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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 ?
It is 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 misunderstood as capable of patronising infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary, and would be unwise to extend them.
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 favours 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 opinions 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 nation to look for disinterested favours from another; that it must pay, with a portion of its independence, for whatever it inay 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. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pri le 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 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 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 proclama tion 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 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, with jut any thing more, from the obligation which justice and hu manity 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 endeavour to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress, without interruption, to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.
Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I ain unconscious of intentional error; I am, nevertheless, too seusible 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.
GEORGE WASHINGTON. United States, 17th September, 1796.
QUESTIONS FOR EXAMINATION.
1. WHEN, and by whom, were John Cabot and his three sons commissioned to set forth on a voyage of discovery? What was done under this commission?
2. What was the origin of the title of England to North America? Upon what did that title depend? What was it called? What principle was adopted by European nations in relation to the discovery of unknown countries?
3. What restrictions were imposed upon the original inhabitants under this title? To whom could the natives grant a title ?
4. What was the probable origin of the Right of Discovery?
5. Are uninhabited countries considered as belonging to any particular nation? What right does a nation acquire in the discovery of uninhabited lands ? Under what conditions will its title be regarded as good by other nations? Under what conditions will its title be considered incomplete ?
6. Can the titles derived from discovery be easily overthrown? Where have they become vested by successive transfers ? Under what title do we hold this country? How has that title descended to us?
7. What laws govern the settlers of an uninhabited country? What laws govern them if the country be inhabited ?
8. How did the North American colonists regard the occupancy and claims of the Indian tribes? What laws did tbey take with them to the New World ? By what body were those laws ratified
9. What did the charters under whicn the colonies were settled expressly declare? What colony alone was excepted? Did the acts of Parliament always affect the colonies ?
10. Name the thirteen original colonies ? Into how many classes have these colonies been divided? In reference to what? Name the three divisions or classes.
11. By whom was a governor appointed under the provincial governments ? What rank did, he hold ? How did he rule? Who established courts and raised military forces ? What power had the governor with regard to legislative assemblies? What kind of laws did they make? Name the provincial colonies.
12. What did the king grant to the proprietary governments? What powers did the proprietaries possess ? How many proprietary governments were there at the time of the Revolution ? Name them and their proprietors. What proprietary governments became provincial or royal before the Revolution ?
13. How and in whom were the rights vested in the charter governments ? By whom were the governor, council, and assembly chosen in Connecticut and