February 6, 2012
This speech before the House of Representatives, March 25, 1999, is collected in A Foreign Policy of Freedom (2007).
Mr. Speaker, today I rise with gratitude to Edmund Burke and paraphrase words he first spoke 224 years ago this week. It is presently true that to restore liberty and dignity to a nation so great and distracted as ours is indeed a significant undertaking. For, judging of what we are by what we ought to be, I have persuaded myself that this body might accept this reasonable proposition.
The proposition is peace. Not peace through the medium of war, not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations; not peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from principle, in all parts of the earth; not peace to depend on juridical determination of perplexing questions, or the precise marking the shadowy boundaries of distant nations. It is simply peace, sought in its natural course and in its ordinary haunts.
Let other nations always keep the idea of their sovereign self-government associated with our republic and they will befriend us, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from our allegiance. But let it be once understood that our government may be one thing and their sovereignty another; that these two things exist without mutual regard one for the other – and the affinity will be gone, the friendship loosened and the alliance hastened to decay and dissolution. As long as we have the wisdom to keep this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever mankind worships freedom, they will turn their faces toward us. The more they multiply, the more friends we will have; the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be our relations. Slavery they can find anywhere, as near to us as Cuba or as remote as China. But until we become lost to all feeling of our national interest and natural legacy, freedom and self-rule they can find in none but the American founding. These are precious commodities, and our nation alone was founded on them. This is the true currency which binds to us the commerce of nations and through them secures the wealth of the world. But deny others their national sovereignty and self-government, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, friendship among nations. Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that UN Charters and Security Councils, GATT and international laws, World Trade Organizations and General Assemblies are what promote commerce and friendship. Do not dream that NATO and peacekeeping forces are the things that can hold nations together. It is the spirit of community that gives nations their lives and efficacy. And it is the spirit of the Constitution of our Founders that can invigorate every nation of the world, even down to the minutest of these.
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