… These, fellow citizens, are the principal matters which I have thought it necessary at this time to communicate for your consideration & attention. some others will be laid before you in the course of the session.
To United States Congress, November 8, 1804
Patrick Lee’s Explanation
The Constitution (Art. II, Sect. 3) requires the President to report to Congress from “time to time” on the “State of the Union.” It never was a yearly requirement but has evolved into what we know as the annual “State of the Union Address,” when the President makes a report to the opening session of Congress. In the early 1800s, Congress traditionally convened in late fall for four to five months.
Jefferson delivered his reports in writing. This lengthy account included his thoughts on these subjects:
1. War in Europe and its affect on America
2. Private U.S. citizens preying on the shipping of other nations
3. Misunderstanding with Spain regarding the Bay of Mobile
4. Satisfying France on terms of U.S. purchase of Louisiana
5. Diplomatic relations with European nations
6. Success against the Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean
7. Establishing the new government in Louisiana
8. Relations with the Indians
9. Expanding the navy
10. Federal receipts, expenses & debt (Part 2 of 3)
11. Actions Congress might take on its own (Part 3 of 3)
On only #2 and #7 did the President invite Congress’ action. All the rest fell within his Constitutional duty, either in foreign affairs or executing the law already established by the Congress.