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title:“President Washington: Message to House of Representatives on Jay’s Treaty”
authors:George Washington
date written:1796-3-30

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last updated:Jan. 22, 2013, 8:29 a.m. UTC
retrieved:Jan. 29, 2023, 3:38 a.m. UTC

Washington, George. "Letter to House of Representatives on Jay’s Treaty." The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787. Vol. 3. Ed. Max Farrand. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.

President Washington: Message to House of Representatives on Jay’s Treaty (March 30, 1796)

March 30, 1796
Having been a member of the General Convention, and knowing the principles on which the Constitution was formed, I have ever entertained but one opinion on this subject, and from the first establishment of the Government to this moment, my conduct has exemplified that opinion, that the power of making Treaties is exclusively vested in the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and that every Treaty so made, and promulgated, thenceforward becomes the law of the land. . . .
It is a fact, declared by the General Convention, and universally understood, that the Constitution of the United States was the result of a spirit of amity and mutual concession. And it is well known that, under this influence, the smaller States were admitted to an equal representation in the Senate,2 with the larger States; and that this branch of the Government was invested with great powers; for, on the equal participation of those powers, the sovereignty and political safety of the smaller States were deemed essentially to depend.
If other proofs than these, and the plain letter of the Constitution itself, be necessary to ascertain the point under consideration, they may be found in the Journals of the General Convention, which I have deposited in the office of the Department of State. In those Journals it will appear, that a proposition was made, 'that no Treaty should be binding on the United States which was not ratified by a law,' and that the proposition was explicitly rejected.1
As, therefore, it is perfectly clear to my understanding, that the assent of the House of Representatives is not necessary to the validity of a Treaty; . . .2
[Footnotes as included or written by Farrand]
  • 1 See CCLXXV and CCLXXVI below.
  • 2 The following note, dated January 25, 1826, is found among the Madison Papers: —

    "In the Richmond Enquirer of the 21st is an extract from the Report of Secretary Hamilton on the constitutionality of the Bank, in which he opposes a resort, in expounding the Constitution, to the rejection of a proposition in the Convention, or to any evidence extrinsic to the text. Did he not advise, if not draw up, the message refusing to the House of Representatives the papers relating to Jay's treaty, in which President Washington combats the right of their call by appealing to his personal knowledge of the intention of the Convention, having been himself a member of it, to the authority of a rejected proposition appearing on the journals of the Convention, and to the opinion's entertained in the State Conventions?" (Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, III, 515.)

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