George Washington Speaks To Today's Americans
Every congressional committee should have two chairmen, a committee chairman and a comity chairman.
By the end of George Washington's second term as president, he and other early American leaders saw potential threats to the unity Americans need to protect.
George Washington's "Farewell Address" was not a speech before the Congress, but rather a cautionary letter carefully drafted and revised several times before it was published in Philadelphia's American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796. The "Farewell Address" announced that Washington would not be a candidate for a third term as president, but more importantly it was written for cautions to his generation and for future generations of Americans. The cautions for a young United States of America are the same cautions we will do well to heed now, more than 215 years later.
Washington admonished Americans that their Liberty could not exist without their Unity. He foresaw that sectional divisions he described as East Coast and West, North and South could stir unacceptable divisions, and that political parties were a natural phenomenon but contained within themselves the potential for dividing Americans as well as allowing alien thoughts and practices to devolve into dictatorial powers offensive to Liberty and the common good.
With the comments and suggestions of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay, a final version of Washington's "Farewell Address" was given to the paper's editor David C. Claypoole for its publication. As such the final version clearly expressed Washington's hopes for an enduring America.
His cautions concerning what could irrevocably change the America he was leaving to future generations deserves a periodic reexamination for the collective wisdom it affords.
Washington pleaded in parting that Heaven might continue to bless America, that the union of Americans and their "brotherly affection may be perpetual," that "the free constitution...may be sacredly maintained," "that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue," and that the happiness of Americans in their sustained liberty might commend their system of government "to the applause, the affection and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it."
He wrote that he could perhaps have stopped at that point, but that his experience urged him to express the dangers he could foresee and his hope that this statement of his concerns would be frequently reviewed as "all important to the permanency of your felicity as a People."
He called for Americans to highly value "The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people...." and he said that that unity was what insured their real independence, their tranquility at home, their peace abroad, their safety and prosperity, even "that very Liberty which you so highly prize."
While cautioning against foreign and domestic enemies who would concentrate their attacks on destroying that unity ("often covertly and insidiously") he urged that Americans be alert to such attempts and quash them all to preserve our needed Unity as the only guarantee of our Liberty.
Speaking of parties, the "Father of Our Country" first commented on what we have in common, writing: "The name American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits and political principles. You have in common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint councils, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings and successes."
Said another way, we are Americans first of all, even though we may pride ourselves in also being Californians, Texans, Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party adherents, Marines, etc. And it is that paramount loyalty which guards and preserves "the Union of the whole."
Speaking specifically about parties, Washington counseled "....designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts...[thereby] tend[ing] to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection." Adding this: For the preservation of "your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable."
Washington spoke of the Constitution, "the people's right as a whole to amend it, and the sacred obligation....of every individual to obey the established Government" which the Constitution in any given time defines. Anything which obstructs the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities is therefor of a fatal tendency, putting minority interests in the way of mutual progress under the laws of the land (paraphrased.)
Realizing what in his day seemed to be an even more massive size of the area to be governed, Washington said: "...in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigour as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty, is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian."
"The spirit of party" Washington warns is "A fire not to be quenched; it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into flame, lest, instead of warming it should consume."
As to the public debt, Washington advised that we cherish "public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible...not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen which we ourselves ought to bear."
He added that to pay our debts there must be revenue, for there to be revenue there must be taxes, and that while all taxes are "more or less inconvenient and unpleasant"....and "always a choice of difficulties"....circumstances will dictate their necessity, so that in times of peace the maximum efforts are made to pay off the debts incurred by necessary wars, and in good times to avoid unnecessary expenses."
How does such wise counsel apply to us today? Election 2014 cannot be permitted to leave us divided by region, ideology, or party. We need a real unity in order to move forward and protect our common liberties. Indebted as we are, with our public credit all but destroyed, we will have to mutually sacrifice to pay down our public debt and restore our public credit. The welfare of the party must give way to the common welfare of our union, and efforts by anyone to divide us must be met with our unceasing national unity of purpose, determination, and values under the laws of our Constitution.
Washington foresaw a slippery slope which could lead America to a fate of despotism, which would come about from allowing our shared circumstances to become so desperate that we might place too much power in the hands of one or a few.
Our system of government under the Constitution insures that all power is shared, so as not to reside in a very few powerful individuals. We refer to it as "a balance of powers." At the same time, our forward progress and liberties require that we move vigorously forward sustaining our values as we do so. Obstruction, boycott, partisan bickering, and overly long delays or indecisiveness, only impede our progress.
When any election is over, a government for all Americans must continue in place. It must be supported by all Americans for the common good and with the shared sacrifices needed to bring us to the safe, unhindered future we all deserve under our system of laws, checks, and balances.
The wisdom of such patriots as Washington, Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, speaks to us from their words. We are the Americans they were concerned about. We have a legacy to protect, one they gave us, with counsel to see us carry on and succeed. We can do worse than to heed their counsel.
Copyright 2012-2014 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.
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