Horace Binney.

An inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. online

. (page 14 of 20)
Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 14 of 20)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

but there is less difficulty in representing the character of

Digitized byVjOOQlC


their contributions, by language in some degree figurative,
such as, in one instance, I have used akeady.

We have explicit authority for regarding the whole Man
as compounded of body, soul, and spirit. The Farewell
Address, in a lower and figurative sense, is likewise so com-
poimded. If these were divisible and distributable, we
might, though not with full and exact propriety, allot the
SOUL to Washington, and the spirit to Hamilton. The
elementary body is Washington's, also; but Hamilton has
developed and fiishioned it, and he has symmetrically formed
and arranged the members, to give combined and appro-
priate action to the whole. This would point to an allot-
ment of the soul and the elementary body to Washington,
and of the arranging, developing, and informing spirit to
Hamilton, — the same characteristic which is found in the
great works he devised for the coimtry, and are still the
chart by which his department of the government is ruled.

The Farewell Address itself, while in one respect — the
question of its authorship— it has had the fate of the Eikon
Basilihe^ in another it has been more fortunate; for no
Iconoclaates hB^ appeared, or ever can appear, to break or
max the image and superscription of Washington, which it
bears, or to sully the principles of moral and political action
in the government of a Nation, which are reflected from it
with his entire approval, and were, in fundamental points,
dictated by himself.

Digitized byVjOOQlC

Digitized byVjOOQlC


No. I.


[A copy of this document accompanied Washington's letter of
15th May, 1796, to A. Hamilton. The asterisks indicate the altera-
tions by Washington, referred to in that letter.]

Friends and Fellow-Citizens: —

The quotation in this Address was composed, and in-
[BB IN vG.i ^^jjjg^ ^^ ^^^^ j^^^^ published, in the year 1792, in time

to have announced to the Electors of the President and Vice-
President of the United States, the determination of the former^
previous to the said election to that office could have been made; but
the solicitude of my confidential friends *** *** ♦♦♦♦♦♦*♦* *♦

/4:««9|c:|c3|e:|e4c9|c:|c4:« sK^c ♦♦♦ :!(♦♦ i^^Hi^Hi ♦^Ic^IcjIcjIc 4c3|e ♦♦♦ ^(♦♦♦♦^IksK-I-N :|c4c:|(« ♦
9|c:|c4c:|c:4e :|c4()|c4(4(4(4c :^:^ )|c:|e4c:4e4c^*4:3|c4:3|c*4e addcd tO thc pCCUliar sitUatiOU

of our foreign affairs at that epoch, induced me to suspend the pro-
mulgation, lest, among other reasons, my retirement might be
ascribed to political cowardice. In place thereof, I resolved, if it

4. ** ****^**

Digitized byVjOOQlC


should be the plemsure of mj fellow-citizens to honor me again with
their snffi-ages, to devote such senrices as I could render, a year or
two longer, trusting that within that period all impediments to an
honorable retreat would be remoTed.

In this hope, as fondlj entertained as it was conceiyed, I entered
upon the execution of the duties of mj second administration.
But if the causes which produced this postponement had any
weight in them at that period, it will readily be acknowledged that
there has been no diminution in them since, until very lately, and
it will serve to account for the delay which has taken place in com-
municating the sentiments which were then committed to writing,
and are now found in the following words : —

iMjj>iaovs " -"^^ period which will close the appointment with
DEAuoHT.] which my fellow-citizens have honored me, being not very
distant, and the time actually arrived at which their thoughts must
be designating the citizen who is to administer the executive govern-
ment of the United States during the ensuing term, it may be
requisite to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I
should apprise such of my fellow-citizens as may retain their par-
tiality towards me, that I am not to be numbered among those out
of whom a choice is to be made.

" I beg them to be assured that the resolution, which dictates this
intimation, has not been taken without the strictest regard to the
relation which, as a dutiful citizen, I bear to my country ; and that,
in withdrawing that tender of my service, which silence in my situa-
tion might imply, I am not influenced by the smallest deficiency of
zeal for its future interests, or of grateful respect for its past kind-
ness ; but by the fullest persuasion that such a step is compatible
with both.

" The impressions, under which I entered on the present arduous
trust, were explained on the proper occasion. In discharge of this
trust, I can only say, that I contributed towards the organization
and administration of the government the best exertions of which a

Digitized byVjOOQlC


very fallible judgment was capable. For any errors, which may
have flowed from this source, I feel all the regret which an anxiety
for the public good can excite ; not without the double consolation,
however, arising from a consciousness of their being involuntary,
and an experience of the candor which will interpret them.

" If there were any circumstances which could give value to my
inferior qualifications for the trust, these circumstances must have
been temporary. In this light was the undertaking viewed when I
ventured upon it. Being, moreover, still further advanced in the
decline of life, I am every day more sensible, that the increasing
weight of years renders the private walks of it, in the shade of re-
tirement, as necessary as they will be acceptable to me.

" May I be allowed to add, that it will be among the highest as
well as purest enjoyments that can sweeten the remnant of my days,
to partake in a private station, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, of
that benign influence of good laws under a free government, which
has been the ultimate object of all our wishes, and in which I
confide as the happy reward of our cares and labors ? May I be
allowed further to add, as a consideration far more important,, that
an early example of rotation in an office of so high and delicate a
nature may equally accord with the republican spirit of our Consti-
tution, and the ideas of liberty and safety entertained by the people.

*'In contemplating the moment at which the curtain is to drop
forever on the public scenes of my life, my sensations anticipate,
and do not permit me to suspend, the deep acknowledgments re-
quired by that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country
for the many honors it has conferred upon me, for the distinguished
confidence it has reposed in me, and for the opportunities I have
thus enjoyed of testifying my inviolable attachment by the most
steadfast services, which my faculties could render.

" All the returns I have now to make will be in those vows, which
I shall carry with me to my retirement and to my grave, that
Heaven may continue to favor the people of the United States with
the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that their union and brotherly

Digitized by



affection may be perpetual ; that the free Ccmstitation, which is the
work of their own hands, maj be sacredly maintiuned; that its
administration, in every department, may be stamped with wisdom
and with virtue ; and that this character may be insured to it by
that watchfulness over public servants, and public measures, which
on one hand will be necessary to prevent or correct a degeneracy,
and that forbearance, on the other, from unfounded or indiscriminate
jealousies, which would deprive the public of the best services, by
depriving a conscious integrity of one of the noblest incitements to
perform them; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of America,
under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful
a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire
them the glorious satisfaction of recommending it to the affection,
the praise, and the adoption of every nation, which is yet a stranger
to it.

" And may we not dwell with well-grounded hopes on this flatter-
ing prospect, when we reflect on the many ties by which the people
of America are bound together, and the many proofs they have
giveu of an enlightened judgment and a magnanimous patriotism?

" We may all be considered as the children of one common coun-
try. We have all been embarked in one common cause. We have
all had our share in common sufferings and common successes. The
portion of the earth, allotted for the theatre of our fortunes, fulfils
our most sanguine desires. All its essential interests are the same ;
while the diversities arising from climate, from soil, and from other
local and lesser peculiarities, will naturally form a mutual relation
of the parts, that may give to the whole a more entire independence,
than has perhaps fallen to the lot of any other nation.

"To confirm these motives to an affectionate and permanent
Union, and to secure the great objects of it, we have established a
common government, which, being free in its principles, being
founded in our own choice, being intended as the guardian of our
common rights, and the patron of our common interests, and wisely
containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, as ex-

Digitized byVjOOQlC


perience may point out its errors, seems to promise everything that
can be expected from sach an institution ; and, if supported by wise
counsels, by virtuous conduct, and by mutual and friendly allow-
ances, must approach as near to perfection as any human work can
aspire, and nearer than any which the annals of mankind have

" With these wishes and hopes, I shall make my exit from civil
life ; and I have taken the same liberty of expressing them, which
I formerly used in oiDFering the sentiments which were suggested by
my exit from military life.

" If, in either instance, I have presumed more than I ought, on
the indulgence of my fellow-citizens, they will be too generous to
ascribe it to any other cause, than the extreme solicitude which I
am bound to feel, and which I can never cease to feel, for their
liberty, their prosperity, and their happiness."

" Had the situation of our public aiSairs continued


■" OF TOPICS. J to wear the same aspect they assumed at the time the
foregoing address was drawn, I should not have taken the liberty of
troubling you, my fellow-citizens, with any new sentiment, or with
a repetition more in detail of those, which are therein contained ;
but considerable changes having taken place, both at home and
abroad, I shall ask your indulgence while I express, with more
lively sensibility, the following most ardent wishes of my heart.

" That party disputes among all the friends and lovers of their
country may subside, or, as the wisdom of Providence has ordained
that men on the same subjects shall not always think alike, that
charity and benevolence, when they happen to differ, may so far
shed their benign influence, as to banish those invectives which pro-
ceed from illiberal prejudices and jealousy.

" That, as the All-wise Dispenser of human blessings has favored
no nation of the earth with more abundant and substantial means
of happiness than United America, we may not be so ungrateful to
our Creator, so wanting to ourselves, and so regardless of posterity,


Digitized byVjOOQlC


as to dash the cap of beneficence, which is thus bonntifnlly offered
to our acceptance.

^' That we may fulfil with the greatest exactitude all our engage-
ments, foreign and domestic, to the tUmo$t of our abilities, whenso-
ever and in whatsoever manner they are pledged ; for in public, as
in private life, I am persuaded that honesty will forever be found to
be the best policy.

" That we may avoid connecting ourselves with the politics of
any nation, farther than shall be found necessary to regulate our
own trade, in order that commerce may be placed upon a stable
footing, our merchants know their rights, and the government the
ground on which those rights are to be supported.

" That every citizen would take pride in the name of an Ameri-
can, and act as if he felt the importance of the character, by con-
sidering, that we, ourselves are now a distinct nation, the dignity of
which will be absorbed, if not annihilated, if we enlist ourselves,
farther than our obligations may require, under the banners of any
other nation whatsoever. And, moreover, that we should guard
against the intrigues of any and every .foreign nation, who shall
endeavor to intermingle, however covertly and indirectly, in the in-
ternal concerns of our country, or who shall attempt to prescribe
rules for our policy with any other power, if there be no infraction
of our engagements with themselves, as one of the greatest evils
that can befall us as a people ; for, whatever may be their profes-
sions, be assured, fellow-citizens, and the event will, as it always
has, invariably prove, that nations as well as individuals act for
their own benefit, and not for the benefit of others, unless both
interests happen to be assimilated ; and when that is the case there
requires no contract to bind them together; that all their inter-
ferences are calculated to promote the former; and, in proportion
as they succeed, will render us less independent. In a word, nothing
is more certain, than that, if we receive favors we must grant favors;
and it is not easy to decide beforehand under such circumstances as
we are, on which side the balance will ultimately preponderate ; but

Digitized byVjOOQlC


easy indeed is it to foresee, that it may inyolve us in disputes, and
finally in war, to fulfil political alliances. Whereas, if there be no
engagements on our part, we shall be unembarrassed, and at liberty
at all times to act from circumstances, and the dictates of justice,
sound policy, and our essential interests.

" That we may be always prepared for war, but never unsheath
the sword except in self-defence, so long as justice, and our essen-
tial rights and national respectability, can be preserved without it ;
for without the gift of prophecy it may safely be pronounced, ^^^tjEG JtrJitff
if this country can remain in peace twenty years longer (and I g^ fajwU c?
devoutly pray, that it may do so to the end of time), such, in all ^ tm H ^ t
probability, will be its population, riches, and resources, when com- SM^^S^^
bined with its peculiarly happy and remote situation from the other ^ ^ C9 ^^
quarters of the globe, as to bid defiance, in a just cause, to any'^"^*^
earthly power whatsoever. ^"^^/j^**^

" That, whensoever and so long as we profess to be neutral, our V^ ^^•Nt
public conduct, whatever our private affections may be, may accord y/^^'%^
therewith ; without suffering partialities on one hand, or prejudices ^j

on the other, to control our actions. A contrfiry practice is ^^^ l^^^f^tsc
only incompatible with our declarations, but is pregnant with D^is-^^ /^^^^
chief, embarrassing to the administration, tending to divide us into L^H^fU/tL
parties, and ultimately productive of all those evils and horrors, /fyh^^^M^
which proceed from faction. TjKt^H^^a^

" That our Union may be as lasting as time ; for, while we are f^^^^^^
encircled in one band, we shall possess the strength of a giant, ^T^^ftf^^^fgL
there will be none who can make us afraid. Divide, and we shall ^ •
become weak, a prey to foreign intrigues and internal discord, and j //LjuijL*
shall be as miserable and contemptible, as we are now enviable and ^^/-. ^^^a

" That the several departments of government may be preserved ^ ^ v.
in their utmost constitutional purity, without any attempt of one to / ^^t^ijffc
encroach on the rights or privileges of another ; that the General'
and State governments may move in their proper orbits ; and that
the authorities of our own Constitution may be respected by our-

Digitized byVjOOQlC


selves^ as the most certain means of having them respected by

" In expressing these sentiments it will readily be perceived, that
I can have no other view now, whatever malevolence might have
ascribed to it before, than such as results from a perfect conviction
of the utility of the measure. If public servants, in the exercise
of their official duties, are found incompetent, or pursuing wrong
courses, discontinue them. If they are guilty of malpractices in

.'office, let them be more exemplarily punished. In both cases, the
Constitution and laws have made provision ; but do not withdraw

^ your confidence from them, the best incentive to a faithful discharge
of their duty, without just cause ; nor infer, because measures of a

•* complicated nature, which time, opportunity, and close investigation

^ alone can penetrate, — ^for these reasons are not easily comprehended

*^ 'Tby those who do not possess the means, — that it necessarily follows
they must be wrong. This would not only be doing injustice to your
trustees, but be counteracting your own essential interests, render-
ing those trustees, if not contemptible in the eyes of the world,
little better at least, than ciphers in the administration of the

., government, and the Constitution of your own choosing would re-

' ; proach you for such conduct."

As this Address, fellow-citizens, will be the last I shall

CC0N0LU8I0N.] , , - - /. , -r-r . n

ever make you, and as some of the gazettes of the United
. States have teemed with all the invective that disappointment, igno-
rance of facts, and malicious falsehoods could invent, to misrepre-
sent my politics and aflFections ; to wound my reputation and feel-
• ings; and to weaken if not entirely destroy the confidence you
• had been pleased to repose in me ; it might be expected at the
parting scene of my public life, that I should take some notice of
• such virulent abuse. But, as heretofore, I shall pass them over in
utter silence ; never having myself, nor by any other with my par-
ticipation or knowledge, written, or published a scrap in answer to
any of them. My politics have been unconcealed, plain and direct.

Digitized byVjOOQlC


They will be found (so far as they relate to the belligerent powers)
in the proclamation of the 22d of April, 1793 ; which, having met
your approbation, and the confirmation of Congress, I have uni-
formly and steadily adhered to, uninfluenced by and regardless of
the complaints and attempts of any of those powers or their parti-
sans to change them.

The acts of my administration are on record. By these, which
will not change with circumstances nor admit of difiFerent interpre-
tations, I expect to be judged. If they will not acquit me, in your
estimation, it will be a source of regret ; but I shall hope notwith-
standing, as I did not seek the office with whicTi you have honored
me, that charity may throw her mantle over my want of abilities to
do better — ^that the gray hairs of a man who has, excepting the in-
terval between the close of the Revolutionary War and the organiza-
tion of the new government— either in a civil, or military character,
spent five and forty years — All the prime of hi% life — ^in serving
his country, be suffered to pass quietly to the grave — ^and that his
errors, however numerous, if they are not criminal, may be con-
signed to the tomb of oblivion, as he himself soon will be to the
mansions of retirement.

To err is the lot of humanity, and never for a moment, have I
ever had the presumption to suppose that I had not a full proportion
of it. Infallibility not being the attribute of man, we ought to be
cautious in censuring the opinions and conduct of one another. To
avoid intentional errof in my public conduct has been my constant
endeavor ; and I set malice at defiance to charge me justly, with the
commission of a wilful one ; or, with the neglect of any public duty,
which in my opinion ought to have been performed, since I have
been in the administration of the government, — an administration
which I do not hesitate to pronounce — ^the infancy of the government,
and all other circumstances considered — that has been as difficult,
delicate, and trying as may occur again in any future period of our
history; through the whole of which I have to the best of my
judgment, and with the best information and advice I could obtain,

Digitized by VjOOQlC


consulted the true and permanent interest of my country without
regard to local considerations — ^to individuals — to parties— or to

To conclude, and I feel proud in having it in my power to do so
with truth, that it was not from ambitious views ; it was not from
ignorance of the hazard to which I knew I was exposing my repu-
tation ; it was not from an expectation of pecuniary compensation,
that I have yielded to the calls of my country ; and that, if my
country has derived no benefit from my services, my fortune, in a
pecuniary point of view, has received no augmentation from my
country. But in delivering this last sentiment, let me be unequivo-
cally understood as not intending to express any discontent on my
part, or to imply any reproach on my country on that account.
[The first would be untrue — ^the other ungrateful. And no occasion
more fit than the present may ever occur perhaps to declare, as I
now do declare, that nothing but the principle upon which I set out,
and from which I have in no instance departed, not to receive more
from the public than my expenses, has restrained the bounty of
several legislatures at the close of the war with Great Britain
from adding considerably to my pecuniary resources.]* I retire
from the chair of government no otherwise benefitted in this par-
ticular than what you have all experienced from the increased value
of property, flowing from the peace and prosperity with which our
country has been blessed amidst tumults which have harassed and
involved other countries in all the horrors of war. I leave you with
undefiled hands, an uncorrupted heart, and with ardent vows to
Heaven for the welfare and happiness of that country in which I
and my forefathers, to the third or fourth progenitor, drew our first

G^ Washington.

• In the margin of this passage, which is here bracketed, Washington wrote : " This
may or not be omitted." The brackets are not in the copy of Washington's draught

Digitized byVjOOQlC


No. n.


Hamilton's Works, Vol. VII, p. 670.


I. The period of a new election approaching, it is his duty to an-
nounce his intention to decline.

II. He had hoped that long ere this it would have been in his
power, and particularly had nearly come to a final resolution in the
year 1792 to do it, but the peculiar situation of aflFairs, and advice
of confidential friends, dissuaded.

III. In acquiescing in a further election he still hoped a year or
two longer would have enabled him to withdraw, but a continuance
of causes has delayed till now, when the position of our country,
abroad and at home, justifies him in pursuing his inclination.

rV. In doing it he has not been unmindful of his relations as a
dutiful citizen to his country, nor is now influenced by the smallest
diminution of zeal for its interest or gratitude for its past kindness,
but by a belief that the step is compatible with both.

V. The impressions under which he first accepted were explained
on the proper occasion.

VI. In the execution of it he has contributed the best exertions
of a very fallible judgment — anticipated his insuflSciency— expe-
rienced his disqualifications for the diflScult trust, and every day a
stronger sentiment from that cause to yield the place — advance into
the decline of life— every day more sensible of weight of years, of
the necessity of repose, of the duty to seek retirement, &c. Add,

* This indorsement, together with the whole of this paper, is copied from a draught
in Hamilton's hand. — £d.

Digitized byVjOOQlC


Vll. It will be among the purest enjoyments which can sweeten
the remnant of his dajs^ to partake in a private station, in the
midst of his fellow-citizens, the laws of a free government, the ulti-
mate object of his cares and wishes.

YUI. As to rotation.

IX. In contemplating the moment of retreat, cannot forbear to
express his deep acknowledgments and debt of gratitude for the

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 14 16 17 18 19 20

Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 14 of 20)