United States. President.

Addresses of the successive presidents to both houses of Congress, at the ... online

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your common concerns. This government, t\^e,
offspring of our own 'Choice, uninfluenced and un-
awed, adopted upon full investigation and mature
deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the
distinbution of its powers, uniting security with
energy, and containing within itself a provision for
its own amendment, has a just claim to your confi-
dence and your support. Respect for its authority,
compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its mea-
sures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims
of true liberty, l1ie basis of our political systems



( ix )

is the right of the people to make and to alter their
constitutions 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
end the right of the people to establish government
pre-supposes the duty of every individual to obey
the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all
combinations and associations, under whatever plau-
sible character, with the real design to direct, con-
troul, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation 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 enterprizing minority of the
community ; and, according to the alternate tri-
umphs of different parties, to make the public
adrriinistration the mirror of the ill concerted and
incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ
of consistent and wholesome plans digested by com-
mon councils, and modified by mutuid 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 engine s, by which cunning, ambitious
and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the ;p^
power of the people, and to usurp for them'^elves
the reins of government ; destroying afterwards the
very engines which have lifted them to unjust

Townrds the preservation of your government,
and the permanency of your present happy state,
it is requisite, not only that } on steadily discoun-
tenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged
authority, but also that vcu resist with care the spirit

* b


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( ^ )

of innovation upon its principles, however specious
the pretexts. — One method of assault may be to
effect in the forms of the constitution, altcraitions
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 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 hypothesis and
opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the
endless variety of hypothesis and opinion ; and re-
member, especially that for the efficient management
of your common interests, in a country so extensive
as ours, a government of as much vigour as is con-
sistent with the perfect security of liberty, is indis-
pensible. Liberty itself will find in such a govern-
ment, with powers properly distributed and adjusted,
its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than
a name, where the government is too feeble to with-
stand the enterprizes of faction, to confine each
member of the society within the limits prescribed
by the la\\ s, and to maintain all in the secure and
tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and pro-

I have already intimated to you, the danger of
parties in the stute, with particular reference to tlie
founding of them on geographical discriminations.
Let me now take a more comprehensive view and
warn ycu m the most solemn manner against the
baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

1 his 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, mere or less stifled, controuled
or repressed ; but in those of the popular form.


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( xi )

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 dissention^ 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 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 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 make it the interest
and duty of a wise people to discourage and re-
strain it.

It serves always to distr;'ct 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 insurrection.
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 vf ithin certain limits is probably true ;
and in ^'ovcrnments of a monarchical ca^t, patriotism
may look with indulgence, if xuot with favour upon
the spirit of party. But in those of the popular


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, ( xil )

character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit
not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency*
it is ccrtaiii there will always be enough of that spirit
for every salutary purpose. And tliere being con-
stant danger of excess, the cflFort ought to be^ by
force of public opinion, to mitigate und 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 countiy, should inspire caution in those
entrusted with its administration, to confine them-
selves within their respective constitutional spheres,
avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one depart- '
ment to encroach upon another. The spirit of
encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all
the departments in one, and thus to create, 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 oY
political power, by dividing and distributing it into
different depositories, and constituting each the guar-
dian of the public weal against invasions by the
others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and
modern : some of them in our country and under
our own eyes. To preserve them, must be as nc
cessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of
the people, the distribution or modification of the
■m constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let
it be corrected by an amendment in the way %\ hich
the constitution designates.— But let there be i o
change by usurpation ; for though this, in one in-
stance, may be the instrument of good, it is the
customary weapon by which free governments are
destj^oyed. — The. precedent must always greatly


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( xiii )

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 prosperity, religion and morality are indis-
pensibk supports* — In vain would that man clain\
the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to suf>-
vert these great pillars of human happiness, these
firmnest props of the duties of men and citizens.*-^
The mere politician, equally with tlie pious man
ought to respect and to cherish them. — A volume
could not trace all their connections with private
and public felicity. Let it simply be asked where
is the security lor 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 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,

'Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is
a necessary spring of popular government. The rule
indeed extends with more or less force to every spe-
cies of free government. Who that is a smcere
* friend to it can look with indifftrence upon attempts
to shake the foundation ©f the lubric ?

Promote, then, as art object of primary importance,
institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. —
111 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 se-
curity, cherish public credit. One method of pre-
serving it is to use it as sparingly as possible ; avoid-
ing occasions of expence by cultivating peace, but
remcmberinrj also that timely disburseiaeuts to pre-


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( xiv )

pare for danger frequently prevent much greater
disbursements to repel it ; avoiding likewise the
accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions
of expence, but by vigorous exertions in time of
peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars
may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing
upon posterity the burthen which we ourselves ought
to bear, — The execution of these maxims belongs to
your representatives, but it is necessary that public
opinion should co-operate. 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 iilconvenient
and unpleasant ; that the intrinsic embarrassment
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 con*
duct of the government in making; it, and for a spirit
of acquiescence in the measures for oblainiiig revenue
which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.
Observe good faith and justicfe towards all nations^
cultivate peace and harmony with all ; religion and
morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be tliat
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 mag-
nanimous and too novel example of a people always
guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who
can doubt that in the course of time and things the
fruits of such a plan woulrl richly repay any temporary
advantages \a hich 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 rendered impossible by its vices ?


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( xr )

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 ani-
mosity or to its aflFection, either of which is sufficient
to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. An-
tipathy 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, where accidental or trifling occasion;^ of
dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate,
evenomed 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 favourite nation, facilitating the illusion of an
imaginary common interest, in cases where no real
coramou iatercbt exists, and infusing into one the
enormities 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 favomrite nation of
privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to
injure the nation making the concessions ; by unne-
cessarily parting with what ought to have been


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( xvi )

retained ; and by exciting jealous)^ ill will, and a
disposition to retaliate, in the parties frona whom
equal privileges are withheld : And it gives to
ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who de-
vote themselves to the favourite nation) facility to
betray, or sacrifice the interests of their own countrj',
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

As avenues to fc^eign influence in innumerable
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, .towards a great and powerful nation, dooms
the former to be Ae 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 for-
eign influence is one of the most baneful foes of re-
publican government. But that jealousy to be useful
must be impartial ; else it becomes the i^^&trument
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^
arni serve to veil and even second the arts or iafluencc
on the other. — Real patriots, who may resist the in-
-trigues of tlie favourite, are liable to become sus-
pected and odious ; v. hile its tools and dupes usurp
the applause and confidence of the people, to siurcn-
der their interests.


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The great rule of conduct for us, in regatd to
foreign nations, is in extending our commercial re-
lations, to have with them as little polilical connec*
tion 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 ii$
liave none, or k very remote relation. ' Hence she
must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes
of which are essentially foreign to our concerns*
HencCi therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate
ourselves j by artificial ties^ in the ordinary vicissi-
tudes of her politics^ or the ordinaty combinations of
her friendships or enmities^

Our detached and distant situadoh invites and
ctiable^ us to pursue a diflFerent course. If we re*
main one people^ under an efficient government, the
period is liot far off, when we may defy material
injury from external annoyance ; when we may take
such an attitude as will caiise the neutrality, we may
at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respect*
ed ; when belligerent nations, uhder 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 counscL

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situa*
tion ? Why quit Our own 16 stand upon foreign
gi'ourtd ? Why, by interweaving our destiny witk
that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and
prosperity in the toils of European anlbition, rivalship,
interest, humour or capHce ?

^Tis our true policy to steer clejlr of permanent
alliances with any portion of the foreign world ; so
fur, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it ; for
let me not be understood as capable of patronising
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.


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( xviii )

therei bre, let those engagements be observed in their

gcnui ne sense. But in my opinion, it is unnecessaiy,

and V /ould be unwise to extend them.

Ta king care to keep ourselves, by suitable estab-

lishti lents, on a respectable defensive posture, we

may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraor-

dina; ry emergencies.

H armony, liberal intercourse witfi all nations, are

reco mmendctl by policy, humanity, and interest.

But even our commercial policy should hold an equal

and impartial hand ; neither seeking nor granting

exc lusive favours or preferences ; consulting the na-

tur al course of things ; diffusing and diversifying by
gei itle means the streams of commerce, but forcing
noi .hing ; establishing, with powers so disposed, in
or( -!er to give trade a stable course, to define the
ri| ;hts of cur merchants, and to enable the govern-
in ent to support them ; conventional rules of inter-
c( urse, the best that present circumstances and
ir utual opinion will permit, but temporary, and
li able to be from time to time abandoned or varied,
^ s experience and circumstances shall dictate ; con-
^ stantly keeping in view, that 'tis folly in one nation
' to look for disinterested favours 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 con-
dition of haying given equivalents for nominal fa-
vours, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude
for not giving more. There can be no greater error
than . to expect, or calculate upon real favours from
nation to nation. *Tis an illusion v»hich' experience
must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

Ill 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 w^ill controul the usual current of
i^e passion, 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


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( xix )

may be productive of some partial benefit, son le oc-

casipnal good ; that they may now and then re cur to

moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn again st the

mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against tl le iin.

postures of pretended patriotism ; this hope w ill be

a full rccompence for the solicitude for your wc :Ifare

by which they have been dictated. - *

How far in the discharge of my official dut ics, I

have been guided by the principles which have been

delineated, the public records and other evidem :es of

my conduct must witness to you and to the y, 'orld.

To myself, the assurance of my own consciem :e is

that I have at least believed myself to be guide d by

In relation to the still subsisting war in Eu ""ope,

my proclamation of the 22d of April, 1793, i. s the

index to my plan. Sanctioned by your appn )ving

voice and by that of your Representatives in both

Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has

continually governed me ; uninfluenced by anj ^ at-
tempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination with the aid of * the

be$t lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied tliat

our country, under all the circumstances of the < :ase^

had a right to take, and was bound in duty Sifid

interest, to take a neutral position. Having take :n it,

I determined, as far as should depend upon m« •, to

maintain it, with moderation, perseverance aiid

The considerations which respect the righ' t to

hojd this conduct, it is not necessary on this o c^a,

sion to detail. • I will only observe, that accon li^g

to my understanding of the matter, that right su

far from being denied by any of the belligCi r^^n
powers, has been virtually admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may fee
inferred, withoutany thing more, from the pbligataoa,
which justice and humanity impose on every nation^,
in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain invio*.


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( «^ )

late the relations ot peace and aniity towards otfier

The inducements of interest for observing that
conduct will best be referred to your own reflections
and experience. With me, a predominant motive
^s been to endeavor to gain time to our country to
settle and mature its recent institutions, and to pro-
gress withput interruption, to that degree of strength
and consistency, which is necessary to give it, hu»
manly 3pealving, the command of its own fortunes.

Though in reviewing the incidents of my admini-
stration, I am unconscious of intentional error ; I am
nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think
it probable that I mav have committed many errors.
Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almigh-
ty to avert or mitigate the evib to which they may tend.
I shall also carry with me the hope that my country
wilji never cease to yiew tjieju with indulgence ; and
thajt after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its
-service, with an uprigjit zeal, the faults of incompe-
tent abilities will be Qonsigned tp pbliyion, as myself
jmust soon be to the mansion of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things,
und actuated by that fervent love towards it, which
is sp natural to a man, who views in it the native
soil of himself and his progenitors for several gCr
nerations ; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that
retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without
allay, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst
of ri)y fellow-citizens, the benign' influence of good
laws under a free government— the favourite object
of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our
inutual cares, labours, and dangers.


j7riited fStcfes, Sept. 17^ 1796,


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( xxi )


WHEN it was first perceived, in early times, that
fio middle course for America remained; between
unlimited submission to a foreign legislature, and a
total independence of its claims ; men of reflection
^were less apprehensive of danger, from the formida-
Jjlepawcr of fleets and armies, they must determine
to resist, than from those contests and disscntions,

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Online LibraryUnited States. PresidentAddresses of the successive presidents to both houses of Congress, at the ... → online text (page 18 of 20)