George Washington (October 25, 1791)
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
"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
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
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 of justice. 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
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 been 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 the last of the two objects; but it is probable that with a view
to the first in some instances a revision of the provision will be found
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 States 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
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 and
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
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 United States.
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 utility.
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.