A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents - Section 2 (of 4) of Volume 1: John Adams
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John Adams

March 4, 1797, to March 4, 1801

John Adams

John Adams was born on October 19 (old style), 1735, near Boston, Mass., in the portion of the town of Braintree which has since been incorporated as Quincy. He was fourth in descent from Henry Adams, who fled from persecution in Devonshire, England, and settled in Massachusetts about 1630. Another of his ancestors was John Adams, a founder of the Plymouth Colony in 1620. Entered Harvard College in 1751, and graduated therefrom four years later. Studied the law and taught school at Worcester; was admitted to the bar of Suffolk County in 1758. In 1768 removed to Boston, where he won distinction at the bar. In 1764 married Abigail Smith, whose father was Rev. William Smith and whose grandfather was Colonel Quincy. In 1770 was chosen a representative from Boston in the legislature of Massachusetts. In 1774 was a member of the Continental Congress, and in 1776 was the adviser and great supporter of the Declaration of Independence. The same year was a deputy to treat with Lord Howe for the pacification of the Colonies. He declined the offer of chief justice of Massachusetts. In December, 1777, was appointed a commissioner to France, and returned home in the summer of 1779. He was then chosen a member of the Massachusetts convention for framing a State constitution. On September 29, 1779, was appointed by Congress minister plenipotentiary to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain. In 1781 was a commissioner to conclude treaties of peace with European powers. In 1783 negotiated with others a commercial treaty with Great Britain. Was one of the commissioners to sign the provisional treaty of peace with that nation November 30, 1782, and the definite treaty September 3, 1783. In 1784 remained in Holland, and in 1785 was by Congress appointed minister of the United States at the Court of Great Britain. He returned to his home in June, 1788. Was chosen Vice-President on the ticket with Washington, and on the assembling of the Senate took his seat as President of that body, at New York in April, 1789. Was reelected Vice-President in 1792. On the retirement of Washington in 1796 he was elected President, and was inaugurated March 4, 1797. He retired March 4, 1801, to his home at Quincy, Mass. In 1816 was chosen to head the list of Presidential electors of his party in the State. Was a member of the State convention to revise the constitution of Massachusetts; was unanimously elected president of that convention, but declined it on account of his age. His wife died in 1818. On July 4, 1826, he died, and was buried at Quincy.



When it was first perceived, in early times, that no middle course for America remained between unlimited submission to a foreign legislature and a total independence of its claims, men of reflection were less apprehensive of danger from the formidable power of fleets and armies they must determine to resist than from those contests and dissensions which would certainly arise concerning the forms of government to be instituted over the whole and over the parts of this extensive country. Relying, however, on the purity of their intentions, the justice of their cause, and the integrity and intelligence of the people, under an overruling Providence which had so signally protected this country from the first, the representatives of this nation, then consisting of little more than half its present number, not only broke to pieces the chains which were forging and the rod of iron that was lifted up, but frankly cut asunder the ties which had bound them, and launched into an ocean of uncertainty.

The zeal and ardor of the people during the Revolutionary war, supplying the place of government, commanded a degree of order sufficient at least for the temporary preservation of society. The Confederation which was early felt to be necessary was prepared from the models of the Batavian and Helvetic confederacies, the only examples which remain with any detail and precision in history, and certainly the only ones which the people at large had ever considered. But reflecting on the striking difference in so many particulars between this country and those where a courier may go from the seat of government to the frontier in a single day, it was then certainly foreseen by some who assisted in Congress at the formation of it that it could not be durable.

Negligence of its regulations, inattention to its recommendations, if not disobedience to its authority, not only in individuals but in States, soon appeared with their melancholy consequences—universal languor, jealousies and rivalries of States, decline of navigation and commerce, discouragement of necessary manufactures, universal fall in the value of lands and their produce, contempt of public and private faith, loss of consideration and credit with foreign nations, and at length in discontents, animosities, combinations, partial conventions, and insurrection, threatening some great national calamity.

In this dangerous crisis the people of America were not abandoned by their usual good sense, presence of mind, resolution, or integrity. Measures were pursued to concert a plan to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. The public disquisitions, discussions, and deliberations issued in the present happy Constitution of Government.

Employed in the service of my country abroad during the whole course of these transactions, I first saw the Constitution of the United States in a foreign country. Irritated by no literary altercation, animated by no public debate, heated by no party animosity, I read it with great satisfaction, as the result of good heads prompted by good hearts, as an experiment better adapted to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country than any which had ever been proposed or suggested. In its general principles and great outlines it was conformable to such a system of government as I had ever most esteemed, and in some States, my own native State in particular, had contributed to establish. Claiming a right of suffrage, in common with my fellow-citizens, in the adoption or rejection of a constitution which was to rule me and my posterity, as well as them and theirs, I did not hesitate to express my approbation of it on all occasions, in public and in private. It was not then, nor has been since, any objection to it in my mind that the Executive and Senate were not more permanent. Nor have I ever entertained a thought of promoting any alteration in it but such as the people themselves, in the course of their experience, should see and feel to be necessary or expedient, and by their representatives in Congress and the State legislatures, according to the Constitution itself, adopt and ordain.

Returning to the bosom of my country after a painful separation from it for ten years, I had the honor to be elected to a station under the new order of things, and I have repeatedly laid myself under the most serious obligations to support the Constitution. The operation of it has equaled the most sanguine expectations of its friends, and from an habitual attention to it, satisfaction in its administration, and delight in its effects upon the peace, order, prosperity, and happiness of the nation I have acquired an habitual attachment to it and veneration for it.

What other form of government, indeed, can so well deserve our esteem and love?

There may be little solidity in an ancient idea that congregations of men into cities and nations are the most pleasing objects in the sight of superior intelligences, but this is very certain, that to a benevolent human mind there can be no spectacle presented by any nation more pleasing, more noble, majestic, or august, than an assembly like that which has so often been seen in this and the other Chamber of Congress, of a Government in which the Executive authority, as well as that of all the branches of the Legislature, are exercised by citizens selected at regular periods by their neighbors to make and execute laws for the general good. Can anything essential, anything more than mere ornament and decoration, be added to this by robes and diamonds? Can authority be more amiable and respectable when it descends from accidents or institutions established in remote antiquity than when it springs fresh from the hearts and judgments of an honest and enlightened people? For it is the people only that are represented. It is their power and majesty that is reflected, and only for their good, in every legitimate government, under whatever form it may appear. The existence of such a government as ours for any length of time is a full proof of a general dissemination of knowledge and virtue throughout the whole body of the people. And what object or consideration more pleasing than this can be presented to the human mind? If national pride is ever justifiable or excusable it is when it springs, not from power or riches, grandeur or glory, but from conviction of national innocence, information, and benevolence.

In the midst of these pleasing ideas we should be unfaithful to ourselves if we should ever lose sight of the danger to our liberties if anything partial or extraneous should infect the purity of our free, fair, virtuous, and independent elections. If an election is to be determined by a majority of a single vote, and that can be procured by a party through artifice or corruption, the Government may be the choice of a party for its own ends, not of the nation for the national good. If that solitary suffrage can be obtained by foreign nations by flattery or menaces, by fraud or violence, by terror, intrigue, or venality, the Government may not be the choice of the American people, but of foreign nations. It may be foreign nations who govern us, and not we, the people, who govern ourselves; and candid men will acknowledge that in such cases choice would have little advantage to boast of over lot or chance.

Such is the amiable and interesting system of government (and such are some of the abuses to which it may be exposed) which the people of America have exhibited to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and virtuous of all nations for eight years under the administration of a citizen who, by a long course of great actions, regulated by prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, conducting a people inspired with the same virtues and animated with the same ardent patriotism and love of liberty to independence and peace, to increasing wealth and unexampled prosperity, has merited the gratitude of his fellow-citizens, commanded the highest praises of foreign nations, and secured immortal glory with posterity.

In that retirement which is his voluntary choice may he long live to enjoy the delicious recollection of his services, the gratitude of mankind, the happy fruits of them to himself and the world, which are daily increasing, and that splendid prospect of the future fortunes of this country which is opening from year to year. His name may be still a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives a bulwark, against all open or secret enemies of his country's peace. This example has been recommended to the imitation of his successors by both Houses of Congress and by the voice of the legislatures and the people throughout the nation.

On this subject it might become me better to be silent or to speak with diffidence; but as something may be expected, the occasion, I hope, will be admitted as an apology if I venture to say that if a preference, upon principle, of a free republican government, formed upon long and serious reflection, after a diligent and impartial inquiry after truth; if an attachment to the Constitution of the United States, and a conscientious determination to support it until it shall be altered by the judgments and wishes of the people, expressed in the mode prescribed in it; if a respectful attention to the constitutions of the individual States and a constant caution and delicacy toward the State governments; if an equal and impartial regard to the rights, interest, honor, and happiness of all the States in the Union, without preference or regard to a northern or southern, an eastern or western, position, their various political opinions on unessential points or their personal attachments; if a love of virtuous men of all parties and denominations; if a love of science and letters and a wish to patronize every rational effort to encourage schools, colleges, universities, academies, and every institution for propagating knowledge, virtue, and religion among all classes of the people, not only for their benign influence on the happiness of life in all its stages and classes, and of society in all its forms, but as the only means of preserving our Constitution from its natural enemies, the spirit of sophistry, the spirit of party, the spirit of intrigue, the profligacy of corruption, and the pestilence of foreign influence, which is the angel of destruction to elective governments; if a love of equal laws, of justice, and humanity in the interior administration; if an inclination to improve agriculture, commerce, and manufactures for necessity, convenience, and defense; if a spirit of equity and humanity toward the aboriginal nations of America, and a disposition to meliorate their condition by inclining them to be more friendly to us, and our citizens to be more friendly to them; if an inflexible determination to maintain peace and inviolable faith with all nations, and that system of neutrality and impartiality among the belligerent powers of Europe which has been adopted by this Government and so solemnly sanctioned by both Houses of Congress and applauded by the legislatures of the States and the public opinion, until it shall be otherwise ordained by Congress; if a personal esteem for the French nation, formed in a residence of seven years chiefly among them, and a sincere desire to preserve the friendship which has been so much for the honor and interest of both nations; if, while the conscious honor and integrity of the people of America and the internal sentiment of their own power and energies must be preserved, an earnest endeavor to investigate every just cause and remove every colorable pretense of complaint; if an intention to pursue by amicable negotiation a reparation for the injuries that have been committed on the commerce of our fellow-citizens by whatever nation, and if success can not be obtained, to lay the facts before the legislature, that they may consider what further measures the honor and interest of the Government and its constituents demand; if a resolution to do justice as far as may depend upon me, at all times and to all nations, and maintain peace, friendship, and benevolence with all the world; if an unshaken confidence in the honor, spirit, and resources of the American people, on which I have so often hazarded my all and never been deceived; if elevated ideas of the high destinies of this country and of my own duties toward it, founded on a knowledge of the moral principles and intellectual improvements of the people deeply engraven on my mind in early life, and not obscured but exalted by experience and age; and, with humble reverence, I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect.

With this great example before me, with the sense and spirit, the faith and honor, the duty and interest, of the same American people pledged to support the Constitution of the United States, I entertain no doubt of its continuance in all its energy, and my mind is prepared without hesitation to lay myself under the most solemn obligations to support it to the utmost of my power.

And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence.

March 4, 1797.


[From Annals of Congress, Fifth Congress, Vol. I, 49.]



Whereas the Constitution of the United States of America provides that the President may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses of Congress; and

Whereas an extraordinary occasion exists for convening Congress, and divers weighty matters claim their consideration:

I have therefore thought it necessary to convene, and I do by these presents convene, the Congress of the United States of America at the city of Philadelphia, in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, on Monday, the 15th day of May next, hereby requiring the Senators and Representatives in the Congress of the United States of America, and every of them, that, laying aside all other matters and cares, they then and there meet and assemble in Congress in order to consult and determine on such measures as in their wisdom shall be deemed meet for the safety and welfare of the said United States.

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.


Done at the city of Philadelphia, the 25th day of March, A.D. 1797, and of the Independence of the United States of America the twenty-first.


By the President: TIMOTHY PICKERING, Secretary of State.


UNITED STATES, May 16, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

The personal inconveniences to the members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives in leaving their families and private affairs at this season of the year are so obvious that I the more regret the extraordinary occasion which has rendered the convention of Congress indispensable.

It would have afforded me the highest satisfaction to have been able to congratulate you on a restoration of peace to the nations of Europe whose animosities have endangered our tranquillity; but we have still abundant cause of gratitude to the Supreme Dispenser of National Blessings for general health and promising seasons, for domestic and social happiness, for the rapid progress and ample acquisitions of industry through extensive territories, for civil, political, and religious liberty. While other states are desolated with foreign war or convulsed with intestine divisions, the United States present the pleasing prospect of a nation governed by mild and equal laws, generally satisfied with the possession of their rights, neither envying the advantages nor fearing the power of other nations, solicitous only for the maintenance of order and justice and the preservation of liberty, increasing daily in their attachment to a system of government in proportion to their experience of its utility, yielding a ready and general obedience to laws flowing from the reason and resting on the only solid foundation—the affections of the people.

It is with extreme regret that I shall be obliged to turn your thoughts to other circumstances, which admonish us that some of these felicities may not be lasting. But if the tide of our prosperity is full and a reflux commencing, a vigilant circumspection becomes us, that we may meet our reverses with fortitude and extricate ourselves from their consequences with all the skill we possess and all the efforts in our power.

In giving to Congress information of the state of the Union and recommending to their consideration such measures as appear to me to be necessary or expedient, according to my constitutional duty, the causes and the objects of the present extraordinary session will be explained.

After the President of the United States received information that the French Government had expressed serious discontents at some proceedings of the Government of these States said to affect the interests of France, he thought it expedient to send to that country a new minister, fully instructed to enter on such amicable discussions and to give such candid explanations as might happily remove the discontents and suspicions of the French Government and vindicate the conduct of the United States. For this purpose he selected from among his fellow-citizens a character whose integrity, talents, experience, and services had placed him in the rank of the most esteemed and respected in the nation. The direct object of his mission was expressed in his letter of credence to the French Republic, being "to maintain that good understanding which from the commencement of the alliance had subsisted between the two nations, and to efface unfavorable impressions, banish suspicions, and restore that cordiality which was at once the evidence and pledge of a friendly union." And his instructions were to the same effect, "faithfully to represent the disposition of the Government and people of the United States (their disposition being one), to remove jealousies and obviate complaints by shewing that they were groundless, to restore that mutual confidence which had been so unfortunately and injuriously impaired, and to explain the relative interests of both countries and the real sentiments of his own."

A minister thus specially commissioned it was expected would have proved the instrument of restoring mutual confidence between the two Republics. The first step of the French Government corresponded with that expectation. A few days before his arrival at Paris the French minister of foreign relations informed the American minister then resident at Paris of the formalities to be observed by himself in taking leave, and by his successor preparatory to his reception. These formalities they observed, and on the 9th of December presented officially to the minister of foreign relations, the one a copy of his letters of recall, the other a copy of his letters of credence.

These were laid before the Executive Directory. Two days afterwards the minister of foreign relations informed the recalled American minister that the Executive Directory had determined not to receive another minister plenipotentiary from the United States until after the redress of grievances demanded of the American Government, and which the French Republic had a right to expect from it. The American minister immediately endeavored to ascertain whether by refusing to receive him it was intended that he should retire from the territories of the French Republic, and verbal answers were given that such was the intention of the Directory. For his own justification he desired a written answer, but obtained none until toward the last of January, when, receiving notice in writing to quit the territories of the Republic, he proceeded to Amsterdam, where he proposed to wait for instruction from this Government. During his residence at Paris cards of hospitality were refused him, and he was threatened with being subjected to the jurisdiction of the minister of police; but with becoming firmness he insisted on the protection of the law of nations due to him as the known minister of a foreign power. You will derive further information from his dispatches, which will be laid before you.

As it is often necessary that nations should treat for the mutual advantage of their affairs, and especially to accommodate and terminate differences, and as they can treat only by ministers, the right of embassy is well known and established by the law and usage of nations. The refusal on the part of France to receive our minister is, then, the denial of a right; but the refusal to receive him until we have acceded to their demands without discussion and without investigation is to treat us neither as allies nor as friends, nor as a sovereign state.

With this conduct of the French Government it will be proper to take into view the public audience given to the late minister of the United States on his taking leave of the Executive Directory. The speech of the President discloses sentiments more alarming than the refusal of a minister, because more dangerous to our independence and union, and at the same time studiously marked with indignities toward the Government of the United States. It evinces a disposition to separate the people of the United States from the Government, to persuade them that they have different affections, principles, and interests from those of their fellow-citizens whom they themselves have chosen to manage their common concerns, and thus to produce divisions fatal to our peace. Such attempts ought to be repelled with a decision which shall convince France and the world that we are not a degraded people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and sense of inferiority, fitted to be the miserable instruments of foreign influence, and regardless of national honor, character, and interest.

I should have been happy to have thrown a veil over these transactions if it had been possible to conceal them; but they have passed on the great theater of the world, in the face of all Europe and America, and with such circumstances of publicity and solemnity that they can not be disguised and will not soon be forgotten. They have inflicted a wound in the American breast. It is my sincere desire, however, that it may be healed.

It is my sincere desire, and in this I presume I concur with you and with our constituents, to preserve peace and friendship with all nations; and believing that neither the honor nor the interest of the United States absolutely forbid the repetition of advances for securing these desirable objects with France, I shall institute a fresh attempt at negotiation, and shall not fail to promote and accelerate an accommodation on terms compatible with the rights, duties, interests, and honor of the nation. If we have committed errors, and these can be demonstrated, we shall be willing to correct them; if we have done injuries, we shall be willing on conviction to redress them; and equal measures of justice we have a right to expect from France and every other nation.

The diplomatic intercourse between the United States and France being at present suspended, the Government has no means of obtaining official information from that country. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe that the Executive Directory passed a decree on the 2d of March last contravening in part the treaty of amity and commerce of 1778, injurious to our lawful commerce and endangering the lives of our citizens. A copy of this decree will be laid before you.

While we are endeavoring to adjust all our differences with France by amicable negotiation, the progress of the war in Europe, the depredations on our commerce, the personal injuries to our citizens, and the general complexion of affairs render it my indispensable duty to recommend to your consideration effectual measures of defense.

The commerce of the United States has become an interesting object of attention, whether we consider it in relation to the wealth and finances or the strength and resources of the nation. With a seacoast of near 2,000 miles in extent, opening a wide field for fisheries, navigation, and commerce, a great portion of our citizens naturally apply their industry and enterprise to these objects. Any serious and permanent injury to commerce would not fail to produce the most embarrassing disorders. To prevent it from being undermined and destroyed it is essential that it receive an adequate protection.

The naval establishment must occur to every man who considers the injuries committed on our commerce, the insults offered to our citizens, and the description of vessels by which these abuses have been practiced. As the sufferings of our mercantile and seafaring citizens can not be ascribed to the omission of duties demandable, considering the neutral situation of our country, they are to be attributed to the hope of impunity arising from a supposed inability on our part to afford protection. To resist the consequences of such impressions on the minds of foreign nations and to guard against the degradation and servility which they must finally stamp on the American character is an important duty of Government.

A naval power, next to the militia, is the natural defense of the United States. The experience of the last war would be sufficient to shew that a moderate naval force, such as would be easily within the present abilities of the Union, would have been sufficient to have baffled many formidable transportations of troops from one State to another, which were then practiced. Our seacoasts, from their great extent, are more easily annoyed and more easily defended by a naval force than any other. With all the materials our country abounds; in skill our naval architects and navigators are equal to any, and commanders and seamen will not be wanting.

But although the establishment of a permanent system of naval defense appears to be requisite, I am sensible it can not be formed so speedily and extensively as the present crisis demands. Hitherto I have thought proper to prevent the sailing of armed vessels except on voyages to the East Indies, where general usage and the danger from pirates appeared to render the permission proper. Yet the restriction has originated solely from a wish to prevent collisions with the powers at war, contravening the act of Congress of June, 1794, and not from any doubt entertained by me of the policy and propriety of permitting our vessels to employ means of defense while engaged in a lawful foreign commerce. It remains for Congress to prescribe such regulations as will enable our seafaring citizens to defend themselves against violations of the law of nations, and at the same time restrain them from committing acts of hostility against the powers at war. In addition to this voluntary provision for defense by individual citizens, it appears to me necessary to equip the frigates, and provide other vessels of inferior force, to take under convoy such merchant vessels as shall remain unarmed.

The greater part of the cruisers whose depredations have been most injurious have been built and some of them partially equipped in the United States. Although an effectual remedy may be attended with difficulty, yet I have thought it my duty to present the subject generally to your consideration. If a mode can be devised by the wisdom of Congress to prevent the resources of the United States from being converted into the means of annoying our trade, a great evil will be prevented. With the same view, I think it proper to mention that some of our citizens resident abroad have fitted out privateers, and others have voluntarily taken the command, or entered on board of them, and committed spoliations on the commerce of the United States. Such unnatural and iniquitous practices can be restrained only by severe punishments.

But besides a protection of our commerce on the seas, I think it highly necessary to protect it at home, where it is collected in our most important ports. The distance of the United States from Europe and the well-known promptitude, ardor, and courage of the people in defense of their country happily diminish the probability of invasion. Nevertheless, to guard against sudden and predatory incursions the situation of some of our principal seaports demands your consideration. And as our country is vulnerable in other interests besides those of its commerce, you will seriously deliberate whether the means of general defense ought not to be increased by an addition to the regular artillery and cavalry, and by arrangements for forming a provisional army.

With the same view, and as a measure which, even in a time of universal peace, ought not to be neglected, I recommend to your consideration a revision of the laws for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, to render that natural and safe defense of the country efficacious.

Although it is very true that we ought not to involve ourselves in the political system of Europe, but to keep ourselves always distinct and separate from it if we can, yet to effect this separation, early, punctual, and continual information of the current chain of events and of the political projects in contemplation is no less necessary than if we were directly concerned in them. It is necessary, in order to the discovery of the efforts made to draw us into the vortex, in season to make preparations against them. However we may consider ourselves, the maritime and commercial powers of the world will consider the United States of America as forming a weight in that balance of power in Europe which never can be forgotten or neglected. It would not only be against our interest, but it would be doing wrong to one-half of Europe, at least, if we should voluntarily throw ourselves into either scale. It is a natural policy for a nation that studies to be neutral to consult with other nations engaged in the same studies and pursuits. At the same time that measures might be pursued with this view, our treaties with Prussia and Sweden, one of which is expired and the other near expiring, might be renewed.

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

It is particularly your province to consider the state of the public finances, and to adopt such measures respecting them as exigencies shall be found to require. The preservation of public credit, the regular extinguishment of the public debt, and a provision of funds to defray any extraordinary expenses will of course call for your serious attention. Although the imposition of new burthens can not be in itself agreeable, yet there is no ground to doubt that the American people will expect from you such measures as their actual engagements, their present security, and future interests demand.

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

The present situation of our country imposes an obligation on all the departments of Government to adopt an explicit and decided conduct. In my situation an exposition of the principles by which my Administration will be governed ought not to be omitted.

It is impossible to conceal from ourselves or the world what has been before observed, that endeavors have been employed to foster and establish a division between the Government and people of the United States. To investigate the causes which have encouraged this attempt is not necessary; but to repel, by decided and united councils, insinuations so derogatory to the honor and aggressions so dangerous to the Constitution, union, and even independence of the nation is an indispensable duty.

It must not be permitted to be doubted whether the people of the United States will support the Government established by their voluntary consent and appointed by their free choice, or whether, by surrendering themselves to the direction of foreign and domestic factions, in opposition to their own Government, they will forfeit the honorable station they have hitherto maintained.

For myself, having never been indifferent to what concerned the interests of my country, devoted the best part of my life to obtain and support its independence, and constantly witnessed the patriotism, fidelity, and perseverance of my fellow-citizens on the most trying occasions, it is not for me to hesitate or abandon a cause in which my heart has been so long engaged.

Convinced that the conduct of the Government has been just and impartial to foreign nations, that those internal regulations which have been established by law for the preservation of peace are in their nature proper, and that they have been fairly executed, nothing will ever be done by me to impair the national engagements, to innovate upon principles which have been so deliberately and uprightly established, or to surrender in any manner the rights of the Government. To enable me to maintain this declaration I rely, under God, with entire confidence on the firm and enlightened support of the National Legislature and upon the virtue and patriotism of my fellow-citizens.



SIR: The Senate of the United States request you to accept their acknowledgments for the comprehensive and interesting detail you have given in your speech to both Houses of Congress on the existing state of the Union.

While we regret the necessity of the present meeting of the Legislature, we wish to express our entire approbation of your conduct in convening it on this momentous occasion.

The superintendence of our national faith, honor, and dignity being in a great measure constitutionally deposited with the Executive, we observe with singular satisfaction the vigilance, firmness, and promptitude exhibited by you in this critical state of our public affairs, and from thence derive an evidence and pledge of the rectitude and integrity of your Administration. And we are sensible it is an object of primary importance that each branch of the Government should adopt a language and system of conduct which shall be cool, just, and dispassionate, but firm, explicit, and decided.

We are equally desirous with you to preserve peace and friendship with all nations, and are happy to be informed that neither the honor nor interests of the United States forbid advances for securing those desirable objects by amicable negotiation with the French Republic. This method of adjusting national differences is not only the most mild, but the most rational and humane, and with governments disposed to be just can seldom fail of success when fairly, candidly, and sincerely used.

If we have committed errors and can be made sensible of them, we agree with you in opinion that we ought to correct them, and compensate the injuries which may have been consequent thereon; and we trust the French Republic will be actuated by the same just and benevolent principles of national policy.

We do therefore most sincerely approve of your determination to promote and accelerate an accommodation of our existing differences with that Republic by negotiation, on terms compatible with the rights, duties, interests, and honor of our nation. And you may rest assured of our most cordial cooperation so far as it may become necessary in this pursuit.

Peace and harmony with all nations is our sincere wish; but such being the lot of humanity that nations will not always reciprocate peaceable dispositions, it is our firm belief that effectual measures of defense will tend to inspire that national self-respect and confidence at home which is the unfailing source of respectability abroad, to check aggression and prevent war.

While we are endeavoring to adjust our differences with the French Republic by amicable negotiation, the progress of the war in Europe, the depredations on our commerce, the personal injuries to our citizens, and the general complexion of affairs prove to us your vigilant care in recommending to our attention effectual measures of defense.

Those which you recommend, whether they relate to external defense by permitting our citizens to arm for the purpose of repelling aggressions on their commercial rights, and by providing sea convoys, or to internal defense by increasing the establishments of artillery and cavalry, by forming a provisional army, by revising the militia laws, and fortifying more completely our ports and harbors, will meet our consideration under the influence of the same just regard for the security, interest, and honor of our country which dictated your recommendation.

Practices so unnatural and iniquitous as those you state, of our own citizens converting their property and personal exertions into the means of annoying our trade and injuring their fellow-citizens, deserve legal severity commensurate with their turpitude.

Although the Senate believe that the prosperity and happiness of our country does not depend on general and extensive political connections with European nations, yet we can never lose sight of the propriety as well as necessity of enabling the Executive, by sufficient and liberal supplies, to maintain and even extend our foreign intercourse as exigencies may require, reposing full confidence in the Executive, in whom the Constitution has placed the powers of negotiation.

We learn with sincere concern that attempts are in operation to alienate the affections of our fellow-citizens from their Government. Attempts so wicked, wherever they exist, can not fail to excite our utmost abhorrence. A government chosen by the people for their own safety and happiness, and calculated to secure both, can not lose their affections so long as its administration pursues the principles upon which it was erected; and your resolution to observe a conduct just and impartial to all nations, a sacred regard to our national engagements, and not to impair the rights of our Government, contains principles which can not fail to secure to your Administration the support of the National Legislature to render abortive every attempt to excite dangerous jealousies among us, and to convince the world that our Government and your administration of it can not be separated from the affectionate support of every good citizen. And the Senate can not suffer the present occasion to pass without thus publicly and solemnly expressing their attachment to the Constitution and Government of their country; and as they hold themselves responsible to their constituents, their consciences, and their God, it is their determination by all their exertions to repel every attempt to alienate the affections of the people from the Government, so highly injurious to the honor, safety, and independence of the United States.

We are happy, since our sentiments on the subject are in perfect unison with yours, in this public manner to declare that we believe the conduct of the Government has been just and impartial to foreign nations, and that those internal regulations which have been established for the preservation of peace are in their nature proper and have been fairly executed.

And we are equally happy in possessing an entire confidence in your abilities and exertions in your station to maintain untarnished the honor, preserve the peace, and support the independence of our country, to acquire and establish which, in connection with your fellow-citizens, has been the virtuous effort of a principal part of your life.

To aid you in these arduous and honorable exertions, as it is our duty so it shall be our faithful endeavor; and we flatter ourselves, sir, that the proceedings of the present session of Congress will manifest to the world that although the United States love peace, they will be independent; that they are sincere in their declarations to be just to the French and all other nations, and expect the same in return.

If a sense of justice, a love of moderation and peace, shall influence their councils, which we sincerely hope we shall have just grounds to expect, peace and amity between the United States and all nations will be preserved.

But if we are so unfortunate as to experience injuries from any foreign power, and the ordinary methods by which differences are amicably adjusted between nations shall be rejected, the determination "not to surrender in any manner the rights of the Government," being so inseparably connected with the dignity, interest, and independence of our country, shall by us be steadily and inviolably supported.


Vice-President of the United States and President of the Senate.

MAY 23, 1797.


Mr. Vice-President and Gentlemen of the Senate:

It would be an affectation in me to dissemble the pleasure I feel on receiving this kind address.

My long experience of the wisdom, fortitude, and patriotism of the Senate of the United States enhances in my estimation the value of those obliging expressions of your approbation of my conduct, which are a generous reward for the past and an affecting encouragement to constancy and perseverance in future.

Our sentiments appear to be so entirely in unison that I can not but believe them to be the rational result of the understandings and the natural feelings of the hearts of Americans in general on contemplating the present state of the nation.

While such principles and affections prevail they will form an indissoluble bond of union and a sure pledge that our country has no essential injury to apprehend from any portentous appearances abroad. In a humble reliance on Divine Providence we may rest assured that while we reiterate with sincerity our endeavors to accommodate all our differences with France, the independence of our country can not be diminished, its dignity degraded, or its glory tarnished by any nation or combination of nations, whether friends or enemies.


MAY 24, 1797.


SIR: The interesting details of those events which have rendered the convention of Congress at this time indispensable (communicated in your speech to both Houses) has excited in us the strongest emotions. Whilst we regret the occasion, we can not omit to testify our approbation of the measure, and pledge ourselves that no considerations of private inconvenience shall prevent on our part a faithful discharge of the duties to which we are called.

We have constantly hoped that the nations of Europe, whilst desolated by foreign wars or convulsed by intestine divisions, would have left the United States to enjoy that peace and tranquillity to which the impartial conduct of our Government has entitled us, and it is now with extreme regret we find the measures of the French Republic tending to endanger a situation so desirable and interesting to our country.

Upon this occasion we feel it our duty to express in the most explicit manner the sensations which the present crisis has excited, and to assure you of our zealous cooperation in those measures which may appear necessary for our security or peace.

Although it is the earnest wish of our hearts that peace may be maintained with the French Republic and with all the world, yet we never will surrender those rights which belong to us as a nation; and whilst we view with satisfaction the wisdom, dignity, and moderation which have marked the measures of the Supreme Executive of our country in his attempt to remove by candid explanations the complaints and jealousies of France, we feel the full force of that indignity which has been offered our country in the rejection of its minister. No attempts to wound our rights as a sovereign State will escape the notice of our constituents. They will be felt with indignation and repelled with that decision which shall convince the world that we are not a degraded people; that we can never submit to the demands of a foreign power without examination and without discussion.

Knowing as we do the confidence reposed by the people of the United States in their Government, we can not hesitate in expressing our indignation at any sentiments tending to derogate from that confidence. Such sentiments, wherever entertained, serve to evince an imperfect knowledge of the opinions of our constituents. An attempt to separate the people of the United States from their Government is an attempt to separate them from themselves; and although foreigners who know not the genius of our country may have conceived the project, and foreign emissaries may attempt the execution, yet the united efforts of our fellow-citizens will convince the world of its impracticability.

Sensibly as we feel the wound which has been inflicted by the transactions disclosed in your communications, yet we think with you that neither the honor nor the interest of the United States forbid the repetition of advances for preserving peace; we therefore receive with the utmost satisfaction your information that a fresh attempt at negotiation will be instituted, and we cherish the hope that a mutual spirit of conciliation, and a disposition on the part of France to compensate for any injuries which may have been committed upon our neutral rights, and on the part of the United States to place France on grounds similar to those of other countries in their relation and connection with us (if any inequalities shall be found to exist), will produce an accommodation compatible with the engagements, rights, duties, and honor of the United States. Fully, however, impressed with the uncertainty of the result, we shall prepare to meet with fortitude any unfavorable events which may occur, and to extricate ourselves from their consequences with all the skill we possess and all the efforts in our power. Believing with you that the conduct of the Government has been just and impartial to foreign nations, that the laws for the preservation of peace have been proper, and that they have been fairly executed, the Representatives of the people do not hesitate to declare that they will give their most cordial support to the execution of principles so deliberately and uprightly established.

The many interesting subjects which you have recommended to our consideration, and which are so strongly enforced by this momentous occasion, will receive every attention which their importance demands, and we trust that, by the decided and explicit conduct which will govern our deliberations, every insinuation will be repelled which is derogatory to the honor and independence of our country.

Permit us in offering this address to express our satisfaction at your promotion to the first office in the Government and our entire confidence that the preeminent talents and patriotism which have placed you in this distinguished situation will enable you to discharge its various duties with satisfaction to yourself and advantage to our common country.

JUNE 2, 1797.


Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

I receive with great satisfaction your candid approbation of the convention of Congress, and thank you for your assurances that the interesting subjects recommended to your consideration shall receive the attention which their importance demands, and that your cooperation may be expected in those measures which may appear necessary for our security or peace.

The declarations of the Representatives of this nation of their satisfaction at my promotion to the first office in this Government and of their confidence in my sincere endeavors to discharge the various duties of it with advantage to our common country have excited my most grateful sensibility.

I pray you, gentlemen, to believe and to communicate such assurance to our constituents that no event which I can foresee to be attainable by any exertions in the discharge of my duties can afford me so much cordial satisfaction as to conduct a negotiation with the French Republic to a removal of prejudices, a correction of errors, a dissipation of umbrages, an accommodation of all differences, and a restoration of harmony and affection to the mutual satisfaction of both nations. And whenever the legitimate organs of intercourse shall be restored and the real sentiments of the two Governments can be candidly communicated to each other, although strongly impressed with the necessity of collecting ourselves into a manly posture of defense, I nevertheless entertain an encouraging confidence that a mutual spirit of conciliation, a disposition to compensate injuries and accommodate each other in all our relations and connections, will produce an agreement to a treaty consistent with the engagements, rights, duties, and honor of both nations.


JUNE 3, 1797.


UNITED STATES, May 26, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate:

I lay before you, for your consideration and advice, a treaty of perpetual peace and friendship between the United States of America and the Bey and subjects of Tripoli, of Barbary, concluded at Tripoli on the 4th day of November, 1796.


UNITED STATES, May 31, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate:

I nominate General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, of South Carolina, Francis Dana, chief justice of the State of Massachusetts, and General John Marshall, of Virginia, to be jointly and severally envoys extraordinary and ministers plenipotentiary to the French Republic.

After mature deliberation on the critical situation of our relations with France, which have long engaged my most serious attention, I have determined on these nominations of persons to negotiate with the French Republic to dissipate umbrages, to remove prejudices, to rectify errors, and adjust all differences by a treaty between the two powers.

It is in the present critical and singular circumstances of great importance to engage the confidence of the great portions of the Union in the characters employed and the measures which may be adopted. I have therefore thought it expedient to nominate persons of talents and integrity, long known and intrusted in the three great divisions of the Union, and at the same time, to provide against the cases of death, absence, indisposition, or other impediment, to invest any one or more of them with full powers.


UNITED STATES, June 12, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

I have received information from the commissioner appointed on the part of the United States, pursuant to the third article of our treaty with Spain, that the running and marking of the boundary line between the colonies of East and West Florida and the territory of the United States have been delayed by the officers of His Catholic Majesty, and that they have declared their intention to maintain his jurisdiction, and to suspend the withdrawing his troops from the military posts they occupy within the territory of the United States until the two Governments shall, by negotiation, have settled the meaning of the second article respecting the withdrawing of the troops, garrisons, or settlements of either party in the territory of the other—that is, whether, when the Spanish garrisons withdraw, they are to leave the works standing or to demolish them—and until, by an additional article to the treaty, the real property of the inhabitants shall be secured, and, likewise, until the Spanish officers are sure the Indians will be pacific. The two first questions, if to be determined by negotiation, might be made subjects of discussion for years, and as no limitation of time can be prescribed to the other, a certainty in the opinion of the Spanish officers that the Indians will be pacific, it will be impossible to suffer it to remain an obstacle to the fulfillment of the treaty on the part of Spain.

To remove the first difficulty, I have determined to leave it to the discretion of the officers of His Catholic Majesty when they withdraw his troops from the forts within the territory of the United States, either to leave the works standing or to demolish them; and to remove the second I shall cause an assurance to be published and to be particularly communicated to the minister of His Catholic Majesty and to the governor of Louisiana that the settlers or occupants of the lands in question shall not be disturbed in their possessions by the troops of the United States, but, on the contrary, that they shall be protected in all their lawful claims; and to prevent or remove every doubt on this point it merits the consideration of Congress whether it will not be expedient immediately to pass a law giving positive assurances to those inhabitants who, by fair and regular grants or by occupancy, have obtained legal titles or equitable claims to lands in that country prior to the final ratification of the treaty between the United States and Spain on the 25th of April, 1796.

This country is rendered peculiarly valuable by its inhabitants, who are represented to amount to nearly 4,000, generally well affected and much attached to the United States, and zealous for the establishment of a government under their authority.

I therefore recommend to your consideration the expediency of erecting a government in the district of the Natchez similar to that established for the territory northwest of the river Ohio, but with certain modifications relative to titles or claims of land, whether of individuals or companies, or to claims of jurisdiction of any individual State.


UNITED STATES, June 22, 1797.

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

Immediately after I had received your resolution of the 10th of June, requesting a report respecting the depredations committed on the commerce of the United States since the 1st of October, 1796, specifying the name of the vessel taken, where bound to or from, species of lading, the value (when it can be ascertained) of the vessel and cargo taken, and by what power captured, particularizing those which have been actually condemned, together with the proper documents to ascertain the same, I directed a collection to be made of all such information as should be found in the possession of the Government; in consequence of which the Secretary of State has made the report and the collection of documents which accompany this message, and are now laid before the House of Representatives in compliance with their desire.


UNITED STATES, June 23, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

The Dey of Algiers has manifested a predilection for American-built vessels, and in consequence has desired that two vessels might be constructed and equipped as cruisers according to the choice and taste of Captain O'Brien. The cost of two such vessels built with live oak and cedar, and coppered, with guns and all other equipments complete, is estimated at $45,000. The expense of navigating them to Algiers may perhaps be compensated by the freight of the stores with which they may be loaded on account of our stipulations by treaty with the Dey.

A compliance with the Dey's request appears to me to be of serious importance. He will repay the whole expense of building and equipping the two vessels, and as he has advanced the price of our peace with Tripoli, and become pledged for that of Tunis, the United States seem to be under peculiar obligations to provide this accommodation, and I trust that Congress will authorize the advance of money necessary for that purpose.

It also appears to be of importance to place at Algiers a person as consul in whose integrity and ability much confidence may be placed, to whom a considerable latitude of discretion should be allowed, for the interest of the United States in relation to their commerce. That country is so remote as to render it impracticable for the consul to ask and receive instructions in sudden emergencies. He may sometimes find it necessary to make instant engagements for money or its equivalent, to prevent greater expenses or more serious evils. We can hardly hope to escape occasions of discontent proceeding from the Regency or arising from the misconduct or even the misfortunes of our commercial vessels navigating in the Mediterranean Sea, and unless the causes of discontent are speedily removed the resentment of the Regency may be exerted with precipitation on our defenseless citizens and their property, and thus, occasion a tenfold expense to the United States. For these reasons it appears to me to be expedient to vest the consul at Algiers with a degree of discretionary power which can be requisite in no other situation; and to encourage a person deserving the public confidence to accept so expensive and responsible a situation, it appears indispensable to allow him a handsome salary. I should confer on such a consul a superintending power over the consulates for the States of Tunis and Tripoli, especially in respect to pecuniary engagements, which should not be made without his approbation.

While the present salary of $2,000 a year appears adequate to the consulates of Tunis and Tripoli, twice that sum probably will be requisite for Algiers.


UNITED STATES, July 3, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

The whole of the intelligence which has for some time past been received from abroad, the correspondences between this Government and the ministers of the belligerent powers residing here, and the advices from the officers of the United States, civil and military, upon the frontiers all conspire to shew in a very strong light the critical situation of our country. That Congress might be enabled to form a more perfect judgment of it and of the measures necessary to be taken, I have directed the proper officers to prepare such collections of extracts from the public correspondences as might afford the clearest information. The reports made to me from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of War, with a collection of documents from each of them, are now communicated to both Houses of Congress. I have desired that the message, reports, and documents may be considered as confidential merely that the members of both Houses of Congress may be apprised of their contents before they should be made public. As soon as the two Houses shall have heard them, I shall submit to their discretion the publication of the whole, or any such parts of them as they shall judge necessary or expedient for the public good.





Whereas an act of the Congress of the United States was passed on the 9th day of February, 1793, entitled "An act regulating foreign coins, and for other purposes," in which it was enacted "that foreign gold and silver coins shall pass current as money within the United States and be a legal tender for the payment of all debts and demands" at the several and respective rates therein stated; and that "at the expiration of three years next ensuing the time when the coinage of gold and silver agreeably to the act intituled "An act establishing a mint and regulating the coins of the United States" shall commence at the Mint of the United States (which time shall be announced by the proclamation of the President of the United States), all foreign gold coins and all foreign silver coins, except Spanish milled dollars and parts of such dollars, shall cease to be a legal tender as aforesaid:

Now, therefore, I, the said John Adams, President of the United States, hereby proclaim, announce, and give notice to all whom it may concern that, agreeably to the act last above mentioned, the coinage of silver at the Mint of the United States commenced on the 15th day of October, 1794, and the coinage of gold on the 31st day of July, 1795; and that consequently, in conformity to the act first above mentioned, all foreign silver coins, except Spanish milled dollars and parts of such dollars, will cease to pass current as money within the United States and to be a legal tender for the payment of any debts or demands after the 15th day of October next, and all foreign gold coins will cease to pass current as money within the United States and to be a legal tender as aforesaid for the payment of any debts or demands after the 31st day of July, which will be A.D. 1798.

In testimony whereof I have caused the seal of the United States to be affixed to these presents, and signed the same with my hand.


Done at Philadelphia, the 22d day of July, A.D. 1797, and of the Independence of the United States the twenty-second.


By the President: TIMOTHY PICKERING, Secretary of State.


UNITED STATES, November 22, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

I was for some time apprehensive that it would be necessary, on account of the contagious sickness which afflicted the city of Philadelphia, to convene the National Legislature at some other place. This measure it was desirable to avoid, because it would occasion much public inconvenience and a considerable public expense and add to the calamities of the inhabitants of this city, whose sufferings must have excited the sympathy of all their fellow-citizens. Therefore, after taking measures to ascertain the state and decline of the sickness, I postponed my determination, having hopes, now happily realized, that, without hazard to the lives or health of the members, Congress might assemble at this place, where it was next by law to meet. I submit, however, to your consideration whether a power to postpone the meeting of Congress, without passing the time fixed by the Constitution upon such occasions, would not be a useful amendment to the law of 1794.

Although I can not yet congratulate you on the reestablishment of peace in Europe and the restoration of security to the persons and properties of our citizens from injustice and violence at sea, we have, nevertheless, abundant cause of gratitude to the source of benevolence and influence for interior tranquillity and personal security, for propitious seasons, prosperous agriculture, productive fisheries, and general improvements, and, above all, for a rational spirit of civil and religious liberty and a calm but steady determination to support our sovereignty, as well as our moral and our religious principles, against all open and secret attacks.

Our envoys extraordinary to the French Republic embarked—-one in July, the other early in August—to join their colleague in Holland. I have received intelligence of the arrival of both of them in Holland, from whence they all proceeded on their journeys to Paris within a few days of the 19th of September. Whatever may be the result of this mission, I trust that nothing will have been omitted on my part to conduct the negotiation to a successful conclusion, on such equitable terms as may be compatible with the safety, honor, and interest of the United States. Nothing, in the meantime, will contribute so much to the preservation of peace and the attainment of justice as a manifestation of that energy and unanimity of which on many former occasions the people of the United States have given such memorable proofs, and the exertion of those resources for national defense which a beneficent Providence has kindly placed within their power.

It may be confidently asserted that nothing has occurred since the adjournment of Congress which renders inexpedient those precautionary measures recommended by me to the consideration of the two Houses at the opening of your late extraordinary session. If that system was then prudent, it is more so now, as increasing depredations strengthen the reasons for its adoption.

Indeed, whatever may be the issue of the negotiation with France, and whether the war in Europe is or is not to continue, I hold it most certain that permanent tranquillity and order will not soon be obtained. The state of society has so long been disturbed, the sense of moral and religious obligations so much weakened, public faith and national honor have been so impaired, respect to treaties has been so diminished, and the law of nations has lost so much of its force, while pride, ambition, avarice, and violence have been so long unrestrained, there remains no reasonable ground on which to raise an expectation that a commerce without protection or defense will not be plundered.

The commerce of the United States is essential, if not to their existence, at least to their comfort, their growth, prosperity, and happiness. The genius, character, and habits of the people are highly commercial. Their cities have been formed and exist upon commerce. Our agriculture, fisheries, arts, and manufactures are connected with and depend upon it. In short, commerce has made this country what it is, and it can not be destroyed or neglected without involving the people in poverty and distress. Great numbers are directly and solely supported by navigation. The faith of society is pledged for the preservation of the rights of commercial and seafaring no less than of the other citizens. Under this view of our affairs, I should hold myself guilty of a neglect of duty if I forbore to recommend that we should make every exertion to protect our commerce and to place our country in a suitable posture of defense as the only sure means of preserving both.

I have entertained an expectation that it would have been in my power at the opening of this session to have communicated to you the agreeable information of the due execution of our treaty with His Catholic Majesty respecting the withdrawing of his troops from our territory and the demarcation of the line of limits, but by the latest authentic intelligence Spanish garrisons were still continued within our country, and the running of the boundary line had not been commenced. These circumstances are the more to be regretted as they can not fail to affect the Indians in a manner injurious to the United States. Still, however, indulging the hope that the answers which have been given will remove the objections offered by the Spanish officers to the immediate execution of the treaty, I have judged it proper that we should continue in readiness to receive the posts and to run the line of limits. Further information on this subject will be communicated in the course of the session.

In connection with this unpleasant state of things on our western frontier it is proper for me to mention the attempts of foreign agents to alienate the affections of the Indian nations and to excite them to actual hostilities against the United States. Great activity has been exerted by those persons who have insinuated themselves among the Indian tribes residing within the territory of the United States to influence them to transfer their affections and force to a foreign nation, to form them into a confederacy, and prepare them for war against the United States. Although measures have been taken to counteract these infractions of our rights, to prevent Indian hostilities, and to preserve entire their attachment to the United States, it is my duty to observe that to give a better effect to these measures and to obviate the consequences of a repetition of such practices a law providing adequate punishment for such offenses may be necessary.

The commissioners appointed under the fifth article of the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation between the United States and Great Britain to ascertain the river which was truly intended under the name of the river St. Croix mentioned in the treaty of peace, met at Passamaquoddy Bay in October, 1796, and viewed the mouths of the rivers in question and the adjacent shores and islands, and, being of opinion that actual surveys of both rivers to their sources were necessary, gave to the agents of the two nations instructions for that purpose, and adjourned to meet at Boston in August. They met, but the surveys requiring more time than had been supposed, and not being then completed, the commissioners again adjourned, to meet at Providence, in the State of Rhode Island, in June next, when we may expect a final examination and decision.

The commissioners appointed in pursuance of the sixth article of the treaty met at Philadelphia in May last to examine the claims of British subjects for debts contracted before the peace and still remaining due to them from citizens or inhabitants of the United States. Various causes have hitherto prevented any determinations, but the business is now resumed, and doubtless will be prosecuted without interruption.

Several decisions on the claims of citizens of the United States for losses and damages sustained by reason of irregular and illegal captures or condemnations of their vessels or other property have been made by the commissioners in London comformably to the seventh article of the treaty. The sums awarded by the commissioners have been paid by the British Government. A considerable number of other claims, where costs and damages, and not captured property, were the only objects in question, have been decided by arbitration, and the sums awarded to the citizens of the United States have also been paid.

The commissioners appointed agreeably to the twenty-first article of our treaty with Spain met at Philadelphia in the summer past to examine and decide on the claims of our citizens for losses they have sustained in consequence of their vessels and cargoes having been taken by the subjects of His Catholic Majesty during the late war between Spain and France. Their sittings have been interrupted, but are now resumed.

The United States being obligated to make compensation for the losses and damages sustained by British subjects, upon the award of the commissioners acting under the sixth article of the treaty with Great Britain, and for the losses and damages sustained by British subjects by reason of the capture of their vessels and merchandise taken within the limits and jurisdiction of the United States and brought into their ports, or taken by vessels originally armed in ports of the United States, upon the awards of the commissioners acting under the seventh article of the same treaty, it is necessary that provision be made for fulfilling these obligations.

The numerous captures of American vessels by the cruisers of the French Republic and of some by those of Spain have occasioned considerable expenses in making and supporting the claims of our citizens before their tribunals. The sums required for this purpose have in divers instances been disbursed by the consuls of the United States. By means of the same captures great numbers of our seamen have been thrown ashore in foreign countries, destitute of all means of subsistence, and the sick in particular have been exposed to grievous sufferings. The consuls have in these cases also advanced moneys for their relief. For these advances they reasonably expect reimbursements from the United States.

The consular act relative to seamen requires revision and amendment. The provisions for their support in foreign countries and for their return are found to be inadequate and ineffectual. Another provision seems necessary to be added to the consular act. Some foreign vessels have been discovered sailing under the flag of the United States and with forged papers. It seldom happens that the consuls can detect this deception, because they have no authority to demand an inspection of the registers and sea letters.

Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

It is my duty to recommend to your serious consideration those objects which by the Constitution are placed particularly within your sphere—the national debts and taxes.

Since the decay of the feudal system, by which the public defense was provided for chiefly at the expense of individuals, the system of loans has been introduced, and as no nation can raise within the year by taxes sufficient sums for its defense and military operations in time of war, the sums loaned and debts contracted have necessarily become the subjects of what have been called funding systems. The consequences arising from the continual accumulation of public debts in other countries ought to admonish us to be careful to prevent their growth in our own. The national defense must be provided for as well as the support of Government; but both should be accomplished as much as possible by immediate taxes, and as little as possible by loans.

The estimates for the service of the ensuing year will by my direction be laid before you.

Gentlemen of the Senate and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:

We are met together at a most interesting period. The situations of the principal powers of Europe are singular and portentous. Connected with some by treaties and with all by commerce, no important event there can be indifferent to us. Such circumstances call with peculiar importunity not less for a disposition to unite in all those measures on which the honor, safety, and prosperity of our country depend than for all the exertions of wisdom and firmness.

In all such measures you may rely on my zealous and hearty concurrence.




SIR: The communications you thought proper to make in your speech to both Houses of Congress on the opening of their present session afford additional proofs of the attention, integrity, and firmness which have always marked your official character.

We can not but approve of the measures you had taken to ascertain the state and decline of the contagious sickness which has so lately afflicted the city of Philadelphia, and the pleasing circumstance that Congress is now assembled at that place without hazard to the health of its members evinces the propriety of your having postponed a determination to convene the National Legislature at another place. We shall take into consideration the law of 1794 on this subject, and will readily concur in any amendment which may be deemed expedient.

It would have given us much pleasure to have received your congratulations on the reestablishment of peace in Europe and the restoration of security to the persons and property of our citizens from injustice and violence at sea; but though these events, so desirable to our country and the world, have not taken place, yet we have abundant cause of gratitude to the Great Disposer of Human Events for interior tranquillity and personal security, for propitious seasons, prosperous agriculture, productive fisheries, and general improvement, and, above all, for a rational spirit of civil and religious liberty and a calm but steady determination to support our sovereignty against all open and secret attacks.

We learn with satisfaction that our envoys extraordinary to the French Republic had safely arrived in Europe and were proceeding to the scene of negotiation, and whatever may be the result of the mission, we are perfectly satisfied that nothing on your part has been omitted which could in any way conduce to a successful conclusion of the negotiation upon terms compatible with the safety, honor, and interest of the United States; and we are fully convinced that in the meantime a manifestation of that unanimity and energy of which the people of the United States have given such memorable proofs and a proper exertion of those resources of national defense which we possess will essentially contribute to the preservation of peace and the attainment of justice.

We think, sir, with you that the commerce of the United States is essential to the growth, comfort, and prosperity of our country, and that the faith of society is pledged for the preservation of the rights of commercial and seafaring no less than of other citizens. And even if our negotiation with France should terminate favorably and the war in Europe cease, yet the state of society which unhappily prevails in so great a portion of the world and the experience of past times under better circumstances unite in warning us that a commerce so extensive and which holds out so many temptations to lawless plunderers can never be safe without protection; and we hold ourselves obliged by every tie of duty which binds us to our constituents to promote and concur in such measures of marine defense as may convince our merchants and seamen that their rights are not sacrificed nor their injuries forgotten.

We regret that, notwithstanding the clear and explicit terms of the treaty between the United States and His Catholic Majesty, the Spanish garrisons are not yet withdrawn from our territory nor the running of the boundary line commenced. The United States have been faithful in the performance of their obligations to Spain, and had reason to expect a compliance equally prompt on the part of that power. We still, however, indulge the hope that the convincing answers which have been given to the objections stated by the Spanish officers to the immediate execution of the treaty will have their proper effect, and that this treaty, so mutually beneficial to the contracting parties, will be finally observed with good faith. We therefore entirely approve of your determination to continue in readiness to receive the posts and to run the line of partition between our territory and that of the King of Spain.

Attempts to alienate the affections of the Indians, to form them into a confederacy, and to excite them to actual hostility against the United States, whether made by foreign agents or by others, are so injurious to our interests at large and so inhuman with respect to our citizens inhabiting the adjacent territory as to deserve the most exemplary punishment, and we will cheerfully afford our aid in framing a law which may prescribe a punishment adequate to the commission of crimes so heinous.

The several objects you have pointed out to the attention of the Legislature, whether they regard our internal or external relations, shall receive from us that consideration which they merit, and we will readily concur in all such measures as may be necessary either to enable us to fulfill our engagements at home or to cause ourselves to be respected abroad; and at this portentous period, when the powers of Europe with whom we are connected by treaty or commerce are in so critical a situation, and when the conduct of some of those powers toward the United States is so hostile and menacing, the several branches of the Government are, in our opinion, called upon with peculiar importunity to unite, and by union not only to devise and carry into effect those measures on which the safety and prosperity of our country depend, but also to undeceive those nations who, regarding us as a weak and divided people, have pursued systems of aggression inconsistent with a state of peace between independent nations. And, sir, we beg leave to assure you that we derive a singular consolation from the reflection that at such a time the executive part of our Government has been committed to your hands, for in your integrity, talents, and firmness we place the most entire confidence.


President of the Senate pro tempore.

NOVEMBER 27, 1797.


UNITED STATES, November 28, 1797.

Gentlemen of the Senate:

I thank you for this address.

When, after the most laborious investigation and serious reflection, without partial considerations or personal motives, measures have been adopted or recommended, I can receive no higher testimony of their rectitude than the approbation of an assembly so independent, patriotic, and enlightened as the Senate of the United States.

Nothing has afforded me more entire satisfaction than the coincidence of your judgment with mine in the opinion of the essential importance of our commerce and the absolute necessity of a maritime defense. What is it that has drawn to Europe the superfluous riches of the three other quarters of the globe but a marine? What is it that has drained the wealth of Europe itself into the coffers of two or three of its principal commercial powers but a marine?

The world has furnished no example of a flourishing commerce without a maritime protection, and a moderate knowledge of man and his history will convince anyone that no such prodigy ever can arise. A mercantile marine and a military marine must grow up together; one can not long exist without the other.



SIR: While our sympathy is excited by the recent sufferings of the citizens of Philadelphia, we participate in the satisfaction which you are pleased to express that the duration of the late calamity was so limited as to render unnecessary the expense and inconvenience that would have been incident to the convention of Congress in another place; and we shall readily attend to every useful amendment of the law which contemplates the event of contagious sickness at the seat of Government.

In lamenting the increase of the injuries offered to the persons and property of our citizens at sea we gratefully acknowledge the continuance of interior tranquillity and the attendant blessings of which you remind us as alleviations of these fatal effects of injustice and violence.

Whatever may be the result of the mission to the French Republic, your early and uniform attachment to the interest of our country, your important services in the struggle for its independence, and your unceasing exertions for its welfare afford no room to doubt of the sincerity of your efforts to conduct the negotiation to a successful conclusion on such terms as may be compatible with the safety, honor, and interest of the United States. We have also a firm reliance upon the energy and unanimity of the people of these States in the assertion of their rights, and on their determination to exert upon all proper occasions their ample resources in providing for the national defense.

The importance of commerce and its beneficial influence upon agriculture, arts, and manufactures have been verified in the growth and prosperity of our country. It is essentially connected with the other great interests of the community; they must flourish and decline together; and while the extension of our navigation and trade naturally excites the jealousy and tempts the avarice of other nations, we are firmly persuaded that the numerous and deserving class of citizens engaged in these pursuits and dependent on them for their subsistence has a strong and indisputable claim to our support and protection.

The delay of the Spanish officers to fulfill the treaty existing with His Catholic Majesty is a source of deep regret. We learn, however, with satisfaction that you still indulge hopes of removing the objections which have been made to its execution, and that you have continued in readiness to receive the posts. Disposed to perform with fidelity our national engagements, nothing shall be wanting on our part to obtain the same justice from others which we exercise toward them.

Our abhorrence can not be too strongly expressed of the intrigues of foreign agents to alienate the affections of the Indians and to rouse them to acts of hostility against the United States. No means in our power should be omitted of providing for the suppression of such cruel practices and for the adequate punishment of their atrocious authors.

Upon the other interesting subjects noticed in your address we shall bestow the requisite attention. To preserve inviolable the public faith by providing for the due execution of our treaties, to indemnify those who may have just claims to retribution upon the United States for expenses incurred in defending the property and relieving the necessities of our unfortunate fellow-citizens, to guard against evasions of the laws intended to secure advantages to the navigation of our own vessels, and especially to prevent by all possible means an unnecessary accumulation of the public debt, are duties which we shall endeavor to keep in view and discharge with assiduity.

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