We call it his Farewell Address, but in truth it was an open letter from George Washington to Americans for whom he held:
“…a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people…”
Think about that for a minute. Let Washington’s words sink in. He was well aware of dangers that would come to our Republic, and he left us his analysis and prescription on what was all-important to the permanency of our felicity—our happiness—as a people.
In its introduction to the Farewell Address Heritage Foundation comments:
“…With the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the Farewell Address constitutes the central statement of the American purpose.”
You can read the entire letter at the Heritage link. The quotes I’m pulling from it are Washington’s warnings about those who would destroy our government, and his advice on the mindset and lives of Americans who would preserve it.
Washington reminds us of the basis of our government, the foundational importance of the rule of law, and the subversion of those principles by those who would undermine and destroy the principles of the Constitution.
Consider Washington’s words as part of the “central statement of the American purpose.” Consider them carefully before you vote.
“…The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
Now carefully read the next few paragraphs.
“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency…”
“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
“Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown…”
I see in these above words of Washington not only an indictment of Leftists and progressives such as Obama who have subverted the law for their own ends, but also an indictment of a demagogue such as Trump who “answers popular ends,” feeding emotions as he declares he’ll make America great again, even as he says things that reveal his ignorance of the Constitution and promise a strongman use of power that would destroy our heritage as a free people.
Washington also advised us on the mindset necessary for the preservation of our liberties.
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
“It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?“
Washington recommends to us the blessing of religion and morality, but here there is also an indictment of self-identified conservatives whose words and lives indicate they flatly disagree with Washington that, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
Current events prove Washington was right.
The corruption in the White House, the betrayal by Congress of their constituents, the sensationalism and immorality fostered by the media, and the you-only-live-once mentality of Americans have brought us to the present dilemma.
Hear these poignant words, and take to heart the wisdom this great man left for us.
“In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will controul the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism
; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated…”
Farewell Address, September 19, 1796
Each year on George Washington’s Birthday, the United States Senate reads Washington’s Farewell Address. Would that they would heed his words.
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