George Washington Papers

Address to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, 6 November 1792

Address to the United States Senate and House of Representatives

United States [Philadelphia] November the 6th 1792.

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate, and House of Representatives.

It is some abatement of the satisfaction, with which I meet you on the present occasion, that in felicitating you on a continuance of the National prosperity generally, I am not able to add to it information that the Indian hostilities, which have, for some time past, distressed our North Western frontier, have terminated.

You will, I am persuaded, learn with no less concern than I communicate it, that reiterated endeavours, towards effecting a pacification, have hitherto issued only in new and outrageous proofs of persevering hostility on the part of the tribes with whom we are in contest. An earnest desire to procure tranquillity to the Frontier—to stop the further effusion of blood—to arrest the progress of expense—to forward the prevalent wish of the Nation, for peace, has led to strenuous efforts, through various channels, to accomplish these desireable purposes: In making which efforts, I consulted less my own anticipations of the event, or the scruples which some considerations were calculated to inspire, than the wish to find the object attainable; or if not attainable to ascertain unequivocally that such is the case.

A detail of the measures which have been pursued, and of their consequences, which will be laid before you, while it will confirm to you the want of success, thus far, will, I trust, evince that means as proper and as efficacious as could have been devised, have been employed. The issue of some of them, indeed, is still depending; but a favourable one, though not to be despaired of, is not promised by anything that has yet happened.1

In the course of the attempts which have been made, some valuable citizens have fallen victims to their zeal for the public service. A sanction commonly respected even among Savages, has been found, in this instance, insufficient to protect from massacre the emissaries of peace. It will, I presume, be duly considered whether the occasion does not call for an exercise of liberality towards the families of the deceased.2

It must add to your concern, to be informed, that besides the continuation of hostile appearances among the Tribes North of the Ohio, some threatening symptoms have of late been revived among some of those south of it.

A part of the Cherokees, known by the name of Chickamagas, inhabiting five villages on the Tenessee River, have long been in the practice of committing depredations on the neighbouring settlements.

It was hoped that the treaty of Holston made with the Cherokee Nation in July 1791, would have prevented a repetition of such depredations. But the event has not answered this hope. The Chiccamagas, aided by some Banditti of another tribe, in their vicinity, have recently perpetrated wanton, and unprovoked hostilities upon the citizens of the United States in that quarter. The information which has been received on this subject will be laid before you.3 Hitherto defensive precautions only have been strictly enjoined, and observed.

It is not understood that any breach of treaty, or aggression whatso[e]ver, on the part of the United States, or their Citizens, is even alledged as a pretext for the spirit of hostility in this quarter.

I have reason to beleive that every practicable exertion has been made (pursuant to the provision by law for that purpose) to be prepared for the alternative of a prosecution of the war, in the event of a failure of pacific overtures. A large proportion of the troops authorized to be raised, have been recruited, though the number is still incomplete. And pains have been taken to discipline, and put them in condition for the particular kind of service to be performed. A delay of operations (besides being dictated by the measures which were pursuing towards a pacific termination of the war) has been in itself deemed preferable to immature efforts. A statement, from the proper department, with regard to the number of troops raised, and some other points which have been suggested, will afford more precise information, as a guide to the legislative consultations; and among other things will enable Congress to judge whether some additional stimulus to the recruiting service may not be adviseable.4

In looking forward to the future expence of the operations, which may be found inevitable, I derive consolation from the information, I receive, that the product of the Revenues for the present year is likely to supersede the necessity of additional burthens on the Community, for the service of the ensuing year. This, however, will be better ascertained in the course of the Session; and it is proper to add, that the information alluded to proceeds upon the supposition of no material extension of the spirit of hostility.5

I cannot dismiss the subject of Indian Affairs, without again recommending to your consideration the expediency of more adequate provision for giving energy to the laws throughout our interior frontier; and for restraining the commission of outrages upon the Indians; without which all pacific plans must prove nugatory. To enable, by competent rewards, the employment of qualified and trusty persons to reside among them, as agents, would also contribute to the preservation of peace and good neighbourhood. If in addition to these expedients, an eligible plan could be divised for promoting civilization among the friendly tribes, and for carrying on trade with them, upon a scale equal to their wants, and under regulations calculated to protect them from imposition and extortion, it’s influence in cementing their interests with our’s could not but be considerable.6

The prosperous state of our Revenue has been intimated. This would be still more the case, were it not for the impediments, which in some places continue to embarrass the collection of the duties on spirits distilled within the United States. These impediments have lessened, and are lessening in local extent; and as applied to the community at large, the contentment with the law appears to be progressive.

But symptoms of increased opposition having lately manifested themselves in certain quarters; I judged a special interposition on my part, proper and adviseable, and, under this impression, have issued a proclamation, warning against all unlawful combinations and proceedings, having for their object or tending to obstruct the operation of the law in question, and announcing that all lawful ways and means would be strictly put in execution for bringing to justice the infractors thereof and securing obedience thereto.

Measures have also been taken for the prosecution of Offenders: And Congress may be assured, that nothing within constitutional and legal limits, which may depend on me, shall be wanting to assert and maintain the just authority of the laws. In fulfilling this trust, I shall count intirely upon the full co-operation of the other departments of the Government, and upon the zealous support of all good Citizens.7

I cannot forbear to bring again into the view of the Legislature the subject of a Revision of the Judiciary System. A representation from the Judges of the Supreme Court, which will be laid before you, points out some of the inconveniencies that are experienced. In the course of the execution of the laws, considerations arise out of the structure of that system, which, in some cases, tend to relax their efficacy. As connected with this subject, provisions to facilitate the taking of bail upon processes out of the Courts of the United States, and a supplementary definition of Offences against the Constitution and laws of the Union, and of the punishment for such Offences, will, it is presumed, be found worthy of particular attention.8

Observations on the value of peace with other nations are unnecessary. It would be wise however, by timely provisions, to guard against those Acts of our own Citizens, which might tend to disturb it, and to put ourselves in a condition to give that satisfaction to foreign nations which we may sometimes have occasion to require from them. I particularly recommend to your consideration the means of preventing those aggressions by our Citizens on the territory of other Nations, and other infractions of the law of Nations, which, furnishing just subject of complaint, might endanger our peace with them. And, in general, the maintenance of a friendly intercourse with foreign powers 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.9

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 also been a small beginning in the coinage of half-dismes; the want of small coins in circulation calling the first attention to them.10

The regulation of foreign Coins, in correspondency with the principles of our national Coinage, as being essential to their due operation, and to order in our money concerns, will, I doubt not, be resumed and completed.11

It is represented that some provisions in the law, which establishes the Post-Office, operate, in experiment, against the transmission of News-papers to distant parts of the Country. Should this, upon due inquiry, be found to be the fact, a full conviction of the importance of facilitating the circulation of political intelligence and information, will, I doubt not, lead to the application of a remedy.12

The adoption of a Constitution for the State of Kentucky has been notified to me. The legislature will share with me in the satisfaction which arises from an event interesting to the happiness of the part of the Nation, to which it relates, and conducive to the general order.13

It is proper likewise to inform you, that since my last communication on the subject, and in further execution of the Acts severally making provision for the public debt, and for the reduction thereof, three new loans have been effected, each for three millions of florins—One at Antwerp, at the annual interest of four and one half per Cent, with an allowance of four per Cent in lieu of all charges, and the other two at Amsterdam, at the annual interest of four per Cent, with an allowance of five and one half per Cent in one case, and of five per Cent in the other, in lieu of all charges. The rates of these loans, and the circumstances under which they have been made, are confirmations of the high state of our Credit abroad.

Among the Objects to which these funds have been directed to be applied, the payment of the debts due to certain foreign Officers, according to the provision made during the last Session, has been embraced.14

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives.

I entertain a strong hope that the state of the national finances is now sufficiently matured to enable you to enter upon a systematic and effectual arrangement for the regular redemption and discharge of the public debt, according to the right which has been reserved to the Government. No measure can be more desireable, whether viewed with an eye to its intrinsic importance, or to the general sentiment and wish of the Nation.

Provision is likewise requisite for the reimbursement of the loan which has been made of the Bank of the United States, pursuant to the eleventh section of the act by which it is incorporated. In fulfilling the public stipulations in this particular, it is expected a valuable saving will be made.15

Appropriations for the current service of the ensuing year, and for such extraordinaries as may require provision, will demand, and I doubt not, will engage your early attention.

Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives.

I content myself with recalling your attention, generally, to such objects, not particularized in my present, as have been suggested in my former communications to you.

Various temporary laws will expire during the present Session. Among these, that which regulates trade and intercourse with the Indian Tribes, will merit particular notice.

The results of your common deliberations hitherto, will, I trust, be productive of solid and durable advantages to our Constituents; such as, by conciliating more and more their ultimate suffrage, will tend to strengthen and confirm their attachment to that Constitution of Government, upon which, under Divine Providence, materially depend their Union, their safety and their happiness.

Still further to promote and secure these inestimable ends, there is nothing which can have a more powerful tendency, than the careful cultivation of harmony, combined with a due regard to stability in the public Councils.

Go: Washington

DS, DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–93, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, President’s Messages; copy, DNA: RG 233, Second Congress, 1791–93, House Records of Legislative Proceedings, Journals; LB, DLC:GW.

Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Henry Knox, and Edmund Randolph submitted suggestions or draft messages to GW for use in composing this address. For Knox’s and Randolph’s suggestions, see their letters to GW of 14 and 28 Oct., respectively. See also Hamilton’s draft address of 15–31 Oct. in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 12:558–66. For Jefferson’s suggestions, see notes 9 and 10.

1On the following day GW “laid before the Senate a Letter from the Secretary for the Department of War, on the subject of Indian affairs, with sundry papers therein mentioned.” These papers also were presented to the House of Representatives on that date (Annals of Congress description begins Joseph Gales, Sr., comp. The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States; with an Appendix, Containing Important State Papers and Public Documents, and All the Laws of a Public Nature. 42 vols. Washington, D.C., 1834–56. description ends , 2d Cong., 2d sess., 611, 673). Knox’s letter to the U.S. Senate of 7 Nov. groups these papers under five headings: “1st. A statement of the measures taken and the overtures made, to procure a peace with the Indians North west of the Ohio.” These papers consisted of copies of the following items, all written in 1792 unless otherwise indicated: Knox to Samuel Kirkland, 20 Dec. 1791, 9 Jan., 25 Feb., 7 Mar., to Cornplanter and other Seneca chiefs, 7 Jan. (see Knox to Tobias Lear, 21 Jan., note 1), to Peter Pond and William Steedman, 9 Jan., and to Waterman Baldwin, 10 Feb. (see Knox to GW, 9 Jan., note 1), to New Arrow, Cornplanter, Big-Log (Big Tree), and other Seneca chiefs, 10 Feb., to Joseph Brant, 25 Feb. (see GW to Knox, 25 Feb., note 1), 23 April, 27 June, GW to the Five Nations, 23 Mar., 25 April, Knox to Alexander Trueman, 3 April (see Knox to GW, 1 April, note 2), 22 May, to the Sachems and Warriors of the Tribes in the Northwest Territory, 4 April (see Knox to GW, 1 April, note 2), to Israel Chapin, Sr., 23 (see Knox to GW, 21 April, note 2), 28 April, 8 May, 27 June, to Deodat Allen, 25 April, Timothy Pickering to the Sachems and Chiefs of the Five Nations, 30 April, Knox to Pickering, 3 May, to Hendrick Aupaumut, 8 May, to John Heckenwelder, 18, 21 May, to Rufus Putnam, 22 May (see GW to Knox, 3 Sept., note 3), 7 Aug. (see Knox to GW, 7 Aug., note 3), to Israel Chapin, Jr., 27 June, and to George Clinton, 27 June. These documents are in ASP, Indian Affairs, description begins Walter Lowrie et al., eds. American State Papers. Documents, Legislative and Executive, of the Congress of the United States. 38 vols. Washington, D.C., Gales and Seaton, 1832–61. description ends 1:226–38.

Knox’s second heading was “Information received relatively to the pacific overtures, and the dispositions of the Indians North west of the Ohio.” The letters, with their enclosures, that Knox submitted on this subject were: Putnam to Knox, 5 (see Knox to GW, 5 Aug., note 3), 22, 26 July, 16 (see Knox to GW, 22 Sept., note 3), 21 Aug., Israel Chapin, Sr., to Knox, 17 July (see Knox to GW, 7 Aug., note 5), 14 Aug., 24 Sept., Affidavit of William May, 11 Oct., Report of Reuben Reynolds, 19 Oct., Brant to Knox, 27 Mar. (see GW to Knox, 25 Feb., note 1), 26 July. For these documents, see ibid., 238–45.

Knox’s third heading was “A statement of the measures which have been taken to conciliate and quiet the Southern Indians.” The documents, with their enclosures, that Knox submitted under this heading were: Knox to William Blount, 31 Jan. (see Charles Pinckney to GW, 8 Jan., [first letter] note 3), 16 Feb., 31 Mar., 22 April, 15 Aug. (see Knox to GW, 5 Aug., note 5, and 16 Aug., n.6), 9 Oct. (see Knox to GW, 9 Oct., note 3), to Alexander McGillivray, 17 Feb., 29 April, 11 Aug., to Leonard Shaw, 17 Feb., with Knox’s messages of 17 Feb. to the Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw nations, to James Seagrove, 20 Feb., 11, 29 April, 11, 31 (see Knox to GW, 31 Aug. [second letter], note 2) Aug., 24 Sept., 27 Oct. (see Knox to Lear, 27 Oct., note 3), to Andrew Pickens, 21 April, 15 Aug., to Joseph Ellicott, 29 April, 11 Aug., to Henry Lee, 16 May, 30 June, 11 July, 9 (see Knox to GW, 9 Oct., note 3), 11, 14 (see Knox to GW, 14 Oct., note 2) Oct., to Edward Telfair, 11 July, 31 Aug. (see Knox to GW, 31 Aug. [second letter], n.1), 27 Oct., to Charles Pinckney, 27 Oct. (see Knox to Lear, 27 Oct., note 3, and Pinckney to GW, 30 Sept., note 2), to Henry Gaither, 27 Oct. 1792 (see Knox to Lear, 27 Oct., note 3). For these documents, see ibid., 245–63.

Knox’s fourth heading was “Information received relatively to the dispositions of the Southern Indians, and the causes of the hostilities of part of the Cherokees and Creeks.” Knox submitted the following documents, with their enclosures, for this category: Blount to Knox, 20 Mar. (see Knox to GW, 21 April, note 1), 5 (see John Stagg, Jr., to Lear, 4 June, note 2), 16 (see Knox to Lear, 28 June, note 1) May, 2 June (see Knox to GW, 12 May, note 2), 4 July (see Knox to GW, 15 Sept., note 7), 31 Aug. (see Knox to GW, 29 Sept., note 6), 11 (see Knox to GW, 9 Oct., note 1), 15, 20, 26, 27 Sept., 7 (see Knox to Lear, 27 Oct., note 2), 10 Oct., Seagrove to Knox, 21 April, 24 May, 14 June (see Seagrove to GW, 5 July, note 1), 5, 27 (see Seagrove to GW, 27 July, note 8) July, 4 Aug., 8 (see GW to Jefferson, 20 Oct., note 4), 13 (see GW to Jefferson, 20 Oct., note 4) Sept., 17 Oct. (see GW to Knox, 19 Aug., note 7), Seagrove to GW, 5, 27 July, McGillivray to Knox, 18 May, Charles Pinckney to GW, 30 Sept. 1792. For copies of these letters, with their enclosures, see DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–1793, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, Reports and Communications, and ibid., 263–318.

Knox’s fifth heading was “A statement of the Troops in the service of the United States,” dated 6 Nov. 1792 (see ibid., 318).

“It is humbly suggested,” Knox advised at the end of his letter, “that the public good requires, that a number of these papers be considered as confidential” (DNA: RG 46, Second Congress, 1791–93, Senate Records of Legislative Proceedings, Reports and Communications).

2By “An Act making provision for the persons therein mentioned,” on 27 Feb. 1793, Congress approved annual allowances of $450 and $300, respectively, for seven years, to the families of Col. John Hardin and Maj. Alexander Trueman, who had been killed while on a peace mission to the hostile Indians of the Northwest Territory. In “An Act to make further provision for the children of Colonel John Harding, and Major Alexander Trueman, deceased,” approved on 14 May 1800, Congress allotted an annual sum of $100 for each child until the age of 21 (6 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 12, 41).

3See Knox to GW, 7 Nov., and note 3. For the Treaty of Holston, 2 July 1791, see Kappler, Indian Treaties, description begins Charles J. Kappler, ed. Indian Affairs. Laws and Treaties. 5 vols. Washington, D.C., 1903–41. description ends 2:29–33.

4See “An Act for making farther and more effectual Provision for the Protection of the Frontiers of the United States,” 5 Mar. 1792, in 1 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 241–43.

5See Hamilton’s “Report on the Receipts and Expenditures of Public Monies to the End of the Year 1791,” 10 Nov. 1792, and the “Report on Estimates of the Expenditures for the Civil List of the United States for the Year 1793,” 14 Nov. 1792, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 13:34–114, 118–47. Hamilton submitted both reports to the House of Representatives on 12 and 14 Nov. 1792, respectively.

6The first act “to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes” had been approved on 22 July 1790, and the second such measure, which incorporated GW’s suggestions, was signed by the president on 1 Mar. 1793 (1 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 137–38, 329–32).

7See GW’s proclamation of 15 Sept. 1792, which urged citizens to comply with the federal excise tax on whiskey. For the prosecution of Pennsylvania citizens William Kerr and Alexander Berr for their violent opposition to this tax, see GW to Edmund Randolph, 1 Oct., and note 1.

9This paragraph was taken from Jefferson’s memorandum of 1 Nov. in which Jefferson revised an earlier paragraph submitted to GW on 15 Oct. (see Jefferson’s memoranda to GW of 15 Oct. and 1 Nov., both in DLC: Jefferson Papers; see also Jefferson Papers, description begins Julian P. Boyd et al., eds. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson. 40 vols. to date. Princeton, N.J., 1950—. description ends 24:486, 552). For background on the subject matter of this paragraph, see Jefferson’s “Opinion on Offenses against the Law of Nations,” 3 Dec. 1792, and notes, and “Edmund Randolph’s Opinion on Offenses against the Law of Nations,” 5 Dec. 1792, ibid., 693–96, 702–3.

10GW adopted this paragraph, with minor changes, from Jefferson’s memorandum to him of 15 Oct. (DLC: Jefferson Papers; see also ibid., 486). For Jefferson’s involvement in the establishment of the U.S. Mint and the production of U.S. coins, see GW to Jefferson, 20 Oct., and note 3, and Jefferson to GW, 16 and 28 Nov., and notes. For Jefferson’s critique of a draft address that GW submitted to him, see Jefferson to GW, 1 November. The draft address has not been found.

12See section 22 of “An Act to establish the Post-Office and Post Roads within the United States,” 20 Feb. 1792, in 1 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 238.

14For the legislation on foreign loans, see “An Act making provision for the [payment of the] Debt of the United States,” 4 Aug. 1790, “An Act supplementary to the act making provision for the reduction of the Public Debt,” 3 Mar. 1791, and “An Act supplementary to the act making provision for the Debt of the United States,” 8 May 1792 (1 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 138–44, 218–19, 281–83). For the Dutch loan of 1791, see Ratification of the Holland Loan, 1 Sept. 1791, and notes. For the Antwerp loan of 1791, see William Short to Hamilton, 8 Nov. 1791, n.4, in Syrett, Hamilton Papers, description begins Harold C. Syrett et al., eds. The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. 27 vols. New York, 1961–87. description ends 9:481–82. For the Dutch loan of 1792, see GW’s ratification statement of 5 Nov. 1792 and notes.

15See section 11 of “An Act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States,” 25 Feb. 1791, in 1 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 196.

Index Entries