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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 descrip-
tion may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in
the course of tune and things, to become potent engines, by
which cunning, 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 per-
manency 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 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 tune 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 hypothesis and opinion, ex-



LANDMARK ADDRESSES AND STATE PAPERS 119

poses 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 extensive
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 tranquil 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
geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more compre-
hensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against
the baneful effects 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 different shapes in all governments, more or less
stifled, controlled, 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, sharp-
ened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which
in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid
enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at
length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The dis-
orders 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 fac-
tion, more able or more fortunate 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 are sufficient to



lao NATIONAL IDEALS AND PROBLEMS

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 against another, foments occasionally riot and insur-
rection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption,
which find a facilitated access to the government itself through
the channels of party passions. 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 prob-
ably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriot-
ism 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 salutary purpose. And, there being constant
danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opin-
ion, 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 consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a
free country should inspire caution, in those intrusted with its
administration, to confine themselves within their respective
constitutional spheres, avoiding hi the exercise of the powers of
one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of en-
croachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the depart-
ments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of govern-
ment, a real depotism. 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 different depositories, and
constituting each the guardian of the public weal against inva-
sions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient



LANDMARK ADDRESSES AND STATE PAPERS 121

and modern ; some of them in our country and under our own eyes.
To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute 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 constitution
designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for,
though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it
is the customary weapon by which free governments are de-
stroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in
permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use
can at any tune yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political
prosperity, 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
cherish them. A volume 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 instru-
ments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with
caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be main-
tained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the in-
fluence 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, institu-
tions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as
the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it
is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish



122 NATIONAL IDEALS AND PROBLEMS

public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as spar-
ingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating
peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to pre-
pare 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 exertion in
time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars
may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity
the burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of
these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary
that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the
performance of their duty, it is essential that you should prac-
tically 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 incon-
venient and unpleasant ; that the intrinsic embarrassment, insepar-
able 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 jus-
tice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that in the course of
time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any
temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adher-
ence 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 rendered 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 ex-



LANDMARK ADDRESSES AND STATE PAPERS 123

eluded; 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, sometimes
impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations
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
subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition,
and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often,
sometimes perhaps 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 partici-
pation 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 un-
necessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and
by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the
parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives
to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote them-
selves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the
interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even
with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense
of obligation; a commendable deference for public opinion, or a
laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of
ambition, corruption or infatuation.



i2 4 NATIONAL IDEALS AND PROBLEMS

As avenues to foreign influence in innumberable ways, such
attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened
and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they
afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of
seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the
public councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, to-
wards 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 constantly awake, since history and experience prove
that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of repub-
lican government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be im-
partial; else it becomes the 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, 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.
Real patriots who may resist the intrigues 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 political connexion as possible. So far as we have already
formed engagements, let them be f ulfilled 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 for-
eign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us
to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, hi the ordinary vicissi-
tudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions
of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to
pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an
efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy



LANDMARK ADDRESSES AND STATE PAPERS 125

material injury from external annoyance; when we may take
such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any
time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belliger-
ent 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 inter-
weaving 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 with
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
patronizing 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 engage-
ments be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion,
it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

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

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recom-
mended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our com-
mercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither
seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting
the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle
means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establish-
ing, with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable
course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the
government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse,
the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will
permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time aban-
doned or varied, as experience and circumstances 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



126 NATIONAL IDEALS AND PROBLEMS

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 experi-
ence 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 partial benefit, some occasional good; that
they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party
spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard
against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will
be a full recompense for the solicitude 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 procla-
mation of the 22d of April, 1793, is the index of my plan. Sanc-
tioned by your approving voice, and by that of your Represen-
tatives in 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 con-



LANDMARK ADDRESSES AND STATE PAPERS 127

duct, 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.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, with-
out any thing more, from the obligation which justice and hu-
manity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to
act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity
towards other nations.

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 country 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, hi reviewing the incidents of my administration, I
am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sen-
sible 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 up-
right zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned
to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness hi this as in other things, and actu-
ated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a
man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progeni-
tors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expecta-
tion that retreat, hi which I promise myself 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, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy
reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.



ia8 NATIONAL IDEALS AND PROBLEMS

THE MONROE DOCTRINE

JAMES MONROE

[James Monroe (1758-1831), the fifth President of the United States,
was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. After the Revolutionary War,
in which he had served, Monroe entered public life, at first rilling minor
offices and later serving as governor of Virginia, United States senator,
minister to England, minister to France, secretary of state under President
Madison, and was twice elected President of the United States. One of the
leading events of his administration was the announcement of the principle
of foreign policy that has come to be called the Monroe Doctrine. The
enunciation of this policy was in the Presidential message of December, 1823,
and was made necessary by certain things done by Russia and by Spain. The
former had taken possession of Alaska and was extending its settlements
down the Pacific Coast. The latter was seeking the aid of other European
countries in recovering control of his American colonies which had rebelled
and won a temporary freedom. England was desirous for commercial rea-
sons that these new republics should not fall under the power of Spain
again, and proposed to the United States that they jointly should help the
South American countries to maintain their freedom. Monroe, however,
thought it best to make the declaration independent of Great Britain. This
doctrine was not new with Monroe. As a matter of fact, it had been a set-
tled policy for years before being proclaimed by Monroe. It was effective at
the time in checking the encroachments of Russia and Spain, and since
then has been called into operation on several occasions, the most notable
being in 1865 against France in Mexico, and in 1895 against England in
Venezuela. The statement of the original Monroe Doctrine appears in two
passages of the Message, which are as follows:]

At the proposal of the Russian Imperial Government, made
through the minister of the Emperor residing here, a full power
and instructions have been transmitted to the minister of the
United States at St. Petersburg to arrange by amicable negotia-
tion the respective rights and interests of the two nations on
the northwest coast of this continent. A similar proposal had
been made by His Imperial Majesty to the Government of
Great Britain, which has likewise been acceded to. The Govern-
ment of the United States has been desirous by this friendly
proceeding of manifesting the great value which they have in-
variably attached to the friendship of the Emperor and their



LANDMARK ADDRESSES AND STATE PAPERS 129

solicitude to cultivate the best understanding with his Govern-



Online LibraryMaurice G. (Maurice Garland) FultonNational ideals and problems; essays for college English → online text (page 12 of 39)