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925. Congress adjourned on the 2d of August, after a session of ten weeks. The first Monday in December following was fixed by law for their next meeting.
12th CONGRESS24 SESSION.
Message from the President of the United States to both Houses
of Congress at the commencement of the Session.
Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives.
ON our present meeting it is my first duty to invite your attention to the providential favours which our country has experienced, in the unusual degree of health dispensed to its inhabitants, and in the rich abundance with which the earth has rewarded the labours bestowed on it. In the successful cultivation of other branches of industry, and in the progress of general improvement, favourable to the national prosperity, there is just occasion, also, for our mutual congratulations and thankfulness.
With these blessings are necessarily mingled the pressures and vicissitudes incident to the state of war, into which the United Slates have been forced by the perseverance of a foreign power in its system of injustice and aggression.
Previous to its declaration, it was deemed proper, as a measure of precaution and forecast, that a considerable force should be placed in the Michigan territory, with a general view to its security, and, in the event of war, to such operations in the uppermost Canada, as would intercept the hostile influence of Great Britain over the savages, obtain the command of the lake on which that part of Canada borders, and maintain co-operating relations with such forces as might be most conveniently employ.
ed against other parts. Brigadier-general Hull was charged with this provisional service; having under his command a body of troops, composed of regulars, and of volunteers from the state of Ohio. Having reached his destination after his knowledge of the war, and possessing discretionary authority to act offensively, he passed into the neighbouring territory of the enemy, with a prospect of easy and victorious progress. The expedition, nevertheless, terminated unfortunately, not only in a retreat to the town and fort of Detroit, but in the surrender of both, and of the gallant corps commanded by that officer. The causes of this painful reverse will be investigated by a military tribunal.
A distinguishing feature in the operations which preceded and followed this adverse event, is the use made by the enemy of the merciless savages under their influence.
under their influence. Whilst the benevolent policy of the United States invariably recommended peace and promoted civilization among that wretched portion of the human race, and was making exertions to dissuade them from taking either side in the war, the enemy has not scrupled to call to his aid their ruthless ferocity, armed with the horrors of those instruments of
carnage and torture, which are known to spare neither age nor sex. In this outrage against the laws of honourable war, and against the feelings sacred to humanity, the British commanders cannot resort to a plea of retaliation: for it is committed in the face of our example. They cannot mitigate it by calling it a self-defence against men in arms: for it embraces the most shocking butcheries of defenceless families. Nor can it be pretended that they are not answerable for the atrocities perpetrated; since the savages are employed with a knowledge, and even with menaces, that their fury could not be controuled. Such is the spectacle which the deputed authorities of a nation, boasting its religion and morality, have not been restrained from presenting to an enlightened age.
The misfortune at Detroit was not, however, without a cónsoling effect. It was followed by signal proofs that the national spirit rises according to the pressure on it. The loss of an important post, and of the brave men surrendered with it, inspired every where new ardour and determination. In the states and districts least remote, it was no sooner known, than every citizen was ready to fly with his arms, at once to protect his brethren against the blood-thirsty savages let loose by the enemy on an extensive frontier, and to convert a partial calamity into a source of invigorated efforts. This patriotic zeal, which it was necessary rather to limit than excite, has embodied an ample force from the states of Kentucky and Ohio, and from parts of Pennsylvania and Virginia.
It is placed, with the addition of a few regulars, under the command of brigadier-general Harrison, who possesses the entire confidence of his fellow-soldiers, among whom are citizens, some of them volunteers in the ranks, not less distinguished by their political stations, than by their personal merits. The greater portion of this force is proceeding on its destination towards the Michigan territory, having succeeded in relieving an important frontier post, and in several incidental operations against hostile tribes of savages, rendered indispensable by the subserviency into which they had been seduced by the enemy; a seduction the more cruel, as it could not fail to impose a necessity of precautionary severities against those who yielded to it.
At a recent date, an attack was made on a post of the enemy near Niagara, by a detachment of the regular and other forces, under the command of major-general Van Rensselaer, of the militia of the state of New York. The attack, it appears, was ordered in compliance with the ardour of the troops, who executed it with distinguished gallantry, and were for a time victorious ; but not receiving the expected support, they were compelled to yield to reinforcements of British regulars and savages. Our loss has been considerable, and is deeply to be lamented. That of the enemy, less ascertained, will be the more felt, as it includes amongst the killed, the commanding general, who was also the governor of the province ; and was sustained by veteran troops from unexperienced soldiers, who must daily improve in the duties of the field.
Our expectation of gaining the command of the lakes by the invasion of Canada from Detroit having been disappointed, measures were instantly taken to provide on them a naval force superior to that of the enemy. From the talents and activity of the officer charged with this object, every thing that can be done may be expected. Should the present season not admit of complete success, the progress made will insure for the next a naval ascendancy, where it is essential to our permanent peace with, and controul over, the savages.
Among the incidents to the measures of the war, I am constrained to advert to the refusal of the governors of Massachusetts and Connecticut, to furnish the required detachments of militia towards the defence of the maritime frontier. The refusal was founded on a novel and unfortunate exposition of the provisions of the constitution, relating to the militia. The correspondences, which will be laid before you, contain the requisite information on the subject. It is obvious, that if the authority of the United States to call into service and command the militia for the public defence can be thus frustrated, even in a state of declared war, and of course under apprehensions of invasion preceding war, they are not one nation for the purpose most of all requiring it; and that the public safety may have no other resource than in those large and permanent military establishments, which are forbidden by the principle of our free government, and against the necessity of which the militia were meant to be a constitutional bulwark.
On the coasts, and on the ocean, the war has been as successful as circumstances inseparable from its early stages could promise. Our public ships and private cruisers, by their activity, and, where there was occasion, by their intrepidity, have made the enemy sensible of the difference between a reciprocity of captures, and the long confinement of them to their side. Our trade, with little exception, has safely reached our ports; having been much favoured in it, by the course pursued by a squadron of our frigates under the command of commodore Rodgers. And in the instance in which skill and bravery were more particularly tried with those of the enemy,
the American flag had an auspicious triumph. The frigate Constitution, commanded by captain Hull, after a close and short engagement, completely disabled and captured a British frigate ; gaining for that officer and all on board, a praise which cannot be too liberally bestowed; not merely for the victory actually achieved, but for that prompt and cool exertion of commanding talents, which, giving to courage its highest character, and to the force applied its full effect, prove that more could have been done, in a contest requiring more.
Anxious to abridge the evils from which a state of war cannot be exempt, I lost no time, after it was declared, in conveying to the British government the terms on which its progress might be arrested, without awaiting the delays of a formal and final pacification. And our charge d'affaires at London was, at the same time, authorized to agree to an armistice founded upon them. These terms required, that the orders in council should be repealed as they affected the United States, without a revival of blockades violating acknowledged rules; and that there should be an immediate discharge of American seamen from British ships, and a stop to impressment from American ships, with an understanding that an exclusion of the seamen of each nation from the ships of the the other, should be stipulated; and that the armistice should be improved into a definitive and comprehensive adjustment of depending controversies. Although a repeal of the orders, susceptible of explanations meeting the views of this government, had