History for the Rest of Us

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 7, 1824

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 7, 1824

Oct 18, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: The view which I have now to present to you of our affairs, foreign and domestic, realizes the most sanguine anticipations which have been entertained of the public prosperity. If we look to the whole, our growth as a nation continues to be rapid beyond example; if to the States which compose it, the same gratifying spectacle is exhibited. Our expansion over the vast territory within our limits has been great, without indicating any decline in those sections from which the emigration has been most conspicuous. We have daily gained strength by a native population in every quarter—a population devoted to our happy system of government and cherishing the bond of union with internal affection. Experience has already shewn that the difference of climate and of industry, proceeding from that cause, inseparable from such vast domains, and which under other systems might have a repulsive tendency, can not fail to produce with us under wise regulations the opposite effect. What one portion wants the other may supply; and this will be most sensibly felt by the parts most distant from each other, forming thereby a domestic market and an active intercourse between the extremes and throughout every portion of our Union. Thus by a happy distribution of power between the National and State Governments, Governments which rest exclusively on the sovereignty of the people and are fully adequate to the great purposes for which they were respectively instituted, causes which might otherwise lead to dismemberment operate powerfully to draw us closer together. In every other circumstance a correct view of the actual state of our Union must be equally gratifying to our constituents. Our relations with foreign powers are of a friendly character, although certain interesting differences remain unsettled with some. Our revenue under the mild system of impost and tonnage continues to be adequate to all the purposes of the Government. Our agriculture, commerce, manufactures, and navigation flourish. Our fortifications are advancing in the degree authorized by existing appropriations to maturity, and due progress is made in the augmentation of the Navy to the limit prescribed for it by law. For these blessings we owe...

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 2, 1823

James Monroe – State of the Union – December 2, 1823

Oct 18, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: Many important subjects will claim your attention during the present session, of which I shall endeavor to give, in aid of your deliberations, a just idea in this communication. I undertake this duty with diffidence, from the vast extent of the interests on which I have to treat and of their great importance to every portion of our Union. I enter on it with zeal from a thorough conviction that there never was a period since the establishment of our Revolution when, regarding the condition of the civilized world and its bearing on us, there was greater necessity for devotion in the public servants to their respective duties, or for virtue, patriotism, and union in our constituents. Meeting in you a new Congress, I deem it proper to present this view of public affairs in greater detail than might otherwise be necessary. I do it, however, with peculiar satisfaction, from a knowledge that in this respect I shall comply more fully with the sound principles of our Government. The people being with us exclusively the sovereign, it is indispensable that full information be laid before them on all important subjects, to enable them to exercise that high power with complete effect. If kept in the dark, they must be incompetent to it. We are all liable to error, and those who are engaged in the management of public affairs are more subject to excitement and to be led astray by their particular interests and passions than the great body of our constituents, who, living at home in the pursuit of their ordinary avocations, are calm but deeply interested spectators of events and of the conduct of those who are parties to them. To the people every department of the Government and every individual in each are responsible, and the more full their information the better they can judge of the wisdom of the policy pursued and of the conduct of each in regard to it. From their dispassionate judgment much aid may always be obtained, while their approbation will form the greatest incentive and most gratifying reward for virtuous actions, and the dread of their censure...

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 Monroe – State of the Union – November 14, 1820

James Monroe – State of the Union – November 14, 1820

Oct 18, 2012

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives: In communicating to you a just view of public affairs at the commencement of your present labors, I do it with great satisfaction, because, taking all circumstances into consideration which claim attention, I see much cause to rejoice in the felicity of our situation. In making this remark I do not wish to be understood to imply that an unvaried prosperity is to be seen in every interest of this great community. In the progress of a nation inhabiting a territory of such vast extent and great variety of climate, every portion of which is engaged in foreign commerce and liable to be affected in some degree by the changes which occur in the condition and regulations of foreign countries, it would be strange if the produce of our soil and the industry and enterprise of our fellow citizens received at all times and in every quarter an uniform and equal encouragement. This would be more than we would have a right to expect under circumstances the most favorable. Pressures on certain interests, it is admitted, have been felt; but allowing to these their greatest extent, they detract but little from the force of the remarks already made. In forming a just estimate of our present situation it is proper to look at the whole in the outline as well as in the detail. A free, virtuous, and enlightened people know well the great principles and causes on which their happiness depends, and even those who suffer most occasionally in their transitory concerns find great relief under their sufferings from the blessings which they otherwise enjoy and in the consoling and animating hope which they administer. From whence do these pressures come? Not from a Government which is founded by, administered for, and supported by the people. We trace them to the peculiar character of the epoch in which we live, and to the extraordinary occurrences which have signalized it. The convulsions with which several of the powers of Europe have been shaken and the long and destructive wars in which all were engaged, with their sudden transition to a state of peace, presenting in the...