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Die Abschiedsadresse mit Datum vom 17. September 1796 wird vollständig zitiert als: "Washington's Farewell Address to the People of the United States on his Approaching Retirement from the Presidency".
Ein Abdruck des Textes findet sich in Adolf Rock, Dokumente der amerikanischen Demokratie, Wiesbaden 1947, S. 150-156.
INTERWOVEN as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
The unity of government which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence - the support of your transquillity at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed - it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have, in a common cause, fought and triumphed together: the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels and joint efforts - of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
It is important, likewise, tbat the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire ',caution in those intrusted with its administration to confine thenseles within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding, in the exereise of the powers of one department, to encroacl upon another. The spirit of encroahment tends to consolidate the ponvers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, ``'hatever tbe form of goverument, 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 cheLk:s in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal, against invasions by the others, has been evinced ly experiments, ancient and modern; some of them in our conntry 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 correcied by an amendment in the way ;hich 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 destroved. The precedent must always greally overbalance, in permanent ev51, any partial or transient benefit, which the use can, at any time,.yield.
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 gi`-e 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 frnits of su a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be that Providelce has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experimelt, at least, is recommended by every sentiment whi ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?
Aguinst the insidious wiles of foreign inDuence, I conJure you to be]ieve me, fellow-citizens, the Jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history ad experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most banefnl foes of republican government. But that Jealousy to be useful, must be impartial; else it beLomes the instrument of the very in£1uence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. EJxcessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger ouly on one side, and serve to veil, and even second, the arts of in£1uence on the other. Real pairlots, sho may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liaLle to become suspccted and odious, while its tools and dopes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them. as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fnlfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of whi are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enTnities.
Our detaed and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material inJury from ecternal annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossiLility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may iLoose peace or war, as our interest, guided by JUStiCe, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantag'es of so peculiar a situation? Why qult cur own to stand upon foreign ground7 Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our ?ence and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?
'Tis 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 paironizing inlidelity to existing engagenents. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to pri`-ate affairs, that honesty is aiways the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their gennine sense. But, in my opiIlion, it is uunecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
I'aking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable estaLlishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affeclionate friend, I dare not hope that they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wsh; that they will control the usnal current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which hitherto has marked the destiny of nations; but if I may evenlatter myself, that they may }e productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; tFat they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigues, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism, this hope will be full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare by which they have been dietated.