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Taking 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. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors 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 it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors 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 favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. 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.
XIV. 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 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 intrigue, 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.
How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
XV. In relating to the still subsisting war in Europe,' my proclamation of the 22nd of April, 1793, is the index to my plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your representatives in both houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me; uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.
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 duty 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 anything 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 amity toward other nations.
The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience.
With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.
XVI. Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently 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, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
1 A reference to the war waged by the Second Coalition against republican France.
2 Washington's Proclamation of Neutrality.
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 fellow citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.
20. HOLY ALLIANCE, 1815 THIS document was signed on September 26, 1815, by Alexander I, tsar of Russia, Francis I, emperor of Austria, and Frederick William III, king of Prussia. The signatures of other European sovereigns were subsequently added. George IV, the British Prince Regent, declined to sign it, on the constitutional ground that all acts of the Crown required the countersignature of a minister, but he expressed his entire concurrence with its principles. The Pope and the Sultan were not invited to accede to the declaration. The Holy Alliance originated with Alexander I, who after the Napoleonic wars sincerely desired to provide some basis for a general confederation of Europe in the interest of universal peace and international morality. The association thus formed came to be erroneously considered a conspiracy against popular liberty, because of the reactionary policies followed by the European monarchs after 1815. As a matter of fact, the Holy Alliance never became effective; it was soon replaced by definite treaties between the great powers who formed the European Concert. At the close of the nineteenth century, however, it furnished the inspiration for the Peace Circular of Nicholas II, which resulted in the First Hague Conference of 1899.
HOLY ALLIANCE, 1815 In the Name of the Most Holy and Indivisible Trinity Their Majesties, the emperor of Austria, the king of Prussia, and the emperor of Russia, having, in consequence of the great events which have marked the course of the last three years in Europe, and especially of the blessings which it has pleased divine Providence to shower down upon those states which place their confidence and their hope on it alone, acquired the intimate conviction of the necessity of settling the steps to be observed by the powers, in their reciprocal relations, upon the sublime truths which the holy religion of our Savior teaches;
1 Edward Hertslet, The Map of Europe by Treaty, vol. i, pp. 317-319. London, 1875–1891.
They solemnly declare that the present act has no other object than to publish, in the face of the whole world, their fixed resolution, both in the administration of their respective states and in their political relations with every other government, to take for their sole guide the precepts of that holy religion, namely, the precepts of justice, Christian charity, and peace, which, far from being applicable only to private concerns, must have an immediate influence on the councils of princes and guide all their steps, as being the only means of consolidating human institutions and remedying their imperfections. In consequence, their Majesties have agreed on the following articles:
I. Conformably to the words of the Holy Scriptures, which command all men to consider each other as brethren, the three contracting monarchs will remain united by the bonds of a true and indissoluble fraternity; and, considering each other as fellow countrymen, they will, on all occasions and in all places, lend each other aid and assistance; and, regarding themselves toward their subjects and armies as fathers of families, they will lead them, in the same spirit of fraternity with which they are animated, to protect religion, peace, and justice.
II. In consequence, the sole principle of force, whether between the said governments or between their subjects, shall be that of doing each other reciprocal service, and of testifying by unalterable good-will the mutual affection with which they ought to be animated, to consider themselves all as members of one and the same Christian nation; the three allied princes looking on themselves as merely delegated by Providence to govern three branches of the one family, namely, Austria, Prussia, and Russia, thus confessing that the Christian world, of which they and their people form a part, has in reality no other sovereign than Him to whom alone power really belongs, because in Him alone are found all the treasures of love, science, and infinite wisdom, that is to say, God, our divine Savior, the Word of the Most High, the Word of Life. Their Majesties consequently recommend to their people, with the most tender solicitude, as the sole means of enjoying that peace which arises from a good conscience and which alone is durable, to strengthen themselves every day more and more in the principles and exercise of the duties which the divine Savior has taught to mankind.