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TO THE FIFTH PART.
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.
SPEECHES TO CONGRESS.
TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS,
APRIL 30th, 1789.
FELLOW-CITIZENS OF THE SENATE
AND HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, 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
deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver is, that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is, that, if in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens; and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me; my error will be opalliated by the motives which misled me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every-instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the affairs of men, more than the people of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation,