Draft of a Proposed Message
from George Washington to Congress1
[Philadelphia, March-May, 1794]2
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 peace.3 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 tendency4 to preserve peace as by a sense of the necessity of being prepared for events which may not depend on our choice.
Copy, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
1. Although this document is not in H’s handwriting, H did write on the back of it: “Copy of a message drafted at the desire of the President for his consideration. Deposited in my Pidgeon Hole.” Apparently it remained in the “Pidgeon Hole,” for no evidence has been found that Washington ever used this draft for either a message or a part of a message.
2. This document cannot be dated with accuracy, although the first sentence indicates that it was written at some time after Washington’s fifth annual message to Congress on December 3, 1793. The contents of the remainder of the document point to the conclusion that it was written during the Anglo-American crisis in the spring of 1794. See H to Washington, March 8, 1794. At the top of this document someone at a later date wrote “[20 May, 1794?].” Although Washington addressed a message to the Senate and House on that date (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXIII, 372–73), this message was concerned primarily with “the present state of certain hostile threats against the territories of Spain, in our neighborhood” and bears no resemblance to the document printed above.
3. In his fifth annual message to Congress on December 3, 1793, Washington said: “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” (GW description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (Washington, 1931–1944). description ends , XXXIII, 166).
4. This word is in H’s handwriting.