James D. Richardson.

A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 1, part 1: George Washington online

. (page 5 of 24)
Online LibraryJames D. RichardsonA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 1, part 1: George Washington → online text (page 5 of 24)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who
(inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the
duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of
his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver
is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just
appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All
I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much
swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an
affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of
my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity
as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me,
my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its
consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality
in which they originated.

Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the
public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly
improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to
that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the
councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human
defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and
happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by
themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument
employed in its administration to execute with success the functions
allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of
every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your
sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at
large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore
the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those
of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the
character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by
some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just
accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil
deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from
which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which
most governments have been established without some return of pious
gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings
which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the
present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be
suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are
none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free
government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty
of the President "to recommend to your consideration such measures as
he shall judge necessary and expedient." The circumstances under which
I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further
than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are
assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects
to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with
those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which
actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular
measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the
patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them.
In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on
one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party
animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought
to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on
another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the
pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence
of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win
the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world.
I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love
for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly
established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature
an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and
advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous
policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we
ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can
never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order
and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation
of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model
of government are justly considered, perhaps, as _deeply_, as
_finally_, staked on the experiment intrusted to the hands of the
American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with
your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power
delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient
at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been
urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given
birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this
subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official
opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your
discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that
whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the
benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await
the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic
rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently
influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be
impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously

To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most
properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself,
and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored
with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an
arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my
duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From
this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under
the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to
myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably
included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must
accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which
I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual
expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by
the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave;
but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human
Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor
the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect
tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity
on a form of government for the security of their union and the
advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally
_conspicuous_ in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and
the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.


SIR: We, the Senate of the United States, return you our sincere
thanks for your excellent speech delivered to both Houses of Congress,
congratulate you on the complete organization of the Federal Government,
and felicitate ourselves and our fellow-citizens on your elevation
to the office of President, an office highly important by the powers
constitutionally annexed to it and extremely honorable from the manner
in which the appointment is made. The unanimous suffrage of the
elective body in your favor is peculiarly expressive of the gratitude,
confidence, and affection of the citizens of America, and is the highest
testimonial at once of your merit and their esteem. We are sensible,
sir, that nothing but the voice of your fellow-citizens could have
called you from a retreat chosen with the fondest predilection, endeared
by habit, and consecrated to the repose of declining years. We rejoice,
and with us all America, that in obedience to the call of our common
country you have returned once more to public life. In you all parties
confide; in you all interests unite; and we have no doubt that your
past services, great as they have been, will be equaled by your future
exertions, and that your prudence and sagacity as a statesman will tend
to avert the dangers to which we were exposed, to give stability to the
present Government and dignity and splendor to that country which your
skill and valor as a soldier so eminently contributed to raise to
independence and empire.

When we contemplate the coincidence of circumstances and wonderful
combination of causes which gradually prepared the people of this
country for independence; when we contemplate the rise, progress, and
termination of the late war, which gave them a name among the nations of
the earth, we are with you unavoidably led to acknowledge and adore the
Great Arbiter of the Universe, by whom empires rise and fall. A review
of the many signal instances of divine interposition in favor of this
country claims our most pious gratitude; and permit us, sir, to observe
that among the great events which have led to the formation and
establishment of a Federal Government we esteem your acceptance of
the office of President as one of the most propitious and important.

In the execution of the trust reposed in us we shall endeavor to pursue
that enlarged and liberal policy to which your speech so happily
directs. We are conscious that the prosperity of each State is
inseparably connected with the welfare of all, and that in promoting
the latter we shall effectually advance the former. In full persuasion
of this truth, it shall be our invariable aim to divest ourselves of
local prejudices and attachments, and to view the great assemblage of
communities and interests committed to our charge with an equal eye.
We feel, sir, the force and acknowledge the justness of the observation
that the foundation of our national policy should be laid in private
morality. If individuals be not influenced by moral principles, it is in
vain to look for public virtue. It is therefore the duty of legislators
to enforce, both by precept and example, the utility as well as the
necessity of a strict adherence to the rules of distributive justice.
We beg you to be assured that the Senate will at all times cheerfully
cooperate in every measure which may strengthen the Union, conduce
to the happiness or secure and perpetuate the liberties of this great
confederated Republic.

We commend you, sir, to the protection of Almighty God, earnestly
beseeching Him long to preserve a life so valuable and dear to the
people of the United States, and that your Administration may be
prosperous to the nation and glorious to yourself.

MAY 7, 1789.


GENTLEMEN: I thank you for your address, in which the most affectionate
sentiments are expressed in the most obliging terms. The coincidence
of circumstances which led to this auspicious crisis, the confidence
reposed in me by my fellow-citizens, and the assistance I may expect
from counsels which will be dictated by an enlarged and liberal policy
seem to presage a more prosperous issue to my Administration than a
diffidence of my abilities had taught me to anticipate. I now feel
myself inexpressibly happy in a belief that Heaven, which has done so
much for our infant nation, will not withdraw its providential influence
before our political felicity shall have been completed, and in a
conviction that the Senate will at all times cooperate in every measure
which may tend to promote the welfare of this confederated Republic.
Thus supported by a firm trust in the Great Arbiter of the Universe,
aided by the collected wisdom of the Union, and imploring the divine
benediction on our joint exertions in the service of our country, I
readily engage with you in the arduous but pleasing task of attempting
to make a nation happy.


MAY 18, 1789.


SIR: The Representatives of the people of the United States present
their congratulations on the event by which your fellow-citizens have
attested the preeminence of your merit. You have long held the first
place in their esteem. You have often received tokens of their
affection. You now possess the only proof that remained of their
gratitude for your services, of their reverence for your wisdom, and
of their confidence in your virtues. You enjoy the highest, because
the truest, honor of being the first Magistrate by the unanimous choice
of the freest people on the face of the earth.

We well know the anxieties with which you must have obeyed a summons
from the repose reserved for your declining years into public scenes, of
which you had taken your leave forever. But the obedience was due to the
occasion. It is already applauded by the universal joy which welcomes
you to your station. And we can not doubt that it will be rewarded with
all the satisfaction with which an ardent love for your fellow-citizens
must review successful efforts to promote their happiness.

This anticipation is not justified merely by the past experience
of your signal services. It is particularly suggested by the pious
impressions under which you commence your Administration and the
enlightened maxims by which you mean to conduct it. We feel with you
the strongest obligations to adore the Invisible Hand which has led the
American people through so many difficulties, to cherish a conscious
responsibility for the destiny of republican liberty, and to seek the
only sure means of preserving and recommending the precious deposit in a
system of legislation founded on the principles of an honest policy and
directed by the spirit of a diffusive patriotism.

The question arising out of the fifth article of the Constitution will
receive all the attention demanded by its importance, and will, we
trust, be decided under the influence of all the considerations to which
you allude.

In forming the pecuniary provisions for the executive department we
shall not lose sight of a wish resulting from motives which give it a
peculiar claim to our regard. Your resolution, in a moment critical to
the liberties of your country, to renounce all personal emolument, was
among the many presages of your patriotic services which have been amply
fulfilled; and your scrupulous adherence now to the law then imposed on
yourself can not fail to demonstrate the purity, whilst it increases the
luster, of a character which has so many titles to admiration.

Such are the sentiments which we have thought fit to address to you.
They flow from our own hearts, and we verily believe that among the
millions we represent there is not a virtuous citizen whose heart will
disown them.

All that remains is that we join in our fervent supplications for the
blessings of Heaven on our country, and that we add our own for the
choicest of these blessings on the most beloved of her citizens.

MAY 5, 1789.


GENTLEMEN: Your very affectionate address produces emotions which I know
not how to express. I feel that my past endeavors in the service of my
country are far overpaid by its goodness, and I fear much that my future
ones may not fulfill your kind anticipation. All that I can promise is
that they will be invariably directed by an honest and an ardent zeal.
Of this resource my heart assures me. For all beyond I rely on the
wisdom and patriotism of those with whom I am to cooperate and a
continuance of the blessings of Heaven on our beloved country.


MAY 8, 1789.


NEW YORK, _May 25, 1789_.

_Gentlemen of the Senate_:

In pursuance of the order of the late Congress, treaties between the
United States and several nations of Indians have been negotiated and
signed. These treaties, with sundry papers respecting them, I now lay
before you, for your consideration and advice, by the hands of General
Knox, under whose official superintendence the business was transacted,
and who will be ready to communicate to you any information on such
points as may appear to require it,


NEW YORK, _June 11, 1789_.

_Gentlemen of the Senate_:

A convention between His Most Christian Majesty and the United
States, for the purposes of determining and fixing the functions and
prerogatives of their respective consuls, vice-consuls, agents, and
commissaries, was signed by their respective plenipotentiaries on the
29th of July, 1784.

It appearing to the late Congress that certain alterations in that
convention ought to be made, they instructed their minister at the Court
of France to endeavor to obtain them.

It has accordingly been altered in several respects, and as amended was
signed by the plenipotentiaries of the contracting powers on the 14th of
November, 1788.

The sixteenth article provides that it shall be in force during the term
of twelve years, to be counted from the day of the exchange _of
ratifications, which shall be given in proper form_, and exchanged on
both sides within the space of one year, or sooner if possible.

I now lay before you the original by the hands of Mr. Jay for your
consideration and advice. The papers relative to this negotiation are
in his custody, and he has my orders to communicate to you whatever
official papers and information on the subject he may possess and you
may require.


NEW YORK, _June 15, 1789_.

_Gentlemen of the Senate_:

Mr. Jefferson, the present minister of the United States at the Court of
France, having applied for permission to return home for a few months,
and it appearing to me proper to comply with his request, it becomes
necessary that some person be appointed _to take charge_ of our affairs
at that Court during his absence.

For this purpose I nominate William Short, esq., and request your advice
on the propriety of appointing him.

There are in the Office for Foreign Affairs papers which will acquaint
you with his character, and which Mr. Jay has my directions to lay
before you at such time as you may think proper to assign.


NEW YORK, _August 6, 1789_.

_Gentlemen of the Senate_:

My nomination of Benjamin Fishbourn for the place of naval officer
of the port of Savannah not having met with your concurrence, I now
nominate Lachlan McIntosh for that office.

Whatever may have been the reasons which induced your dissent, I am
persuaded they were such as you deemed sufficient. Permit me to submit
to your consideration whether on occasions where the propriety of
nominations appear questionable to you it would not be expedient to
communicate that circumstance to me, and thereby avail yourselves of the
information which led me to make them, and which I would with pleasure
lay before you. Probably my reasons for nominating Mr. Fishbourn may
tend to show that such a mode of proceeding in such cases might be
useful. I will therefore detail them.

First. While Colonel Fishbourn was an officer in actual service and
chiefly under my own eye, his conduct appeared to me irreproachable; nor
did I ever hear anything injurious to his reputation as an officer or a
gentleman. At the storm of Stony Point his behavior was represented to
have been active and brave, and he was charged by his general to bring
the account of that success to the headquarters of the Army.

Secondly. Since his residence in Georgia he has been repeatedly elected
to the assembly as a representative of the county of Chatham, in which
the port of Savannah is situated, and sometimes of the counties of Glynn
and Camden; he has been chosen a member of the executive council of the
State and has lately been president of the same; he has been elected by
the officers of the militia in the county of Chatham lieutenant-colonel
of the militia in that district, and on a very recent occasion, to wit,
in the month of May last, he has been appointed by the council (on the
suspension of the late collector) to an office in the port of Savannah
nearly similar to that for which I nominated him, which office he
actually holds at this time. To these reasons for nominating Mr.
Fishbourn I might add that I received private letters of recommendation
and oral testimonials in his favor from some of the most respectable
characters in that State; but as they were secondary considerations
with me, I do not think it necessary to communicate them to you.

It appeared, therefore, to me that Mr. Fishbourn must have enjoyed the
_confidence_ of the militia officers in order to have been elected to a
military rank; the _confidence_ of the freemen to have been elected to
the assembly; the _confidence_ of the assembly to have been selected for
the council, and the _confidence_ of the council to have been appointed
collector of the port of Savannah.


NEW YORK, _August 7, 1789_.

_Gentlemen of the Senate_:

The business which has hitherto been under the consideration of Congress
has been of so much importance that I was unwilling to draw their
attention from it to any other subject; but the disputes which exist
between some of the United States and several powerful tribes of Indians
within the limits of the Union, and the hostilities which have in
several instances been committed on the frontiers, seem to require the
immediate interposition of the General Government.

I have therefore directed the several statements and papers which have
been submitted to me on this subject by General Knox to be laid before
you for your information.

While the measures of Government ought to be calculated to protect its
citizens from all injury and violence, a due regard should be extended
to those Indian tribes whose happiness in the course of events so
materially depends on the national justice and humanity of the United

If it should be the judgment of Congress that it would be most
expedient to terminate all differences in the Southern district, and
to lay the foundation for future confidence by an amicable treaty
with the Indian tribes in that quarter, I think proper to suggest the
consideration of the expediency of instituting a temporary commission
for that purpose, to consist of three persons, whose authority should
expire with the occasion. How far such a measure, unassisted by posts,
would be competent to the establishment and preservation of peace and
tranquillity on the frontiers is also a matter which merits your serious

Along with this object I am induced to suggest another, with the
national importance and necessity of which I am deeply impressed;
I mean some uniform and effective system for the militia of the United
States. It is unnecessary to offer arguments in recommendation of a
measure on which the honor, safety, and well-being of our country so
evidently and so essentially depend; but it may not be amiss to observe
that I am particularly anxious it should receive as early attention
as circumstances will admit, because it is now in our power to avail
ourselves of the military knowledge disseminated throughout the several
States by means of the many well-instructed officers and soldiers of
the late Army, a resource which is daily diminishing by death and other
causes. To suffer this peculiar advantage to pass away unimproved would
be to neglect an opportunity which will never again occur, unless,
unfortunately, we should again be involved in a long and arduous war.


NEW YORK, _August 10, 1789_.

_Gentlemen of the Senate_:

I have directed a statement of the troops in the service of the United
States to be laid before you for your information.

These troops were raised by virtue of the resolves of Congress of the
20th October, 1786, and the 3d of October, 1787, in order to protect the

Online LibraryJames D. RichardsonA Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents Volume 1, part 1: George Washington → online text (page 5 of 24)