Washington's Farewell Address 1796
Page 5: On Religion and Government, Public Debt and Taxes
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 labor to subvert these great pillars of
human happiness, these firmest 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 reputation, 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 principle.
It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed,
extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look
with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?
Promote then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion
as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it
as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely
disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise
the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to
discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the
burden which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it
is necessary that public opinion should co-operate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is
essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that
to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and
unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always
a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government
in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies
may at any time dictate.
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?
Page 6: International Rel.
Page 4: On Political Parties
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