Your Opinion: Heed the maxims of George Washington
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Of all the founding fathers rolling in their graves, George Washington is turning the fastest. He firmly believed that the Constitution, enshrining liberty, would serve as the guiding light for the new federation, and for the rest of the world. He predicted exceptionalism for Americans. In his 1796 farewell address to the nation, after refusing a third term and looking forward to his remaining days as a broke farmer:
“I shall carry [your support] with me to my grave, as a strong incitement of unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that in fine, the happiness of the people of the States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it ... We are authorized to hope that a proper organization of the whole with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment ... The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.”
Note his use of the plural “constitutions.” He loved liberty and was assiduously mindful that the essence of the budding strong nation was in its federation of independent states.
During his presidency three new states were admitted to the federation (Vermont, Kentucky, Tennessee) each had its own constitution. He laid the foundations for a minimalist national government which would not intrude on the individual states.
He also enunciated two commandments:
“Maxim 1: of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports ... let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion ... reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (until the 1950’s the Bible was a primer in all public schools)
Maxim 2: [avoid] likewise the accumulation of debt ... not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.’
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