George Washington Papers

From George Washington to the United States Senate, 13 December 1790

To the United States Senate

[Philadelphia, 13 December 1790]


These assurances of favorable attention to the subjects I have recommended, and of entire confidence in my views, make the Impression on me which I ought to feel. I thank you for them both. And shall continue to rely much for the success of all our measures for the public good, on the Aid they will receive from the wisdom and integrity of your Councils.

Go: Washington

LS, DNA: RG 46, First Congress, 1789–1791, Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; LB, DLC:GW.

For the background to this document, see GW to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, 8 Dec. 1790. After GW delivered his message to Congress on 8 Dec. 1790, the Senate ordered the speech printed and committed preparation of a reply to Oliver Ellsworth, Rufus King, and Ralph Izard. Ellsworth reported for the committee on 10 Dec. 1790. The Senate amended the committee’s address slightly and directed that it be presented to GW by Vice President Adams, attended by the whole Senate. Ellsworth, King, and Izard were instructed to call on GW to learn where and when he would receive the address. The committee met with GW, and, in accordance with established practice, delivered a copy of the address to him so that he might prepare a response to the formal presentation. GW indicated to the committee that he would receive the Senate address at his house at noon on 13 Dec. 1790 (DHFC, description begins Linda Grant De Pauw et al., eds. Documentary History of the First Federal Congress of the United States of America, March 4, 1789-March 3, 1791. 20 vols. to date. Baltimore, 1972–. description ends 1:501, 505, 506, 507).

The Senate address, formally presented to GW by Adams and the members shortly after noon on 13 Dec. 1790, reads: “We receive, Sir, with particular satisfaction the communications contained in your Speech, which confirm to us the progressive State of the public Credit, and afford at the same time, a new proof of the solidity of the foundation on which it rests; and we chearfully join in the acknowledgement, which is due to the probity and patriotism of the mercantile and Marine part of our fellow Citizens, whose enlightened attachment to the principles of good government is not less conspicuous in this, than it has been in other important respects.

“In confidence that every constitutional preliminary has been observed, we assure you of our disposition to concur in giving every requisite Sanction to the admission of Kentucky as a distinct member of the Union, in doing which, we shall anticipate the happy effects to be expected from the sentiments of attachment towards the union and its present government, which have been expressed by the Patriotic inhabitants of that District.

“While we regret that the continuance, and increase, of the hostilities and depredations which have distressed our north western Frontier should have rendered offensive measures necessary, we feel an entire confidence in the sufficiency of the motives which have produced them, and in the wisdom of the dispositions which have been concerted in pursuance of the powers vested in you; and whatever may have been the event, we shall chearfully concur in the provisions which the expedition that has been undertaken may require on the part of the Legislature, and in any other which the future peace and safety of our frontier Settlements may call for.

“The critical posture of the European Powers will engage a due portion of our Attention, and we shall be ready to adopt any measures, which a prudent circumspection may suggest, for the preservation of the blessings of Peace: The navigation and the fisheries of the United States, are objects too interesting not to inspire a disposition to promote them, by all the means, which shall appear to us, consistent with their natural progress, and permanent prosperity.

“Impressed with the importance of a free intercourse with the Mediterranean, we shall not think any Deliberations misemployed which may conduce to the adoption of proper measures for removing the impediments that obstructed it.

“The improvement of the judiciary system, and the other important objects, to which you have pointed our attention, will not fail to engage the consideration they respectively merit.

“In the course of our deliberations, upon every subject, we shall rely upon that co-operation which an undeminished Zeal, and incessant anxiety for the public welfare on your part, so thoroughly ensure; and as it is our anxious desire, so it shall be our constant endeavour, to render the established government more & more instrumental in promoting the good of our fellow Citizens, and more and more the object of their attachment and confidence” (DLC:GW).

GW’s formal response, probably drafted for him by James Madison (see GW to Madison, 11 Dec. 1790), was immediately presented to the assembled senators, who then withdrew. GW received the reply of the House of Representatives later that day (see GW to the U.S. House of Representatives, 13 Dec. 1790).

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