Washington’s Farewell Address




This address was written primarily to eliminate himself as a candidate 
for a third term. It was never read by the President in public, but it was
printed in Claypoole's AMERICAN DAILY ADVERTISER, Philadelphia,
September 19, 1796. The address is in two parts: In the first, Washington 
declines a third term, gives his reasons, and acknowledges a debt 
of gratitude for the honors conferred upon him and for the confident 
support of the people. In the second more important part, he presents, 
as a result of his experience and as a last legacy of advice, thoughts 
upon the government.

George Washington gave Claypoole a manuscript which he called "his copy" 
and it was from this manuscript that the type was set in the newspaper. 
After Claypoole's death, the manuscript was ordered to be sold at auction
on February 12, 1850.  Senator Henry Clay on January 24 offered a joint     
resolution for its purchase by the government, but the resolution was not   
signed by President Taylor until the day of the sale. The manuscript was
sold to James Lenox for $2,300, and passed, with his library, to the New 
York Public Library.  There is no evidence of any bid on behalf of the 
national government.

The following is an exact word for word text of the original.  Nothing has  
been changed or omitted except old English spelling and punctuation. 


Friends, And 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 clothed 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 same time, 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, and 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 and 
critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous 
advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the 

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; and 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 strengthened the 
motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing 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, patriotism 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 which I owe to my beloved 
country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for 
the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the 
opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable 
attachment, by services faithful and 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, vicissitudes 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 and 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 bias his       
counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it your indulgent        
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 and 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 and external enemies will be most constantly and 
actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of 
infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of 
your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you 
should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immoveable attachment to it; 
accustoming yourself 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 religion, manners, habits and       
political principles.  You have in a common cause fought and triumphed      
together; the independence and 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 and 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 maritime and 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 and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the 
seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and 
while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the 
general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the 
protection of a maritime 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 and water, 
will more and 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 and 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 separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural 
connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.

While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and 
particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find 
in the united mass of means and 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 
neighboring countries not tied together by the same government, which
their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which 
opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and 
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 and 
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. It is 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 which 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 endeavor 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 and aims of other 
districts.  You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies 
and 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 negotiation 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 Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to 
them everything 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 advantaged on the UNION by which 
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 and 
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 and 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, control counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action
of the constituted authorities are destructive of this fundamental 
principle and of fatal tendency.  They serve to organize faction, to give 
it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the 
delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but 
artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the 
alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration 
the mirror of the illconcerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather 
than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common 
councils, and modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and 
then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and 
things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and 
unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and
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 
and 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 vigor 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 enterprise of faction, to confine each member of the 
society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in 
the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and 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, and warn you 
in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of 
party, generally. 

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its 
root in the strongest passions of the human mind.  It exists under 
different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, 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 
and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a 
frightful despotism.  But this leads at length to a more formal and 
permanent despotism.  The disorders and miseries which result gradually 
incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power 
of an individual, and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing 
faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this 
disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public 

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless 
ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continual mischiefs 
of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of 
a wise people to discourage and 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 and insurrection.  It opens the door to foreign 
influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the 
government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy 
and the will of one country, are subjected to the policy and will of 

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 indulgence, if not with 
favor, 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 
and 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 

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, and constituting each the 
guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been 
evinced by experiments ancient and modern;  some of them in our country 
and under our own eyes.  To preserve them must be as 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 labor 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 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 and experience both forbid us to expect that national 
morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

'Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of
popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to 
every 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 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 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 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 burden 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 and 
unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment inseparable from the
selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), 
ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the 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 

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 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 advantages 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! 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 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 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 and
resentment sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best 
calculations of policy.  The government sometimes participates in the 
national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject;
at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to 
projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister 
and pernicious motives.  The peace often, sometimes perhaps the Liberty, 
of nations has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a
variety of evils.  Sympathy for the favorite 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 and wars of the latter, 
without adequate inducement or justification.  It leads also to 
concessions to the favorite 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 been 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 
favorite 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 of 
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 and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the 

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 intrigues of the favorite, are 
liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the
applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in 
extending 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. 

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 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, humor, 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; consulting 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 `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 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 spirit, to warn 
against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the 
impostures of pretended patriotism;  this hope will be a full recompense 
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 

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 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.

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 favorite object of my heart, and the happy 
reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors and dangers. 
                                                          George Washington
   United States, 17th September 1796


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