« PreviousContinue »
IN the time of Washington's administration, it was customary for the President, at the opening of each session of Congress, to meet the two houses in person, and deliver a written speech. Each house returned an answer to this speech some days afterwards, by a committee, who waited on him for the purpose; and he at the same time made a brief reply. All his Speeches to Congress are contained in this volume, and all his replies to the answers of the two houses. The answers themselves may be found in the Journals of Congress.
The Messages were written communications on topics, which had not been introduced into the Speech, but which required the attention of Congress. They were sent at different times in the course of the session. Many of them were very short, being accompanied with illustrative and explanatory documents. All those, which are important for the matter or the sentiments they contain, have been selected for this work.
Such of the Proclamations, as have any permanent value, are here collected. The others, which merely announced the ratification of treaties, are brief and unimportant.
The public Addresses, received and answered by Washington, are very numerous. Those included in the period of his Presidency fill three manuscript volumes. A large number of them had an occasional and temporary interest only ; and, as the plan of this work would not admit of the publication of the whole, a selection has been made of those, which are thought to have the highest claim. This selection is confined to his answers. Frequently the date is not recorded in the manuscript copy. But the addresses and answers appear to have been arranged in the order of time, and thus the dates have been fixed with considerable accuracy. When the year, month, and day are noted, the exact date is known; but, when the year and month, or the year only, are indicated, nothing more could be ascertained. These particulars it is thought proper to mention, as explaining the reason why the dates of the addresses in some instances are not given With more precision.
SPEECH E S TO CON GRESS.
IN AU GURAL SPEECH
FELLow-Citiz ENs of the SENATE AND Hous E of REPREs ENTATIVEs, Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me with greater anxieties, than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years; a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me, by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust, to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own WOL. XII. 1 A