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indeed, " to the genius, character, situation, and relations of this nation and country, than any which had ever been proposed or suggested,” but not therefore the best in the world, and for every one in it. And in a similar tone are the inaugural addresses of the two next Presidents, Jefferson and Madison, who were the contemporaries of the great struggle, and were content to indulge large hopes from the form of government that resulted from it, without therefore pronouncing their own work the most perfect or the only perfect effort of political wisdom.
There is, perhaps, no State paper ever written, more remarkable, more touching, more eloquent, more full of pregnant thoughts and wise counsels, than “The Farewell Address of George Washington, President, to the People of the United States, September 17th, 1796," on his retiring into private life after his second presidentship. I venture to extract a few passages, not only on account of their intrinsic excellence as specimens of true political philosophy, but as directly applicable to many of the subjects discussed in the text, on the changes that have ensued, since those days, in the practical working of the Constitution :
“ Towards the preservation of your Government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be, to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions ; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigour as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty, is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property."
“ The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of
to abuse it, satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal, against innovations by the others, has been evinced by experiments, ancient and modern ; some of them in our own country, and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.
Let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance, in permanent evil, any partial or transient benefit which the use can at any time yield.”
· Observe good faith and justice towards all nations, cultivate peace and harmony with all; religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue ? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?"
" 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.
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 combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities."
Washington urges this advice in several other paragraphs, terminating in a recommendation to his countrymen to keep them
• 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 ever 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 intrigues, 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.”
In Washington's Farewell Address above quoted, occurs the following passage on the value of religious principles :
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labour to subvert those great pillars of human happiness, those foremost props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? 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 principles.”
selves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture. “ Upon the danger to liberty,” and particularly to“ republican liberty,” from large military establishments, which necessarily follow a state of hostilities at home or abroad, he had dilated in a previous page.
On the great experiment that is now in progress in the United States on that momentous question, I have ventured to touch in a previous volume.*
The adoption of any one form of religion by the State being impossible in that country, it has been thought equally impossible by some, it has been deemed undesirable by others, that any religious instruction involving points of doctrine should be taught in the schools established by the laws and supported by the funds of the community. It is assumed, that the doctrines of religion will be taught at Sunday schools, by the paid ministers of each religious denomination, aided by voluntary teachers, attending at the Sunday schools for that purpose.
As this question has become one which must be thoroughly and deeply considered in this country, I availed myself of such opportunities as I could command during a short tour in the United States in 1851, to inquire into its practical working in the public schools there.
* Notes on Public Subjects, &c.