I'm revisiting the free Constitution course that Hillsdale College offers and have been reading some of the primary documents our founders wrote. Jefferson, Hamilton, Madison, Adams... these guys were just plain genius. However, the one founder I can't help but admire the most is George Washington. Yes, he was a great general and military leader, but he was so much more than that. His kindness, morality, and genuine love for this country rings clearly through everything he wrote. We need this man now!
Portrait of Washington by Gilbert Stuart
Washington did not seek the office of president, in fact he needed to be persuaded to serve a second term, and downright refused to run for a third. He held the office of the president not out of ambition and personal gain, but out of a sincere desire to see the country he pledged his life for succeed. After 45 years of service to his country, Washington quietly retired to his beloved home, Mount Vernon. But, before he left, he addressed the nation one last time. In his Farewell Address (September 19, 1796) Washington took one last opportunity to give advice to the nation, to we the people, how to keep this grand experiment of government alive and well. And he offered the advice to you my countrymen ( how sweet is that?) not as a smug directive from the Commander in Chief, but as counsels of an old and affectionate friend. Can you just feel the tenderness he felt?
In his address he warned about the vices of political parties. Oh, if we had only listened. Just look at us now, we the people have seriously lost control of things...it is evident that many of us realize this ... just look at the two front runners...not exactly party material! So there is some hope there, but I swear, if after all the smoke has cleared and Hillary and Jeb are the last two standing...we might as well not even vote ever again, because it will mean the parties are in charge and we the people have been replaced.
In his Farewell Address, George also shared some maxims government should follow in order to remain strong and secure: (I slightly paraphrase here)
- use credit sparingly
- avoid accumulation of debt
- save a little frequently to prepare for use of great expenditures later in times of trouble
- do not let future generations bear the burden of what we ought to bear
Yikes! We've become George's worst nightmare. The government has violated every one of these maxims and in a major way...someone please...listen to your father!!!!
I'd like to share just a few more comments from Washington's Farewell that are, I believe, so important to apply to this time in our nation's history. Washington said, of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. George didn't mean there should be no division or separation between church and state, because that separation must exist. What he did mean was that morality and the morality that religion promotes is a SUPPORT to political prosperity. Let's face it, in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, the people better be good people. Let's see... when our leaders lie, commit adultery, pad their bank accounts and businesses through their political connections, it becomes apparent that morality has been tucked into the closet along with the Constitution. And the general populace must be moral enough to recognize this is wrong and raise an outcry so loud to send these scoundrels running for cover. We need to seriously think about the extents we have gone to eliminate religion from our institutions (one nation under God remember that?) and the extents we have gone to promote freedom of expression (hey Hollywood set a good example for the young will ya! ). And parents...we do need to lay strong moral foundations for our children... it's part of our job. George concludes, ...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle...'Tis substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. Some powerful words to ponder, don't you think?
Portrait by Charles Wilson Peale
A final bit of essential advice that Washington shared is about the importance, in a republican form of government, of having an educated populace. After all, the people will be doing the voting, so they better be aware of what's going on. George said, 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. How true is that? People need to think for themselves...to really know and not be led by clever political ads and speeches. How can they think for themselves if they are not educated? People need to know our history. People need to know what the Constitution says and means. People need to know how government operates. Governing ourselves is a huge responsibility... we can't leave it up to the politicians, our neighbors, or anyone else.
So, I repeat...We need George Washington (or at least to listen to the sage advice he left us in his Farewell Address). What a wise and decent man he was!