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140. FRANCE AND THE UNITED STATES.–George Washington. B. 1732; d. 1799.
Reply, as President of the United States, January 1st, 1796, to the address of the Minister Plenipotentiary of the French Republic, on his presenting the colors of France to the United States.
Born, Sir, in a land of liberty; having early learned its value; having engaged in a perilous conflict to defend it; having, in a word, devoted the best years of my life to secure its permanent establishment in my own country, -my anxious recollections, my sympathetic feelings, and my best wishes, are irresistibly excited, whensoever, in any country, I see an oppressed Nation unfurl the banners of freedom. But, above all, the events of the French Revolution have produced the deepest solicitude, as well as the highest admiration. To call your Nation brave, were to pronounce but common praise. Wonderful People ! Ages to come will read with astonishment the history of your brilliant exploits I rejoice that the period of your toils and of your immense sacrifices is approaching. I rejoice that the interesting revolutionary movements of so many years have issued in the formation of a Constitution designed to give permanency to the great object for which you have contended. I rejoice that liberty, which you have so long embraced with enthusiasm, - liberty, of which you have been the invincible defenders, - now finds an asylum in the bosom of a regularly organized Government; — a Government, which, being formed to secure the happiness of the French People, corresponds with the ardent wishes of my heart, while it gratifies the pride of every citizen of the United States, by its resemblance to his own. On these glorious events, accept, Sir, my sincere congratulations.
In delivering to you these sentiments, I express not my own feelings only, but those of my fellow-citizens, in relation to the commencement, the progress, and the issue, of the French Revolution ; and they will cordially join with me in purest wishes to the Supreme Being, that the citizens of our sister Republic, our magnanimous allies, may soon enjoy in peace that liberty which they have puri. at so great a price, and all the happiness which liberty can
I receive, Sir, with lively sensibility, the symbol of the triumphs and of the enfranchisement of your Nation, the colors of France, which you have now presented to the United States. The transaction will be announced to Congress; and the colors will be deposited with those archives of the United States which are at once the evidences and the memorials of their freedom and independence. May these be perpetual And may the friendship of the two Republics be commensurate with their existence :
141. AGAINST FOREIGN ENTANGLEMENTS, 1796. – George Washington.
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 Nation, and excessive dislike for 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 detatched 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 on 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
Fisher Ames, one of the most eloquent of American Statesmen and writers, was born in I}odham, Massachusetts, 1758, and died July 4, 1808. He was a member of Congress during the eight years of Washington's administration, of which he was the earnest and able champion. WE are either to execute this treaty, or break our faith. To expatiate on the value of public faith may pass with some men for declamation : to such men I have nothing to say. To others, I will urge, can any circumstance mark upon a People more turpitude and debasement 2 Can anything tend more to make men think themselves mean, – or to degrade to a lower point their estimation of virtue, and their standard of action ? It would not merely demoralize mankind; it tends to break all the ligaments of society; to dissolve that mysterious charm which attracts individuals to the Nation; and to inspire, in its stead, a repulsive sense of shame and disgust.
What is patriotism? Is it a narrow affection for the spot whore a man was born ? Are the very clods where we tread entitled to this ardent preference, because they are greener? No, Sir; this is not the character of the virtue. It soars higher for its object. It is an extended self-love, mingling with all the enjoyments of life, and twisting itself with the minutest filaments of the heart. It is thus we obey the laws of society, because they are the laws of virtue. In their authority we see, not the array of force and terror, but the venerable image of our country's honor. Every good citizen makes that honor his own, and cherishes it, not only as precious, but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defence, and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it; for what rights of a citizen will be deemed inviolable, when a State renounces the principles that constitute their security ? Or, if his life should not be invaded, what would its enjoyments be, in a country odious in the eye of strangers, and dishonored in his own 2 Could he look with affection and veneration to such a country, as his parent? The sense of having one would die within him : he would blush for his patriotism, if he retained any, - and justly, for it would be a vice. He would be a banished man in his native land. I see no exception to the respect that is paid among Nations to the law of good faith. It is the philosophy of politics, the religion of Governments. It is observed by barbarians. A whiff of tobacco-smoke, or a string of beads, gives not merely binding force, but sanctity, to treaties. Even in Algiers, a truce may be bought for money; but, when ratified, even Algiers is too wise, or too just, to disown and annul its obligation.
143. THE BRITISH TREATY, 1796. – Fisher Ames.
ARE the posts of our frontier to remain forever in the possession of Great Britain Let those who reject them, when the treaty offers them to our hands, say, if they choose, they are of no importance. Will the tendency to Indian hostilities be contested by any one : Experience gives the answer. Am I reduced to the necessity of proving this point 2 Certainly the very men who charged the Indian war on the detention of the posts will call for no other proof than the recital of their own speeches. “Until the posts are restored,” they exclaimed, “the treasury and the frontiers must bleed.” Can Gentlemen now say that an Indian peace, without the posts, will prove firm 2 No, Sir, it will not be peace, but a sword; it will be no better than a lure to draw victims within the reach of the tomahawk.
On this theme, my emotions are unutterable. If I could find words for them, if my powers bore any proportion to my zeal, I would swell my voice to such a note of remonstrance, it should reach every loghouse beyond the mountains. I would say to the inhabitants, Wake from your false security Your cruel dangers, your more cruel apprehensions, are soon to be renewed. The wounds, yet unhealed, are to be torn open again. In the day-time, your path through the woods will be ambushed. The darkness of midnight will glitter with the blaze of your dwellings. You are a father, — the blood of your sons shall fatten your corn-fields! You are a mother, — the warwhoop shall wake the sleep of the cradle!
Who will say that I exaggerate the tendencies of our measures 2 Will any one answer, by a sneer, that all this is idle preaching 2 Will any one deny that we are bound, and, I would hope, to good purpose, by the most solemn sanctions of duty, for the vote we give 2 Are despots alone to be reproached for unfeeling indifference to the tears and blood of their subjects : Are republicans irresponsible 2 Can you put the dearest interest of society at risk, without guilt, and without remorse ? It is vain to offer, as an excuse, that public men are not to be reproached for the evils that may happen to ensue from their measures. This is very true, where they are unforeseen or inevitable. Those I have depicted are not unforeseen; they are so far from inevitable, we are going to bring them into being by our vote. We choose the consequences, and become as justly answerable for them as for the measure that we know will produce them.
By rejecting the posts, we light the savage fires, we bind the victims. This day we undertake to render account to the widows and orphans whom our decision will make; — to the wretches that will be roasted at the stake; to our country, and, I do not deem it too serious to say, to conscience and to God, we are answerable; and, if duty be anything more than a word of imposture, if conscience be not a bugbear, we are preparing to make ourselves as wretched as our country. There is no mistake in this case. There can be none. Experience has already been the prophet of events, and the cries of our future victims have already reached us. The Western inhabitants are not a silent and uncomplaining sacrifice. The voice of humanity issues from the shade of the wilderness. It exclaims, that, while one hand is held up to reject this treaty, the other grasps a tomahawk. It summons our imagination to the scenes that will open. It is no great effort of the imagination to conceive that events so near are already begun. I can fancy that I listen to the yells of savage vengeance, and the shrieks of torture! Already they seem to sigh in the Western wind. Already they mingle with every echo from the mountains !
—o144. A REPUBLIC THE STRONGEST GOVERNMENT. – T. Jefferson. B.1743; d. 1826. From his Inaugural Address, as President of the United States, March 4, 1801.
DURING the throes and convulsions of the ancient world,—during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking, through blood and slaughter, his long-lost liberty, -it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore, — that this should be more felt and feared by some, and less by others, – and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans: we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let them stand, undisturbed, as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated, where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear a republican Government cannot be strong, — that this Government is not strong enough. But would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a Government which has so far kept us free and firm, on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may, by possibility, want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order, as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels, in the form of Kings, to govern him : Let history answer this question.
Let us, then, with courage and confidence, pursue our own Federal and Republican principles—our attachment to Union and representative Government. Kindly separated, by nature and a wide ocean, from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe, – too highminded to endure the degradations of the others, – possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation, — entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions, and their sense of them,enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practised in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man, – acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which, by all its dispensations, proves that it delights in the happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter: with all these blessings, what more is necessary, to make us a happy and prosperous People :
Still one thing more, fellow-citizens: a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government; and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.
145. JUDGES SHOULD BE FREE, 1802. —James A. Bayard. Born, 1767; died, 1815.
LET it be remembered that no power is so sensibly felt by society as that of the Judiciary. The life and property of every man is