Horace Binney.

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

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severing, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have
resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remem-


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 efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by wliifli they were
eJBTected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with
me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Hea-
ven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence ; thai
your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual ; that the free
constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly
maintained ; that its administration in every department may be
stamped with wisdom and virtue ; that, in fine, the happiness of the
people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, 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 ofi"er 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 ciily
see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can
possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I
forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my
sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

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


The unity of Government, -which constitutes you one people, is
also now dear to you. It is justly so ; for it is a main pillar in the
odificc of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity
at home, your peace abroad ; of your safety ; of your prosperity ;
of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy
to foresee, that, from different causes and from different 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 iM 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 affections. The name of AiiEPtiCAN,
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 a 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


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

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse vrith the South, pro-
tected by the equal la^vs 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 South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by tliu
agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce
expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the
North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated ; and, while it
contributes, in difi'erent 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
Uast, in a like intercourse with the West, 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 West
derives from the JEast supplies requisite to its growth and comfort,
and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of neces-
sity owe the secure 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 7iation. Any other tenure by which the
West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its
own separate strength, or from an apostate and unfiatural 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 eff'orts 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


by the same /governments, which their own rivalships alone would
be !*nfficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attach-
ments, and intrigucf^ woultl stimulate and embitter. Hence, like-
wi.«»c. tlioy 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
oufht 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-
flectin<»and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the U^siON
as a primary object of Patriotic desire. Is there a doubt, whether
a common government can embrace so large a sphere ? Let expe-
rience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were
crimin:il. "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 L^nion, 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 f<Tc characterizing parties by Geographical discrimi-
nations, Korthirn and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence
designing men may endeavor to excite a belief, that there is a real
difference of local interests and views. One of the 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, Avhich
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


useful lesson on this head ; they have seen, in the negotiation by
the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by tlie Sonato, of
the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event,
throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfoundt'il were
the suspicions propagated among them of a ])olicy 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. \\'\\\ 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 eihcacy 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 unawcd, 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 an.l 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


nnd the right of the people to establish Government presupposes
thf duty of every individual to obey the established Government.

All ol)3tructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations
nnd associations, under whatever plausible 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,
which Avill impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine
what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which
you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as
necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other
human institutions ; that experience is the surest standard, by which
to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country ;


that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere liypothesi.s and
opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of
hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, tliat, 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 noAv take a more comprehensive
view, and w^arn 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 human 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


continual mischiefs of the spirit of party arc 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 Avith ill-founded
jealousies and false alarms ; kindles the animosity of one part against
another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the
door to foreign influence and corruption, -which find a facilitated
access to the government 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 tliose of the popular character, in Governments purely elective,
it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it
is c6rtain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salu-
tary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the
effort 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 wdth 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-


ferent depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of tlie Pul.lic
Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experi-
ments ancient and modern ; some of them in our country and under
our own eyes. To preserve them must ]>c as necessary as to insti-
tute them. If, in the opinion of the peojilc, tlie distribution or
modification of the constitutional powers be in any jiartirular wronp,
let it be corrected by an amendment, in the way which tlie constitu-
tion designates. But let there be no cliange by usurpation ; for,
though this, 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
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 indifference upon attempts to
shake the foundation of the fabric ?

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


turc of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential
that puMic 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
frequently 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 ourselves
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. "\Mio 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
with its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by


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

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