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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 and a 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 by 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 'lis 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 all 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 intrigues, to gaurd 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 coun. try, 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 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 de
nied by any of the belligerant powers, has been virtually admitted by all.
The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred without anything 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 him. self 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 fellowcitizens, 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 Sept. 1796.
Extract from an Oration, delivered at the City Hotel, in
the New-York Forum, April, 1821.
Pre-eminence in oratory was the most distinguishing mark of excellence among the enlightened of the nations of antiquity, and they brought it to a perfection which, although the lapse of ages has taken place and millions have toiled to emulate, few have been able to equal, none to surpass.
Who can read the fulminations of a Demosthenes to arouse the slumbering spirit of the Athenian against Macedonian Philip, with an eloquence whose influence, like that of the moon upon the waters, raised the tide of the multitude, tillo'erleaping all bounds, it burst an impetuous and overwhelming torrent against the encroaching object of its opposition; who can read this and not feel a devotion to sacrifice all selfish and personal advantages for the prosperity, safety, and happiness of his native country ?
Who but must look back with an admiration approaching to Mythologic deification, at the splendor of a Cicero, encircled by the glory of his forensic eloquence, in the accusation of a Verres ?
What holy, what dignified uses—what noble results has not oratory led to, and may not oratory continue to achieve?
In a religious point of view, what good man who contemplates that system of infidelity and demoralization, resorted to by men of a very different denomination, but must rejoice that the redeeming voice of eloquence, in the more redeeming language of christianity, may rescue ignorance or impiety from such wicked, such ini. quitous procedure! A system which, if suffered without disapprobation to be disseminated, might ultimately destroy the humanity and harmony which constitute the present happiness of civilized society here, and even a hope of eternal happiness hereafter.
Oratory, in this country, may not only be looked upon as the finger mark on the road which points at, but the powerful impetus by which desert may be urged to aspire to, nay, even seat itself in, that highly pinnacled chair, which the suffrage of a free and independent people has so placed, to render the individual of their choice pre-eminently conspicuous.
Oratory may be hailed a nation's champion, rearing his majestic front for the preservation of liberty, property, and life; the firm and fearless defender of the houseless widow, the helpless orphan, the wretched and the oppressed; the strong and irresistible power which drags the guilty culprit from his dark and polluted den to the blaze of day, and the seat of justice; the Minervan shield which covers and protects the innocent and falsely accused, from shafts of slander shot to inflict wounds most deadly, most undeserved ; the heaven-gifted power which reascends to the mansion of its creation, an all persuasive advocate in the righteous cause of suffering humanity : these are the uses, these the religion fulfilling effects, these the honor dispensing attributes, these the heart rendering rewards of oratory.
In our admiration of ancient, let not modern eloquence be forgotten. Partiality ought not to be attributed to me for the selection which I am about to make: all should receive my humble eulogy did but memory admit of the recurrence. The following are green in its storehouse. Where are those who late were wont to charm the Se. nate, the Pulpit, and the Bar ?—those to whose accents men have listened with reverential silence, and a de: light increasing with the duration of their devotion ? Where Chatham, Burke, Pit, Fox, Sheridan, Grattan, Kirwan, Ames, Hamilton, Henry, Pinkney, Erskine, Curran. Curran, whom alone to name is but to eulogizę. Oh, how unreal, how evanescent, are all earthly acquirements! Alas! those bright luminaries, that so irradiated oratory, have passed away ; but, fortunately for posterity, each has left a refulgent path path, like the skyey milkey way, will baffle time by holding with him a duration equal, an existence death.