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ADDRESSES AND MESSAGES.
MARCH 4, 1809.
UNWILLING to depart from examples of the most revered authority, I avail myself of the occasion now presented, to express the profound im pression made on me by the call of my country to the station to the duties of which I am about to pledge myself by the most solemn of sanctions. So distinguished a mark of confidence, proceeding from the deliberate and tranquil suffrage of a free and virtuous nation, would under any circumstances have commanded my gratitude and devotion, as well as filled me with an awful sense of the trust to be assumed. Under the various circumstances which give peculiar solemnity to the existing period, I feel that both the honor and the responsibility allotted to me are inexpressibly enhanced.
The present situation of the world is indeed without a parallel, and that of our own country full of difficulties. The pressure of these too is the more severely felt, because they have fallen upon us at a moment when the national prosperity being at a height not before attained, the contrast resulting from the change has been rendered the more striking. Under the benign influence of our republican institutions, and the maintenance of peace with all nations, whilst so many of them were engaged in bloody and wasteful wars, the fruits of a just policy were enjoyed in an unrivalled growth of our faculties and resources. Proofs of this were seen in the improvements of agriculture; in the successful enterprises of commerce; in the progress of manufactures and useful arts; in the increase of the public revenue, and the use made of it in reducing the public debt; and in the valuable works and establishments every where multiplying over the face of our land.
It is a precious reflection that the transition from this prosperous condi tion of our country to the scene which has for some time been distressing us, is not chargeable on any unwarrantable views, nor as I trust on any involuntary errors in the public councils. Indulging no passions which trespass on the rights or repose of other nations, it has been the true glory of the United States to cultivate peace by observing justice, and to entitle themselves to the respect of the nations at war by fulfilling their neutral obligations with the most scrupulous impartiality. If there be candor in the world, the truth of these assertions will not be questioned; posterity at least will do justice to them.
This unexceptionable course could not avail against the injustice and violence of the belligerent powers. In their rage against each other, or impelled by more direct motives, principles of retaliation have been introduced, equally contrary to universal reason and acknowledged law. How long their arbitrary edicts will be continued in spite of the demonstrations
that not even a pretext for them has been given by the United States, and of the fair and liberal attempt to induce revocation of them, cannot be anticipated. Assuring myself that under every vicissitude the determined spirit and united councils of the nation will be safeguards to its honor and its essential interests, I repair to the post assigned me with no other discouragement than what springs from my own inadequacy to its high duties. If I do not sink under the weight of this deep conviction, it is because I find some support in a consciousness of the purposes, and a confidence in the principles, which I bring with me into this arduous service.
To cherish peace and friendly intercourse with all nations having cor respondent dispositions; to maintain sincere neutrality toward belligerent nations; to prefer in all cases amicable discussion and reasonable accommodation of differences to a decision of them by an appeal to arms; to exclude foreign intrigues and foreign partialities, so degrading to all countries and so baneful to free ones; to foster a spirit of independence too just to invade the rights of others, too proud to surrender our own, too liberal to indulge unworthy prejudices ourselves, and too elevated not to look down upon them in others; to hold the union of the states as the basis of their peace and happiness; to support the constitution, which is the cement of the union, as well in its limitations as in its authorities; to respect the rights and authorities reserved to the states and to the people, as equally incorporated with, and essential to the success of, the general system; to avoid the slightest interference with the rights of conscience or the functions of religion, so wisely exempted from civil jurisdiction; to preserve in their full energy the other salutary provisions in behalf of private and personal rights, and of the freedom of the press; to observe economy in public expenditures; to liberate the public resources by an honorable discharge of the public debts; to keep within the requisite limits a standing military force, always remembering that an armed and trained militia is the firmest bulwark of republics that without standing armies their liberty can never be in danger, nor with large ones safe; to promote, by authorized means, improvements friendly to agriculture, to manufac tures, and to external as well as internal commerce; to favor in like manner the advancement of science and the diffusion of information as the best aliment to true liberty; to carry on the benevolent plans which have been so meritoriously applied to the conversion of our aboriginal neighbors from the degradation and wretchedness of savage life to a participation of the improvements of which the human mind and manners are susceptible in a civilized state; as far as sentiments and intentions such as these can aid the fulfilment of my duty, they will be a resource which cannot fail me.
It is my good fortune, moreover, to have the path in which I am to tread lighted by examples of illustrious services, successfully rendered in the most trying difficulties by those who have marched before me. Of those of my immediate predecessor it might least become me here to speak. I may, however, be pardoned for not suppressing the sympathy with which my heart is full, in the rich reward he enjoys in the benedictions of a beloved country, gratefully bestowed for exalted talents, zealously devoted, through a long career, to the advancement of its highest interest and happiness. But the source to which I look for the aids which alone can supply my deficiencies, is in the well-tried intelligence and virtue of my fellow
citizens, and in the counsels of those representing them in the best other departments associated in the care of the national interests. In these my confidence will under every difficulty be placed, next to that in which we have all been encouraged to feet in the guardianship and guidance of that Almighty Being whose power regulates the destiny of nations, whose blessings have been so conspicuously dispensed to this rising republic, and to whom we are bound to address our devout gratitude for the past, as well as our fervent supplications and best hopes for the future.
MAY 23, 1809.
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
On this first occasion of meeting you, it affords me much satisfaction to be able to communicate the commencement of a favorable change in our foreign relations, the critical state of which induced a session of Congress at this early period.
In consequence of the provisions of the act interdicting commercial intercourse with Great Britain and France, our ministers at London and Paris were without delay instructed to let it be understood by the French and British governments, that the authority vested in the executive to renew commercial intercourse with their respective nations would be exercised in the case specified by that act.
Soon after these instructions were despatched, it was found that the British government, anticipating from early proceedings of Congress at their last session, the state of our laws which has been the effect of placing the two belligerent powers on a footing of equal restrictions, and relying on the conciliatory disposition of the United States, had transmitted to their legation here provisional instructions, not only to offer satisfaction for the attack on the frigate Chesapeake, and to make known the determination of His Britannic Majesty to send an envoy extraordinary with powers to conclude a treaty on all the points between the two countries, but moreover to signify his willingness, in the meantime, to withdraw his orders in council, in the persuasion that the intercourse with Great Britain would be renewed the part of the United States.
These steps of the British government led to the correspondence and the proclamation now laid before you, by virtue of which the commerce between the two countries will be renewable after the 10th day of June
Whilst I take pleasure in doing justice to the councils of His Britanic Majesty, which, no longer adhering to the policy which made an abandonment by France of her decree a pre-requisite to a revocation of the British orders, have substituted the amicable course which has issued thus happily, I cannot do less than refer to the proposal heretofore made on the part of the United States, embracing a like restoration of the suspended commerce, as a proof of the spirit of accommodation which has at no time been intermitted, and to the result which now calls for our congratulations, as corroborating the principles by which the public councils have been guided during a period of the most trying embarrassments.
The discontinuance of the British orders, as they respect the United
States, having been thus arranged, a communication of the event has been forwarded in one of our public vessels to our minister plenipotentiary at Paris, with instructions to avail himself of the important addition thereby made to the considerations which press on the justice of the French government a revocation of its decrees, or such a modification of them as that they shall cease to violate the neutral commerce of the United States.
The revision of our commercial laws, proper to adapt them to the ar rangement which has taken place with Great Britain, will doubtless engage the early attention of Congress. It will be worthy, at the same time, of their just and provident care, to make such farther alterations in the laws as will more especially protect and foster the several branches of manufacture which have been recently instituted or extended by the laudable exertions of our citizens.
Under the existing aspect of our affairs, I have thought it not inconsistent with a just precaution to have the gun-boats, with the exception of those at New Orleans, placed in a situation incurring no expense beyond that requisite for their preservation and conveniency for future service, and to have the crews of those at New Orleans reduced to the number required for their navigation and safety.
I have thought, also, that our citizens, detached in quotas of militia amounting to one hundred thousand, under the act of March, one thousand eight hundred and eight, might not improperly be relieved from the state in which they were held for immediate service. A discharge of them has been accordingly directed.
The progress made in raising and organizing the additional military force, for which provision was made by the act of April, one thousand eight hundred and eight, together with the disposition of the troops, will appear by a report which the secretary of war is preparing, and which will be laid before you.
Of the additional frigates required by an act of the last session to be fitted for actual service, two are in readiness, one nearly so, and the fourth is expected to be ready in the month of July. A report which the secre tary of the navy is preparing on the subject, to be laid before Congress, will show, at the same time, the progress made in officering and manning these ships. It will show, also, the degree in which the provisions of the act relating to the other public armed ships have been carried into execution.
It will rest with the judgment of Congress to decide how far the change in our external prospect may authorize any modifications of the laws rela ting to the army and navy establishments.
The works of defence for our seaport towns and harbors have proceeded with as much activity as the season of the year and other circumstances would admit. It is necessary, however, to state that the appropriations hitherto made being found to be deficient, a farther provision will claim the early consideration of Congress.
The whole of the eight per cent. stock remaining due by the United States, amounting to five millions three hundred thousand dollars, had been reimbursed on the last day of the year 1808. And on the first day of April last the sum in the treasury exceeded nine and a half millions of dollars. This, together with the receipts of the current year on account of former revenue bonds, will probably be nearly, if not altogether, suffi cient to defray the expenses of the year. But the suspension of exports,
and the consequent decrease of importations during the last twelve months, will necessarily cause a great diminution in the receipts of the year one thousand eight hundred and ten. After that year, should our foreign relations be undisturbed, the revenue will again be more than commensurate to all the expenditures.
Aware of the inconveniences of a protracted session at the presen season of the year, I forbear to call the attention of the legislature to any matters not particularly urgent. It remains, therefore, only to assure you of the fidelity and alacrity with which I shall co-operate for the welfare and happiness of our country, and to pray it may experience a continuance of the divine blessings by which it has been so signally favored.
NOVEMBER 29, 1809.
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
AT the period of our last meeting I had the satisfaction of communicating an adjustment with one of the principal belligerent nations, highly important in itself, and still more so as presaging a more extended accommodation. It is with deep concern I am now to inform you that the favorable prospect has been overclouded by a refusal of the British government to abide by the act of its minister plenipotentiary, and by its ensuing policy toward the United States, as seen through the communications of the minister sent to replace him.
Whatever pleas may be urged for a disavowal of engagements formed by diplomatic functionaries in cases where by the terms of the engagements a mutual ratification is reserved, or where notice at the time may have been given of a departure from instructions, or in extraordinary cases essentially violating the principles of equity, a disavowal could not have been apprehended in a case where no such notice or violation existed, where no such ratification was reserved, and more especially where, as is now in proof, an engagement to be executed without any such ratification was contemplated by the instructions given, and where it had with good faith been carried into immediate execution on the part of the United States.
These considerations not having restrained the British government from disavowing the arrangement by virtue of which its orders in council were to be revoked, and the event authorizing the renewal of commercial intercourse having thus not taken place, it necessarily became a question of equal urgency and importance, whether the act prohibiting that intercourse was not to be considered as remaining in legal force. This question being after due deliberation determined in the affirmative, a proclamation to that effect was issued. It could not but happen, however, that a return to this state of things from that which had followed an execution of the arrangement by the United States would involve difficulties. With a view to diminish these as much as possible, the instructions from the secretary of the treasury now laid before you were transmitted to the collectors of the several ports. If in permitting British vessels to depart without giving bonds not to proceed to their own ports it should appear that the tenor of legal authority has not been strictly pursued, it is to be ascribed to the