In The American Conservative, Daniel Larison explains that the most important piece of advice in George Washington’s farewell address is also the most ignored. Larison writes that Washington’s “emphasis on justice as the guiding light of America’s relations with other nations” is the most essential piece of the address. He continues:
This was what informed everything else he wrote on the subject. It is also the part of Washington’s advice that tends to be ignored most of the time in practice.
Washington urged Americans to “[o]bserve good faith and justice towards all nations, and cultivate peace and harmony with all.” When we recall how many states the U.S. has fought or attacked over the last thirty years, can any of us honestly say that we have done our best to observe justice towards or cultivate peace with all? The U.S. has not only failed to remain neutral in conflicts that have nothing to do with us, but our government has started or joined wars on several occasions in just the last twenty years against countries whose people had done nothing to us.
Read more of Larison’s analysis of the address here.
Here is the full text of Washington’s farewell address from 1796: