Monday, July 2, 2012

George Washington's Farewell Address - A Warning Across the Ages

As we, as a nation, are now faced with the greatest threat to our freedom and liberty - and as inconceivable as it would seem to those who pledged their "...lives, (their) fortunes, and (their) sacred honor..." this threat emanates in and from, the person and policies of the current president of the United States, and his willing accomplices on the Left - it is instructive to contemplate a portion of the words of warning offered by our first, and arguably, most-beloved president, as he publicly bid farewell to the nation he loved so dearly.

His words, though somewhat anachronistic to the modern ear, echo still, down through the ages.

We ignore them at our peril.


...Here, perhaps, I ought to stop. But 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. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

The UNITY OF GOVERNMENT which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, FROM DIFFERENT CAUSES AND FROM DIFFERENT QUARTERS, much pains will be taken, MANY ARTIFICES EMPLOYED to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which THE BATTERIES OF INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL ENEMIES WILL BE MOST CONSTANTLY AND ACTIVELY (though often covertly and insidiously) DIRECTED, it is of infinite moment that YOU SHOULD PROPERLY ESTIMATE THE IMMENSE VALUE OF YOUR NATIONAL UNION to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; AND INDIGNANTLY FROWNING UPON THE FIRST DAWNING OF EVERY ATTEMPT TO ALIENATE ANY PORTION OF OUR COUNTRY FROM THE REST, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. THE NAME OF AMERICAN, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism MORE THAN ANY APPELLATION DERIVED FROM LOCAL DISCRIMINATIOINS. With slight shades of difference, YOU HAVE THE SAME RELIGION, MANNERS, HABITS, AND POLITICAL PRINCIPLES. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes...

...IN CONTEMPLATING THE CAUSES WHICH MAY DISTURB OUR UNION, it occurs as matter of serious concern that ANY GROUND SHOULD HAVE BEEN FURNISHED FOR CHARACTERIZING PARTIES BY GEOGRAPHICAL, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence 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. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; THEY TEND TO RENDER ALIEN TO EACH OTHER THOSE WHO OUGHT TO BE BOUND TOGETHER BY FRATERNAL AFFECTION...

...To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, YOU HAVE IMPROVED UPON YOUR FIRST ESSAY, BY THE ADOPTION OF A CONSTITUTION OF GOVERNMENT BETTER CALCULATED THAN YOUR FORMER FOR AN INTIMATE UNION, AND FOR THE EFFICACIOUS MANAGEMENT OF YOUR COMMON CONCERNS. This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty. 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 SCAREDLY OBLIGATORY UPON ALL. (AND ESPECIALLY, I SUBMIT, THIS INCLUDES THE PRESIDENT, HIMSELF) THE VERY IDEA OF THE POWER AND THE RIGHT OF THE PEOPLE TO ESTABLISH GOVERNMENT PRESUPPOSES THE DUTY OF EVERY INDIVIDUAL (INCLUDING THE PRESIDENT) TO OBEY THE ESTABLISHED GOVERNMENT.

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. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; TO PUT, IN THE PLACE OF THE DELEGATED WILL OF THE NATION THE WILL OF A PARTY, OFTEN A SMALL BUT ARTFUL AND ENTERPRISING MINORITY OF THE COMMUNITY; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.

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. (REMIND YOU OF ANYONE?)

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. (SCOTUS, ANYONE?) In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor 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. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property...

...It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A JUST ESTIMATE OF THAT LOVE OF POWER, AND PRONENESS TO ABUSE IT, WHICH PREDOMINATES IN THE HUMAN HEART, IS SUFFICIENT TO SATISFY US OF THE TRUTH OF THIS POSITION. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. BUT LET THERE BE NO CHANGE BY USURPATION; FOR THOUGH THIS, IN ONE INSTANCE, MAY BE THE INSTRUMENT OF GOOD, IT IS THE CUSTOMARY WEAPON BY WHICH FREE GOVERNMENTS ARE DESTROYED. (OBAMA: I'M ISSUING THIS EXECUTIVE ORDER BECAUSE IT'S "THE RIGHT THING TO DO!") The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.

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?...

... Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it - It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? CAN IT BE THAT PROVIDENCE HAS NOT CONNECTED THE PERMANENT FELICITY OF A NATION WITH ITS VIRTUE? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?...

...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 control 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.

How far in the discharge of my official duties I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them...

...Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, THE FAULTS OF INCOMPETENT ABILITIES WILL BE CONSIGNED TO OBLIVION, AS MYSELF MUST SOON BE TO THE MANSIONS OF REST.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man who views in it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever-favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

Geo. Washington

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