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“Relying on its kindness in this, as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation, that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government—the ever favourite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labours, and dangers.”
This Address to the people of the United States was received with the highest veneration and gratitude. Several of the State Legislatures ordered it to be put upon their journals, and every citizen considered it as the legacy of the most distinguished American Patriot.
On the 7th of December, 1796, the President for the last time, met the National Legislature. In his Speech, after taking a view of the situation of the United States, he, regardless of opposition and censure, recommended the attention of Congress to those measures which he deemed essential to national independence, honour, and prosperity. The first among these was the creation of a Navy.
“ To an active external commerce, the protection of a naval force is indispensable. This is manifest with regard to wars in which a State is itself a party: but besides this, it is in our own experience, that the most sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the depredations of nations at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag requires a naval force, organized and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even prevent the necessity of going to war, by discouraging belligerent powers from committing such violations of the rights of the neutral party, as may first or last, leave no other option. From the best information I have been able to obtain,
it would seem as if our trade to the Mediterranean, without a protecting force, will always be insecure ; and our citizens exposed to the calamities from which numbers of them have but just been relieved.
6. These considerations invite the United States to look to the means, and to set about the gradual creation of a Navy. The increasing progress of their navigation promises them, at no distant period, the requisite supply of seamen; and their means, in other respects, favour the undertaking. It is an encouragement, likewise, that their particular situation will give weight and influence to a moderate naval force in their hands. Will it not then be adviseable to begin without delay to provide and lay up materials for the building and equipping of ships of war; and to proceed in the work by degrees, in proportion as our resources shall render it practicable without inconvenience ; so that a future war of Europe may not find our commerce in the same unprotected state in which it was found by the present.”
He proceeded to recommend those establishments for the manufacturing such articles as are necessary for the defence of the country, an institution for the improvement of agriculture, a Military Academy, and a National University. In reference to foreign powers, he observed :
“ While in our external relations, some serious inconveniences and embarrassments have been overcome, and others lessened, it is with much pain and deep regret I mention that circumstances, of a very unwelcome nature, have lately occurred. Our trade has suffered, and is suffering extensive injuries in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of the French Republick ; and communications have been received from its minister here, which indicate the danger of a further disturbance of our commerce by its authority; and which are in other respects far from agreeable.
“ It has been my constant, sincere, and earnest wish, in conformity with that of our nation, to maintain cordial harmony, and a perfectly friendly understanding with that Republick. This wish remains unabated; and I shall persevere in the endeavour to fulfil it to the utmost extent of what shall be consistent with a just and indispensable regard to the rights and honour of our country; nor will I easily cease to cherish the expectation, that a spirit of justice, candour, and friendship, on the part of the Republick, will eventually en
“ In pursuing this course, however, I cannot forget what is due to the character of our government and nation; or to a full and entire confidence in the good sense, patriotism, self-respect, and fortitude of my countrymen.”
In the following manner, he concluded his Address.
“ The situation in which I now stand, for the last time, in the midst of the representatives of the people of the United States, naturally recalls the period when the administration of the present form of Government commenced ; and I cannot omit this occa. sion to congratulate you and my country on the success of the experiment; nor to repeat my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and Sovereign Arbiter of Nations, that his providential care may still be extended to the United States; that the virtue and happiness of the people may be preserved, and that the government which they have instituted for the protection of their liberties, may be perpetual.”
The Senate in their reply approved the sentiments of the address, and, noticing the prosperity of the United States, they added,
" Whilst contemplating the causes that produced this auspicious result, we must acknowledge the excellence of the constitutional system, and the wisdom of the legislative provisions ; but we should be deficient in gratitude and justice, did we not attribute a great portion of these advantages to the virtue, firmness, and talents of your administration; which have been conspicuously displayed, in the most trying times, and on the most critical occasions ; it is therefore with the sincerest regret, that we now receive an official notification of your intentions to retire from the publick employments of your country.
« When we review the various scenes of your publick life, so long and so successfully devoted to the most arduous services, civil and military ; as well dur. ing the struggles of the American Revolution, as the convulsive periods of a recent date, we cannot look forward to your retirement without our warmest affections and most anxious regards accompanying you ; and without mingling with our fellow citizens at large, in the sincerest wishes for your personal happiness, that sensibility and attachment can express.
« The most effectual consolation that can offer for the loss we are about to sustain, arises from the animating reflection that the influence of your example will extend to your successors, and the United States thus continue to enjoy an able, upright, and energetick Administration."
In the House of Representatives, an answer, which promised attention to the several subjects recommended in the Speech, and concluded as follows, was after pointed objection and warm debate, voted by a large majority.
“ And while we entertain a grateful conviction that your wise, firm, and patriotick administration has been signally conducive to the success of the present, form of government, we cannot forbear to express the deep sensations of regret with which we contemplate your intended retirement from office.
" As no other suitable occasion may occur, we can: not suffer the present to pass without attempting to VOL. II.
disclose some of the emotions which it cannot fail to awaken.
“ The gratitude and admiration of your country, men are still drawn to the recollection of those resplendent virtues and talents which were so eminently instrumental to the achievement of the Revolution, and of which that glorious event will ever be the memorial. Your obedience to the voice of duty and your country, when you quitted reluctantly, a second time, the retreat you had chosen, and first accepted the Presidency, afforded a new proof of the devotedness of your zeal in its service, and an earnest of the patriotism and success which have characterized your Administration. As the grateful confidence of the citizens in the virtues of their Chief Magistrate has essentially contributed to that success, we persuade oursolves that the millions whom we represent, participate with us in the anxious solicitude of the present occasion.
“ Yet we cannot be unmindful that your moderation and magnanimity, twice displayed by retiring from your exalted stations, afford examples no less rare and instructive to mankind than valuable to a Republick.
“ Although we are sensible that this event, of itself, completes the lustre of a character already conspicuously unrivalled by the coincidence of virtue, talents, success, and publick estimation ; yet we conceive we owe it to you, sir, and still more emphatically to ourselves and to our nation, (of the language of whose hearts we presume to think ourselves, at this moment, the faithful interpreters) to express the sentiments with which it is contemplated.
The spectacle of a free and enlightened nation, offering by its Representatives the tribute of unfeigned approbation to its first citizen, however novel and interesting it may be, derives all its lustre (a lustre which accident or enthusiasm could not bestow, and