« AnteriorContinuar »
acter; 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. It is 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 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 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 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 in
dulgence; 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. *
* This Address is here printed from a copy of “ Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser,” for September 19th, 1796. On this paper are endorsed the following words in Washington's handwriting, which were designed as an instruction to the copyist, who recorded the Address in the letter-book.
“ The letter contained in this gazette, addressed “To the People of the United States,' is to be recorded, and in the order of its date. Let it have a blank page before and after it, so as to stand distinct. Let it be written with a letter larger and fuller than the common recording hand. And where words are printed with capital letters, it is to be done so in recording. And those other words, that are printed in italics, must be scored underneath and straight by a ruler."
See APPENDIX, No. III.
TO THE COUNCIL AND ASSEMBLY OF NEW JERSEY ;
IN A LETTER TO JAMES LINN, VICE-PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL, AND J. H. IMLAY, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY.
NOVEMBER 21st, 1796.
GENTLEMEN, I am truly sensible of the honor done me by the concurrent and unanimous resolutions of the Council and House of Assembly of the State of New Jersey, passed the 15th and 16th instant, approving my conduct in the administration of the government of the United States, and regretting my determination to retire from public life. They have also been pleased to express their acknowledgments for the sentiments contained in my late address to my fellow-citizens, which affection, respect, and solicitude for their lasting welfare prompted me to lay before them.
Such testimonies, while they manifest the kindness of the Council and Assembly, persuade me to believe, that my services have been useful to my country, a consideration, which will render their recollection dear to me, to the latest period of my life.
TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF VIRGINIA.
DECEMBER 27th, 1796.
GENTLEMEN, For your Address be pleased to accept my acknowledgments.
That any services of mine should have produced
a declaration of the friendship and gratitude of the legislature of Virginia, cannot but be as pleasing as it is honorable to me, whose highest ambition has been, by faithfully and zealously serving my country to the utmost of my abilities, in all the public employments of my life, to merit the approbation of my fellow-citizens.
It is with unfeigned thankfulness for the goodness of a kind Providence, that I look forward to the period, when the first wishes of my heart are to be gratified, in returning once more to private occupation in the shades of rural life.*
TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF SOUTH CARO
LINA ; IN A LETTER TO ROBERT BARNWELL, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.
JANUARY 24TH, 1797.
SIR, I ack ledge the receipt of your obliging favor of the 20th of the last month, covering the resolutions of the House of Representatives of the State of South Carolina, of the preceding day.
The sense the House have been pleased to express of my public services, the declaration of their affectionate attachment, and their kind wishes for my happiness, are for those services the most grateful return.
While I enjoy the personal satisfaction, which the
For a letter to Elijah Paine and Isaac Tichenor, dated December 12th, 1796, and another to John H. Stone, dated December 23d, in reply to Addresses from the States of Vermont and Maryland, see Vol. XI. pp. 174, 176.