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The Farewell Address


By George Washington
September 19, 1796


Friends, & 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 cloathed with that important trust, it appears to me
proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the
public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have
formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom
a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the sametime, 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, & continuance hitherto in, the Office to which your
Suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of
inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared
to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much
earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty
to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been
reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to
the last Election, had even led to the preparation of an address to
declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed & critical
posture of our Affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of
persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.
I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal,
no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the
sentiment of duty, or propriety; & am persuaded whatever partiality may be
retained for my services, that in the present circumstances of our
country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.

The impressions, with which, I first undertook the arduous trust, were
explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will
only say, that I have, with good intentions, 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 strengthned the
motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the encreasing weight 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, patriotizm 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 suspend the deep
acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude wch I owe to my beloved country,
for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the stedfast
confidence with which it has supported me; and for the
opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable
attachment, by services faithful & persevering, though in usefulness
unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these
services, let it always be remembered 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, viscissitudes 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 which
they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it
with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven
may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence--that your
Union & 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 welfare, 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 offer 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 only see in them the disinterested warnings of a
parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to biass his
counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your endulgent
reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.
Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts,
no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the
Attachment.

The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people is also now dear
to you. It is justly so; for it is a main Pillar in the Edifice of your
real independence, the support of your tranquility 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 & 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 & external enemies will be most constantly and
actively (though often covertly & insidiously) directed, it is of infinite
moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your
national Union to your collective & individual happiness; that you should
cherish a cordial, habitual & immoveable attachment to it; accustoming
yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political
safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety;
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 American, 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 Religeon, Manners,
Habits & political Principles. You have in a common cause fought &
triumphed together--The independence & liberty you possess are the work of
joint councils, and joint efforts--of common dangers, sufferings and
successes.

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves 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 guarding & preserving the Union of
the whole.

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the
equal Laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter,
great additional resources of Maratime & commercial enterprise
and--precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South in the same
Intercourse, benefitting by the Agency of the North, sees its agriculture
grow & its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the
seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation envigorated; and
while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish & increase the general
mass of the National navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a
Maratime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a
like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the
progressive improvement of interior communications, by land & water, will
more & more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from
abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies
requisite to its growth & comfort--and what is perhaps of still greater
consequence, it must of necessity 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 community of Interest as one Nation. Any other
tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether
derived from its own seperate strength, or from an apostate & unnatural
connection with any foreign Power, must be intrinsically precarious.
While then every part of our country thus feels an immediate & particular
Interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the
united mass of means & efforts greater strength, greater resource,
proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent
interruption of their Peace by foreign Nations; and, what is of
inestimable value! they must derive from Union an exemption from those
broils and Wars between themselves, which so frequently
afflict neighbouring countries, not tied together by the same government;
which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which
opposite foreign alliances, attachments & intriegues would stimulate &
imbitter. Hence likewise they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown
Military establishments, which under any form of Government are
inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly
hostile to Republican Liberty: In this sense it is, that your union ought
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 reflecting &
virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the Union as a primary
object of Patriotic desire. Is there a doubt, whether a common government
can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere
speculation in such a case were criminal. 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. 'Tis well worth a fair and full experiment. With
such powerful and obvious motives to Union, 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 wch may disturb our Union, it
occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been
furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical
discriminations--Northern and Southern--Atlantic and Western; whence
designing men may endeavour 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 misrepresent the opinions & aims of other Districts. You cannot shield
yourselves too much against the jealousies & heart burnings which spring
from these misrepresentations. They tend to render Alien to each other
those who ought to be bound together by fraternal Affection. The
Inhabitants of our Western country have lately had a useful lesson on this
head. They have Seen, in the Negociation by the Executive, and in the
unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the Treaty with Spain, and in the
universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a
decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of
a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly
to their Interests in regard to the Mississippi. They have been witnesses
to the formation of two Treaties, that with G: Britain and that with
Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to
our Foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be
their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union
by wch they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those
Advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their Brethren and
connect them with Aliens?

To the efficacy and permanency of Your Union, a Government
for the whole is indispensable. No Alliances however strict between the
parts can be an adequate substitute. They must inevitably experience the
infractions & 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 Constitution 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 uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation &
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 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 and the right of the
People to establish Government presupposes the duty of every
Individual to obey the established Government.

All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and
Associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to
direct, controul counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of
the Constituted authorities are distructive 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
triumphs of different parties, to make the public Administration the
Mirror of the ill concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather
than the Organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common
councils and modefied by mutual interests. However combinations or
Associations of the above description may now & then answer popular ends,
they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent
engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men will be enabled
to subvert the Power of the People, & 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
permanency 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 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 hypotheses & opinion exposes to perpetual change, from the endless
variety of hypotheses 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 vigour 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 & to maintain all
in the secure & tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person & 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 comprehensive view, & warn you in
the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party,
generally.

This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseperable 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, controuled, 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 dissention, which in
different ages & 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 & miseries, which result, gradually
incline the minds of men to seek security & 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 & continual mischiefs of
the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and the 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 & insurrection. It opens the
door to foreign influence & 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 probably true--and in Governments
of a Monarchical cast Patriotism may look with endulgence, if not with
favour, 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 opinion, to mitigate &
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 entrusted with its
Administration, 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
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 of political power; by
dividing and distributing it into different depositories, & constituting
each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has
been evinced by experiments ancient & modern; some of them in our country
& 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 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
prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain
would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to
subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the
duties of Men & citizens. The mere Politican, equally with the pious man
ought to respect & to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their
connections with private & 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 & 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 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 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 & security, cherish public credit.
One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible:
avoiding occasions of expence 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 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 cooperate.
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 & unpleasant--that the intrinsic embarrassment inseperable
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 & justice towds all Nations. Cultivate peace & harmony
with all--Religion & 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 & benevolence. Who can doubt that in the course of time
and things the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary
advantages wch 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?

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 & 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 & 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 & 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 common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the
other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels & Wars of
the latter, without adequate inducement or justification: It leads also to
concessions to the favourite Nation of priviledges denied to others, which
is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions--by
unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained--& by exciting
jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from
whom eql priviledges are withheld: And it gives to ambitious, corrupted,
or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favourite 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.

As avenues to foreign 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 & 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 Republican Government. But
that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the
instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a 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 intriegues of the favourite, are
liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the
applause & confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in
extending our comercial relations to have with them as little political
connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements let
them be fulfilled, with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.

Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very
remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the
causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence therefore
it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the
ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations &
collisions of her friendships, or enmities.

Our detached & 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 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
belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon
us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose
peace or War, as our interest guided by justice shall Counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to
stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of
any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the
toils of European Ambition, Rivalship, Interest, Humour or Caprice?

'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances,[note] 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 patronising infidility
to existing engagements, (I hold the maxim no less applicable to public
than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy)--I repeat
it therefore, Let those engagements. be observed in their genuine sense.
But in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a
respectably defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances
for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy,
humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal
and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or
preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing &
deversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing;
establishing with Powers so disposed--in order to give to 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, & liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as
experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view,
that 'tis folly in one Nation to look for disinterested favors from
another--that it must pay with a portion of its Independence for whatever
it may accept under that character--that by such acceptance, it may place
itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favours
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 which experience must cure, which
a just pride ought to discard.

In offering to you, my Countrymen, these counsels of an old and
affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting
impression, I could wish--that they will controul 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 & then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against
the mischiefs of foreign Intriegue, to guard against the
Impostures of pretended patriotism--this hope will be a full recompence
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 Proclamation of the
22d of April 1793 is the index to my Plan. Sanctioned by your approving
voice and by that of Your Representatives 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, perseverence & firmness.

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

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing
more, from the obligation which justice and humanity 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 & experience. With me, a predominant
motive has been to endeavour to gain time to our country to settle &
mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption,
to that degree of strength & consistency, which is necessary to give it,
humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

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

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

Go: Washington
 

 

Promoting the Freedom, Sovereignty, & Independence of America