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Message in Reply to the House of Representatives

November 29, 1794

Address of the House of Representatives to George Washington, President of the United States.

SIR: The House of Representatives, calling to mind the blessings enjoyed by the people of the United States, and especially the happiness of living under constitutions and laws which rest on their authority alone, could not learn with other emotions than those you have expressed that any part of our fellow-citizens should have shewn themselves capable of an insurrection. And we learn with the greatest concern that any misrepresentations whatever of the Government and its proceedings, either by individuals or combinations of men, should have been made and so far credited as to foment the flagrant outrage which has been committed on the laws. We feel with you the deepest regret at so painful an occurrence in the annals of our country. As men regardful of the tender interests of humanity, we look with grief at scenes which might have stained our land with civil blood; as lovers of public order, we lament that it has suffered so flagrant a violation; as zealous friends of republican government, we deplore every occasion which in the hands of its enemies may be turned into a calumny against it.

This aspect of the crisis, however, is happily not the only one which it presents. There is another, which yields all the consolations which you have drawn from it. It has demonstrated to the candid world, as well as to the American people themselves, that the great body of them everywhere are equally attached to the luminous and vital principle of our Constitution, which enjoins that the will of the majority shall prevail; that they understand the indissoluble union between true liberty and regular government; that they feel their duties no less than they are watchful over their rights; that they will be as ready at all times to crush licentiousness as they have been to defeat usurpation. In a word, that they are capable of carrying into execution that noble plan of self-government which they have chosen as the guaranty of their own happiness and the asylum for that of all, from every clime, who may wish to unite their destiny with ours.

These are the just inferences flowing from the promptitude with which the summons to the standard of the laws has been obeyed, and from the sentiments which have been witnessed in every description of citizens in every quarter of the Union. The spectacle, therefore, when viewed in its true light, may well be affirmed to display in equal luster the virtues of the American character and the value of republican government. All must particularly acknowledge and applaud the patriotism of that portion of citizens who have freely sacrificed everything less dear than the love of their country to the meritorious task of defending its happiness.

In the part which you have yourself borne through this delicate and distressing period we trace the additional proofs it has afforded of your solicitude for the public good. Your laudable and successful endeavors to render lenity in executing the laws conducive to their real energy, and to convert tumult into order without the effusion of blood, form a particular title to the confidence and praise of your constituents. In all that may be found necessary on our part to complete this benevolent purpose, and to secure the ministers and friends of the laws against the remains of danger, our due cooperation will be afforded.

The other subjects which you have recommended or communicated, and of which several are peculiarly interesting, will all receive the attention which they demand. We are deeply impressed with the importance of an effectual organization of the militia. We rejoice at the intelligence of the advance and success of the army under the command of General Wayne, whether we regard it as a proof of the perseverance, prowess, and superiority of our troops, or as a happy presage to our military operations against the hostile Indians, and as a probable prelude to the establishment of a lasting peace upon terms of candor, equity, and good neighborhood. We receive it with the greater pleasure as it increases the probability of sooner restoring a part of the public resources to the desirable object of reducing the public debt.

We shall on this, as on all occasions, be disposed to adopt any measures which may advance the safety and prosperity of our country. In nothing can we more cordially unite with you than in imploring the Supreme Ruler of Nations to multiply his blessings on these United States; to guard our free and happy Constitution against every machination and danger, and to make it the best source of public happiness, by verifying its character of being the best safeguard of human rights.

NOVEMBER 28, 1794.

Reply of the President:

GENTLEMEN: I anticipated with confidence the concurrence of the House of Representatives in the regret produced by the insurrection. Every effort ought to be used to discountenance what has contributed to foment it, and thus discourage a repetition of like attempts; for notwithstanding the consolations which may be drawn from the issue of this event, it is far better that the artful approaches to such a situation of things should be checked by the vigilant and duly admonished patriotism of our fellow-citizens than that the evil should increase until it becomes necessary to crush it by the strength of their arm.

I am happy that the part which I have myself borne on this occasion receives the approbation of your House. For the discharge of a constitutional duty it is a sufficient reward to me to be assured that you will unite in consummating what remains to be done.

I feel also great satisfaction in learning that the other subjects which I have communicated or recommended will meet with due attention; that you are deeply impressed with the importance of an effectual organization of the militia, and that the advance and success of the army under the command of General Wayne is regarded by you, no less than myself, as a proof of the perseverance, prowess, and superiority of our troops.


NOVEMBER 29, 1794.

George Washington, Message in Reply to the House of Representatives Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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