Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Fillmore on Foreign Policy

Millard Fillmore is hardly remembered, much less quoted, these days. However, the following lines from a message to Congress on December 2, 1850, are worth noting. They concern the rights and duties of states, applying the "Golden Rule" as the pertinent standard of behavior.

The great law of morality ought to have a national as well as a personal and individual application. We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us, and justice and conscience should form the rule of conduct between governments, instead of mere power, self-interest, or the desire of aggrandizement. To maintain a strict neutrality in foreign wars, to cultivate friendly relations, to reciprocate every noble and generous act, and to perform punctually and scrupulously every treaty obligation--these are the duties which we owe to other states, and by the performance of which we best entitle ourselves to like treatment from them; or, if that, in any case, be refused, we can enforce our own rights with justice and a clear conscience.