Page images
PDF
EPUB

“ 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 du. ty 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 anity toward other nations.

" The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predomiDaut motive has been to endeavour to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent in. stirutions, and to progress, without interruption, to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speakuig, ihe command of its own forture's.

“ Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I an unconscious of intentional error; I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have con.mitted many errors. Whatever they inay be, I fer

vently 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 af. ter forty five years of my life dedicated to its ser: vice, 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 toward 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 fellowcitizens, the benigi influence of good laws under a free govern. ment; the ever favourite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, - labours, and dangers.

“ United States, Sept. 17, 1796."

This valedictory address of the father of country, was received in every part of the union with the most unbounded veneration, and record. ed with the most pointed respect. Shortly after, the president, for the last time, met the national legislature in the senate chamber. Ilis address on the occasion was highly dignified. He congruidlated Congress on the internal situation of the United States; on the progress which had been made for preserving peace with the ladins; nd meliorating their condition; and, after stating the measures which had been adopted in execution of the treaties with Britain, Spain, and Algiers, and the negotiations which were pending with Tunis and Tripeli, he observed ; “ To an active external commerce, the protection of a naval force is indispensable. This is manifest with regard to wars in which a state is itself a party.

But beside this, it is in our own experience, that the most sincere neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the depredations of nations at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag. requires a naval force, organized and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression. This may even prevent the necessity of going to war, by discouraging belligerent powers from committing such violations of the rights of the neutral party, as may first or last leave no other option. From the best information I have been able to obtain, it would seem as if our trade to the Mediterranean, without a protecting force, will always be insecure, and our citizens exposed to the calamities from which numbers of them have but just been relieved.

" These considerations invite the United States to look to the means, and to set about the gradual creation of a navy. The increasing progress of their navigation, promises them at no distant period, the requisite supply of seamen, and their means in other respects, favour the undertaking. It is an encouragement likewise, that their particular situation will give weight and influence to a moderate naval force in their hands. Will it not then be adviseable to begin without delay, to provide and lay up the materials for the building and equipping of ships of war, and to proceed in the work by degrees, in proportion as our resources shall render it practicable, without inconvenience ; so.

that a future war of Europe may not find our commerce in the same unprotected state in which it was found by the present ???

Hi then recom nended the establishment of na. tional works for manufacturing implements of clefence ; of an institution for the improvement of agriculture ; and pointed out the advantages of a military academy; of a national university; and the necessity of augmenting the salaries of the officers of the United States.

In respect to the disputes with France, he observed ; " While in our external relations some serious inconveniences and embarrassments have been overcome, and others lessened, it is with much pain and deep regret I mention, that circumstances of a very unwelcome nature have late. ly occurred. Our trade has suffered, and is suf'fering, extensive injuries in tlie West Indies, from the cruisers and agents of the French republic ; and communications have been received from its minister here, which indicate the danger of a surther disturbance of our commerce by its authority; and which are in other respects far from agreea. ble.

“ It has been my constant, sincere, and earnest wish, in conformity with that of our nation, to maintain cordial harmony, and a perfectly friend. ly understanding with that republic. This wish remains unabated, and I shall persevere in the endeavour to fulfil it, to the utmost extent of what shall be consistent with a just and indispensable regard to the rights and honour of our country ; zbor will I easily cease to cherish the expeclaiion, that a spirit of justice, candour, and friendship, on

the part of the republic, will eventually ensure suc

dess.

“ In pursuing this course, however, I cannot forget what is due to the character of our government and nation, or to a full and entire confidence in the good sense, patriotism, self respect, and for. titude of my countrymen.”

This address was concluded in the following pathetic terms;

“The situation in which I now stand for the last time, in the midst of the representatives of the people of the United States, naturally recalls the period when the administration of the present form of government commenced ; and I cannot omit the occasion to congratulate you and my country on the success of the experiment, nor to repeat my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the universe, and sovereign arbiter of nations, that his providential care may still be extended to the United States; that the virtue and happiness of the people may be preserved'; and that the government which they have instituted for the protection of their hiberties may be perpetual.”

« PreviousContinue »