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ple, 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.
25. Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, RELIGION and MORALITY are indispensible supports. In vain would that man claim the tributes of PATRIOTISM, who should labour 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 volume could not trace all their connections 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 wbich are 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.
26. 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 ?
27. 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 opin. ion, should be enlightened.
28. 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 remember also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger, frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debts, 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 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 it 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 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.
29. 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.1
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 benevolence. Who can doubt that in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantage 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 ! it is rendered impossible by its vices.!
30. 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 affections, 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, envenom ed, 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.
31. So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favourite nation, facili. tating the illusion that an imaginary common interest exists, and insusing 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 favourite nation, of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions, by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have heen 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 themselves to the favourite nation,) facility to betray, or sacrifice the interests of their country, without odium, somelimes even with popularity; gilding with the appearance of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for the public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
32. 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 practise the arts of sedition, 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
ested favours from another : that it must pay with a portion of its inde
influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. Bat 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. Exces sive 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 favourite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
33. The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations is, in estending our commercial 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.
34. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have nonc, oravery l'emote 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 tics, in the orilinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships, or enmities.
35. Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient governmert, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from extern (1 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 be. ligerent nations under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, wil not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace
as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel. 36. 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 ?
37. It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world ; so far, I mean, as we arc 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, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But in my opinion, it is unnecessary, and would be unwise to extend them.
38. Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to ternporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
39. Harmony, and liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.
40. Bat even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial land; neither secking norgranting exclusive favours or preferences ;--consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of com terce, but forcing nothing ; establishing, 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 rulet intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but femporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate ; constantly keeping in that it is folly in one nation to look for disinter: pendeney for whatever it may accept under that character ; that by such
acceptance, it may place itself in thic condition of having given equivalents for nominal favours, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater errour than to expect, or calculate, upon real favours from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
41. In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I are 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 inay 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 recompence for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
42. 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 he guided by them.
43. 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 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.
44. 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.
45. 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.
46. The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every mation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity toward other nations.
47. The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavour 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.
48. Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am un. conscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my own de. fects, 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 musi soon be to the mansions of rest.
49. Relying on its kindness in this, as in other things, and actuated by that servent love toward it, which is so natural to a man, who views in it tha
native soil of himself, and his progenitors, for sereral generations; I antici pate, 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, and a free government the ever favourite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labours and dangers.
G. WASHINGTON. UNITED STATES, 17th September, 1796
General Washington's Resignation. MR. PRESIDENT, 1. The great events, on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I have now the honour of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself before them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to ine, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country. Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded to the United States, of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction, the appointment I accepted with diffidence ; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was superceded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.
2. The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine: expectations ; and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and this assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every re. view of the momentous contest. While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings, not to acknowledge, in this place, the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the gentlemen, who have been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers, to compose my family, should have been more fortunate.
3. Permit me, sir, to recommend, in particular, those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favourable notice and patronage of Congress. I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of ALMIGHTY GOD, and those who have the superintendance of them to his holy keeping. Having noir finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
Answer of Congress. SIR, 1. The United States in Congress assembled, receive, with emotions too affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities under which you have led their troops avith success, through a perilous and a doubtful
Called upon by your country to defend its invaded rights, you accepted the sacred charge, before it had formed alliances, and while it was without funds, or a government to support you.