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vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation, invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy 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, hunior 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 patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those 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 respectable 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 favors or preferences ; consult-, ing the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, 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 rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate ; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one na. tion 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 please itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. '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 control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good ; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spisit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigues, 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, perseverance and firmness.
The considerations which respect the right to hold this con. duct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the belligerent powe ers, has been virtually admitted by all.
The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligations 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 and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress, without interruption, to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.
Trough in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error ; I am nevertheless too sen. sible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently
beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my
country will never cease to view them with indulgence ; and - that after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service, with an 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 favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward and trust, of our mutual cares, labors and, dangers.
UNITED STATES, Sept. 17, 1796.
A LETTER FROM HIS EXCELLENCE GEORGE WASHINGTON, TO
THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, ON ACCEPTING THE APPOINTMENT OF COMMANDER IN CHIEF OF THE ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES.
Mount VERNON, July 13, 1793. DEAR SIR, T HAD the honor, on the evening of the 11th instant, to re1 ceive from the hand of the secretary of war, your favor of the 7th, announcing that you had, with the advice and consent of the senate, appointed me •66 lieutenant-general and conimander in chief of all the armies raised or to be raised for the service of the United States."
I CANNOT express how greatly affected I am at this new proof of public confidence, and the highly flattering manner in which you have been pleased to make the communication ; at the same time I must not conceal from you my earnest wish, that the choice had fallen upon a man less declined in years, and better qualified to encounter the usual vicissitudes of war.
You know, Sir, what calculation I had made relative to the probable course of events, on my retiring from office, and the determination I had consoled myself with, of closing the remnant of my days in my present peaceful abode : you will therefore be at no loss to conceive and appreciate the sensations I must have experienced, to bring my mind to any conclusion that would pledge me, at so late a period of life, to leave scenes I sincerely love, to enter upon the boundless field of public action, incessant trouble, and high responsibility.
It was not possible for me to remain ignorant of, or indifferent to, recent transactions. The conduct of the directory of France towards our country ; their insidious hostility to its government; their various practices to withdraw the affections of the people from it ; the evident tendency of their acts and those of their agents to countenance and invigorate opposition ; their disregard of solemn treaties and the laws of nations ; their war upon our defenceless commerce ; their treatment of our ministers of peace; and their demands, amounting to tribute, could not fail to excite in me corresponding sentiments with those my countrymen have so generally expressed in their af. fectionate addresses to you. Believe me, Sir, no one can more cordially approve of the wise and prudent measures of your administration.—They ought to inspire universal confidence, and will, no doubt, combined with the state of things, call from congress such laws and means as will enable you to meet the full force and extent of the crisis.
SATISFIED, therefore, that you have sincerely wished and endeavored to avert war, and exhausted, to the last drop, the cup of reconciliation, we can with pure hearts appeal to hea. ven for the justice of our cause ; and may confidently trust the