In 1796, President George Washington decided to retire from public service, thus not seeking a third term. He wrote a 32 page Farewell Address, with Alexander Hamilton’s ever present counsel. It was printed in Philadelphia’s American Daily Advertiser, on September 19, 1796. Not only is it mesmerizing, it is pertinent. To shed light on the remarkable, relevancy of his words and the timelessness of his wisdom, I am writing a 5 part series on George Washington’s Farewell Address.
Does morality really matter? George Washington adresses the issue:
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.
In wake of the Congressman Weiner scandal, questions are being asked if morality really matters. After all, “Weiner didn’t break the laws of the Constitution,” said the casual observer on the street, as did Weiner himself. Others, however, beg to question, for one who holds the public trust, where do matters of deceit draw its confines?
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.
Washington’s words, from over two hundred years ago, some would argue, are dull and mundane. Yet, actually, they are sharp and solid, resonating relevancy and reason. Reason transcends time and reason sees the connections between “private and public felicity.”
But are we a country of reason anymore? A country who props up politicians who don’t seem to have a clarity of moral boundaries and/or an understanding or acknowledgement, for that matter, of simple words such as “budget.” Private citizens deal with these concepts every day in their households, and private citizens know that they can’t spend more than they make.
Reason is being ransomed and morality, like reason, is being stripped from our society, as if it does not really matter.
In our nation’s schools, any nod to God is ground for being expelled or maybe even a required visit to the psychiatrist’s office. Our founding documents state freedom of religion, not freedom from religion. George Washington, in his farewell address does not specify a religion. Yet, he most definitely states that religion and morality play a vital part in the survival of a republic and a society as a whole.
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.
History proves that without morality, life and civilizations crumble. Why then is a politician impervious to these same principles?
What would Washington think of our present generation of kids who are being taught by our nation’s schools that one should be dumb, deaf and blind to the call of God, country, duty, civics and morality? How will they cope? They are being taught that morality and religious principle is not a mainstay to sustain one through life. They are not being taught that morality and religious principle are necessities to sustain a republic – a republic that embodies liberty and justice for all.
But, how would they know about liberty and justice for all? They cannot, or are not encouraged to say the Pledge of Allegiance to their Republic. They are not taught to revere it – the very republic that gives them their liberties to speak their minds – but wait, they can’t speak their minds.
If our children do not know their rights, they will not know when their rights are being insidiously usurped from them.
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?
Where do justice and morality meet? They meet in the hearts and minds of a populace who, as “the genius of the people” maintain their Republic. What do we expect of our politicians? We expect of them what we expect of ourselves and what Washington expected of us: dignity, integrity, morality – based on religious principle.