« PreviousContinue »
WASHINGTON City, Dec. 3. 1805.
This day at 12 o'clock, the President of the United States communicated, by Mr. Coles, his Secretary, the following Message to both Houses of Congress.
To the Senate and House of Representatives
of the United States of America.
At a moment when the nations of Europe are in commotion and arming against each other, when those with whom we have principal intercourse are engaged in the general contest, and when the countenance of some of them towards our peaceable country threatens that even that may not be unaffected by what is passing on the general theatre, a meeting of the representatives of the nation in both Houses of Congress has become more then usually desirable. Coming from every section of our country, they bring with them the sentiments and information of the whole, and will be able to give a direction to the public affairs which the will and the wisdom of the whole will approve and support.
In taking a view of the state of our country, we in the first place notice the late affliction of two of our cities under the fatal fever which in latter times has occasionally visited our shores. Providence in his goodness gave it an early termination on this occasion, and lessened the number of victims which have usually fallen before it. In the course of the several visitations by this disease, it has appeared that it is strictly local, incident to cities and on the tide waters only, incommunicable in the country either by persons under the disease, or by goods carried from diseased places; that its access is with the autumn, and it disappears with the early frosts. These
restrictions within narrow limits of time and space give security even to our maritime cities, during three-fourths of the year, and to the country always. Although from these facts it appears unnecessary, yet, to satisfy the fears of foreign nations, and cautions on their part not to be complained of in a danger whose limits are yet unknown to them, I have strictly enjoined on the officers at the head of the customs to certify with exact truth, for every vessel sailing for a foreign port, the state of health respecting this fever which prevails at the place from which she sails. Under every motive from character and duty to certify the truth, I have no doubt they have faithfully executed this injunction.Much real injury has however been sustained from a propensity to identify with this endemic, and to call by the same name, fevers of very different kinds which have been known at all times, and in all countries, and never have been placed among those deemed contagious. As we advance in our knowledge of this disease, as facts develop the source from which individuals receive it, the State authorities charged with the care of the public health, and Congress with that of the general commerce, will become able to regulate with effect their respective functions in these departments. The burthen of Quarantine is felt at home as well as abroad; their efficacy merits examination. Although the health laws of the states should be found to need no present revisal by Congress, yet commerce claims that their attention be ever awake to them.
Since our last meeting the aspect of our foreign relations has considerably changed. Our coasts have been infested, and our harbours watched by private armed vessels, some of them without commissions, some with illegal commissions, others with those of legal form, but committing piratical acts beyond the authority of their commissions. They have captured in the very entrance of our harbours as well as on the high seas, not only the vessels of our friends coming to trade with us, but our own also. They have carried them off under pretence of legal adjudication ; but not daring to approach a court of justice, they have plundered and sunk them by the way, in obscure places, where no evidence could arise against them, maltreated the crews, and abandoned them in boats in
the open sea, or on desert shores, without food or covering. These enormities appearing to be unreached by any control of their sovereigns, I found it necessary to equip a force, to cruise within our own seas, to arrest all vessels of these descriptions found hovering on our coasts, within the limits of the gulf stream, and to bring the offenders in for trial as pirates.
The same system of hovering on our coasts and harbours, under colour of seeking enemies, has been also carried on by public armed ships, to the great annoyance and oppression of our commerce. New principles too have been interpolated into the law of nations, founded neither in justice nor the usage or acknowledgment of nations. According to these a belligerent takes to itself a commerce with its own enemy, which it denies to a neutral, on the ground of its aiding that enemy in the war.
But reason revolts at such an inconsistency, and the neutral having equal right with the belligerent to decide the question, the interests of our constituents, and the duty of maintaining the authority of reason, the only umpire between just nations, impose on us the obligation of providing an effectual and determined opposition to a doctrine so injurious to the rights of peaceable nations. Indeed the confidence we ought to have in the justice of others, still countenances the hope that a sounder view of those rights will of itself induce from every belligerent a more correct observance of them.
With Spain our negociations for a settlement of differences have not had a satisfactory issue. Spoliations during the former war, for which she had formally acknowledged herself responsible, have been refused to be compensated but on conditions affecting other claims in no wise connected with them. Yet the same practices are renewed in the present war, and are already of great amount. On the Mobile our commerce passing through that river continues to be obstructed by arbitrary duties and vexatious searches. Propositions for adjusting amicably the boundaries of Louisiana have not been acceded to. While, however, the right is unsettled, we have avoided changing the state of things, by taking new posts, or strengthening ourselves in the disputed territories, in the hope
that that power would not, by a contrary conduct, oblige us to meet their example, and endanger conflicts of authority, the issue of which may not be easily controlled. But in this hope we have now reason to lessen our confidence. Inroads have been recently made into the territories of Orleans and the Missisippi, our citizens have been seized and their property plundered in the very parts of the former which had been actually delivered up by Spain, and this by the regular officers and soldiers of that government. I have therefore found it necessary at length to give orders to our troops on that frontier to be in readiness to protect our citizens and to repel by arms any similar aggressions in future. Other details, necessary for your full information of the state of things between this country and that, shall be the subject of another communication. In reviewing these injuries from some of the belligerent powers, the moderation, the firmness and the wisdom of the legislature will all be called into action. We ought still to hope that time and a more correct estimate of interest as well as of character will produce the justice we are bound to expect. But should
But should any nation deceive itself by false calculations, and disappoint that expectation, we must join in the unprofitable contest, of trying which party can do the other the most harm. Some of these injuries may perhaps admit a peaceable remedy. Where that is competent it is always most desirable. But some of them are of a nature to be met by force only, and all of them may lead to it. I cannot therefore but recommend such preparations as circumstances call for. The first object is to place our sea port towns out of the danger
of insult. Measures have been already taken for furnishing them with heavy cannon for the service of such land batteries as may make a part of their defence against armed vessels approaching them. In aid of these it is desirable we should have a competent number of gun-boats, and the number to be competent must be considerable. If immediately begun, they may be in readiness for service at the opening of the next season. Whether it will be necessary to augment our land forces will be decided by occurrences probably in the course of your session. In the mean time you will consider whether it would not be expedient, for a state of peace as well
as of war, so to organize or class the militia, as would erfable us on any sudden emergency, to call for the services of the younger portions, unincumbered with the old and those having families. Upwards of three hundred thousand able bodied men, between the ages of eighteen and twenty-six years, which the last census shews we may now count within our limits, will furnish a competent number for offence or defence, in any point where they may be wanted, and will give time for raising regular forces after the necessity of them shall become certain ; and the reducing to the earlier period of life all its active service cannot but be desirable to our younger citizens, of the present as well as future times, inasmuch as it engages to them in more advanced age a quiet and undisturbed repose in the bosom of their families.--I cannot then but earnestly recommend 'to your early consideration the expediency of so modifying our militia system as, by a separation of the more active part from that which is less so, we may draw from it, when necessary, an efficient corps, fit for real and active service, and to be called to it in regular rotation.
Considerable provision has been made under former authorities from Congress, of materials for the construction of ships of war of seventy-four guns. These materials are on hand subject to the further will of the legislature.
An immediate prohibition of the exportation of arms and ammunition is also submitted to your determination.
Turning from these unpleasant views of violence and wrong, I congratulate you on the liberation of our fellow-citizens who were stranded on the coast of Tripoli and made prisoners of
In a government bottomed on the will of all, the life and liberty of every individual citizen become interesting to all. In the treaty therefore which has concluded our warfare with that state an article for the ransom of our citizens has been agreed to. An operation by land, by a small band of our countrymen, and others engaged for the occasion, in conjunction with the troops of the Ex-Bashaw of that country, gallantly conducted by our late consul Eaton, and their successful enterprise on the city of Derne, contributed doubtless to the impression which produced peace, and the conclusion of this prevented opportunities of which the officers and men of our