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govern us, and not we, the people, who govern ourselves. And candid men will acknowledge, that, in such cases, choice would have little advantage to boast of, over lot or chance.
Such is the amiable and interesting system of government (and such are some of the abuses to which it
may be exposed) which the people of America have exhibited to the admiration and anxiety of the wise and virtuous of all nations for eight years, under the administration of a citizen who, by a long course of great actions, regulated by prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, conducting a people, inspired with the same virtues, and animated with the same ardent patriotism and love of liberty, to independence and peace, to increasing wealth and unexampled prosperity, has merited the gratitude of his fellowcitizens, commanded the highest praises of foreign nations, and secured immortal glory with posterity.
In that retirement which is his voluntary choice, may he long live to enjoy the delicious recollection of his services, the gratitude of mankind, the happy fruits of them to himself and the world, which are daily increasing, and that splendid prospect of the future fortunes of this country which is opening from year to year.
His name may be still a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives, a bulwark against all open or secret enemies of his country's peace. This example has been recommended to the imitation of his successors by both houses of Congress, and by the voice of the legislatures and the people throughout the nation.
On this subject it might become me better to be silent, or to speak with diffidence; but as something may be expected, the occasion, I hope, will be admitted as an apology, if I venture to say, That,
If a preference, upon principle, of a free republican government, formed upon long and serious reflection, after a diligent and impartial inquiry after truth; if an attachment to the constitution of the United States, and a conscientious determination to support it, until it. shall be altered by the judgments and wishes of the people, expressed in the mode prescribed in it; if a respectful attention to the constitutions of the individual states, and a constant caution and delicacy towards the state governments; if an equal and impartial regard to the rights, interest, honor, and happiness of all the states in the Union, without preference or regard to a northern or southern, an eastern or western position, their various political opinions on unessential points, or their personal attachments; if a love of virtuous men of all parties and denominations; if a love of science and letters, and a wish to patronize every rational effort to encourage schools, colleges, universities, academies, and every institution for propagating knowledge, virtue, and religion, among all classes of the people, not only for their benign influence on the happiness of life in all its stages and classes, and of society in all its forms, but as the only means of preserving our constitution from its natural enemies, the spirit of sophistry, the spirit of party, the spirit of intrigue, the profligacy of corruption, and the pestilence of foreign influence, which is the angel of destruction to elective governments; if a love of equal laws, of justice, and humanity in the interior administration; if an inclination to improve agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, for necessity, convenience, and defence; if a spirit of equity and humanity towards the aboriginal nations of America, and a disposition to meliorate their condition by inclining them to be more friendly to us, and our citizens to be more friendly to them; if an inflexible determination to maintain peace and inviolable faith with all nations, and that system of neutrality and impartiality among the belligerent powers of Europe which has been adopted by this government, and so solemnly sanctioned by both houses of Congress, and applauded by the legislatures of the states and the public opinion, until it shall be otherwise ordained by Congress; if a personal esteem for the French nation, formed in a residence of seven years, chiefly among them, and a sincere desire to preserve the friendship which has been so much for the honor and interest of both nations ; if, while the conscious honor and integrity of the people of America, and the internal sentiment of their own power and energies must be preserved, an earnest endeavor to investigate every just cause, and remove every colorable pretence of complaint; if an intention to pursue by amicable negotiation a reparation for the injuries that have been committed on the commerce of our fellow-citizens by whatever nation; and if success cannot be obtained, to lay the facts before the legislature, that they may consider what further measures the honor and interest of the government and its constituents demand; if a resolution to do justice, as far as may depend upon me, at all times and to all nations, and maintain peace, friendship, and benevolence with all the world; if an unshaken confidence in the honor, spirit, and resources of the American people, on which I have so often hazarded my all, and never been deceived; if elevated ideas of the high destinies of this country, and of my own duties towards it, founded on a knowledge of the moral principles and intellectual improvements of the people, deeply engraven on my mind in early life, and not obscured, but exalted by experience and age; and, with humble reverence, I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me, in any degree, to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor, that this sagacious injunction of the two houses shall not be without effect.
With this great example before me, with the sense and spirit, the faith and honor, the duty and interest, of the same American people, pledged to support the constitution of the United States, I entertain no doubt of its continuance in all its energy, and my mind is prepared, without hesitation, to lay myself under the most solemn obligations to support it to the utmost of my power.
And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of order, the Fountain of justice, and the Protector, in all ages of the world, of virtuous liberty, continue his blessing upon this nation and its government, and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of providence.
J. ADAMS'S FIRST ANNUAL ADDRESS.
NOVEMBER 23, 1797. Gentlemen of the Senate
and House of Representatives : I was for some time apprehensive that it would be necessary, on account of the contagious sickness which afflicted the city of Philadelphia, to convene the national legislature at some other place. This measure it was desirable to avoid, because it would occasion much public inconvenience, and a considerable public expense, and add to the calamities of the inhabitants of this city, whose sufferings must have excited the sympathy of all their fellow-citizens; therefore, after taking measures to ascertain the state and decline of the sickness, I postponed my determination, having hopes, now happily realized, that, without hazard to the lives of the members, Congress might assemble at this place, where it was by law next to meet. I submit, however, to your consideration, whether a power to postpone the meeting of Congress, without passing the time fixed by the constitution, upon such occasions, would not be a useful amendment to the law of one thousand seven hundred and ninety-four.
Although I cannot yet congratulate you on the reestablishment of peace in Europe, and the restoration of security to the persons and properties of our citizens from injustice and violence at sea, — we have, nevertheless, abundant cause of gratitude to the Source of benevolence and influence, for interior tranquillity and personal security, for propitious seasons, prosperous agriculture, productive fisheries, and general improvements, and, above all, for a rational spirit of civil and religious liberty, and a calm but steady determination to support our eignty, as well as our moral and religious principles, against all open and secret attacks.
Our envoys extraordinary to the French republic embarked, one in July, the other early in August, to join their colleague in Holland. I have received intelligence of the arrival of both of them in Holland, from whence
they all proceeded on their journey to Paris, within a few days of the 19th of September. Whatever may be the result of this mission, I trust that nothing will have been omitted, on my part, to conduct the negotiation to a successful conclusion, on such equitable terms as may compatible with the safety, honor, and interest of the United States. Nothing, in the mean time, will contribute so much to the preservation of peace, and the attainment of justice, as a manifestation of that energy and unanimity, of which, on many former occasions, the people of the United States have given such memorable proofs, and the exertion of those resources for national defence which a beneficent Providence has kindly placed within their power.
It may be confidently asserted that nothing has occurred, since the adjournment of Congress, which renders inexpedient those precautionary measures recommended by me to the consideration of the two houses, at the opening of your late extraordinary session. If that system was then prudent, it is more so now, as increasing depredations strengthen the reasons for its adoption.
Indeed, whatever may be the issue of the negotiation with France, or whether the war in Europe is, or is not, to continue, I hold it most certain, that permanent tranquillity and order will not soon be obtained. The state of society has so long been disturbed, the sense of moral and religious obligations so much weakened, public faith and national honor have been so impaired, respect to treaties has been so diminished, and the law of nations has lost so much of its force, - while pride, ambition, avarice, and violence, have been so long unrestrained, - there remains no reasonable ground on which to raise an expectation, that a commerce without protection or defence will not be plundered.
The commerce of the United States is essential, if not to their existence, at least to their comfort, their growth, prosperity, and happiness. The genius, character, and habits of the people are highly commercial; their cities have been formed and exist upon commerce; our agriculture, fisheries, arts, and manufactures, are connected with and depend upon it. In short, commerce has made this