25 October 1791
"In vain may we expect peace with the Indians on our frontiers so long
as a lawless set of unprincipled wretches can violate the rights of hospitality,
or infringe the most solemn treaties, without receiving the punishment
they so justly merit."
I meet you upon the present occasion with the feelings which are naturally
inspired by a strong impression of the prosperous situations of our common
country, and by a persuasion equally strong that the labors of the session
which has just commenced will, under the guidance of a spirit no less prudent
than patriotic, issue in measures conducive to the stability and increase
of national prosperity.
Numerous as are the providential blessings which demand our grateful
acknowledgments, the abundance with which another year has again rewarded
the industry of the husbandman is too important to escape recollection.
Your own observations in your respective situations will have satisfied
you of the progressive state of agriculture, manufactures, commerce, and
navigation. In tracing their causes you will have remarked with particular
pleasure the happy effects of that revival of confidence, public as well
as private, to which the Constitution and laws of the United States have
so eminently contributed; and you will have observed with no less interest
new and decisive proofs of the increasing reputation and credit of the
nation. But you nevertheless can not fail to derive satisfaction from the
confirmation of these circumstances which will be disclosed in the several
official communications that will be made to you in the course of your
The rapid subscriptions to the Bank of the United States, which completed
the sum allowed to be subscribed in a single day, is among the striking
and pleasing evidences which present themselves, not only of confidence
in the Government, but of resource in the community.
In the interval of your recess due attention has been paid to the execution
of the different objects which were specially provided for by the laws
and resolutions of the last session.
Among the most important of these is the defense and security of the
western frontiers. To accomplish it on the most humane principles was a
Accordingly, at the same time the treaties have been provisionally concluded
and other proper means used to attach the wavering and to confirm in their
friendship the well-disposed tribes of Indians, effectual measures have
been adopted to make those of a hostile description sensible that a pacification
was desired upon terms of moderation and justice.
Those measures having proved unsuccessful, it became necessary to convince
the refractory of the power of the United States to punish their depredations.
Offensive operations have therefore been directed, to be conducted, however,
as consistently as possible with the dictates of humanity.
Some of these have been crowned with full success and others are yet
depending. The expeditions which have been completed were carried on under
the authority and at the expense of the United States by the militia of
Kentucky, whose enterprise, intrepidity, and good conduct are entitled
of peculiar commendation.
Overtures of peace are still continued to the deluded tribes, and considerable
numbers of individuals belonging to them have lately renounced all further
opposition, removed from their former situations, and placed themselves
under the immediate protection of the United States.
It is sincerely to be desired that all need of coercion in future may
cease and that an intimate intercourse may succeed, calculated to advance
the happiness of the Indians and to attach them firmly to the United States.
In order to this it seems necessary--
That they should experience the benefits of an impartial dispensation
That the mode of alienating their lands, the main source of discontent
and war, should be so defined and regulated as to obviate imposition and
as far as may be practicable controversy concerning the reality and extent
of the alienations which are made.
That commerce with them should be promoted under regulations tending
to secure an equitable deportment toward them, and that such rational experiments
should be made for imparting to them the blessings of civilization as may
from time to time suit their condition.
That the Executive of the United States should be enabled to employ
the means to which the Indians have been long accustomed for uniting their
immediate interests with the preservation of peace.
And that efficacious provision should be made for inflicting adequate
penalties upon all those who, by violating their rights, shall infringe
the treaties and endanger the peace of the Union.
A system corresponding with the mild principles of religion and philanthropy
toward an unenlightened race of men, whose happiness materially depends
on the conduct of the United States, would be as honorable to the national
character as conformable to the dictates of sound policy.
The powers specially vested in me by the act laying certain duties on
distilled spirits, which respect the subdivisions of the districts into
surveys, the appointment of officers, and the assignment of compensations,
have likewise carried into effect. In a manner in which both materials
and experience were wanting to guide the calculation it will be readily
conceived that there must have been difficulty in such an adjustment of
the rates of compensation as would conciliate a reasonable competency with
a proper regard to the limits prescribed by the law. It is hoped that the
circumspection which has been used will be found in the result to have
secured that last two objects; but it is probable that with a view to the
first in some instances a revision of the provision will be found advisable.
The impressions with which this law has been received by the community
have been upon the whole such as were to be expected among enlightened
and well-disposed citizens from the propriety and necessity of the measure.
The novelty, however, of the tax in a considerable part of the United States
and a misconception of some of its provisions have given occasion in particular
places to some degree of discontent; but it is satisfactory to know that
this disposition yields to proper explanations and more just apprehensions
of the true nature of the law, and I entertain a full confidence that it
will in all give way to motives which arise out of a just sense of duty
and a virtuous regard to the public welfare.
If there are any circumstances in the law which consistently with its
main design may be so varied as to remove any well-intentioned objections
that may happen to exist, it will consist with a wise moderation to make
the proper variations. It is desirable on all occasions to unite with a
steady and firm adherence to constitutional and necessary acts of Government
the fullest evidence of a disposition as far as may be practicable to consult
the wishes of every part of the community and to lay the foundations of
the public administration in the affections of the people.
Pursuant to the authority contained in the several acts on that subject,
a district of 10 miles square for the permanent seat of the Government
of the United State has been fixed and announced by proclamation, which
district will comprehend lands on both sides of the river Potomac and the
towns of Alexandria and Georgetown. A city has also been laid out agreeably
to a plan which will be placed before Congress, and as there is a prospect,
favored by the rate of sales which have already taken place, of ample funds
for carrying on the necessary public buildings, there is every expectation
of their due progress.
The completion of the census of the inhabitants, for which provision
was made by law, has been duly notified (excepting one instance in which
the return has been informal, and another in which it has been omitted
or miscarried), and the returns of the officers who were charged with this
duty, which will be laid before you, will give you the pleasing assurance
that the present population of the United States borders on 4,000,000 persons.
It is proper also to inform you that a further loan of 2,500,000 florins
has been completed in Holland, the terms of which are similar to those
of the one last announced, except as to a small reduction of charges. Another,
on like terms, for 6,000,000 florins, had been set on foot under circumstances
that assured an immediate completion.
Gentlemen of the Senate:
Two treaties which have been provisionally concluded with the Cherokees
and Six Nations of Indians will be laid before you for your consideration
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:
In entering upon the discharge of your legislative trust you must anticipate
with pleasure that many of the difficulties necessarily incident to the
first arrangements of a new government for an extensive country have been
happily surmounted by the zealous and judicious exertions of your predecessors
in cooperation with the other branch of the Legislature. The important
objects which remain to be accomplished will, I am persuaded, be conducted
upon principles equally comprehensive and equally well calculated of the
advancement of the general weal.
The time limited for receiving subscriptions to the loans proposed by
the act making provision for the debt of the United States having expired,
statements from the proper department will as soon as possible apprise
you of the exact result. Enough, however, is known already to afford an
assurance that the views of that act have been substantially fulfilled.
The subscription in the domestic debt of the United States has embraced
by far the greatest proportion of that debt, affording at the same time
proof of the general satisfaction of the public creditors with the system
which has been proposed to their acceptance and of the spirit of accommodation
to the convenience of the Government with which they are actuated. The
subscriptions in the debts of the respective States as far as the provisions
of the law have permitted may be said to be yet more general. The part
of the debt of the United States which remains unsubscribed will naturally
engage your further deliberations.
It is particularly pleasing to me to be able to announce to you that
the revenues which have been established promise to be adequate to their
objects, and may be permitted, if no unforeseen exigency occurs, to supersede
for the present the necessity of any new burthens upon our constituents.
An object which will claim your early attention is a provision for the
current service of the ensuing year, together with such ascertained demands
upon the Treasury as require to be immediately discharged, and such casualties
as may have arisen in the execution of the public business, for which no
specific appropriation may have yet been made; of all which a proper estimate
will be laid before you.
Gentlemen of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:
I shall content myself with a general reference to former communications
for several objects upon which the urgency of other affairs has hitherto
postponed any definitive resolution. Their importance will recall them
to your attention, and I trust that the progress already made in the most
arduous arrangements of the Government will afford you leisure to resume
them to advantage.
These are, however, some of them of which I can not forbear a more particular
mention. These are the militia, the post office and post roads, the mint,
weights and measures, a provision for the sale of the vacant lands of the
The first is certainly an object of primary importance whether viewed
in reference to the national security to the satisfaction of the community
or to the preservation of order. In connection with this the establishment
of competent magazines and arsenals and the fortification of such places
as are peculiarly important and vulnerable naturally present themselves
to consideration. The safety of the United States under divine protection
ought to rest on the basis of systematic and solid arrangements, exposed
as little as possible to the hazards of fortuitous circumstances.
The importance of the post office and post roads on a plan sufficiently
liberal and comprehensive, as they respect the expedition, safety, and
facility of communication, is increased by their instrumentality in diffusing
a knowledge of the laws and proceedings of the Government, which, while
it contributes to the security of the people, serves also to guard them
against the effects of misrepresentation and misconception. The establishment
of additional cross posts, especially to some of the important points in
the Western and Northern parts of the Union, can not fail to be of material
The disorders in the existing currency, and especially the scarcity
of small change, a scarcity so peculiarly distressing to the poorer classes,
strongly recommend the carrying into immediate effect the resolution already
entered into concerning the establishment of a mint. Measures have been
taken pursuant to that resolution for procuring some of the most necessary
artists, together with the requisite apparatus.
An uniformity in the weights and measures of the country is among the
important objects submitted to you by the Constitution, and if it can be
derived from a standard at once invariable and universal, must be no less
honorable to the public councils than conducive to the public convenience.
A provision for the sale of the vacant lands of the United States is
particularly urged, among other reasons, by the important considerations
that they are pledged as a fund for reimbursing the public debt; that if
timely and judiciously applied they may save the necessity of burthening
our citizens with new taxes for the extinguishment of the principal; and
that being free to discharge the principal but in a limited proportion,
no opportunity ought to be lost for availing the public of its right.