Horace Binney.

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

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morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be
conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar
structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that
national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary
spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with
more or less force to every species of free government. Who, that
is a sincere friend to it, can look with indifierence upon attempts to
shake the foundation of the fabric ?

Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions
for the general diflFusion of knowledge. In proportion as the struc-

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tore of a goyemment gives force to public opinion, it is essential
that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish
public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly
as possible ; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but
remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger
firequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it ; avoiding
likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions
of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge
the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not unge-
nerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselyes
ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your re-
presentatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should coope-
rate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is
essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the
payment of debts there must be Revenue ; that to have Revenue
there must be taxes ; that no taxes can be devised, which are not
more or less inconvenient and unpleasant ; that the intrinsic embar-
rassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which
is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a
candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it,
and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining
revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate
peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this
conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it?
It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period,
a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel
example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and bene-
volence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things,
the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advan-
tages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be,
that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation
■?i[ith its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by

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every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas ! is it ren- ^
dered impossible by its vices ?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than
that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations,
and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded ; and that,
in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be
cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual
hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a
slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient
to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one
nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and
injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty
and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute
occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody
contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, some-
times impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calcula-
tions of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the
national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would
reject ; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subser-
vient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other
sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes per-
haps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another
produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation,
facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases
where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the
enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the
quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or
justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of
privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation
making the concessions ; by unnecessarily parting with what ought
to have been retained ; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a dis-
position to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are
withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens.

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(who derote themselyes to the fayorite nation,) facility to betray
or Bacrifice the interests of their own country^ without odium, some-
times even with popularity ; gilding, with the appearances of a vir-
tuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public
opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish com-
pliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attach-
ments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and inde-
pendent Patriot* How many opportunities do they afford to tamper
with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead
public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils ! Such an
attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation,
dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

^ Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to
^ believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to
be eonstantlff awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign
influence is one of the most baneful foes of B^ublican Government.
But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial ; else it becomes
the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a de-
fence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and
excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see
danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts
of influence on the other. Heal patriots, who may resist the in-
trigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious ;
while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the
people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is,
in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little

j political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed

- engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here
let us stop.

/ Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or

^ a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent

controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our

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concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate
ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her poli- ^^v
tics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships
or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pur-
sue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient
government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material
injury from external annoyance ; when we may take such an atti\
tude as will cause the neutrality/, we may at any time resolve upon,
to be scrupulously respected ; ^hen belligerent nations, under the
impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard
the giving us provocation ; when we may choose peace or war, as
our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit
our own to stand upon foreign ground ? Why, by interweaving our
destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and
prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest,
humor, or caprice ?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances witK^ ^^
any portion of the foreign world ; so far, I mean, as we are now at
liberty to do it ; for let me not be understood as capable of patron-
izing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less
applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always \
the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be
observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unneces-
sary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments,
on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary ^
alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended
by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy
should hold an equal and impartial hand ; neither seeking nor grant- ^^
ing exclusive favors or preferences ; consulting the natural course
of things ; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams

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of commercey but forcing nothing ; establishing, with powers so dis-
posed, in order to give trade a stable coarse, to define the rights of
our merchants, and to enable the government to support them, con-
yentional roles of intercourse, the best that present circumstances
and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be
from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circum-
stances shall dictate ; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in
one nation to look for disinterested favors from another ; that it
must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may
accept under that character ; that, by such acceptance, it may place
itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors,
and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more.
There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real
favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience
must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and
affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and
lasting impression I could wish ; that they will control the usual
current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the
course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if
I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some par-
tial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then
recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mis-
chiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pre-
tended patriotism ; this hope will be a full recompense for the soli-
citude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.

How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided
by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and
other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world.
To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at
least believed myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation
of the 22d of April, 1798, is the index to my Plan. Sanctioned
by your approving voice, and by that of your Representatives in

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both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually
governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me
from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I
could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the
circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in
duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I
determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with
moderation, perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations, which respect the right to hold this conduct,
it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe,
that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so
far from being denied by any of the Belligerent Powers, has been
virtually admitted by all.

Th e duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without
any thiiig more, from the obligation which justice and humanity
impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to main-
tain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best
be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a
predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our coun-
try to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress
without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency,
which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its
own fortunes.

Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am
unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of
my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many
errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty
to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also
carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view
them with indulgence ; and that, after forty-five years of my life
dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompe-



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tent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself mnst soon be
to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated
by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who
views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several
generations ; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in
which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoy-
ment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign
influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite
object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual
cares, labors, and dangers.

George Washington.

Ukitsd States, September 17th, 1796.

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No. V.


(From Autograph Copy.)

[Memorandum. — With the cancelled passages restored, and
printed at the foot of the pages, under the direction of James
.Lenox, Esq., the proprietor of the autograph. The marginal
pages are those of the fifth volume of Mr. Irving' s Life of Wash-
ington. The references at the end of the restored passages, at the
foot of the pages, are to the pages of this Appendix.]

♦Friends and Fellow-Citizens: [*356]

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 em-
ployed 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 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 assured,
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 withdrawing the tender
of service which silence in my situation might imply, I am influ-
enced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency
of grateful respect for your past kindness ; but [am supported by]t
a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

* for another term f act under

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The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to
which your suflFrages 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 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 unani-
mous 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 in-
ternal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible
with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and [am persuaded]*
whatever partiality [may be retained]t for my services, [that]J in
the present circumstances of our country [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, con-
tributed [towards]Tf 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 admo-
nishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as neces-
sary to me as it will be welcome. — Satisfied that if any circumstances
have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I

* that f any portion of you may yet retain J even they

5 under H accepted IT to ** not lessened

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have the consolation to believe, that while choice and prudence
invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid


♦In looking forward to the moment, which is [intended]
to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do
not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment [of]t that debt
of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country, — ^for the many
honors it has conferred upon me ; still more for the stedfast confi-
dence with which it has supported me ; and for the opportunities I
have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by
services faithful and persevering, though [in usefulness unequal]! to
my zeal. — If benefits have resulted to our country from these ser-
vices, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an in-
structive example in our annals, that, [ § ] under circumstances in
which the Passions agitated in every direction were liable to [mis-
lead], || amidst appearances sometimes dubious, — vicissitudes of for-
tune often discouraging, — in situations in which not unfrequently
want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism [the con-
stancy of your support] was the essential prop of the efforts and
[a]Tf guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Pro-
foundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to the
grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows [ ** ] that Heaven
may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence — ^that

* May I also have that of knowing in my retreat, that the involuntary errors, I have
probably committed, have been the sources of no serious or lasting mischief to our
country. I may then expect to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking,
in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free
government f the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, I trust, of our
mutual cares, dangers, and labours. [iSupra, p. 190.]

In the margin opposite this paragraph is the following note in Washington's Auto-
graph also erased, " obliterated to avoid the imputation of affected modesty."

t demanded by J! unequal in usefulness

5 the constancy of your support H wander and fluctuate

IT the ** the only return I can henceforth make.

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your union and brotherly aflFection 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, 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 apprehen-
sion *of danger, natural to that solicitude, [urge me, on an
occasion like the present, to offer]t to your solemn contemplation,
and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments; which
are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observa-
tion, [|] 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 warn-
ings of a departing friend, who can [possibly] have no personal
motive to bias his counsels. — [Nor can I forget, as an encourage-
ment 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 tran-
quillity at home ; your peace abroad ; of your safety ; [ § ] of your

* or satisfaction

t encouraged hj the remembrance of your indulgent reception of ray sentiments on
an occasion not dissimilar to the present, urge me to offer
:( and experience § in every relation

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prosperity [ * ] ; of that very Liberty which you so highly prize. —
But as it is easy to foresee, that from [different]! causes, and from
different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices em-
ployed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth ; — as
this is the point in your [political] fortress against which the batte-
ries 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 hap-
piness ; — ^that you should cherish| a cordial, habitual, and immove-
able 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 jealous anxiety; dis-
countenancing 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 affections. — The name of American,
which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt
the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation [ Tf ] derived
from local discriminations. — ^With slight shades of difference, you
have the same Religion, Manners, Habits, and political Principles. —

* in every shape t various J towards it

§ that you should accustom yourselves to reverence it as the Palladium of your po-

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 18 of 20)