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Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1796
Volume 105, Page 286   View pdf image (33K)
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PRESIDENT's ADDRESS.

    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 connexion as
possible.  So 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 detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different
course.  If we remain one people, under and 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 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?

    'Tis 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 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, 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 opinion 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 'tis
folly in one nation to look for disinterested favours from another; that it must
pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may 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.  'Tis 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

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Proceedings and Acts of the General Assembly, 1796
Volume 105, Page 286   View pdf image (33K)
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