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
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
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, 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
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
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.