George Washington Papers

Alexander Hamilton’s Proposed Presidential Message to Congress, March–May 1794

Alexander Hamilton’s Proposed Presidential Message to Congress

[Philadelphia, March–May 1794]


In my speech to the two houses of Congress at the opening of the session I urged the expediency of being prepared for war as one of the best securities to our peace1—Events which seem dayly to be unfolding themselves press still more seriously upon us the duty of being so prepared, indicating that the calamities of war may by a train of circumstances be forced upon us, notwithstanding the most sincere desires and endeavours to cultivate and preserve peace.

I cannot therefore withold from congress the expression of my conviction that the united States ought without delay to adopt such military arrangements as will enable them to vindicate with vigour their rights and to repel with energ⟨y⟩ any attacks, which may be made upon them: and that it may be advisable to add some dispositions calculated to exempt our commerce from being the prey of foreign depredation.

The blessings of peace are in my view so precious that they will continue to engage my most zealous exertions for their continuance—under this impression the suggestions I have made are influenced as much by a persuasion of their tendency2 to preserve peace as by a sense of the necessity of being prepared for events which may not depend on our choice.3

Copy, DLC: Hamilton Papers. Hamilton wrote on the back of this document: “Copy of a message drafted at the desire of the President for his consideration. Deposited in my Pigeon Hole.” At a later date, someone else wrote “[20 May, 1794?]” on the top of this document.

1For this speech, see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 3 Dec. 1793. This draft may have been inspired by Hamilton’s letter to GW of 8 March, in which Hamilton argued that the United States needed “to be in a respectable military posture” and offered his ideas on how to achieve this state.

2This word is in Hamilton’s handwriting.

3By early May, this address probably was deemed not necessary due to the passage of several defense-oriented laws by Congress. For this legislation, see “An Act to provide for the Defence of certain Ports and Harbors in the United States,” 20 March; “An Act to provide a Naval Armament,” 27 March; “An Act to provide for the erecting and repairing of Arsenals and Magazines, and for other purposes,” 2 April; “An Act providing for raising and organizing a Corps of Artillerists and Engineers,” 9 May, and “An Act directing a Detachment from the Militia of the United States,” also 9 May (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 . 1:345–46, 350, 352, 366–68).

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