Item of the Day: Speech of the President of the United States to Congress (May 16, 1797)

Found In: State Papers and Publick Documents of the United States from the Accession of George Washington to the Presidency, Exhibiting a Complete View of our Foreign Relations since that Time. 1797. Boston: Printed and published by T. B. Wait & Sons, David Hale, agent for the States of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, 1815.

 

SPEECH OF THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES TO CONGRESS. 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 casue of gratitude to the Supreme Dispenser of national blessings for general health and promising seasons; for domestick 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; solicitious 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 cause 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 Republick; being “to maintain that good understanding, which from the commencement of the alliance had subsisted between the two nations; and to efface unfavourable 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 dispositon of the government and people of the United States, (their dispositon being one) to remove jealousies, and obiate complaints, by showing that they were groundless; to restore that mutual confidence which had been so unfortunately and injuriously imparied; and to explain the relative interests of both countries, and the real sentiments of his own.” . . .

 

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Filed under 1790's, Congress, Early Republic, Foreign Relations, France, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Washington

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