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

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form it is always seen in its utmost vigor and rankness, and is their
worst cnem}'. [In republics of narrow extent, it is not difficult for
those who at any time possess the reins of administration, or even
for partial combinations of men, who from birth, riches, and other
sources of distinction, have an extraordinary influence, by possess-
ing or acquiring the direction of the military force, or by sudden
efforts of partisans and followers to overturn the established order
of things, and effect a usurpation. But in republics of large extent,
the one or the other is scarcely possible. The powers and opportu-
nities of resistance of a numerous and wide-extended nation defy
the successful efforts of the ordinary military force, or of any col-
lections§ which wealth and patronage may call to their aid, espe-
cially if there be no city of overbearing force, resources, and influ-

* '■"^•'•'y '"• t always.

X «n <lilferent degrees stifled, controUeil, or repressed. § assemblages.


ence. In such republics it is perhaps safe to assert, that the conflicts
of popular faction offer the only avenues to tyranny and usurpation.]
The domination of one faction over another, stimulated by that
spirit of revenge which is apt to be gradually engendered, and which
in different ages and countries has produced the greatest enormities,
is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more
formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which
result, predispose the minds of men to seek repose and security in
the absolute power of a single man ; and the* leader of a prevailing
faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this
disposition to the purposes of an ambitious and criminal self-aggran-

Without looking forward to such an extremity (which, however,
ought not to be out of sight), the ordinary and continual mischiefs
of the spirit of party make it the interest and the duty of a wise
people to discountenance and repress it.

It serves always to distract the councils and enfeeble the admi-
nistration of the government. It agitates the community with
ill-founded jealousies and false alarms. f It opens inlets for foreign
corruption and influence, which find an easy access [through the
channels of party passions, and cause the true policy and interest
of our own country to be made subservient to the policy and interest
of one and another foreign nation ; sometimes enslaving our own
government to the will of a foreign government].

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are salutary
checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to
invigorate the spirit of liberty. This, within certain limits, is true;
and in governments of a monarchical character or bias, patriotism
may look with some favor on the spirit of party. But in those of
the popular kind, in those purely elective, it is a spirit not to be

t embittering one part of the community against another, and producing occasionally
riot and insurrection.


fostered or encouraged. From tlic natural tendency of such govern-
ments, it is certain there Avill always he enough of it for every salu-
tary purpose, and tlicre hcing constant danger of excess, the effort
ought to be, by the force of public opinion, to mitigate and correct
it. 'Tis a fire which *cannot be quenched, but demandsf a uniform
vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame — lest it should not
only warm, but consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking of the
people should tend to produce caution in their public agents in the
several departments of government, to retain each within its proper
sphere, and not to permit one to encroach upon another, — that
every attempt of the kind, from whatever quarter, should meet with
the discountenance]: of the community, and that, in every case in
which a precedent of encroachment shall have been given, a cor-
rective be sought in [revocation be effected by] a careful attention
to the next choice§ of public agents. The spirit of encroachment
tends to absorb|| the powers of the several branches and depart-
ments into one, and thus to establish, under whatever forms, a
despotism. A just knowledge of the human heart, of that love
of power which predominates in it, is alone sufficient to estab-
lish this truth. Experiments, ancient and modern, some in our
own country and under our own eyes, serve to confirm it.
If, in tlie public opinion, the distribution of the constitutional
powers be in any instance wrong, or inexpedient — let it be corrected
by the authority of the people in a legitimate constitutional course.
Let there be no change by usurpation, for though this may be the
instrument of good in one instance, it is the ordinary^f instrument
of the destruction** of free government — and the influence of the
precedent is always infinitely more pernicious than anything which
it may achieve can be beneficial.

""' '°' t demanding. J reprobation.

§ election. || and consolidate. IT and natural.

*• Jealli.


In all those dispositions which promote political happiness,* reli-
gion and morality are essential props. In vain docs hcf claim the
praise of patriotism, who labors to subvert or undermine tlicse great
pillars of human happiness, these firmest foundations of the duties
of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with tlie pious
man, ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace
all their connections with private and public happiness.

Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for
reputation, for life, if the sense of moral and religious obligation
deserts the oaths which are |administered in courts of justice?
Nor ought w^e to flatter ourselves that morality can be separated
from religion. Concede as much as may be asked to the effect of
refined education in minds of peculiar structure — can we believe —
can we in prudence suppose that national morality can be maintained
in exclusion of religious principles ? Does it not require the aid of
a generally received and divinely authoritative religion ?

'Tis essentially true that virtue or morality is a main and neces-
sary spring of popular or republican governments. The rule, indeed,
extends with more or less force to all free governments. Who that
is a prudent and sincere friend to them, can look with indifference
on the ravages which are makino; in the foundation of the fabric —
reliffion ? The uncommon means which of late have been directed
to this fatal end, seem to make it in a particular manner the duty
of the retiring chief of a nation to warn his country against tasting
of the poisonous draught.

[Cultivate, also, industry and frugality. They arc auxiliaries of
good morals, and great sources of private and national prosperity.
Is there not room for regret, that our propensity to expense exceeds
the maturity of our country for expense ? Is there not more luxury
among us, in various classes, than suits the actu:il period of our
national progress ? Whatever may be the apology for luxury in a
country mature in all the arts which are its ministers and the means
of national opulence, can it promote the advantage of a young agri-

prosperity, t that man. J instruments of investigation.


cultural country, little advanced in manufactures, and not much
advanco<l in wealth ?*]

Ciiorish puMic credit as a mean of strength and security. As
one nu'tliod of preserving it, use it as little as possible. Avoid oc-
casions of expense by cultivating peace, — remembering always that
the preparation against danger, by timely and provident disburse-
ments, is often a mean of avoiding greater disbursements to repel it.
Avoid the accumulation of debt by avoiding occasions of expense,
and by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts
which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not transferring to
posterity the burthen which we ought to bear ourselves. Recollecc,
that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue, that to
have revenue there must be taxes, that it is impossible to devise
ta.xcs which are not, more or less, inconvenient and unpleasant — that
they are always a choice of difficulties — that the intrinsic embarrass-
ment which never fails to attend a selection of objects, ought to be
a motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government
in making it — and that a spirit of acquiescence in those measures
for obtaining revenue which the public exigencies dictate, is, in an
especial manner, the duty and interest of the citizens of every

[Cherish good faith and justice towards, and peace and harmony
with, all nations. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and
it cannot be but that true policy ecpally demands 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 invariably governed byf those exalted views. Who can
doubt that in a long course of time and events the fruits of such a
conduct would richly repay any temporary advantages which might
be lost by a steady adherence to the plan ? Can it be that Provi-
dence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its
virtue ? The experiment is recommended by every sentiment which

* >n the infanry of the arts, and certainly not in the manhood of wealth,
t exalted justice and benevolence.


ennobles human nature.— Alas ! is it rendered inipossible by its
vices ?

Towards the execution of such a plan, *nothing is more essential
than that fantipathies against particular nations and passionate at-
tachments for others, should be avoided— and that instead of them

we should cultivate just and amicable feelings towards all

That 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 interest. [Antipathy against one
nation, which never fails to beget a similar sentiment in the other,]
disposes each more readily to offer injury and insult to the other, to
lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and un-
tractable, when accidental or trifling differences arise. . Hence fre-
quent quarrelsj and bitter and obstinate contests. The nation,
urged by resentment and rage, sometimes impels the government to
war, contrary to its own calculations of policy. The government
sometimes participates in this propensity, and does through passion,
what reason would forbid at other times ; it makes the animosity of
the nations subservient to hostile projects, which originate in ambi-
tion and other sinister motives. The peace, often, and sometimes
the liberty of nations, has been the victim of this cause.

In like manner, § a passionate attachment of one nation to another
produces multiplied ills. Sympathy for the favorite nation, pro-
moting] | the illusion of a supposed common interest, in cases where
it does not exist, ^the enmities of the one betraj's into a participa-
tion in its quarrels and wars, without adequate inducements or jus-
tifications. It leads to the concession of privileges to one nation,

* it is very material.

t that while we entertain proper impressions of particular cases, of friendly or un-
friendly conduct of ditferent foreign nations towards us, we nevertheless avoid fixfd
and rooted antipathies against any, or passionate attachments for any ; instead of these
cultivating, as a general rule, just and amicable feelings towards all.

f broils. § So likewise. || facilitating. H and communicating to one.


ami to tlic denial of tlicm to others — wliich is apt doubly to injure
the nation making the concession, by an unnecessary yielding of
what ought to liavc been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will,
and retaliation in the party from whom an equal privilege is with-
hcltl. Anil it gives to ambitious, corrupted* citizens, who devote
themselves to the views of the favorite foreign power, facility in
l)ctraying or sacrificing the interests of their own country, even
with popularity,! gilding with|

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attach-
ments are peculiarly alarming to the enlightened, independent pa-
triot, llow many opportunities do they afford to intrigue with
domestic factions, to practise with success the arts of seduction, to
mislead§ the public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils?
Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and power-
ful nation, destines the former to revolve round the latter as its

Against the mischiefs of foreign influence all the jealousy of a
free people ought to be constantly|| exerted ;T[ but the jealousy of it
to be useful must be impartial, else it becomes an instrument of the
very influence to be avoided instead of a defence** against it.

Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike
of another, leads to see danger only on one side, and serves to
vcilft the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who resist
the intrigues of the favorite, become suspected and odious. Its tools
and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to betray
their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations.

♦ or deluded. -j- without odium.

J the appearance of a virtuous impulse, the base yieldings of ambition or corruption.
S " mislead "for " misdirect." || continually.

^ all history and experience in different ages and nations has proved that foreign
influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.
^^^^- tt and second.




ought to be to have as little political connection with them as pos-
sible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be
fulfilled with circumspection, indeed, but with perfect good faith ;
here* let it stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which have none or a very
remote relation to us. Hence she must be involved in frequent con-
tests, the causes of which Avill be essentially foreign to us. Hence,
therefore, it must necessarily be unwise on our part to implicate
ourselves by an artificial connection in the ordinary vicissitudes of
European politics — in the combination and collisions of her friend-
ships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites us to a different course,
and enables us to pursue it. If we remain a united people, under
an efficient government, the period is not distant when we may defy
material injury from external annoyance — when we may take
such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we shall at any time
resolve to observe, to be violated with caution — when it will be the
interest of belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making
acquisitions upon us, to be very careful how either forced us to
throw our w^eight into the opposite scale — when we may choose
peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall dictate.

Why should we forego the advantages of so felicitous a situation?
Why quit our own ground to stand upon foreign ground ? Why, by
interweaving our destiny with any part of Europe, should we en-
tangle our prosperity and peace in the nets of European ambition,
rivalship, interest, or caprice ?

Permanent alliance, intimate connection with any part of the
foreic^n world, is to be avoided ; so far, I mean, as wc arc now at
liberty to do it; for let me never be understood as patronizing infi-
delity to pre-existing engagements. These must be observed in
their true and genuine sense. f

• but there.

t But -tis not necessary, nor will it be prudent, to extend then,. Tis our true policy.


Harmon V, liberal intercourse, and commerce with all nations, are
rcconinii-ndccl Ky justice, humanity, and interest. But even our
commercial policy should hold an equal hand, neither seeking nor
crantin'' exclusive favors or preferences — consulting the natural
course of th'nv^s— diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the
streams of commerce, but forcing nothing — establishing with powers
so disposed* temporaryf rules of intercourse, the best that present
circumstances and mutual opinion of interest will permit, but tem-
porary ; and liable to be abandoned or varied, as time, experience,
and future circumstances may dictate — remembering^ that it is folly
in one nation to expect disinterested favor in another — that to
accept § is to part with a portion of its independence, and that it
may find itself in the condition of having given equivalents for
nominal favors, and of being reproached Avith ingratitude in the
bargain. There can be no greater error in national policy than to
desire, expect, or calculate upon real favors. 'Tis an illusion that
experience must cure, that a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and
affectionate friend — counsels suggested by laborious reflection, and
matured by a various experience, I dare not hope that they will
make the strong and lasting impressions I wish — that they will con-
trol the current of the passions or prevent our nation from running
the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of all nations.

But|| if they may even produce partial benefit, some occasional
good . . . that they sometimes recur to moderate the violence of
party spirit — to warn against the evils of foreign intrigue — to guard

as a general principle, to avoid permanent or close alliances. Taking care always to
keep ourselves by suitable establishments in a respectably defensive position, we may
safely trust to occasional alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

* In order to give to trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and
enable the government to support them.

t and conventional. + always.

§ any thing under that character. U I may flatter myself.


against the impositions of pretended patriotism— the having offered
them, must always aiford me a precious consohition.

How far in the execution of my present office I have hcen guided
by the principles which have been recommended,* the public records
and the external evidences of my conduct must witness. My con-
science assures me that I have at least believed myself to be guided
by them.

In reference to the present war of Europe, my proclamation of
the 22d of April, 1793, is the key to my plan, sanctioned by your
approving voice, and that of your Representatives in Congress —
the spirit of that measure has continually governed me — uninflu-
enced and unawed by the attempts of any of the warring powers,
their agents, or partisans, to deter or divert from it.

After deliberate consideration, and the best lights I could obtain
[and from men who did not agree in their views of the origin, pro-
gress, and nature of that war], I was satisfied that our country,
under all the circumstances of the case, had a right and was bound
in propriety and interest to take a neutral position. And having
taken it, I determined asf should depend on me to maintain it
steadily and firmly.;};

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am
unconscious of intentional error — I am yet too sensible of my own
deficiencies, not to think it possible§ that I have committed many
errors — [I deprecate the evils to which they may tend] — and fer-
vently implore the Almighty to avert or mitigate them. I shall
carry with me, nevertheless, the hope that my motives will continue
to be viewed by my country with indulgence, and that after forty-
five years of my life, devoted with an upright zeal to the public

* " inculcated " for " recommended.'" t as '»'' "•

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

§ " probable " for " possible."


service, tin- 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 ofEce, 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,f 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 ahen 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.


No. IV.



(The Writings of Washington, vol. xii, p. Q14.)

Friends and Fellow-Citizens, —

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, ft 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 dutiful
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 which
your suffrages have twice called mc, have been a uniform sacrifice of
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-



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, Avitli 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 Aveight 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-

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 16 of 20)