St. Peters in the 1930's

St. Peters in the 1930's
St. Peters in the 1930's

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

On the York River- 1865

The Philbates Creek/ Terrapin Point area from the Gilmer Civil War map at the Library of Congress website.

                                Expedition from Yorktown to West Point, Va.

Report of Capt. William B. Hedges, Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery, commanding expedition.

                Fort Magruder, March 1, 1865.
Brigadier-General TURNER,
    Chief of Staff:
Sir: The expedition, of which the inclosed is a report from the officer commanding, was ordered by the verbal command of Major-General Ord during his visit to Yorktown. I therefore transmit the report for his information. I have disposed of the prisoners in the manner I considered best for the interest of the Government.
        Very respectfully,
                    B. C. LUDLOW,
            Brevet Brigadier- General, Commanding Post.


FORT MAGRUDER, VA., February 28, 1865. Sin: I have the honor to make the following report of the expedition which left Yorktown, Va., on board U.S. gun-boat Mystic, Thursday, February 23, in obedience to orders from Lieut. Col. Thomas Mulcahy, who placed me in command of the same:
My force consisted of forty-five men from Company M, Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, and thirty marines, commanded by Acting Ensign Leonard, of the gun-boat Crusader. The Mystic proceeded up the river immediately after dark, grounding opposite Green Point, distant only ten miles from Yorktown. Captain Wright, her commander, made every effort in his power to get her afloat, but did not succeed until 9 a.m. Friday, the 24th instant (which circumstance so delayed the expedition as to render it impossible for me to fully carry out my instructions as was intended). As soon as she was afloat I proceeded up the river, landing the force just above West Point. Skirmished the woods in the vicinity, and, meeting with no resistance, extended the skirmish line across the neck of land between the rivers, and in this manner entered the town. Prior to my advance, and while preparing to land, I discovered three mounted men escaping through the woods, one of whom I afterward learned to be Colonel Richardson, of General Lees staff, at home on sixty days leave of absence. I found but three men in my advance upon and search through the town, two  of whom I have every reason to believe are spies, from the fact of their leaving Yorktown the same night of the expedition, running the blockade in a small boat, and undoubtedly informed the enemy of our approach. (The fact of the gun-boat getting aground afforded them ample time to warn Captain Richardson and others of our supposed intentions.)
Before leaving West Point I received information in regard to important movement of the enemy, which I have heretofore communicated. Having accomplished all that could be done here the force crossed the river and burned a store-house and barn, containing at least 15,000 bushels of grain and 1,000 pounds of bacon, the property of Beverly Anderson, a contractor for the so-called Confederate Government. We then embarked. and proceeded down the river to Queens Creek, hoping thus to deceive the enemy in regard to our intended movements for that night. Soon as darkness would hide our movements the vessel moved up the river until nearly opposite the residence of Andrew Richardson, where the wedding was to take place and where I expected to find Capt. Theodore Richardson, the murderer of the oysterman.* After considerable difficulty we succeeded in landing (it being dark and rainy), and proceeded five miles to Andrew Richardsons house (skirmishing the woods and arresting two citizens on the way), which I immediately ordered to be surrounded. As soon as this was accomplished I demanded admittance; upon being refused forced my way into the house, making a complete surprise. . Shots were, however, fired by the occupants, in returning which I wounded Richardson. Searched thoroughly the premises, and finding nothing more I retraced my way to the landing, arriving there about daybreak; crossed the river and burned the buildings from which the decoy signal was shown and from which the oystermen were fired into; also a barn containing about 8,000 bushels of grain. The force went on board the gun-boat; landed on the opposite shore and eight miles below the last point of embarkation. I here burned the residence of Captain Richardson, consisting of two dwellings, barn, and a store, all his household furniture, and 2,000 bushels of grain, his family having made their escape while the gun-boat was aground.
Having executed my orders as far as possible, I again embarked and returned to Yorktown. Reported to Lieutenant-Colonel Mulcahy, who ordered me to report to brigadier.general commanding post. The persons arrested are Andrew Richardson (whom I left wounded in charge of surgeon, gun-boat Mystic), Thomas Davis, B. W. Powells, and James Gwin (whom I had at first suspected but I found nothing against), Richard Pippin (who has promised to assist me in apprehending Richardson and other guerrillas), J. W. and Harley Cole (the suspected spies found at West Point). The wedding spoken of is to take place Thursday, March 2, at Tabernacle Church†. It is reported that there will be a party of guerrillas attending.
Hoping I may have the opportunity of again attempting the arrest of this noted band of guerrillas, I remain, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                    WM. R. HEDGES,
    Captain Company M Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery.
Brigadier-General LUDLOW,
                    Commanding Post.           

-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.; Series 1- Volume 46       

* I know nothing of the story of the killing of any oysterman, however I believe the Capt. Theodore Richardson referred to is, in fact, Captain T.W.T. "Tom" Richards so recently active in the area. I believe the Union authorities have confused him with one of the numerous Richards living on the New Kent/ James City border.

† . . . See map

Friday, February 27, 2015

Still Jittery in Williamsburg- 1865

         FORT MAGRUDER, VA., February 18, 1865.

Brig. Gen. JOHN W. TURNER,
    Chief of Staff, Headquarters Army of the James:

I received information yesterday from rebel deserters that there was a force, quite a large one, between me and the Chickahominy. At the same time the officer in command at Jamestown Island telegraphed that there was a force of them at the Burnt Ordinary(Toano), on the Richmond road. They took a pair of mules from a farmer in the immediate vicinity of the island, and the people outside our lines report the same. The pickets report seeing them outside of our lines. I think their object is to get horses to remount their own cavalry. My cavalry force is too small to scout the country. I have only 115 for duty, and there are daily detailed for guard thirty-three of that number. The only damage that I fear is that they may destroy or injure the telegraph wire between Fort Monroe and the front. Should I see or hear anything further I will immediately telegraph. It is quite possible that this may be a portion of the rebel cavalry reported from the front as coming down our way.
    Very respectfully,
                JULIUS C. HICKS,
    Major Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, Comdg. Post.

        FORT MAGRUDER, February 18, 1865.
    Assistant Adjutant-General:

All is quiet in this vicinity at present. I will promptly notify you if the enemy appears. I think that it will do no harm to grant the furloughs now in hand; I have stopped them here. I have plenty of infantry. I will not approve any more furloughs, if I had the cavalry I would send out scouting parties. I have no doubt of quite a force of rebel cavalry above, as they are seen on York River, Jamestown Island, and by our picket-line; also, by reports of deserters and refugees, which tend to confirm the reports. I have a strong picket-line, also a reserve. I think that I am all right. My cavalry force is so small that they are overworked. Thirty three are on duty every day, and as I have only 115 total you can see the amount of work to be done.
    Very respectfully,
                        J.C. HICKS,
        Major Sixteenth New York Artillery, Comdg. Post.

A note on the 16th New York Heavy Artillery . . .
The Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, commanded by Col. J. J. Morrison, headquarters at Yorktown, Va., is the largest regiment ever recruited in the United States, and has men in the following places: At Yorktown, 1,140; at Williamsburgh, 736; at Gloucester Point, 147; at Bermuda Hundred, 270; putting up telegraph, 60; with One Hundred and Forty-eighth New York Volunteers, 46; with First New York Mounted Rifles, 272—transferred; with Eighty-fifth New York Volunteers, 46; with light batteries United States Artillery, 22; with Army of the Potomac, 201—transferred; making a total of 2,928 men and 63 officers.
-N.Y. News, June 20, 1864

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Affair on the Road to Williamsburg, Va.- February 1865 III

                NORFOLK,  February 17, 1865-5 p.m.

 Lieutenant Colonel SMITH,
    Assistant Adjutant-General, Headquarters Army of the James:
COLONEL: Major Hicks reports some force of rebels about him at Williamsburg, and fears an attack on Jamestown Island. If two companies of cavalry, previously asked for, can be ordered to report to him, I request that it may be done.
                GEO. H. GORDON,
            Brigadier-General, Commanding.

                JAMESTOWN ISLAND, February 17, 1865.
Maj. J.C. HICKS:
There have been seen last night and this morning a force of cavalry at Burnt Ordinary, on Richmond road. A negro on Mr. Jones farm carries all the news to rebel scouts. He has been through oar lines at Williamsburg several times and back with information to them. Four  rebels were at a house last night above the island took two mules, and threatened to shoot the man. I am short of ammunition; can I have some up? Can I burn some houses across the island which serve as shelter for rebel scouts, and of which they easily can make a raft to cross over on the lower end of the island?
                    CARLO BLOMBERG,

                FORT MAGRUDER, February 17, 1865.
    Assistant Adjutant-General:
There is a force of rebel cavalry at the Burnt Ordinary at the Richmond road. They are still around my lines. I have only a small force at Jamestown Island. Should they attack at that post I cannot help there. I want more cavalry. The rebels are in the vicinity of  Jamestown Island; last night stole some mules just above; threatened to shoot the owner. If possible I would like the two companies I requested a short time since. No news from Major Darling yet.
 Very respectfully,
                        J.C. HICKS,
                        Major, Commanding

-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies.; Series 1- Volume 46(Part II)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Affair on the Road to Williamsburg, Va.- February 1865 II

The attack on the Williamsburg pickets was apparently no local affair, being carried out under an officer of, if not actually by members of, John Singleton Mosby's 43rd Virginia Cavalry Battalion of partisan rangers.

An Exploit of some of Mosby's men.
Northern Virginia seems not to afford full occupation for the gallant and adventurous rangers of Colonel Mosby. Within the last week some of them have been stirring up the Yankees on the York peninsula. We are informed that, last Friday night, Captain Richardson, with sixteen men, all of Mosby's command, dashed into the town of Williamsburg, and, successfully pretending to be the advance of a cavalry brigade, cleared a regiment of Yankees out of the town, unhorsing upwards of a dozen and killing half that number. None of Captain Richardson's men were struck, though six of their horses were killed under them. They brought off a number of horses and some other plunder.

-The Daily Dispatch(Richmond), February 14, 1865

Captain Tom Richards of Company G made a trip to Williamsburg on a scouting expedition and created considerable consternation and captured a number of prisoners. 

-Mosby's Rangers: A Record of the Operations of the Forty-third Battalion of Virginia Cavalry from Its Organization to the Surrender
James Joseph Williamson
Sturgis & Walton, 1909

Captain T.W.T. Richards '60, who was an officer of the Confederate army under John S. Mosby, died at his home at Glendale, California August 18. Captain Richards was born in Loudoun County Va., in 1841. He was graduated in law at the University of Virginia. Shortly after the commencement of the Civil War he entered active service and soon became one of the personal attaches of Mosby. He was twice captured and three times wounded. In 1866 he moved to Los Angeles Soon afterwards he became secretary and treasurer of the Providencia Land and Water Company and was active in founding the town of Burbank. Since that time he had been engaged in the real estate business.

- Alumni Bulletin of the University of Virginia, January 1913

From Mosby's Rangers

Friday, February 20, 2015

Affair on the Road to Williamsburg, Va.- February 1865

                          February 11, 1865.- Affair at Williamsburg, Va.

Report of Lieut. Ira L. Dudley, Sixteenth New York Heavy Artillery.
                    February 11, 1865.
Sir: I have the honor to state that our picket-post at Williamsburg was surprised this morning about 3 o'clock by a party of rebel cavalry, numbering from twenty to twenty-five men, who advanced by the Richmond road. The vedette on the Richmond road challenged them, and, receiving no reply, attempted to discharge his carbine, but the cap snapped. He then retreated on the reserve, but was wounded in two places. The enemy then advanced as far as the reserve, evidently with the design of capturing the horses there stationed. I regret to state that they succeeded so far in their object, capturing 4 and killing 1. The following casualties occurred in the force stationed at the reserve: Private Hall, Company H, Twentieth New York Cavalry; Privates Belden and Dix, Company G, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, and Private Libee, Company D, Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, wounded; Private Cowan., Company D, Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, missing; Private Gannon, Company D, Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, killed; 3 horses, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, captured; 1 horse, First New York Mounted Rifles, killed, and 1 captured.
I have to state that, as soon as the alarm was brought into camp, Captain Bóuve, Fourth Massachusetts Cavalry, and Lieut. David Earle, First New York Mounted Rifles, lost not a moment in turning out their respective commands.
 I have the honor to be, respectfully, your obedient servant,
                        IRA L. DUDLEY,
             First Lieutenant Company L, Officer of the Day.

    Commanding Post.

The rebel cavalry were dressed in Union uniforms, and deceived our pickets at first by pretending to be our men; they were soon found out, and we opened fire upon them, and there were a number of them wounded, which they carried off with them I have strengthened the picket-lines, and sent a strong force to re-enforce the reserves. I will render a good account of them if they come again. All is quiet at present.
             Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
                          JULIUS C. HICKS,
           Major Sixteenth New York Volunteer Artillery, Comdg. Post.

                FEBRUARY 11, 1865- 8.45 p.m.
Major-General KAUTZ:
The enemy's cavalry attacked the picket-line of Fort Magruder this morning. General Ord wishes to know if you can cut them off. The force is supposed to be small.
                JNO. W. TURNER,
            Brigadier- General and Chief of Staff.

                        February 11, 1865.
Brigadier-General TURNER,
                  Chief of Staff:
 I see very little prospect of finding a small force on the peninsula, and the Chickahominy is a serious obstacle at this season to any force, in view of the fact that there are no bridges nearer than New Bridge, and it is not certain that there is one there. The distance from here to Williamsburg by that route cannot be less than eighty miles. I do not see much prospect of cutting off a small force; it would be chance work.               
                                                                          AUGUST V. KAUTZ,
                                                    Brigadier and Brevet Major-General.

 -The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1 - Volume 46

Thursday, February 19, 2015

More Valentine Marriages . . .

CHAPMAN-BOSWELL.- Married, by Rev. John A. Richardson, on the 16th day of February, 1887, at "Fairfield," New Kent county Va., the residence of the bride's mother EDWIN C. CHAPMAN, of James City county Va. and Miss ANNIE E. BOSWELL, of New Kent county, Va.,
SHERMAN-HAZLEWOOD.- Married at the residence of the bride's parents James City county Va., on the 14th day of February, 1887 by Rev. John A. Richardson, Mr. BALLARD F. SHERMAN, of New Kent county Va., and Miss CYNTHIA EDEN HAZLEWOOD, of James City county, Va.
-Richmond Dispatch, February 18, 1887

The busy Rev. John A. Richardson was the founding minister of Corinth Baptist Church.
More on him soon.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

George Washington's Farewell Address Concluded . . .

 . . . . from the post of February 16 . . .

 All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of our common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
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 find 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 should consume.
It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those intrusted 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 depositories, 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.
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 connexions 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 enlightened.
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 exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. 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 ?
In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes 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 connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled 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 which 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 enmities.
Our detached 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 external 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 impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and 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 unnecessary 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 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 powers 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 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 equivalents for 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 discard.
[43-50 omitted from some newspaper printings.]
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, 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 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 relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation of the 22d of April 1793, is the index to 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.
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 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 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.
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 endeavour 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.
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 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.
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 it in 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 enjoyment 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 17, 1796