Washington's Farewell Address 1796
Page 4: On Political Parties
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of
them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most
solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human
mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in
those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party
dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful
despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries
which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an
individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his
competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the
common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise
people to discourage and restrain it. It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public
administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of
one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and
corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.
Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government
and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a
monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of
the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural
tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being
constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not
to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with
its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of
the powers of one department to encroach upon another. 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 power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is
sufficient to 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 depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public
weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in
our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the
opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let
it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But 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.
Page 5: On Religion and Government
Page 3: On Constitution
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