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J. ADAMS'S FIRST ANNUAL ADDRESS.
NOVEMBER 23, 1797. Gentlemen of the Senate
and House of Representatives : I was for some time apprehensive that it would be necessary, on account of the contagious sickness which afflicted the city of Philadelphia, to convene the national legislature at some other place. This measure it was desirable to avoid, because it would occasion much public inconvenience, and a considerable public expense, and add to the calamities of the inhabitants of this city, whose sufferings must have excited the sympathy of all their fellow-citizens; therefore, after taking measures to ascertain the state and decline of the sickness, I postponed my determination, having hopes, now happily realized, that, without hazard to the lives of the members, Congress might assemble at this place, where it was by law next to meet. I submit, however, to your consideration, whether a power to postpone the meeting of Congress, without passing the time fixed by the constitution, upon such occasions, would not be a useful amendment to the law of one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four.
Although I cannot yet congratulate you on the reestablishment of peace in Europe, and the restoration of security to the persons and properties of our citizens from injustice and violence at sea, - we have, nevertheless, abundant cause of gratitude to the Source of benevolence and influence, for interior tranquillity and personal security, for propitious seasons, prosperous agriculture, productive fisheries, and general improvements, and, above all, for a rational spirit of civil and religious liberty, and a calm but steady determination to support our eignty, as well as our moral and religious principles, against all open and secret attacks.
Our envoys extraordinary to the French republic embarked, one in July, the other early in August, to join their colleague in Holland. I have received intelligence of the arrival of both of them in Holland, from whence
they all proceeded on their journey to Paris, within a few days of the 19th of September. Whatever may be the result of this mission, I trust that nothing will have been omitted, on my part, to conduct the negotiation to a successful conclusion, on such equitable terms as may be compatible with the safety, honor, and interest of the United States. Nothing, in the mean time, will contribute so much to the preservation of peace, and the attainment of justice, as a manifestation of that energy and unanimity, of which, on many former occasions, the people of the United States have given such memorable proofs, and the exertion of those resources for national defence which a beneficent Providence has kindly placed within their power.
It may be confidently asserted that nothing has occurred, since the adjournment of Congress, which renders inexpedient those precautionary measures recommended by me to the consideration of the two houses, at the opening of your late extraordinary session. If that system was then prudent, it is more so now, as increasing depredations strengthen the reasons for its adoption.
Indeed, whatever may be the issue of the negotiation with France, or whether the war in Europe is, or is not, to continue, I hold it most certain, that permanent tranquillity and order will not soon be obtained. The state of society has so long been disturbed, the sense of moral and religious obligations so much weakened, public faith and national honor have been so impaired, respect to treaties has been so diminished, and the law of nations has lost so much of its force, while pride, ambition, avarice, and violence, have been so long unrestrained,
there remains no reasonable ground on which to raise an expectation, that a commerce without protection or defence will not be plundered.
The commerce of the United States is essential, if not to their existence, at least to their comfort, their growth, prosperity, and happiness. The genius, character, and habits of the people are highly commercial ; their cities have been formed and exist upon commerce; our agriculture, fisheries, arts, and manufactures, are connected with and depend upon it. In short, commerce has made this
country what it is, and it cannot be destroyed or neglected without involving the people in poverty and distress. Great numbers are directly and solely supported by navigation; the faith of society is pledged for the preservation of the rights of commercial and seafaring, no less than of the other citizens. Under this view of our affairs, I should hold myself guilty of a neglect of duty, if I forbore to recommend that we should make every exertion to protect our commerce, and to place our country in a suitable posture of defence, as the only sure means of preserving both.
I have entertained an expectation that it would have been in my power, at the opening of this session, to have communicated to you the agreeable information of the due execution of our treaty with his Catholic majesty, respecting the withdrawing of his troops from our territory, and the demarkation of the line of limits; but, by the latest authentic intelligence, Spanish garrisons were still continued within our country, and the running of the boundary line had not been commenced; these circumstances are the more to be regretted, as they cannot fail to affect the Indians in a manner injurious to the United States. Still, however, indulging the hope that the answers which have been given will remove the objections offered by the Spanish officers to the immediate execution of the treaty, I have judged it proper that we should continue in readiness to receive the posts, and to run the line of limits. Further information on this subject will be communicated in the course of the session.
In connection with this unpleasant state of things on our western frontier, it is proper for me to mention the attempts of foreign agents to alienate the affections of the Indian nations, and to excite them to actual hostilities against the United States; great activity has been exerted by those persons who have insinuated themselves among the Indian tribes residing within the territory of the United States, to influence them to transfer their affections and force to a foreign nation, to form them into a confederacy, and prepare them for a war against the United States. Although measures have been taken to counteract these infractions of our rights, to prevent In
dian hostilities, and to preserve entire their attachment to the United States, it is my duty to observe, that, to give a better effect to these measures, and to obviate the consequences of a repetition of such practices, a law providing adequate punishment for such offences may be necessary.
The commissioners appointed under the fifth article of the treaty of amity, commerce, and navigation, between the United States and Great Britain, to ascertain the river which was truly intended under the name of the River St. Croix, mentioned in the treaty of peace, met at Passamaquoddy Bay, in October, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-six, and viewed the mouths of the rivers in question, and adjacent shores on the islands; and being of opinion, that actual surveys of both rivers,a'to their sources, were necessary, gave to the agents of the two nations instructions for that purpose, and adjourned to meet at Boston, in August. They met; but the surveys requiring more time than had been supposed, and not being then completed, the commissioners again adjourned to meet at Providence, in the state of Rhode Island, in June next, when we may expect a final examination and decision.
The commissioners appointed in pursuance of the sixth article of the treaty, met at Philadelphia, in May last, to examine the claims of British subjects for debts contracted before the peace, and still remaining due to them from citizens or inhabitants of the United States. Various causes have hitherto prevented any determinations; but the business is now resumed, and doubtless will be prosecuted without interruption.
Several decisions on the claims of the citizens of the United States for losses and damages sustained by reason of irregular and illegal captures or condemnations of their vessels or other property, have been made by the commissioners in London, conformably to the seventh article of the treaty. The sums awarded by the commissioners have been paid by the British government; a considerable number of other claims, where costs and damages, and not captured property, were the only objects in question, have
been decided by arbitration, and the sums 'awarded to the citizens of the United States have also been paid.
The commissioners appointed agreeably to the twentyfirst article of our treaty with Spain, met at Philadelphia, in the summer past, to examine and decide on the claims of our citizens for losses they have sustained in consequence of their vessels and cargoes having been taken by the subjects of his Catholic majesty during the late war between Spain and France. Their sittings have been interrupted, but are now resumed.
The United States being obligated to make compensation for the losses and damages sustained by British subjects, upon the award of the commissioners acting under the sixth article of the treaty with Great Britain, and for the losses and damages sustained by British subjects, by reason of the capture of their vessels and merchandise, taken within the limits and jurisdiction of the United States, and brought into their ports, or taken by vessels originally armed in ports of the United States, upon the awards of the commissioners, acting under the seventh article of the same treaty; it is necessary that provision be made for fulfilling these obligations.
The numerous captures of American vessels by the cruisers of the French republic, and of some of those of Spain, have occasioned considerable expenses in making and supporting the claims of our citizens before their tribunals. The sums required for this purpose have, in divers instances, been disbursed by the consuls of the United States. By means of the same captures, great numbers of our seamen have been thrown ashore in foreign countries, destitute of all means of subsistence, and the sick, in particular, have been exposed to grievous sufferings. The consuls have, in these cases also, advanced money for their relief; for these advances they reasonably expect reimbursements from the United States.
The consular act, relative to seamen, requires revision and amendment; the provisions for their support in foreign countries, and for their return, are found to be inadequate and ineffectual. Another provision seems necessary to be added to the consular act; some foreign vessels