William Dunlap (American artist, 1766-1839) George Washington, c. 1783
President George Washington's
First Annual Message to Congress on the State of the Union on January 8, 1790
Senate & House of Representatives:
I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity which now presents itself of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important state of North Carolina to the Constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit & respectability of our country, the general & increasing good will toward the government of the Union, & the concord, peace, & plenty with which we are blessed are circumstances auspicious in an eminent degree to our national prosperity.
In resuming your consultations for the general good you can not but derive encouragement from the reflection that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents as the novelty & difficulty of the work allowed you to hope. Still further to realize their expectations & to secure the blessings which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach will in the course of the present important session call for the cool & deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, & wisdom.
Among the many interesting objects which will engage your attention that of providing for the common defense will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform & well-digested plan is requisite; & their safety & interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.
The proper establishment of the troops which may be deemed indispensable will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the officers & soldiers with a due regard to economy.
There was reason to hope that the pacific measures adopted with regard to certain hostile tribes of Indians would have relieved the inhabitants of our southern & western frontiers from their depredations, but you will perceive from the information contained in the papers which I shall direct to be laid before you (comprehending a communication from the Commonwealth of Virginia) that we ought to be prepared to afford protection to those parts of the Union, &, if necessary, to punish aggressors.
The interests of the United States require that our intercourse with other nations should be facilitated by such provisions as will enable me to fulfill my duty in that respect in the manner which circumstances may render most conducive to the public good, & to this end that the compensation to be made to the persons who may be employed should, according to the nature of their appointments, be defined by law, & a competent fund designated for defraying the expenses incident to the conduct of foreign affairs.
Various considerations also render it expedient that the terms on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of citizens should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization.
Uniformity in the currency, weights, & measures of the United States is an object of great importance, & will, I am persuaded, be duly attended to.
The advancement of agriculture, commerce, & manufactures by all proper means will not, I trust, need recommendation; but I can not forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement as well to the introduction of new & useful inventions from abroad as to the exertions of skill & genius in producing them at home, & of facilitating the intercourse between the distant parts of our country by a due attention to the post-office & post-roads.
Nor am I less persuaded that you will agree with me in opinion that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science & literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. In one in which the measures of government receive their impressions so immediately from the sense of the community as in ours it is proportionably essential.
To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways - by convincing those who are intrusted with the public administration that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people, & by teaching the people themselves to know & to value their own rights; to discern & provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression & the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience & those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness - cherishing the first, avoiding the last - & uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.
Whether this desirable object will be best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature.
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:
I saw with peculiar pleasure at the close of the last session the resolution entered into by you expressive of your opinion that an adequate provision for the support of the public credit is a matter of high importance to the national honor & prosperity. In this sentiment I entirely concur; & to a perfect confidence in your best endeavors to devise such a provision as will be truly with the end I add an equal reliance on the cheerful cooperation of the other branch of the legislature.
It would be superfluous to specify inducements to a measure in which the character & interests of the United States are so obviously so deeply concerned, & which has received so explicit a sanction from your declaration.
I have directed the proper officers to lay before you, respectively, such papers & estimates as regard the affairs particularly recommended to your consideration, & necessary to convey to you that information of the state of the Union which it is my duty to afford.
The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares & efforts ought to be directed, & I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, & equal government.