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To George Washington from Edmund Randolph, 27 March 1794

From Edmund Randolph

[Philadelphia] March 27th 1794.

Message proposed by E. Randolph, some days ago
to the President; but now rendered unnecessary by
Congress having proceeded to vigorous measures.1

Although I cannot doubt, that from the sources of information possessed by Congress themselves, and the communications, which I have occasionally made to them, they feel the crisis in our public affairs; yet at no time have I seen the necessity of exercising the right of recommendation, more strongly than present.

It is now almost five years, since our government was organized. Its sufficiency for the happiness of the Union has been tried; and stands approved by the friends of liberty and order. No people can ever have a deeper or more solemn interest in defending with firmness and with zeal their country already flourishing under the influence of such a Constitution; no people can, with better reason expect, from the progress of its operation, the completion of their welfare, and none ought to be more cautious, in trusting themselves to uncertain changes.

Notwithstanding, after an honorable and scrupulous conduct towards all nations, we have arrived at the hour of suffering and of danger. Many of our fellow Citizens are now languishing in slavery and chains, our commerce has been ravaged, our Seamen dispersed by captures in foreign lands, or compelled into foreign service; and our peace threatened.

The fate of our brethren groaning under a cruel bondage, will, I am persuaded, receive a sincere attention.

To prevent a repetition of insult and violence; to meet the increasing hostility against us; and to be indemnified for the past; are cares, great indeed, in themselves, but involving the highest responsibility to our Constituents.

We can never hope to obtain the respect which is due to us; to secure our peace or an exemption from plunder but by demonstrating our means to resist. The stability of public credit, and an adequate and regular revenue, constitute an essential article in the work of defence. You, Gentlemen, who so well understand the capacity of our fellow Citizens for taxation, and the calls of justice, honor and good faith, will adapt the fiscal arrangements accordingly. I trust too, that, when a question shall arise on the form, which the public force shall assume for our defence, it will not be forgotten, that principles of real efficiency ought to be consulted, and that it is our policy, and ought to be our character, to bid defiance to invasion from any of the powers of the earth.

Without preparations, like these, the demand of retribution for past injuries would be an absurd waste of time. It will be treated with contempt if we remain in that painful situation of public weakness, which first invited attack.

I must, therefore, lay before Congress my sense of this awful period, record to my fellow Citizens, that I have not neglected it; and declare again, that my co-operation with your labors shall be prompt, and persevering. There are certain moments in human affairs, when harmony among the persons, administering them, create an irresistable energy; and to cultivate it is patriotism. That this is the moment in the affairs of the United States, must be pronounced by all.

When we shall be armed against the events of war, peace, that blessing to our rising Nation, will be at our command; and it shall be my constant effort to cherish it, with all the world.

LB, DNA: RG 59, Domestic Letters.

1On Randolph’s intention to submit this proposed message, for GW to send to Congress, see Randolph to GW, 26 March (second letter). Randolph is referring to the earlier passage of “An Act to provide for the Defence of certain Ports and Harbors in the United States,” 20 March, and “An Act to provide a Naval Armament,” which GW signed on this date (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).

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