The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 4

Author: Charles James Fox  | Date: 1794

The Foreign Policy of Washington*

How infinitely superior must appear the spirit and principles of General Washington in his late address to Congress2 compared with the policy of modern European courts ! Illustrious man ! deriving honor less from the splendor of his situation than from the dignity of his mind. Grateful to France for the assistance received from her in that great contest which secured the independence of America, he yet did not choose to give up the system of neutrality in her favor; having once laid down the line of conduct most proper to be pursued, not all the insults and provocations of the French minister, Genet, could at all put him out of his way and bend him from his purpose.

It must, indeed, create astonishment, that, placed in circumstances so critical, and filling a station so conspicuous, the character of Washington should never once have been called in question that he should, in no one instance, have been accused either of improper insolence, or of mean submission, in his transactions with foreignnations. It has been reserved for him to run the .race of glory without experiencing the smallest interruption to the brilliancy of his career. The breath of censure has not dared to impeach the purity of his conduct, nor the eye of envy to raise its malignant glance to the elevation of his virtues. Such has been the transcendent merit and the unparalleled fate of this illustrious man!

How did he act when insulted by Genet?3 Did he consider it as necessary to avenge himself for the misconduct or madness of an individual, by involving a whole continent in the horrors of war? No; he contented himself with procuring satisfaction for the insult, by causing Genet to be recalled, and thus at once consulted his own dignity and the interests of his country. Happy Americans! While the whirlwind flies over one quarter of the globe, and spreads everywhere desolation, you remain protected from its baneful effects by your own virtues, and the wisdom of your government.

Separated from Europe by an immense ocean, you feel not the effect of those prejudices and passions which convert the boasted seats of civilization into scenes of horror and bloodshed. You profit by the folly and madness of the contendingnations, and afford, in your more congenial clime, an asylum to those blessings and virtues which they wantonly contemn, or wickedly exclude from their bosom! Cultivating the arts of peace under the influence of freedom, you advance, by rapid strides, to opulence and distinction; and if, by any accident, you should be compelled to take part in the present unhappy contest—if you should find it necessary to avenge insult, or repel injury—the world will bear witness to the equity of your sentiments and the moderation of your views; and the success of your arms will, no doubt, be proportioned to the justice of your cause!

*From a speech delivered in 1794.

2A reference to the attitude of neutrality taken toward the French Republic.

3These lines are from Gray’s poem, "The Progress of Poesy."


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Chicago: Charles James Fox, "III. The Foreign Policy of Washington (1794)," The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 4 in The World’s Famous Orations, ed. William Jennings Bryan (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906), 36–37. Original Sources, accessed May 26, 2024,

MLA: Fox, Charles James. "III. The Foreign Policy of Washington (1794)." The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 4, in The World’s Famous Orations, edited by William Jennings Bryan, Vol. 4, New York, Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906, pp. 36–37. Original Sources. 26 May. 2024.

Harvard: Fox, CJ, 'III. The Foreign Policy of Washington (1794)' in The World’s Famous Orations, Vol. 4. cited in December, 1906, The World’s Famous Orations, ed. , Funk and Wagnalls, New York, pp.36–37. Original Sources, retrieved 26 May 2024, from