessel with a Swedish cargo, the federal district judge for Maryland, William Paca, had accepted an argument that article 17 of the Treaty of Amity and Commerce with France precluded his court from exercising jurisdiction. In 1794, however, the Supreme Court, in the appeal of the Betsey case, ruled that U.S. district courts did have such jurisdiction (Documentary History of the Supreme Court description begins Maeva Marcus et al., eds. The Documentary History of the Supreme Court of the United States, 1789–1800. 8 vols. New York, 1985-2007. description ends , 6:296–355).
5. For the return of ordnance, arms, and military stores, 14 Dec., sent to the Senate by Secretary of War Henry Knox on 16 Dec., see ASP, Military Affairs, 1:44–60.
6. For the militia act of 8 May 1792, see Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends , 1:271–74. This portion of GW’s message was referred to a House committee, which reported back on 24 March 1794 opposing any amendment of the act, because “they have their doubts how far Congress can, consistent” with the Constitution, “make any important alterations or amendments to the present law; and as the right of training the militia is constitutionally reserved to the States, if they can be impressed with the importance of exercising this power, and directing its operation, more especially to the light infantry and grenadier companies of each regiment, an efficient force may be thereby created, and equal to any that can probably be obtained by any additional law of the United States” (ASP, Military Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:66). The reference to study of the military art was evidently intended to recommend a military academy (see Drafting GW’s Annual Address, 18–28 Nov. 1793, editorial note; and Edmund Randolph’s Outline for GW’s Annual Address, c.28 Nov.).
8. For these instructions, issued by Secretary of War Knox on 26 April, see ASP, Indian Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:340–42.
9. For the papers submitted to the Senate by Secretary of War Knox on 16 Dec., see ASP, Indian Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:361–470. The prohibition of offensive operations against the Creek Indians appeared in Knox’s letter to Georgia governor Edward Telfair of 30 May (ASP, Indian Affairs description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:364).
10. See Commissioners for Settling Accounts Between the United States and the Individual States to GW, 29 June. The report was submitted to Congress on 5 Dec. (ASP, Miscellaneous description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends , 1:69).
11. The payment due on 1 June was the first installment of the Dutch loan approved by Congress on 14 Sept. 1782 (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 23:575–80). On the prolongation of the loan, see Wilhem and Jan Willink, Nicholaas and Jacob Van Staphorst, and Nicholas Hubbard, to Hamilton, 1 May (Hamilton Papers description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends , 14:364–67).
12. For the $2 million loan, see GW to Alexander Hamilton, 9 May 1792. For the payment of the first installment, see Alexander Hamilton to GW, 12 March 1793. On 4 June 1794 Congress passed “An Act providing for the payment of the second instalment due on a Loan made of the Bank of the United States” (Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends , 1:372).
13. GW apparently was referring to section 22 of “An Act to establish the Post-Office and Post Roads within the United States,” 20 Feb. 1790, wherein the conveyance of newspapers by mail was charged at “one cent, for any distance not more than one hundred miles, and one cent and a half for any greater distance” (Stat. description begins Richard Peters, ed. The Public Statutes at Large of the United States of America, from the Organization of the Government in 1789, to March 3, 1845 . . .. 8 vols. Boston, 1845-67. description ends , 1:232, 238).