Thomas Jefferson Papers

Paragraphs for the President’s Annual Message to Congress, 15 October 1792

Paragraphs for the President’s Annual Message to Congress

The interests of a nation, when well understood, will be found to coincide with their moral duties. Among these it is an important one to cultivate habits of peace and friendship with our neighbors. To do this we should make provision for rendering the justice we must sometimes require from them. I recommend therefore to your consideration Whether the laws of the Union should not be extended to restrain our citizens from committing acts of violence within the territories of other nations, which would be punished were they committed within our own.—And in general the maintenance of a friendly intercourse with foreign nations will be presented to your attention by the expiration of the law for that purpose, which takes place, if not renewed, at the close of the present session.

In execution of the authority given by the legislature, measures have been taken for engaging some artists from abroad to aid in the establishment of our mint; others have been employed at home; provision has been made of the requisite buildings, and these are now putting into proper condition for the purposes of the establishment. There has been also a small beginning in the coinage of the half dismes and Cents, the want of small coins in circulation calling our first attentions to them.

PrC (DLC); entirely in TJ’s hand. Entry in SJPL: “draughts of paragraphs for the Speech to Congress.”

At Washington’s request, TJ prepared this document for use in the President’s fourth annual message to Congress, which was delivered on 6 Nov. 1792 (Washington to TJ, 23 Aug. 1792; TJ to Washington, 9 Sep. 1792; Fitzpatrick, Writings, description begins John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington, Washington, D.C., 1931–44, 39 vols. description ends xxxii, 205–12). Washington in turn submitted the paragraphs to Hamilton, who incorporated them nearly verbatim into his draft of the presidential message (Syrett, Hamilton, description begins Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton, New York, 1961–87, 27 vols. description ends xii, 558–66). Two weeks later, however, TJ rewrote the first paragraph and submitted it to Washington (see Revised Paragraph for the President’s Annual Message to Congress, 1 Nov. 1792). In the end, the President used TJ’s revised first paragraph and TJ’s original second paragraph in his address with only minor changes. For the circumstances which gave rise to TJ’s emphasis on the need to restrain American citizens from violating the territorial integrity of other nations, see Opinion on Offenses against the Law of Nations, 3 Dec. 1792. Other suggestions for Washington’s address are contained in TJ to Washington, 1 Nov. 1792.

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