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There is nothing which will so soon produce a speedy and honorable peace, as a state of preparation for war; and we must either do this, or lay our account to patch up an inglorious peace, after all the toil, blood, and treasure we have spent. This has been my uniform opinion; a doctrine I have endeavored, amidst the universal expectation of an approaching peace, to inculcate, and which I am sure the event will justify.
There is nothing so likely to produce peace, as to be well prepared to meet the enemy.
PEACE WITHOUT INDEPENDENCE, TO BE DEPLORED.
To discerning men, nothing can be more evident, than that a peace, on the principles of dependence, however limited, after what has happened, would be, to the last degree, dishonorable and ruinous. 1778.
It really seems to me, from a comprehensive view of things, that a period is fast approaching, big with events of the most interesting importance; when the counsels we pursue, and the part we act, may lead decisively to liberty or to slavery. Under this idea, I ⚫ cannot but regret that inactivity, that inattention, that
want of something, which unhappily I have but too often experienced in our public affairs. I wish, that our representation in Congress was full from every State, and that it was formed on the first abilities. among us.
Whether we continue to prosecute the war, or proceed to negotiate, the wisdom of America in council cannot be too great. Our situation will be truly delicate. To enter into a negotiation too hastily, or to reject it altogether, may be attended with consequences equally fatal.
The wishes of the people, seldom founded on deep disquisitions, or resulting from other reasonings than their present feelings, may not entirely accord with our true policy and interest. If they do not, to observe a proper line of conduct for promoting the one, and avoiding offence to the other, will be a work of great difficulty.
Nothing short of independence, it appears to me, can possibly do. A peace on other terms would, if I may be allowed the expression, be a peace of war.
The injuries we have received from the British nation were so unprovoked, and have been so great and so many, that they can never be forgotten. Besides the feuds, the jealousies, the animosities, that would ever attend a union with them; besides the importance, the advantages, which we should derive from an unrestricted commerce; our fidelity as a people, our
gratitude, our character as men, are opposed to a coalition with them as subjects, but in case of the last extremity.
Were we easily to accede to terms of dependence, no nation, upon future occasions, let the oppressions of Britain be ever so flagrant and unjust, would interpose for our relief; or, at most, they would do it with a cautious reluctance, and upon conditions, most probably, that would be hard, if not dishonorable to us. France, by her supplies, has saved us from the yoke, thus far; and a wise and virtuous perseverance would, and I trust will, free us entirely.
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 any thing 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.
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.
Having determined, as far as lay within the power of the Executive, to keep this country in a state of neutrality, I have made my public conduct accord with the system; and, whilst so acting as a public character, consistency and propriety as a private man forbid those intemperate expressions in favor of one nation, or to the prejudice of another, which many have indulged themselves in, and, I will venture to add, to the embarrassment of government, without producing any good to the country.
Our situation is such as makes it not only unnecessary, but extremely imprudent, for us to take a part in their quarrels; and, whenever a contest happens among them, if we wisely and properly improve the advantage which nature has given us, we may be benefited by their folly, provided we conduct ourselves with circumspection and under proper restrictions.
Separated as we are, by a world of water, from other nations, if we are wise, we shall surely avoid being drawn into the labyrinth of their politics, and involved in their destructive wars.
America may think herself happy, in having the Atlantic for a barrier.
The impressions naturally produced by similarity of political sentiment, are justly to be regarded as causes of national sympathy, calculated to confirm the amicable ties which may otherwise subsist between nations. This reflection, independent of its more particular reference, must dispose every benevolent mind to unite in the wish, that a general diffusion of the true principles of liberty, assimilating as well as ameliorating the condition of mankind, and fostering the maxims of an ingenuous and virtuous policy, may tend to strengthen the Fraternity of the Human Race, to assuage the jealousies and animosities of its various subdivisions, and to convince them, more and more, that their true interest and felicity will best be promoted, by mutual good-will and universal harmony.
4. FOREIGN NATIONS.
The nature of foreign negotiations requires caution; and their success must often depend on secrecy.
Even when brought to a conclusion, a full disclo