David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) online

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Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 9 of 56)
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ent crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be
suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that
there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a
new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the Executive Department, it is
made the duty of the President ^* to recommend to your consid-
eration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient. '^
The circumstances tmder which I now meet you will acquit me
from entering into that subject further than to refer you to the
great constitutional charter under which we are assembled; and
which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which
your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with
those circumstances and far more congenial with the feelings


which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of
particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the
rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected
to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications, I
behold the surest pledges, that as, on one side, no local prejudices
or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will mis-
direct the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch
over this great assemblage of communities and interests — so, on
another, that the foundations of our national policy will be laid
in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and
the pre-eminence of a free government be exemplified by all the
attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and com-
mand the respect of the world.

I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ar-
dent love for my country can inspire: since there is no truth
more thoroughly established than that there exists, in the economy
and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and
happiness — between duty and advantage — between the genuine
maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid re-
wards of public prosperity and felicity — since we ought to be no
less persuaded that the propitious smiles of heaven can never be
expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order
and right which heaven itself has ordained — and since the pres-
ervation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the re-
publican model of government, are justly considered as deeply,
perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment intrusted to the
hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will
remain with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the
occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution
is rendered expedient, at the present juncture, by the nature of
objections which have been urged against the system, or by the
degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of
undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which
I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities,
I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discern-
ment and pursuit of the public good. For I assure myself that,
whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger
the benefits of a united and effective government, or which
ought to await the future lessons of experience, a reverence for
the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public



harmony will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the
question how far the former can be more impregnably fortified,
or the latter be safely and more advantageously promoted.

To the preceding observations I have one to add, which will
be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives, It
concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible.

When I was first honored with a call into the service of my
country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties,
the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should
renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I
have in no instance departed. And being still under the im-
pressions which produced it, I must decline, as inapplicable to
myself, any share in the personal emoluments which may be in-
dispensably included in a permanent provision for the Executive
Department; and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary esti-
mates for the station in which I am placed may, during my con-
tinuation in it, be limited to such actual expenditures as the
public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments, as they have
been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall
take my present leave, but not without resorting once more to
the benign Parent of the human race, in humble supplication,
that, since he has been pleased to favor the American people
with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dis-
positions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity, on a form of
government for the security of their union and the advancement
of their happiness, so his divine blessing may be equally conspicu-
ous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the
wise measures on which the success of this government must

(Issued September 17th, 1796)

Friends and Fellow- Citizejis : —

THE period for a new election of a citizen to administer the
executive government of the United States being not far
distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts
must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed
with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as



it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice,
that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed,
to decline being considered among the number of those out of
whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be as-
sured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict
regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation
which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in with-
drawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation
might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your
future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past
kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is
compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to
which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform
sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference
for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped that
it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with
motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to
that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The
strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last elec-
tion, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it
to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical
posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous
advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to
abandon the idea.

I rejoice that the state of your concerns, external as well as
internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible
with the sentiment of duty or propriety, and am persuaded,
whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the
present circumstances of our countr)^ you will not disapprove my
determination to retire.

The impressions with which I first undertook the arduous
trust were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge
of this trust, I will only say that I have, with good intentions,
contributed towards the organization and administration of the
government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment
was capable. Not unconscious in the outset of the inferiority
of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps stil]
more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffi-
dence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years



admonishes me more and more that the shade of retirement is as
necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied that if any cir-
cumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were
temporary, I have the consolation to believe that, while choice
and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism
does not forbid it.

In looking forward to the moment which is intended to ter-
minate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit
me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of grati-
tude which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it
has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence
with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have
thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by serv-
ices faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my
zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services,
let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive
example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the
passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst
appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often dis-
couraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of suc-
cess has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of
your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guar-
antee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly
penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave,
as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may con-
tinue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your
union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free
Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly
maintained; that its administration in every department may be
stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of
the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, m.ay be
made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use
of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommend-
ing it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation
which is yet a stranger to it.

Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your wel-
fare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of
danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like
the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recom-
mend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the
result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and


which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your
felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more
freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings
of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive
to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to
it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and
not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of
your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify
or confirm the attachment.

The unity of government which constitutes you one people
is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar
in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your
tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your
prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But
as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from dif-
ferent quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices em-
employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth;
as this is the point in your political fortress against which the
batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly
and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it
is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the im-
mense value of your national union to your collective and indi-
vidual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and
immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and
speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and pros-
perity, watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; dis-
countenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it cau
in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the
first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our
country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now
link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest.
Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country
has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of Ameri-
can, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always
exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation de-
rived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference,
you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political prin-
ciples. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed to-
gether; the independence and liberty you possess are the work
10 — 7



of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings,
and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address
themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those
which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every por-
tion of our country finds the most commanding motives for care-
fully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, pro-
tected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the
productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime
and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufactur-
ing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by
the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its com-
merce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen
of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and,
while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase
the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to
the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally
adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already
finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communi-
cations by land and water, will more and more find a valuable
vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manu-
factures at home. The West derives from the East supplies re-
quisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still
greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoy-
ment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the
weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic
side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of in-
terest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can
hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own sep-
arate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with
any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immedi-
ate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot
fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater
strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from
external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by for-
eign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive
from union an exemption from those broils and wars between
themselves, which so frequently afflict neighboring countries not
tied together by the same governments, which their own rival-



ships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite
foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and
embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those
overgrown military establishments which, under any form of gov-
ernment, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded
as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is
that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your
liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the
preservation of the other.

These considerations speak a persuasive language to every re-
flecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the
Union as a primary object of patriotic desire. Is there a doubt
whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere ?
Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a
case were criminal. We are authorized to hope that a proper
organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of govern-
ments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue
to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experimenc.
With such powerful and obvious motives to union, affecting all
parts of our country, while experience shall not have demon-
strated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust
the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to
weaken its bands.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it
occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have
been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discrim-
inations. Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence
designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a
real difference of local interests and views. One of the expe-
dients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to
misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You can-
not shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-
burnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend
to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound to-
gether by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our Western
country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have
seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous
ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the
universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States,
a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated
among them of a policy in the General Government and in the


Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mis-
sissippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treat-
ies, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure
to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign
relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be
their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on
the Union by which they were procured ? Will they not hence-
forth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would
sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens ?

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a govern-
ment for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict,
between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must in-
evitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all
alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this moment-
ous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adop-
tion of a constitution of government better calculated than your
former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious manage-
ment of your common concerns. This government, the offspring
of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full
investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its prin-
ciples, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with
energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amend-
ment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Re-
spect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in
its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of
true liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of
the people to make and to alter their constitutions of govern-
ment. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed
by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly
obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right
of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of
every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations
and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the
real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular de-
liberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive
of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve
to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force ;
to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will
of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of
the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of dif-


ferent parties, to make the public administration the mirror of
the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than
the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common
counsels and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description
may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the
course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which
cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to
subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the
reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines
which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

Towards the preservation of your government, and the per-
manency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only
that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its ac>
knowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit
of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts.
One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Con-
stitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system,
and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In
all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time
and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of
governments as of other human institutions; that experience is
the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the
existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon
the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual
change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and
remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your
common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a govern-
ment of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security
of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a gov-
ernment, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest
guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the gov-
ernment is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to
confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed
by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil en-
joyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the
State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geo-
graphical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehen-
sive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the
baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.

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This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature,
having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It
exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less
stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular
form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharp-
ened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which
in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid
enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at
length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders
and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men
to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individ-
ual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction,
more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this dis-

Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 10) → online text (page 9 of 56)