September 19, 2017
As President George Washington’s first term came to a close in 1792, he was ready to hand the reigns over to another. When he reluctantly entered the position four years earlier, he was honored to serve, but always contended that service was temporary. (see ) He even began constructing his valedictory, or farewell, speech with the help of James Madison, the Father of the . (see and ) However, due to rising international uncertainties, friends such as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson convinced him to run again.
At the time, presidents and vice-presidents were nominated independent of each other. Also, people did not seek an office, especially in Congress. They were asked by the people to serve. Anyone soliciting a nomination or campaigning would automatically be dismissed by the public as arrogant, power hungry, and vain, therefore not fit for office. In 1792, the Federalists nominated John Adams to serve a second term as VP, while the Democratic-Republicans nominated George Clinton. Regardless of whoever won the Vice-Presidency, Washington was guaranteed a second term as he was the presidential nominee for both parties. Unfortunately, probably the first and last time this country will see and enjoy such unity.
During Washington’s second term, the foreign issues plaguing the nation during his first term were smoothed out, leading to a period of serenity for the young country. As the next presidential election approached, Washington was determined this time to step down. Not only did he long to return to his family and farm at Mount Vernon, Washington also feared that if he died while in office, many would then consider the presidency a lifetime appointment even though elections occurred every four years. (see )
Washington dusted off the document he and Madison began and turned this time to Hamilton for help. With the outline, sentiment and positions directly from Washington, Hamilton reconstructed a speech for which the President could address, thank and give his last pieces of wisdom and advice to the people.
However, Washington never read the speech to anyone. Instead, it was published as a letter in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796, entitled “The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States.” Though it begins by undoubtedly affirming Washington’s retirement, his letter is full of sound forethought and well-grounded counsel.
Washington stated his desire to present some “sentiments” for “your solemn contemplation,” which he recommended for “your frequent review.” He considered his reflections “all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people.” The people agreed. Newspapers across the country immediately reprinted the letter. Printers began producing it in pamphlet form as his ,” which people eagerly added to their precious few items of reading material. In fact, its importance was so widely recognized that school primers included the letter, along with the and the , which students were required to read, study and be tested on.
His thoughts and meditations compel sincere examination and repeated review. They provide warnings and advice to the citizens of the United States desiring to keep the freedom he and so many others fought so valiantly to obtain. Unfortunately, we stopped heeding those warnings around the time the progressive movement began in the early 1900’s, and we are reaping the effects of that negligence right now. (see )
Washington understood the dangers of a bloated government and the lure of power and selfish desires it fosters. It is the very oppression he and the other Founding Fathers fought against in the Revolutionary War, and what guided them in the writing of the in the first place. (see , , and ) He encouraged Americans to stay vigilant of our government, watching their actions to prevent expansion or consolidation of departments as both lead to the loss of liberty. Otherwise, there will be those who will use government to obtain control through taxes, dependency, whether it be on this government and foreign ones, extreme debt, and the removal of rights through the use of laws or the prevention of enforcing them.
These violations of liberty and freedom are not only perpetrated when one person receives too much power, but even more so when a collection of individuals acquire control under the umbrella of a political party. Washington forewarned Americans about the hazards of allowing these political entities to thrive and grow.
“This Spirit [of party], unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.”
This spirit of party has the potential 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.” We now see unions and other organizations that shun and ostracize citizens, especially African-Americans, who dare to stray from the Democratic Party. The Chamber of Commerce has the same hold over the Republican Party, as elected officials choose donation money over their constituents. Likewise, both parties hold congressmen hostage to re-election funds in exchange for abandoning their principles.
However, Washington gave us the key to hold this country together. The country must stay moral. Yet to stay moral, the county must have religion. (see , , and ) As stated by Washington:
“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.” (emphasis mine)
Morality is defined as “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” As Washington argues, morality is indisputably guided by religion as those without religion see right and wrong as a personal decision. (see ) Government is Satan in the tree, enticing those called to serve to eat of the forbidden fruit. We must constantly guard ourselves, as well as our leaders, from giving in to the temptation.
Furthermore, Washington believed it was the responsibility of the We The People to watch over government to prevent a government that rules over the people. To achieve this, he highly advocated for a well-informed people.
“Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.”
Washington believed it was imperative the public be educated, especially in the workings of the government. Today, our public schools are spending more time teaching our children that it’s great if you have two mommies, your gender is changeable, how to protest if someone says a word you don’t like, that it is better to destroy a college campus if someone with opposing views is speaking instead of actually engaging them in a debate, and statues like General George Washington should be torn down because he owned slaves. (see and )
Liberty, progressives have successfully removed any document or teaching from our schools, universities and legal system that would give people the proper morals to govern and control themselves. Kids used to go to school with their guns, and participated in gun clubs after class. No one worried about mass shootings. One, because no one was stupid enough to walk into a building they knew contained armed and trained people ready to take them down. But more importantly, people knew “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. (see )
Likewise, children today have no reverence for their parents, their teachers, the police or even their own classmates. When “Honor your father and mother” was posted on the wall, not only did that influence the children, it reminded adults they were suppose to teach children to do just that and properly reprimand them when they didn’t.
Not only have we stopped telling children “Thou Shall Not Steal,” some groups like Black Lives Matter are encouraging and teaching young black men and women that it’s not only ok, but they are owed other people’s things.
Liberty, for the last several decades, a concerted effort has been made to convince Americans that this country was not founded on Judeo-Christian values. However, documents such as Washington’s Farewell Address prove undeniably that our founders were not only religious, they considered it a fundamental pillar of the country. (see , , , and ) It is why progressives want to see Washington only and totally as a slave owner, therefore bolstering their desire to tear down his statues. However, it is not to put right what once went wrong. It is to remove what is right so they can believe what is wrong.
Nevertheless, there is still a chance Congress will hear and heed Washington’s warnings. Starting in 1862, then Senator Andrew Johnson suggested reading the letter on the floor of Congress on Washington’s 130th birthday, February 22. Needing perspective and reason for hope during a time of civil war, Congress agreed. The practice continues today as the letter is read on or near Washington's Birthday by a member of Congress every year.
Taking an average of 45 minutes to read, it is worth the time for every American to read, ponder, and revisit . America’s liberty depends on it.
That’s my 2 cents.
Read Washington’s full letter with a helpful outline included at the bottom.
WASHINGTON'S LIBERATING LETTER