George Washington's Words Through the Prism of Today: Part 2

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 five-part series on George Washington’s Farewell Address.

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Where is reason?

But the constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly obligatory to all.

George Washington, in his Farewell Address, speaks to us about the obligation we have, as citizens, to the United States Constitution. Obligation. Americans, we the people, who live in America, we the people, who reap from her spirit, her resources, her goodness, her history of independence and equality, should be obliged to live by and honor our Constitution.

But do we? How can we, if we do not know it?

Americans love football. How would we ever expect a football player to play the game, if he did not know the rules? Similarly, how do we expect to maintain our republic if we do not know the rules, the laws, of our intended government?

Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true liberty.

George Washington states that we should respect the Constitution’s authority, comply with its laws, acquiesce to its measures.

How can America’s citizens sacredly oblige, respect, comply and acquiesce to the measures in the Constitution, if we do not know it? How can we sustain our Republic, a form of government where the people rule through their representatives by electing leaders, congressmen and women and selecting judges to protect our liberties, if we know not from where these liberties are borne and maintained?

Is this not reasonable? Where is reason?

Reason, a caveat in all things brilliant and everlasting, a mental attribute our founding fathers understood, leads us to a fundamental conclusion.

Is it not reasonable, that we as adults fully comprehend the foundation of our government? Is it not reasonable that we dedicate as much time educating our children about the founding principles of our country as we do taking them to soccer practice and ballet school, the science fair and math labs?

But, where is reason in America?

I will never forget a recent experience I had when I was a guest on someone’s radio show. As we were discussing the importance of the Constitution, he said, “I don’t agree with it.” I was awestruck. He didn’t “agree with it?” What was his reasoning for such a blatantly, broad and ignorant statement?”

It reminded me of the great line in the movie Amadeus. After a beautiful, sumptuous Opera, the king walks up to Mozart and comments, prompted by his faction, that there were “Simply, too many notes.” A flabbergasted Mozart asked the king to describe to him exactly which notes. The king was at a loss for words.

The same applies to a broad comment regarding the Constitution such as, “I don’t agree with it.” I wondered to myself, which part? Reason led me to question whether this person had ever read the Constitution or studied it. If he didn’t agree with it, which implies the whole of it, then was I to suppose that he didn’t agree with the separation of powers, the checks and balances, the genius of Articles 1, 2 and 3?

Did he not agree with the bicameral Congress – one for the people, one for the states? Did he not agree that the President’s Cabinet has to be approved by the Senate? Did he not agree that the President is prohibited from declaring war without the consent of the Congress? Did he not agree that the House of Representatives, the people’s house, holds the purse strings for the war thus empowering the people, through their vote, to end the war at any time? Did he not agree that the President cannot appoint a Supreme Court Justice but can only nominate one, and that the nominee has to be confirmed by the Senate? Did he not agree that a bill vetoed by the President can be overridden by a two thirds majority of the Congress?

Did he not agree with the 13th Amendment, that gave slaves freedom, the 19th Amendment that gave women the right to vote, or the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments, which includes freedom of speech – the freedom of speech which gave him his right to voice his blasphemous opinion – that he didn’t agree with the Constitution?

Where is reason?

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 encroachments tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism.

Is this not happening today? The executive branch is encroaching on the legislative branch by appointing unelected officials and Czars thus blatantly disregarding the Constitution. This encroachment has a residual effect on the liberties of the people, the resiliency of industry and the inspiration of free enterprise. This can only happen if we the people are ignorant to the proceedings, the true intent of our government.

Thus, the bias against the Constitution and against the people who revere it, propels the purpose of the perpetrator – to intimidate the desire of a civic yearning and learning which thus allows the government to insidiously overstep its bounds.

All obstructions to the executions of the laws are ….. of fatal tendency.

Where is Reason?

Well, I reasoned, if this gentleman didn’t agree with the Constitution of the United States, then he could move to another country, a, or b, if he could ever define the part with which he didn’t agree, he could start a movement for an amendment.

If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it corrected by an amendment in the way the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation… it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.

Broad and unsubstantiated statements such as, ” I don’t agree with it” are by products of the proponents of faction. Faction is like a wildfire that rips through an innocent land. It breeds contempt, discord, division distrust and eventually the demise of our Republic, but more on faction next week.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetuated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. …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 liberty.

Part one can be read here.

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