George Washington Papers

V, 19 November 1793


Henry Knox’s Draft for GW’s Annual Address to Congress

[c.19 November 1793]1

The efforts which have been made without the desired effect, to adjust, by an amicable negociation, all causes of difference with the hostile Indians north of the Ohio, will I trust, be found demonstrative of the sincere dispositions of the United States for peace, upon moderate and equitable terms, and also, of their liberal intentions, of rendering more comfortable, the condition of their ignorant and barbarous neighbours.

I have directed that all the papers relatively to the pacific overtures to the said Indians, together with the result thereof, should be laid before you for your information upon the subject.2

If after the fairest experiments peace is unattainable upon reasonable grounds, it appears to be incumbent on the United States to use decisively, such degrees of their force, as shall be competent, as well to the immediate protection of their exposed citizens, as to the exemplary punishment of those tribes, which obstinately persevere in their cruel depredations upon our frontiers.

The season for military operations having been occupied by negociations, the public force will not probably be able to undertake any considerable enterprizes in a wilderness, during the remainder of the Year.

A return of the troops in service will be laid before you, by which, it will be perceived that the numbers authorized by law, are materially deficient, notwithstanding the recruiting, has been continued to the present time. It will be a subject of consideration, whether the establishment shall be completed by additional encouragements, or whether powerful aids of militia shall be afforded to accomplish the public objects.3

The situation in the southwestern frontiers will also claim the serious attention of Congress. A statement upon this subject, together with the papers on which it is founded will be laid before you in order that you may be enabled to judge of the measures which it may be proper to adopt on the occasion.4 At the same time means may be devised for the prompt punishment of bandittie Indians belonging to tribes in peace with us, it would appear to be indispensible, that the laws should be so strengthened, that our own violators of the peace, and existing treaties, should not escape with impunity, & thereby bring down upon innocent men women and children all the horrors of savage retaliation, and also involve the United States in an unjust War.

I have directed the secretary of War also to lay before you a statement of the present situation of the public Magazines and Arsenals.5 Although it will appear, that the war like apparatus and stores, contained are respectable, yet motives of prudence, require that large augmentations should be made thereto. During the recess of Congress I conceived it to be my duty to direct that some essential articles should be provided, and some repairs made, which might be required at a time and under circumstances when they could not be obtained. The expences incurred for these Objects, will be stated in the estimates for the ensuing year, for which appropriations will be requisite.

Although it be deemed that neither our interests nor any other circumstances require us to become parties to the existing war among the European powers, yet it is an obligation of the highest nature, which every Nation owes to itself, to be provided at all times, in full abundance, with the means necessary for its own preservation, and defence.6 Hence it is submitted to your wisdom whether the exposed situation of some of the principal Seaports of the United States do not require that species of fortification which would secure them from insult or surprize. Applications for this purpose have been made to me by several of the excutives of the individual states, but as there was no law authorizing the measure it could not be undertaken.7 Its propriety however is too apparent to require any arguments to enforce it.

Being upon the subject of our defence I feel myself impelled by a sacred love for my country, and by a solemn conviction of the importance of the object—again to suggest the propriety of establishing that bulwark of liberty and national security an energetic Militia. To act in all emergencies as the advanced Guard of the Country behind which the great body of the people by their representatives should have time and opportunity afforded them to take such arrangements as the situation of affairs might demand. With an adequate body of free citizens properly organized the United States would be in a condition to meet and dissipate those events, which sometimes arise in the affairs of men, and for which being unprepared, the happiness and the liberty of societies have too frequently been overturned and ruined.

AD, DLC:GW; ADf, NNGL: Knox Papers.

1Knox docketed the retained draft of this document as “Submitted the President Nov. 1⟨9⟩, 1793.” The “Dec. 1793” docket on the document in GW’s papers probably refers to the 3 Dec. 1793 date of GW’s address to the United States Senate and House of Representatives, which included most of the ideas contained in the document. Check marks corresponding to each paragraph appear in the margins of the document in GW’s papers.

2For the papers about the unsuccessful treaty at Lower Sandusky submitted to the Senate on 4 Dec., see 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 , 1:340–61.

3Knox’s “Statement of the Non Commissioned Officers and Privates in the service of the United States,” 4 Dec., showed a deficiency of 1,259 soldiers from the establishment of 5,120 (DLC:GW).

4Knox submitted this statement to the Senate on 16 Dec. (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 , 1:361–468).

5Knox sent a return of ordnance, arms, and military stores, dated 14 Dec., to the Senate on 16 Dec. (ASP, Military Affairs, 1:44–60).

6At this point on the retained draft, Knox continued with the following text, which he then struck out: “It is for this reason that I conceive Wisdom dictates that not only our arsenals and magazines should be well provided but also that is important, that definitive arrangements should be taken for the purpose of fortifying some of our principal Seaports. Applications have been recently made to me for this purpose by several of the executives of the individual states, but the measure being unauthorized by law it could not be undertaken.”

7On the retained draft, the text between this point and the previous note is written on a separate page.

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