(Excerpted, in part, from We the People: Birth of a Nation, 2nd Edition. To be available on Amazon.com around November 1, 2014.)
George Washington, the first Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army—the forerunner of the U.S. military—and the first President of the United States of America, was a humble man of prayer and devout patriot. He was also a man of exceptional wisdom, discernment and vision. Toward the end of his second term, Washington had Hamilton review the Madison draft of his farewell speech that he had intended to use at the end of his first term and make revisions. While Madison and Hamilton constructed the draft, it was Washington who carefully considered every word, every addition and deletion, before giving his approval.
Interestingly, it was never given orally by Washington but on September 19, 1796, it was published in the American Daily Advertizer in Philadelphia. Shortly thereafter The Independent Chronicle, the published voice of the New England Republicans, printed the address.
With much reluctance, Washington turned down the offer for a third term. Washington had longed for the privacy of his beloved Mount Vernon since the end of the war. Two weeks before he took the oath of office on April 30, 1789, he told his fellow citizens of Alexandria, Virginia, that “my love of retirement is so great, that no earthly consideration, short of conviction of duty, could have prevailed upon me to depart from my resolution ‘never more to take any share in transactions of a public nature.’” Even when his second presidential term ended in March, 1797, his retirement and return to Mount Vernon would be brief. In 1798, as war with France seemed to be on the near horizon, Washington accepted President John Adams’ urging to lead the American military once again. His call was short-lived as tensions eased and he was able to return to his Virginia estate.
Although, unlike many of his compatriot leaders, Washington lacked a formal and collegiate education, it did not hamper his keen insight and wisdom that shone forth in his voluminous correspondence. Notwithstanding Madison’s and Hamilton’s contributions, the address is clearly Washington in style and content. In the lengthy salute to America, he presents several personal convictions and concerns for the future of his beloved country.
Importance of unity and the dangers of factions and divisions. He was greatly concerned about the growing trend of individual wants at the expense of national unity. Personal freedom, Washington believed, could only continue to exist and prosper with the desire of all Americans to be united in the ongoing, uniquely American brand of freedom, for the benefit of the whole nation. Strong, misguided, individualism or regionalism—that erupted into the Civil War—could destroy the young nation.
Washington firmly believed that for the Union of states to survive, unity, not only among the nation’s leaders, but its people as well would be essential. . . . as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; he wrote, 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; [and] that the happiness of the people of these 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 . . . and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.
A man seasoned by a long military career and an extreme love of his country, Washington cherished the hard-won freedom and independence that was to be handed down to generations of Americans to come after him. But he was concerned about the real threat of factions and divisions in both politics and the people.
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 [rarity] 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.
Washington foresaw, that while the newly conceived U.S. Constitution had sufficient safeguards, that there would arise in the future those from both within the country and from outside the country that would seek to weaken the nation by a “divide and conquer” strategy if the populace was not watchful and committed to liberty, justice and prosperity for all, divesting themselves of self-interests. Whether Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections, he advocated. 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 discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.
Perhaps Washington did not foresee the degree of “multi-culturalism” America would embrace 200 years later, but he did fully understand that unless all residents of the nation, whether native-born or foreign-born, fully accepted the “land of the free” as their cherished home—culture, language, laws and morality—the nation would soon be torn asunder. This unity among people of different backgrounds and beliefs was essential, not only to the country’s safety and prosperity, but to its strength and protection against all enemies foreign and domestic. . . . While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves . . . . they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty. In this sense it is that your union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
Washington believed that Union should be the primary object of patriotic desire. Sadly, America today has never been so fractious and divided since the Civil war. America has degenerated from a society of committed and unified freedom fighters and lovers to a “what’s in for me” society that appears willing to sacrifice true freedom at all costs as long as they can get something out of it. As the venerable Benjamin Franklin once stated, He who would trade liberty for some temporary security, deserves neither liberty nor security.
. . . there will always be reason, Washington wrote, to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands.
Dangers of the party system. Washington detested the fractious and partisan two party political system that he saw developing under his administration. He saw it as destructive and unhealthy for the country. The party system of government, he foresaw, had the potential to go beyond the normal political checks and balances and rip the power of self-government out of the hands of the citizens.
To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, he penned, 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. . . . 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. . . . The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution . . . till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all.
Washington undoubtedly would be horrified how the Constitution has been ripped apart by special interest groups and self-serving politicians over the years since his demise. It is no longer a Constitution of just laws for all, but only for those who no longer have the power and will to confront injustice and the powerful. The two-party system he believed had the potential to tear the country apart.
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.
“Money talks” as they say and Washington understood that the propensity of human nature to lobby and seek favor with politicians had the destructive potential to subvert the Constitution and destroy the liberty and union he and so many other patriots fought and died for. Today, the majority of Congress no longer truly represents the will or desires of the people, but only of those who can grease the palms of special interests or finance re-election campaigns. It seems that the typical politician is not in office to stand up for and serve the people, but is there to secure the permanency of his or her future. Party factions, Washington wrote, in the course of time and things, . . . 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.
One method of assault on the Constitution he believed would be alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. It seems that with each succeeding generation of leaders in high places each one flirts with stretching the efficacy of the Constitution. The current administration in the Whitehouse is no exception and, perhaps, has clearly and willfully violated the Constitution with every available opportunity. With each constitutional violation, the nation and its people lose another chick of freedom and independence, and like the proverbial frog in a kettle of gradually heated water, does not perceive the danger until it is too late.
This [divisive party] spirit, Washington continued in his warning speech, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. . . . it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, Washington continued, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, . . . has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty. Has America not arrived at this point today? According to Washington, it is up to the people—a wise and educated people—to rise up and discourage and restrain such abuse of servanthood.
[The party system] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty, Washington noted. This within certain limits is probably true; and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
Almost since the signing of the U.S. Constitution into law, partisan politics soon developed, starting with the Federalists and anti-Federalists. As the Democratic and Republican parties developed, sides became more permanently drawn and partisan politics has apparently reached its zenith with the current Congress and presidential administration, as over 380 bills passed by the House languish on the desk of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who refuses to introduce them before the Senate for debate. Washington’s foresight, unfortunately, has come to full fruition.
Protecting the sanctity of the Constitution. To Washington and those who labored over the Constitution and to the majority of those in Congress, the Constitution represented the bedrock upon which all current and future law and liberty would depend. It was divinely inspired with God-given individual rights. It was not something to be whimsically changed by partisan politics or by legislative or judicial fiat. To do so would destroy its sanctity and strength. It was a document that was thoughtfully and prayerfully conceived that did and would forever provide the stable foundation upon which all American generations could stand with confidence and security.
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.
. . . 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 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. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield (my emphasis).
Washington keenly realized that if the three branches of government—Executive, Legislative & Judicial—that the Founders so wisely set forth in the Constitution as distinct entities, with specific purposes and as a check and balance against each other, ever became co-mingled, with one usurping the role and responsibility of the other, it would result in real despotism. Have we not arrived at such a destiny as the Executive ignores the Legislative and makes, institutes and ignores whatever laws it desires? And, as the Judicial selects what laws it chooses to enforce and modifies or changes those laws it does not like. Truly, tyranny has arrived in the United States just as Washington feared and predicted.
Public and national debt. Washington was not opposed to indebtedness, but recommended that it should be used sparingly and only in times of national emergency. Whatever national debt that might be incurred “we ourselves ought to bear” it, Washington recommended, rather than pass it on to succeeding generations. When times of peace and prosperity returned, then that was the time to pay off the debt and not pile on more debt, thus increasing the burden for the next generation.
As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.
Unfortunately, America’s national debt situation is out of control and impossible to pay off as politician after politician votes to “kick the can” of debt control down the road year after year. The National Debt will exceed $18 trillion by year-end with “unfunded” liabilities at a staggering $124 trillion. Yet, congressional and administration spending continues out-of-control with more and more spending bills being whisked through Congress or put into action by Executive Orders. We continue to send billions abroad, even to our enemies, as jobs and American lifestyles plummet into the basement. Washington, who received his education in the field of hard knocks, knew what he was talking about. Too bad no one after him followed his advice.
Foreign relations and national defense. One of the greatest threats to the American style of life and freedom would be the outside adverse influence of non-Americans and foreign governments. Under his scrutiny, these influences would become the destructive “foes of republican government”, Washington believed. Permanent alliances with foreign powers, in Washington’s view, were inadvisable and potentially injurious to American sovereignty and freedom. Although he was not an isolationist—he saw the need for world trade cooperation—he believed that long-term alliances would be detrimental and not in the enduring best interest of the country. Foreign entanglements and the large military build-up that might result would be “particularly hostile to republican liberty,” he surmised. For Washington and his fellow patriots who had risked all for the sake of true freedom, they realized that God had blessed them with the formation of the most unique and workable form of government for a free and fully represented people that the world had ever known. To Washington and his like-minded patriots, it was worth protecting at all costs.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence . . . the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.
. . . The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.
. . . It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world . . . .
. . . Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences . . . .
. . . Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.
When it came to foreign trade, Washington abhorred the idea that one nation would be treated any different than another. To create a “favored nation” status would only cultivate “a variety of evils” for America. As Washington continued his warnings in his farewell speech, he offered this prophetic advice:
. . . a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence . . . a free people ought to be constantly awake . . . that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. . . . Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests (my emphasis).
One of the biggest mistakes America and its politicians has ever made was granting China “favored nation” status under President Bill Clinton. It was virtually a one-sided deal that highly favored China and immediately resulted in a flow of American jobs, technology and manufacturing to China, allowing China to become the world’s strongest economy at the expense of the American worker and American family. At the same time the American consumer fell in love with “cheap” goods flooding the U.S. market, oblivious to the realization that one day it would cost them their jobs, wages and standard of living. A nation that cannot produce for itself and exports the production of goods and services abroad is destined for an inferior and declining economy.
The necessity of religion and morality in the citizens and the government. For historians and others who have concluded that Washington was not a man of God, their conclusions would seem to be fallacious and misguided. Washington considered religion and morality two of the “great pillars of human happiness.” Indeed, religion and morality were “indispensable supports” for political prosperity. In fact, in his view, any person that would seek to undermine these pillars could not be considered to be a patriot. If one subverted the religious foundation of the country, “Where,” asked Washington, “is the security for property, for reputation, for life . . .?” As for individual or national morality, he believed it could not be maintained in the absence of religious education and acted upon principles of faith. It was and would always be that religion and morality would be the foundation of a good and just government.
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.
. . . 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.
It would be no great surprise to Washington if he were able to observe the state of affairs in America today. After all, he warned, without a foundation of biblical morality and virtue it would be impossible to have an effective and just government and society. Without the strong and clear foundation of religion—and he meant Christianity—America would soon collapse into an immoral society lead by despotic leaders.
America, you have arrived. You were properly and prophetically warned by our nation’s finest leader.
ALSO READ this America in Prophecy book, Revelation 18 and the fate of America.