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perform its duty with equal zeal. A thorough examination should be regularly made, and I will promote it.
It is particularly gratifying to me to enter on the dischange of these duties at a time when the United States are blessed with peace. It is a state most consistent with their prosperity and happiness. It will be my sincere desire to preserve it, so far as depends on the executive, on just principle with all nations, claiming nothing unreasonable of any, and rendering to each what is its due.
Equally gratifying is it to witness the increased harmony of opinion which pervades our Union. Discord does not belong to our system. Union is recommended, as well by the free and benign principles of our government, extending its blessings to every individual, as by the other eminent advantages attending it. The American people have encountered together great dangers, and sustained severe trials with success. They constitute one great family with a common interest. Experience has enlightened us on some questions of essential importance to the country. The progress has been slow, dictated by a just reflection, and a faithful regard to every interest connected with it. To promote this harmony, in aocordanoe with the principles of our republican government, and in a manner to give them the most complete effect, and to advance, in all other respects, the best interests of our country, will be the object of my constant and zealous exertions.
Never did a government commence under auspices so favorable, nor ever was success so complete. If we look to the history of other nations, ancient or modern, we find no example of a growth so rapid, so gigantic; of a people so prosperous and happy. In contemplating what we have still to perform, the heart of every citizen must expand with joy, when he reflects how near our government has approached to perfection; that in respect to it we have no essential improvement to make; that the great object is to preserve it in the essential principles and features whieh characterize it, and that that is to be done by preserving the virtue and enlightening the minds of the people; and, as a security against foreign dangers, to adopt such arrangements as are indispensable to tlw support of our independence, our rights and liberties. If we persevere in the career in which we have advanced so far, and in the path already traced, we cannot fail, under the favor of a gracious Providence, to attain the high destiny which seems to await us.
In the administration of the illustrious men who have preceded me in this high station, with some of whom I have been connected by the closest ties from early life, examples are presented which will always be found highly instructive and useful to their successors. From these I shall endeavor to derive all the advantages which they may afford. Of my immediate predecessor, under whom so important a portion of this great and successful experiment has been made, I shall be pardoned for expressing my earnest wishes that he may long enjoy in his retirement the affections of a grateful country, the best reward of exalted talents and the most faithful and meritorious services. Relying on the aid to be derived from the other departments of government, I enter on the trust to which I have been called by the suffrages of my fellow-citizens, with my fervent prayers to the Almighty that he will be graciously pleased to continue to us that protection which he has already so conspicuously displayed in our favor.
MONROE'S FIRST ANNUAL MESSAGE,
December 3, 1817.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate
and House of Representatives: At no period of our political existence had we so much cause to. felicitate ourselves at the prosperous and happy condition of our country. The abundant fruits of the earth have filled it with plenty. An extensive and profitable commerce has greatly augmented our revenue. The public credit has attained an extraordinary elevation. Our preparations for defence, in case of future wars, from which, by the experience of all nations, we ought not exoect to be exempted, are advancing, under a well-digested
system, with all the despatch which so important a work will admit. Our free government, founded on the interests and affections of the people, has gained, and is daily gaining strength. Local jealousies are rapidly yielding to more generous, enlarged, and enlightened views of national policy. For advantages so numerous and highly important, it is our duty to unite in grateful acknowledgments to that Omnipotent Being, from whom they are derived, and in unceasing prayer that he will endow us with virtue and strength to maintain and hand them down, in their utmost purity, to our latest posterity.
I have the satisfaction to inform you, that an arrangement, which had been commenced by my predecessor, with the British government, for the reduction of the naval force, by Great Britain and the United States, on the lakes, has been concluded; by which it is provided, that neither party shall keep in service on lake Champlain more than one vessel; on lake Ontario, more than one; on lake Erie and the upper lakes, more than two; to be armed, each with one cannon only, and that all the other armed vessels of both parties, of which an exact list is interchanged, shall be dismantled. It is also agreed, that the force retained shall be restricted in its duty to the internal purposes of each party; and that the arrangement shall remain in force until six months shall have expired after notice having been given by one of the parties to the other of its desire that it should terminate. By this arrangement, useless expense on both sides, and what is of greater importance, the danger of collision between armed vessels in those inland waters, which was great, is prevented.
I have the satisfaction also to state, that the commissioners under the fourth article of the treaty of Ghent, to whom it was referred to decide to which party the several islands in the bay of Passamaquoddy belonged, under the treaty of one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three, have agreed in a report, by which all the islands in the possession of each party before the late war have been decreed to it. The commissioners acting under the other articles of the treaty of Ghent, for the settlement of the boundaries, have also been engaged in the discharge of their respective duties, but have not yet completed them. Th« difference which arose between the two governments under the treaty, respecting the right of the United State. to take and cure fish on the coast of the British provinces, north of our limits, which had been secured by th» treaty of one thousand seven hundred and eighty-three, is still in negotiation. The proposition made by this government, to extend to the colonies of Great Britain the principle of the convention of London, by which the commerce between the ports of the United States and British ports of Europe had been placed on a footing of equality, has been declined by the British government. This subject having been thus amicably discussed between the two governments, and it appearing that the British government is unwilling to depart from its present regulations, it remains for Congress to decide whether they will make any other regulations in consequence thereof, for the protection and improvement of our navigation.
The negotiation with Spain, for spoliations on our commerce, and the settlement of boundaries, remains essentially in the state it held in the communications that were made to Congress by my predecessor. It has been evidently the policy of the Spanish government to keep the negotiation suspended, and in this the United States have acquiesced, from an amicable disposition towards Spain, and in the expectation that her government would, from a sense of justice, finally accede to such an arrangement as would be equal between the parties. A disposition has been lately shown by the Spanish government to move in the negotiation, which has been met by this government, and should the conciliatory and friendly policy which has invariably guided our councils, be reciproca , ted, a just and satisfactory arrangement may be expected. It is proper, however, to remark that no proposition has yet been made from which such a result can be presumed.
It was anticipated, at an early stage, that the contest between Spain and the colonies would become highly interesting to the United States. It was natural that our citizens should sympathize in events which affected their neighbors. It seemed probable, also, that the prosecution of the conflict, along our coast, and in contigiiou* coun/ries, would occasionally interrupt our commerce, and otherwise affect the persons and property of our citizens, These anticipations have been realized. Such injuries have been received from persons acting under the authority of both the parties, and for which redress has, in some instances, been withheld. Through every stage of the conflict, the United States have maintained an impartial neutrality, giving aid to neither of the parties in men, money, ships, or munitions of war. They have regarded the contest not in the light of an ordinary insurrection or rebellion, but as a civil war between parties nearly equal, having, as to neutral powers, equal rights. Our ports have been open to both, and every article the fruit of our soil, or of the industry of our citizens, which either was permitted to take, has been equally free to the other. Should the colonies establish their independence, it is proper now to state that this government neither seeks nor would accept from them any advantage in commerce or otherwise, which will not be equally open to all other nations. The colonies will in that event become independent states, free from any obligation to, or connexion with us, which it may not then be their interest to form on a basis of fair reciprocity.
In the summer of the present year, an expedition was set on foot against East Florida, by persons claiming to act under authority of some of the colonies, who took possession of Amelia Island, at the mouth of St. Mary's river, near the boundary of the state of Georgia. As the province lies eastward of the Mississippi, and is bounded by the United States and the ocean on every side, and has been a subject of negotiation with the government of Spain, as an indemnity for losses by. spoliation, or in exchange of territory of equal value, westward of the Mississippi, a fact well known to the world, it excited surprise that any countenance should be given to this measure by any of the colonies. As it would be difficult to reconcile it with the friendly relations existing between the United States and the colonies, a doubt was entertained whether it had been authorized by them, or any of them. This doubt has gained strength, by the circumstances which have unfolded themselves in the prose