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It was a task too difficult to ascertain with precision, the lowest degree of force competent to the quelling of the insurrection. From a respect, indeed, to economy and the ease of my fellow-citizens belonging to the militia, it would have gratified me to accomplish such an estimate. My very reluctance to ascribe too much importance to the opposition, had its extent been accurately seen, would have been a decided inducement to the smallest efficient numbers. In this uncertainty, therefore, I put into motion fifteen thousand men, as being an army, which, according to all human calculation, would be prompt, and adequate in every view, and might perhaps, by rendering resistance desperate, prevent the effusion of blood. Quotas had been assigned to the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia ; the governour of Pennsylvania having declared on this occasion, an opinion which justified a requisition to the other states.
As commander in chief of the militia, when called into the actual service of the United States, I have visited the places of general rendezvous, to obtain more exact information, and to direct a plan for ulterior movements. Had there been room for a persuasion that the laws were secure from obstruction, that the civil magistrate was able to bring to justice such of the most culpable as have not embraced the proffered terms of amnesty, and may be deemed fit objects of example; that the friends to peace and good government were not in need of that aid and countenance, which they ought always to receive, and I trust ever will receive, against the vicious and turbulent, I should have caught with avidity the opportunity of restoring the militia to their families and home. But succeeding intelligence has tended to manifest the necessity of what has been done ; it being now confessed by those who were not inclined to exaggerate the ill conduct of the insurgents, that their malevolence was not pointed merely to a particular law; but that a spirit inimical to all order, has actuated many of the offenders. If the state of things had afforded reason for the continuance of my presence with the army, it would not have been withholden. But every appearance assuring such an issue, as will redound to the reputation and strength of the United States, I have judged it most proper to resume my duties at the seat of government, leaving the chief command with the governour of Virginia.
Still, however, as it is probable, that in a commotion like the present, whatsoever may be the pretence, the purposes of mischief and revenge may not be laid aside, the stationing of a small force for a certain period in the four western counties of Pennsylvania will be indispensable, whether we contemplate the situation of those who are connected with the execution of the laws, or of others who may have exposed themselves by an honourable attachment to them.
Thirty days from the commencement of this session, being the legal limitation of the employment of the militia, Congress cannot be too early occupied with this subject.
Among the discussions which may arise from this aspect of our affairs, and from the documents which will be submitted to Congress, it will not escape their observation, that not only the inspector of the revenue, but other officers of the United States in Pennsylvania, have, from their fidelity in the discharge of their functions, sustained material injuries to their property. The obligation and policy of indemnifying them are strong and obvious. It may also merit attention, whether policy will not enlarge this provision to the retribution of other citizens, who, though not under the ties of office, may have suffered damage by their generous exertions for upholding the constitution and the laws. The amount, even if all the injured were included, would not be great ; and on future emergencies, the government would be amply repaid by the influence of an example, that he who incurs a loss in its defence, shall find a recompense in its liberality.
While there is cause to lament, that occurrences of this nature should have disgraced the name, or interrupted the tranquillity of any part of our community, or should have diverted to a new application, any portion of the publick resources, there are not wanting real and substantial consolations for the misfortune. It has demonstrated, that our prosperity rests on solid foundations, by furnishing an additional proof, that my fellow-citizens understand the true principles of government and liberty ; that they feel their inseparable union; that, notwithstanding all the devices which have been used to sway them from their interest and duty, they are now as ready to maintain the
authority of the laws against licentious invasions, as they were to defend their rights against usurpation. It has been a spectacle, displaying to the highest advantage, the value of republican government, to behold the most and the least wealthy of our citizens standing in the same ranks as private soldiers,--pre-eminently distinguished by being the army of the constitution, undeterred by a march of three hundred miles over rugged mountains, by the approach of an inclement season, or by any other discouragement. Nor ought I to omit to acknowledge the efficacious and patriotick co-operation, which I have experienced from the chief magistrates of the states to which my requisitions have been addressed.
To every description, indeed, of citizens let praise be given ; but let them persevere in their affectionate vigilance over that precious depository of American happiness, the Constitution of the United States. Let them cherish it too, for the sake of those, who from every clime are daily seeking a dwelling in our land. And when in the calm moments of reflection, they shall have retraced the origin and progress of the insurrection, let them determine whether it has not been fomented by combinations of men, who, careless of consequences, and disregarding the uperring truth, that those who rouse, cannot always appease a civil convulsion, have disseminated, from an ignorance or perversion of facts, suspicions, jealousies, and accusations of the whole government.
Having thus fulfilled the engagement, which I took, when I entered into office, “ to the best of my ability to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," on you, gentlemen, and the people by whom you are deputed, I rely for support.
In the arrangements to which the possibility of a similar contingency will naturally draw your attention, it ought not to be forgotten, that the militia laws have exhibited such striking defects, as could not have been supplied but by the zeal of our citizens. Besides the extraordinary expense and waste, which are not the least of the defects, every appeal to those laws is attended with a doubt on its success.
The devising and establishing of a well regulated militia, would be a genuine source of legislative honour, and a perfect title to publick gratitude. I, therefore, entertain
a hope, that the present session will not pass, without carrying to its full energy the power of organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia ; and thus providing, in the language of the constitution, for calling them forth to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions.
As auxiliary to the state of our defence, to which Congress can never too frequently recur, they will not omit to inquire, whether the fortifications, which have been already licensed by law, be commensurate with our exigencies.
The intelligence from the army under the command of General Wayne, is a happy presage to our military operations against the hostile Indians north of the Ohio. From the advices which have been forwarded, the advance which he has made must have damped the ardour of the savages, and weakened their obstinacy in waging war against the United States. And yet, even at this late hour, when our power to punish them cannot be questioned, we shall not be unwilling to cement a lasting peace, upon terms of candour, equity, and good neighbourhood.
Towards none of the Indian tribes have overtures of friendship been spared. The Creeks in particular, are covered from encroachment by the interposition of the general government and that of Georgia. From a desire also to remove the discontents of the Six Nations, a settlement, meditated at Presqu’-isle, on Lake Erie, has been suspended; and an agent is now endeavouring to rectify any misconception, into which they may have fallen. But I cannot refrain from again pressing upon your deliberations, the plan which I recommended at the last session, for the improvement of harmony with all the Indians within our limits, by the fixing and conducting of trading houses, upon the principles then expressed.
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives,—The tine which has elapsed since the commencement of our fiscal measures, has developed our pecuniary resources, so as to open a way for a definitive plan for the redemption of the. publick debt. It is believed, that the result is such as to encourage Congress to consummate this work without delay. Nothing can more promote the permanent welfare of the nation, and nothing would be more grateful to our constituents. Indeed whatsoever is unfinished of our systeni of publick credit, cannot be benefited by procrastination; and as far as may be practicable, we ought to place that, credit on grounds which cannot be disturbed, and to prevent that progressive accumulation of debt which must ultimately endanger all governments.
An estimate of the necessary appropriations, including the expenditures into which we have been driven by the insurrection, will be submitted to Congress.
Gentlemen of the Senate, and of the House of Representatives,—The mint of the United States has entered upon the coinage of the precious metals, and considerable sums of defective coins and bullion have been lodged with the director by individuals. There is a pleasing prospect that the institution will, at no remote day, realize the expectation which was originally formed of its utility.
In subsequent communications, certain circumstances of our intercourse with foreign nations will be transmitted to Congress. However, it may not be unseasonable to announce that my policy in our foreign transactions has been, to cultivate peace with all the world; to observe treaties with pure and absolute faith ; to check every deviation from the line of impartiality ; to explain what may have been misapprehended, and correct what may have been injurious to any nation ; and having thus acquired the right, to lose no time in acquiring the ability, to insist upon justice being done to ourselves.
Let us unite, therefore, in imploring the Supreme Ruler of nations to spread his holy protection over these United States; to turn the machinations of the wicked to the confirming of our constitution; to enable us at all times to root out internal sedition, and put invasion to flight ; to perpetuate to our country that prosperity, which his goodness has already conferred, and to verify the anticipations of this government being a safeguard to human rights.