In September 1796, worn out by burdens of the presidency and attacks of political foes, George Washington announced his decision not to seek a third term. With the assistance of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Washington composed in a “Farewell Address,” his political testament to the nation. Designed to inspire and guide future generations, the address also set forth Washington’s defense of his adminitration’s record and embodied a classic statement of Federalists doctrine.
He believed that the stability of the Republic was threatened by the forces of geographic sectionalism, political factionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation’s domestic affairs. He urged Americans to subordinate sectional jealousies to common national interests…Washington feared that they carried the seeds of the nation’s destruction through petty factionalism. He counseled against the establishment of “permanent alliances with other countries,” connections that he worked inevitably be subversive of America’s national interest.
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.
…the continuance of the Union as a primary object of patriotic desire…there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.
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, until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.
Constituted authorities (party leaders), serve to organize faction; to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put in the place of hte delegated will of hte 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 hte ill concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modified by mutual interested. However, combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer populate 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 rein of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baleful effects of the spirit of party, generally. This spirit, is inseparable from nature, having its roots in the strongest passions of human kind. It exists under different shapes in all government, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rank ness and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, shapened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetuated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to more formal and permanent despotism…the commons and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest an the duty of a wise peopl to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public ecounclils 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 riots and insurrection. It opens the doors 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 another.
A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest instead of warming it should consume.
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports…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. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.
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.
Bear in mind that towards the payment of debts ther 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.
Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace an harmony with all; religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? Nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations and passionate attachements 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.
History and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baleful foes of republican government.
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. 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 understood as capable of patronizing infeidelity to existing engagements. I repeat it therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. Take care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectably 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.
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.
Moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism .