Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECOND DRAUGHT - The Works, vol. 10 (Correspondence and Papers 1803-1807)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
SECOND DRAUGHT - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 10 (Correspondence and Papers 1803-1807) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 10.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
To the Senate & H. of Representatives of the U.S.
Circumstances, fellow citizens, which seriously threaten the peace & prosperity of our country, have made it a duty to convene you at an earlier period than usual. That love of peace so much cherished in the bosoms of our citizens, which has so long guided the proceedings of their public councils, and induced forbearance under so many wrongs, has not been sufficient to secure us may not ensure to us a our continuance in the quiet pursuits of industry, and the moment seems approaching when we may owe it to mankind, as well as to ourselves to restrain wrong by resistance, and to defeat those calculations of which is not the sole principles justice is not the basis. You well know the long train of injuries and depredations under which our commerce and navigation have been afflicted on the high seas for years past; the successive innovations on those rules principles of public law which have been established by the reason and usage of nations to regulate as the rule of their intercourse, and be the umpire and guardian of their rights & peace. These violations we have met with friendly remonstrances only, always indulging the hope that reason would at length prevail over the dictates of a mistaken interest, and that voluntary redress would spare us the actual calamities of war. In order to bring our differences to so desirable a termination, a mission extraordinary to that government took place, with instructions framed in the truest spirit of amity and moderation, & with the usual powers for preparing a treaty which might place the relations of the two nations on a friendly & permanent basis. After long & earnest efforts to obtain conditions of some equality, & within the limits of their instructions, our Ministers, finding that could not be done, thought it advisable to sign an instrument, for our consideration with the frank avowal, at the same time, to the other negociators that they did it against their instructions, & could not pledge their government for it’s ratification. It was in truth inadmissible. Still anxious to provide for peace, even by greater sacrifices of right than could before have been thought necessary, our ministers were authorized to make further efforts for accommodation. On this new reference to amicable discussion we were reposing in confidence, when on the 22d day of June last, by a formal order from a British Admiral, the frigate Chesapeake leaving her port for a distant service, was attacked by one of these vessels which had been lying in our harbors under the indulgences of hospitality, was disabled from proceeding, had several of her crew killed & four taken away. On this outrage no temperate commentaries can be made nor can be are necessary. It’s character has been pronounced by the indignant voice of our citizens with an emphasis & unanimity never exceeded. I immediately by Proclamation interdicted our harbors and waters to all British armed vessels, forbade intercourse with them, and uncertain how far hostilities were intended, and the town of Norfolk indeed being threatened with immediate attack, a sufficient force was ordered for the protection of that place, and such other preparations commenced & pursued as the prospect rendered proper. An armed vessel of the US was dispatched with instructions to our ministers at London to call on that government for the satisfaction and security required by the outrage for the outrage committed indemnity an assurance against the practice which had led to it. A very short interval ought now to bring the answer which shall be communicated to you as soon as received. Then also, or as soon after as the public interests shall be found to admit, the unratified treaty, and proceedings relative to it, shall be made known to you.
The aggression thus begun has been continued on the part of the British commanders, by remaining within our waters in defiance of the authority of the country, by habitual violations of it’s jurisdiction, and at length by putting to death one of the persons whom they had forcibly taken from on board the Chesapeake. These aggravations having taken place since the communication forwarded to our ministers, must of course furnish serious demands of additional reparation on that government & necessarily lead to the policy either of never admitting an armed vessel into our harbors, or of maintaining in every harbour such an armed force as may constrain obedience to the laws & protect the lives and property of our citizens against their armed guests. But the expense of such a standing force and it’s inconsistence with our principles dispense with all those obligations of hospitality which would necessarily call for it, & leave us equally free to exclude the Navy, as we are the Army of a foreign power within from entering our limits.
With these aggressions in view, we can scarcely bring our minds to notice any new violations of maritime rights which has been added to former unlawful practices. To former violations of maritime rights another is now added of very serious extent. One however is of such extent as cannot be overlooked. The government of that nation has issued an order interdicting all trade by Neutrals between ports not in amity with them. And being now at war with nearly every nation on the Atlantic & Mediterranean seas, our vessels are required to sacrifice their cargoes at the first port they touch, or to return home without the benefit of going to any other market. Under this new law of the Ocean, our trade on the Mediterranean has been swept away by seisures & condemnations, and that on other seas is threatened with the same fate.
Our differences with Spain remain still unsettled, no measure having been taken on her part, since my last communications to Congress to bring them to a close. But under a state of things, which may favor reconsideration, they have been recently pressed, and may be expected without further delay to an expectation is entertained that they may now soon be brought to an issue of some sort. To our former grounds of complaint has been added a very serious one, as you will see by the decree, a copy of which is now communicated. Proper representations have been made on the occasion and I have reason to expect they have not been without effect. No new collisions with their subjects on our borders have taken place, or seem to be apprehended during the short period now to intervene before an answer which shall decide our course will be decided by other circumstances. With their subjects on our borders no new collisions have taken place; nor seem immediately to be apprehended. Whether this decree which professes to be conformable to that of the French government of Nov. 21. 1806, before communicated to Congress, will also be conformed to that in it’s construction and application in relation to the US. had not been ascertained at the date of our last communications. These however gave reason to expect that it would.
With the other nations of Europe our harmony has been uninterrupted, & commerce & friendly intercourse have been maintained on their usual footing.
Our peace with the several states on the coast of Barbary appears as firm as at any former period, and as likely to continue as that of any other nation.
Among our Indian neighbors in the North Western quarter, some fermentation was observed soon after the late occurrences threatening the continuance of our peace. Messages were said to be interchanged and tokens to be passing which usually denote a state of restlessness among them, & the character of the Agitators pointed to the source of excitement. Measures were immediately taken for providing against that danger. Instructions were given to require explanations, and with assurances of our continued friendship, to admonish the tribes to remain quiet at home, taking no part in quarrels not belonging to them. As far as we are yet informed, the tribes in our vicinity, who are most advanced in the pursuits of industry are sincerely disposed to adhere to their friendship with us & to their peace to adhere to their friendship with us and to their peace with all others while those more remote do not present appearances sufficiently quiet to justify the intermission of military precaution on our part.
The great tribes on our South Western quarter, much advanced beyond the others in agriculture and household arts, appear tranquil and identifying their views with ours, in proportion to their advancements. With the whole of these people, in every quarter, I shall continue to inculcate peace and friendship with all their neighbors, & perseverance in those occupations and pursuits which will best promote their own well being.
The appropriations, of the last session, for the defence of our Seaboard towns & harbors, were made under expectation that a continuance of our peace would permit us to proceed in that work according to our convenience. It has been thought better to apply the sums then given chiefly towards the defence of New York, Charleston, & New Orleans chiefly as most open and most likely first to need protection; and to leave places less immediately in danger to the provisions of the present session.
The gunboats too already provided have, on a like principle, been chiefly assigned to New York, New Orleans & the Chesapeake. Whether our moveable force on the water, so material in aid of the defensive works on the land, should be augmented in this or any other form, is left to the wisdom of the legislature. For the purpose of manning these vessels, in sudden attacks on our harbours, it is a matter for consideration whether the seamen of the US. may not justly be formed into a special militia, to be called on for tours of duty, in defence of the harbours where they shall happen to be; the ordinary militia of the place furnishing that portion which may consist of landsmen.
The moment our peace was threatened, I deemed it indispensable to secure ample a greater provision of every article of military stores, with which our magazines were not sufficiently furnished. To have awaited a previous and special sanction by law, would have lost occasions which might never be retrieved. I did not hesitate therefore to authorize engagements for such supplements to our existing stock as would render it adequate to the emergencies threatening us. These contracts are considerable, and depend for their execution on provisions to be made by the legislature, which feeling the same anxiety for the safety of our country, so materially ensured by the precaution, will, I trust, approve when done, what they would have seen so important to be done if then assembled. Accounts of these contracts shall be laid before you.
Whether a regular army is to be raised & to what extent, must depend on the information so shortly expected. In the meantime I have called on the states for quotas of militia to be in readiness for present defence; and have moreover encouraged the acceptance of volunteers, and I am happy to inform you that these have offered themselves with great alacrity in every part of the Union. They are ordered to be organized, and ready at a moment’s warning, to proceed on any service to which they may be called, and every preparation within the Executive powers, has been made to ensure us the benefit of early exertions.
I informed Congress at their last session of the enterprises against the public peace which were believed to be in preparation by Aaron Burr and his associates, of the measures taken to defeat them, & to bring the offenders to justice. Their enterprises were have been happily defeated, by the patriotic exertions of the militia, wherever called into action, by the fidelity of the army, and energy of the Commander in chief in promptly arranging the difficulties presenting themselves on the Sabine, repairing to meet those arising on the Mississippi, and dissipating, before their explosion, plots engendering there. And truth & duty alone extort the observation that whenever the laws were appealed to in aid of the public safety, their operation was on behalf of those only against whom they were invoked. As a part of the public you have learned the arraignment of the principal offenders in the District court of Virginia. I have thought it shall consider it my duty to lay before you the proceedings, & the evidence publicly exhibited on the arraignment of the principal offenders before the District court of Virginia, there, together with some evidence which was not publicly there heard. From the whole you will be enabled to judge whether the defect was in the testimony, in the law, or in the administration of the law; and wherever itshall be found, the legislature alone can apply or originate the remedy. The framers of our constitution certainly supposed they had guarded, as well their government against destruction by treason, as their citizens against oppression under pretence of it: and if these ends are not obtained, it becomes worthy of enquiry is of importance to enquire by what means, more effectual, they may be secured.
Finance. The accounts of the receipts of revenue during the present year being not yet all made up received, a correct statement will be hereafter transmitted from the Treasury. In the meantime it is ascertained that the receipts have Dollars; which with millions in the treasury at the beginning of the year have enabled us, after meeting the current demands and interest incurred, to pay millions of the principal of our funded debt. These paiments, with those of the preceding five & a half years have extinguished of the funded debt, millions of dollars, being the whole which could be paid or purchased within the limits of the law, and of our contract, and have left us in the treasury millions of Dollars. A portion of this sum may be considered as a commencement of accumulation of the surpluses of revenue, which, after paying the instalments of debt, as they shall become payable, will remain without specific object. A part indeed may be advantageously applied towards providing defence for the exposed points of our country, on such a scale as shall be adapted to our principles & circumstances. This object is doubtless among the first entitled to attention, in such a state of our finances, and it is one which, whether we have peace or war, will give security where it is due. Whether what shall remain of this, with the future surpluses, may be usefully applied to purposes already authorized, or more usefully to others requiring new authorities, or how otherwise they shall be disposed of, are questions calling for the notice of Congress; unless indeed they shall be superceded by a change in in our public relations, now awaiting the determination of others. Whatever be that determination it is a great consolation that it will become known at a moment when the supreme council of the nation is assembled at it’s post, and ready to give the aids of it’s wisdom & authority to whatever course the good of our country shall then call us to pursue.
Matters of minor importance will be the subjects of future communications; and nothing shall be wanting on my part which may give information or dispatch to the proceedings of the legislature in the exercise of their high functions, and at a moment so interesting to the public welfare.