George Washington’s Farewell Address – Foreign Policy

“It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

The remainder of George Washington’s Farewell Address to the nation focused on general foreign policy, with some mention of international trade.  For this entry, I have taken the liberty of quoting out of order, as the quote above comes late in the discussion; however, it is a very good summation of the advice Washington provides.  While Washington counsels an isolationist foreign policy, he does admonish his countrymen to:

“[o]bserve good faith and justice towards all nations.”

This is generally sound advice though it should be remembered that not all nations will also act in good faith.  Washington also provides a warning when dealing with other nations saying that

“[a] passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils.”

going on to then say

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence…the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake.  [f]oreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican government.”

The message here is quite clear – policies of the United States should not be based upon, or influenced by, the interests of a foreign power, or, in the modern world, international organizations comprised of a variety of foreign powers.  Washington provides some guidance as to what should influence American policy, saying

“The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible.”

In modern America, this would be considered an extraordinarily isolationist policy, a position explicitly stated as:

“Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course.”

Which leads to Washington’s rhetorical question

“Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation?”

While these ideas have been somewhat nullified by modern transportation and communications technologies, the larger point remains valid.  Namely, the United States should avoid involvement in foreign matters that do not directly impact either its trade or national security.  An argument may also be made that Washington is cautioning against the adoption of foreign ideals, such as those of the French Revolution (essentially the adoption of socialism) or the philosophy of Karl Marx.  This viewpoint, if true, would be very applicable to modern America in its headlong rush into socialized medicine, the use of foreign laws in US jurisprudence, and acquiescence to Shariah law.    

Published in: on October 11, 2012 at 8:30 pm  Leave a Comment