History for the Rest of Us

Martin van Buren – State of the Union – December 3, 1838

Martin van Buren – State of the Union – December 3, 1838

Oct 19, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: I congratulate you on the favorable circumstances in the condition of our country under which you reassemble for the performance of your official duties. Though the anticipations of an abundant harvest have not everywhere been realized, yet on the whole the labors of the husbandman are rewarded with a bountiful return; industry prospers in its various channels of business and enterprise; general health again prevails through our vast diversity of climate; nothing threatens from abroad the continuance of external peace; nor has anything at home impaired the strength of those fraternal and domestic ties which constitute the only guaranty to the success and permanency of our happy Union, and which, formed in the hour of peril, have hitherto been honorably sustained through every vicissitude in our national affairs. These blessings, which evince the care and beneficence of Providence, call for our devout and fervent gratitude. We have not less reason to be grateful for other bounties bestowed by the same munificent hand, and more exclusively our own. The present year closes the first half century of our Federal institutions, and our system, differing from all others in the acknowledged practical and unlimited operation which it has for so long a period given to the sovereignty of the people, has now been fully tested by experience. The Constitution devised by our forefathers as the framework and bond of that system, then untried, has become a settled form of government; not only preserving and protecting the great principles upon which it was rounded, but wonderfully promoting individual happiness and private interests. Though subject to change and entire revocation whenever deemed inadequate to all these purposes, yet such is the wisdom of its construction and so stable has been the public sentiment that it remains unaltered except in matters of detail comparatively unimportant. It has proved amply sufficient for the various emergencies incident to our condition as a nation. A formidable foreign war; agitating collisions between domestic, and in some respects rival, sovereignties; temptations to interfere in the intestine commotions of neighboring countries; the dangerous influences that arise in periods of excessive prosperity, and the antirepublican tendencies of associated...

Andrew Jackson – State of the Union – December 3, 1833

Andrew Jackson – State of the Union – December 3, 1833

Oct 19, 2012

Fellow Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives: On your assembling to perform the high trusts which the people of the United States have confided to you, of legislating for their common welfare, it gives me pleasure to congratulate you upon the happy condition of our beloved country. By the favor of Divine Providence health is again restored to us, peace reigns within our borders, abundance crowns the labors of our fields, commerce and domestic industry flourish and increase, and individual happiness rewards the private virtue and enterprise of our citizens. Our condition abroad is no less honorable than it is prosperous at home. Seeking nothing that is not right and determined to submit to nothing that is wrong, but desiring honest friendships and liberal intercourse with all nations, the United States have gained throughout the world the confidence and respect which are due to a policy so just and so congenial to the character of the American people and to the spirit of their institutions. In bringing to your notice the particular state of our foreign affairs, it affords me high gratification to inform you that they are in a condition which promises the continuance of friendship with all nations. With Great Britain the interesting question of our North East boundary remains still undecided. A negotiation, however, upon that subject has been renewed since the close of the last Congress, and a proposition has been submitted to the British Government with the view of establishing, in conformity with the resolution of the Senate, the line designated by the treaty of 1783. Though no definitive answer has been received, it may be daily looked for, and I entertain a hope that the overture may ultimately lead to a satisfactory adjustment of this important matter. I have the satisfaction to inform you that a negotiation which, by desire of the House of Representatives, was opened some years ago with the British Government, for the erection of light houses on the Bahamas, has been successful. Those works, when completed, together with those which the United States have constructed on the western side of the Gulf of Florida, will contribute essentially to the safety...

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 3, 1822

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 3, 1822

Oct 18, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: Many causes unite to make your present meeting peculiarly interesting to out constituents. The operation of our laws on the various subjects to which they apply, with the amendments which they occasionally require, imposes annually an important duty on the representatives of a free people. Our system has happily advanced to such maturity that I am not aware that your cares in that respect will be augmented. Other causes exist which are highly interesting to the whole civilized world and to no portion of it more so, in certain views, than to the United States. Of these causes and of their bearing on the interests of our Union I shall communicate the sentiments which I have formed with that freedom which a sense of duty dictates. It is proper, however, to invite your attention in the first instance to those concerns respecting which legislative provision is thought to be particularly urgent. On the 24th of June last a convention of navigation and commerce was concluded in this city between the United States and France by ministers duly authorized for the purpose. The sanction of the Executive having been given to this convention under a conviction that, taking all its stipulations into view, it rested essentially on a basis of reciprocal and equal advantage, I deemed it my duty, in compliance with the authority vested in the Executive by the second section of the act of the last session of the 6th of May, concerning navigation, to suspend by proclamation until the end of the next session of Congress the operation of the act entitled “An act to impose a new tonnage duty on French ships and vessels, and for other purposes”, and to suspend likewise all other duties on French vessels or the goods imported in them which exceeded the duties on American vessels and on similar goods imported in them. I shall submit this convention forthwith to the Senate for its advice and consent as to the ratification. Since your last session the prohibition which had been imposed on the commerce between the United States and the British colonies in the West Indies and on...

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 3, 1821

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 3, 1821

Oct 18, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: The progress of our affairs since the last session has been such as may justly be claimed and expected under a Government deriving all its powers from an enlightened people, and under laws formed by their representatives, on great consideration, for the sole purpose of promoting the welfare and happiness of their constituents. In the execution of those laws and of the powers vested by the Constitution in the Executive, unremitted attention has been paid to the great objects to which they extend. In the concerns which are exclusively internal there is good cause to be satisfied with the result. The laws have had their due operation and effect. In those relating to foreign powers, I am happy to state that peace and amity are preserved with all by a strict observance on both sides of the rights of each. In matters touching our commercial intercourse, where a difference of opinion has existed as to the conditions on which it should be placed, each party has pursued its own policy without giving just cause of offense to the other. In this annual communication, especially when it is addressed to a new Congress, the whole scope of our political concerns naturally comes into view, that errors, if such have been committed, may be corrected; that defects which have become manifest may be remedied; and, on the other hand, that measures which were adopted on due deliberation, and which experience has shewn are just in themselves and essential to the public welfare, should be persevered in and supported. In performing this necessary and very important duty I shall endeavor to place before you on its merits every subject that is thought to be entitled to your particular attention in as distinct and clear a light as I may be able. By an act of March 3rd, 1815, so much of the several acts as imposed higher duties on the tonnage of foreign vessels and on the manufactures and productions of foreign nations when imported into the United States in foreign vessels than when imported in vessels of the United States were repealed so far as respected the manufactures...

James Madison – State of the Union – December 3, 1816

James Madison – State of the Union – December 3, 1816

Oct 18, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: In reviewing the present state of our country, our attention cannot be withheld from the effect produced by peculiar seasons which have very generally impaired the annual gifts of the earth and threatened scarcity in particular districts. Such, however, is the variety of soils, of climates, and of products within our extensive limits that the aggregate resources for subsistence are more than sufficient for the aggregate wants. And as far as an economy of consumption, more than usual, may be necessary, our thankfulness is due to Providence for what is far more than a compensation, in the remarkable health which has distinguished the present year. Amidst the advantages which have succeeded the peace of Europe, and that of the United States with Great Britain, in a general invigoration of industry among us and in the extension of our commerce, the value of which is more and more disclosing itself to commercial nations, it is to be regretted that a depression is experienced by particular branches of our manufactures and by a portion of our navigation. As the first proceeds in an essential degree from an excess of imported merchandise, which carries a check in its own tendency, the cause in its present extent can not be very long in duration. The evil will not, however, be viewed by Congress without a recollection that manufacturing establishments, if suffered to sink too low or languish too long, may not revive after the causes shall have ceased, and that in the vicissitudes of human affairs situations may recur in which a dependence on foreign sources for indispensable supplies may be among the most serious embarrassments. The depressed state of our navigation is to be ascribed in a material degree to its exclusion from the colonial ports of the nation most extensively connected with us in commerce, and from the indirect operation of that exclusion. Previous to the late convention at London between the United States and Great Britain the relative state of the navigation laws of the two countries, growing out of the treaty of 1794, had given to the British navigation a material advantage over the American in...