Page images


prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be

observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is un10 necessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended 15 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 power 20 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 25 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 the equivalent for 30 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 dis

card. 35 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, 40 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 5 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.

In relating to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation 10 of the 22d of April, 1793, is the index of 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. 15 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 20 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 25 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 towards other nations. 30 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 con35 sistency, which is necessary to give it, humanely speaking, the command of its own fortunes.

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 40 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. 5 Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards 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 enjoy10 ment 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.

GEORGE WASHINGTON United States, September 17th, 1796.





Patrick Henry was born in Virginia, May 29, 1736. His mother was a bright, vivacious lady, much loved by her friends for her warm heart. His father, a man of strong intellect, had been educated in Scotland, and was held in high esteem among his Virginia neighbors. From time to time he held the position of county surveyor, colonel of the Virginia regiment, and presiding judge in the county court.

From this we learn that Patrick Henry came from good stock, and that his brains and talent were directly inherited.

Patrick Henry's “schooling” was most irregular. There were public schools in Virginia, for this was the colony of which Governor Berkeley said, “Thank God, we have no public schools!” Wealthy families imported teachers from England for the children, and bought them much as one would buy a slave or any piece of household furniture.

But Patrick Henry's father could not afford the luxury of one of these teachers, therefore what education Patrick Henry received, he received from his father himself. Fortunately, the father was well educated in the classics, and although the boy's education may have been irregular, it was along best lines, such of it as there was. So at the age of fifteen he was well versed in Latin and Greek and mathematics. At this time Patrick Henry was set to work in the shop of a country tradesman near his home. At the end of one year, the father established Patrick and an older brother in business, and together the two tried to carry on a country store. But Patrick was lazy, and his brother was lazier. Both were roaming in their tastes, preferring hunting and fishing to attending to busi

In a short time, then, the business was a failure, and Patrick and his brother retired from the merchant world.

Then Patrick married the daughter of a farmer near by, and the fathers established the young people on a small farm. But to one of Patrick's temperament farming was even less congenial than shop-keeping. Therefore, at the end of two years Patrick sold off his farm and slaves and with the money again opened a village store. For three years he carried on this store, and at the end “failed” in most royal fashion.

Nevertheless the problem of how to earn a living was staring him boldly in the face. What should he do? Return to the farm? No. To shopkeeping? No. For neither of these had he any liking or talent. One dıy the thought came to him, “Why not be a lawver?” The more he twught of it the more it seemed to be the one thing in which he might succeed. From a boy he had been master of the art of conversation, and





among his fellows he was looked upon as something of a genius at argument.

Accordingly, one morning in the early spring of 1760, Patrick Henry presented himself at the door of Thomas Jefferson, then a college lad at the college of William and Mary, and announced that he had come to gain admission to the bar.

One of the examiners was Mr. John Randolph, who was afterwards the king's attorney-general for the colony - a gentleman of the most courtly elegance of person and manners, a. polished wit, and a profound lawyer. At first, he was so much shocked by Mr. Henry's very ungainly figure and address, that he refused to examine him. Understanding, however, that he had already obtained two signatures, he entered with manifest reluctance on the business. A very short time was sufficient to satisfy him of the erroneous conclusion which he had drawn from the exterior of the candidate. With evident marks of increasing surprise (produced, no doubt, by the peculiar texture and strength of Mr. Henry's style, and the boldness and originality of his combinations), he continued the examination for several hours, interrogating the candidate, not on the principles of municipal law, in which he no doubt soon discovered his deficiency, but on the laws of nature and of nations, on the policy of the feudal system, and on general history, which last he found to be his stronghold. During the very short portion of the examination which was devoted to the common law, Mr. Randolph dissented, or affected to dissent, from one of Mr. Henry's answers, and called upon him to assign the reasons of his opinion. This produced an argument, and Mr. Randolph now played off on him the same arts which he himself had so often practiced on his country customers, drawing him out by questions, endeavoring to puzzle him by subtleties, assailing him by declamation, and watching continually the defensive operations of his mind. After a considerable discussion, he said, “You defend your opinions well, sir; but now to the law and to the testimony.” Hereupon he carried him to his office, and, opening the authorities, said to him: “Behold the force of natural reason! You have never seen these books, nor this principle of the law; yet you are right and I am wrong. And from this lesson which you have given me (you must excuse me for saying it) I will never trust to appearance again. Mr. Henry, if your industry be only half equal to your genius, I augur that you will do well

, and become an ornament and an honor to your profession.” From this trying ordeal Patrick Henry rode back to his home. He was elated by his success, to be sure, and told it proudly to his admiring family; but in his own heart there was serious reflection. He knew his own lack of fitness for the work; he knew his shallowness, as he had seen himself in comparison with the four men by whom he had been examined, and then and there promised himself solemnly and seriously to begin at once hard work and study, and so in very truth fit himself for the profession he had chosen.

In the year 1775, Virginia held another convention, and Patrick again placed himself before his people as a fiery speech maker and an ardent son

« PreviousContinue »