Horace Binney.

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

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♦ " inculcated " for ** recommended." t as far as.

j: Here a large space is found in the draught, evidently left for the insertion of other

S " probable " for « possible."


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service, the faults of inadequate abilities will be consigned to obli-
vion, as myself must soon be, to the mansions of rest.

[Neither ambition nor interest has been the impelling cause of my
actions. I never designedly misused any power confided to me.
The fortune with which I came into office, is not bettered otherwise
than by that improvement in the value of property which the
natural progress and peculiar prosperity of our country have pro-
duced. I retire* with a pure heart,t with undefiled hands, and
with ardent vows for the happiness of a country, the native soil of
myself and progenitors for four generations.]

* without cause for a blush.

t with no alien sentiment to the ardor of those vows for the happiness of his coun*
try, which is so natural to a citizen who sees in it.

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No. IV.



(The Writings of Washington, vol. xii, p. 214.)

Friends and Fellow-Citizens, —

The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the
executive government of the United Statoe, 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
apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being consi-
dered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured,
that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all
the considerations appertaining to the relation, which binds a dutifiil
citizen to his country; and that, in withdrawing 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 whiek
your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice ofr
inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what ap-
peared 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 inclina-


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tion to do this, previous to the last election, 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 con-
fidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.

I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as in-
ternal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible
with the sentiment of duty, or propriety ; and am persuaded, what-
ever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present
circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determi-
nation 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 still more in the eyes of others,
has strengthened the motives to diffidence 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 circumstances 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 terminate
the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to sus-
pend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude, 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 services faithful and per-
severing, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have
resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remem-

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bered 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 discouraging, in situations in
which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit
of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop
of the eflForts, and a guarantee 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 voi)irs that Hea-
ven may continue 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 hai^ds, 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, may be made
complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this
blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending 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 recommend
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.

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The unity of Governinent, 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 difierent causes and from difierent quarters,
much pains will be taken, many artifices 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 immense value of your national Union to
your collective and individual 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 prosperity ; watching for its preservation with
lealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a
suspicion, that it can 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 afiections. The name of American,
which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt
- the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from
local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have
the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You
have in d common cause fought and triumphed together ; the Inde-
pendence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels,
and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address them-
selves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which
apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of

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our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guard-
ing and preserving the Union of the whole.

The Norths in an unrestrained intercourse with ,the Southy 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 manufacturing
industry. The Southy m the same intercourse, benefiting by the
agency of the Norths sees its agriculture grow and its commerce
expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the
Norihy 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
Easty in a like intercourse with the Westj already finds, and in the
progressive improvement of interior communications by land and
water, will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities
which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The We%t
derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort,
and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of neces-
sity owe the Becure enjoyment 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 com-
munity of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the
West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its
own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connexion
with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate
and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail
to find in the united mass of means and eflForts greater strength,
greater resource, proportionably greater security from external
danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign na-
tions ; 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

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by the same goyenimentSy which their own rivalships alone would
be su£Scient to prodace, but which opposite foreign alliances, attaeh-
ments, and intrigues would stimulate and anbitter. Hence, like-
wise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military
establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspi-
cious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hos-
tile 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 th^e a doubt, wheth^
a common government can embrace so large a sphere ? Let expe-
rience 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 governments for the
respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment.
It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful
and obvious motives to Union, affecting all parts of our country,
while experience shall not have demonstrated 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 Q-eographical discrimi-
nations. Northern and SotUherny 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 expedients of
party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepre-
sent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot 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 together by fraternal affec-
tion. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a

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osefhl lesson on this head ; they have seen, in the negotiation bj
the Executive, and in the nnanimous 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 Mississippi ; they have been witnesses to the for-
mation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain,
which secure to them every thing 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 eflScacy and permanency of your Union, a Government
for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, be-
tween the parts can be an adequate substitute ; they must inevita-
bly experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances
in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth,
you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Con-
stitution of Government better calculated than your former for an
intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common
concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, unin-
fluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature
deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of
its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within
itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your
confidence and your support. Respect 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 Con-
stitutions of Government. 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


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and the right of the people to establish Gbvemment 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 plaurible character, with the real
design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular delibera-
tion 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 com-
munity ; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different par-
ties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-con-
certed 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 cun-
ning, 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 perma-
nency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you
steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged
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 constitution, alterations,
whitjh 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;

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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 ex-
tensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with
the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will
find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and
adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name,
where the government 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 tran-
quil enjoyment 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 geogra-
phical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive
view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful
efiects of the spirit of party, generally.

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

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened
by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in dif-
ferent ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormi-
ties, 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 individual ; and sooner or
later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more for-
tunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of
his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which
nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and

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oontinoal miBchiefii of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it
the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the
Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded
jealousies and false alarms ; kindles the animosity of one part agidnst
another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the
do<Mr to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated
access to the goyemment itself through the channels of party pas-
sions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected
to the policy and will of another.

There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful
checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to
keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is pro-
bably true ; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast. Patriotism
may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party.
But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective,
it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it
is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salu-
tary purpose. Aud, there being constant danger of excess, the
efibrt ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage
it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to
prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free
country should inspire caution, in those intrusted with its adminis-
tration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional
spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to
\^ encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to con-
solidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to cre-
ate, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just
estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which
predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the
truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the
exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into dif-

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ferent depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public
Weal against invasions bj the others, has been evinced by experi-
ments ancient and modem ; some of them in our country and under
our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to insti-
tute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or
modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong,
let it be corrected by an amendment, in the way which the constitu-
tion designates. But let there be no change by usurpation ; for,
though thi?, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is
the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.
The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil
any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political pros-
perity. Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain
would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to
subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props
of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally
with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A vo-
lume could not trace all their connexions with private and public
felicity. Let it simply be asked. Where is the security for property,
for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert
the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of
Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 17 of 20)