Washington's Farewell Address: 1796
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In reading this portion of Washington’s Farewell it is important to keep in mind that he is writing in a time before the
Constitution was encrusted with two centuries of laws made by men who were sometimes cognizant of their obligations to its
percepts and sometimes more cognizant of their own ambitions and resentful of its constraints on their power.  The words
“constitution” and “government” are used interchangeably in this portion of his speech.  When he speaks of “respect for its
authority, and compliance with its laws and acquiescence to its measures” he is speaking of the Constitution not the
government per se.

On the Constitution

To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however
strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and
interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have
improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your
former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government,
the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature
deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and
containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.
Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the
fundamental maxims of true liberty. 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, till changed by an explicit and
authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the
people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.

All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible
character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the
constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize
faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the 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 the ill-concerted and incongruous
projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and
modified by mutual interests.

However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular 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 reins of government,
destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.

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 vigor 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.
Page 4: On Political Parties
Page 2: On Unity
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