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Special Message

August 07, 1789

Gentlemen of the Senate:

The business which has hitherto been under the consideration of Congress has been of so much importance that I was unwilling to draw their attention from it to any other subject; but the disputes which exist between some of the United States and several powerful tribes of Indians within the limits of the Union, and the hostilities which have in several instances been committed on the frontiers, seem to require the immediate interposition of the General Government.

I have therefore directed the several statements and papers which have been submitted to me on this subject by General Knox to be laid before you for your information.

While the measures of Government ought to be calculated to protect its citizens from all injury and violence, a due regard should be extended to those Indian tribes whose happiness in the course of events so materially depends on the national justice and humanity of the United States.

If it should be the judgment of Congress that it would be most expedient to terminate all differences in the Southern district, and to lay the foundation for future confidence by an amicable treaty with the Indian tribes in that quarter, I think proper to suggest the consideration of the expediency of instituting a temporary commission for that purpose, to consist of three persons, whose authority should expire with the occasion. How far such a measure, unassisted by posts, would be competent to the establishment and preservation of peace and tranquillity on the frontiers is also a matter which merits your serious consideration.

Along with this object I am induced to suggest another, with the national importance and necessity of which I am deeply impressed; I mean some uniform and effective system for the militia of the United States. It is unnecessary to offer arguments in recommendation of a measure on which the honor, safety, and well-being of our country so evidently and so essentially depend; but it may not be amiss to observe that I am particularly anxious it should receive as early attention as circumstances will admit, because it is now in our power to avail ourselves of the military knowledge disseminated throughout the several States by means of the many well-instructed officers and soldiers of the late Army, a resource which is daily diminishing by death and other causes. To suffer this peculiar advantage to pass away unimproved would be to neglect an opportunity which will never again occur, unless, unfortunately, we should again be involved in a long and arduous war.


George Washington, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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