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Message from President George Washington requesting that the Senate meet to advise him on . . . the treaty . . . with the Southern Indians, August 21, 1789

The Constitution states that consent to a treaty requires approval by two thirds of the Senate, but it includes no protocol for the Senate’s advice to the president. President George Washington informed the Senate that he would come for advice on a treaty with Southern Indians. The Senate, however, was not prepared to debate the treaty in his presence.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Message from President George Washington requesting that the Senate meet to advise him on . . . the treaty . . . with the Southern Indians, August 21, 1789 Message from President George Washington requesting that the Senate meet to advise him on . . . the treaty . . . with the Southern Indians, August 21, 1789

President Washington Seeks Advice and Consent

The Constitution empowers the president to negotiate treaties but requires the Senate’s advice and consent for their ratification. In 1789 President George Washington negotiated the first U.S. treaty with a foreign nation, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of the southeastern states. When Washington visited the Senate to obtain its advice and consent, it became clear that the president and Senate had different understandings of what that procedure entailed. It would be 130 years before another president personally presented a treaty to the Senate.

President George Washington and the First Congress (1789-91) had to establish procedures to fulfill their constitutional duties. In 1790 Washington experimented, unsuccessfully, with visiting the Senate in person to consult over an Indian treaty.