As our government quickly approaches the time to swear-in newly elected federal representatives, it seems fitting to reflect upon writings of our founding fathers and specifically George Washington. In his farewell address of
17 September 1796 in , George Washington took the opportunity to share observations and make recommendations to government leaders/decision-makers. One may observe that the statements and recommendations of George Washington transcend time: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“…Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more that any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes….
The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which at any time exists until changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.
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.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things to 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….
In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish – that they will control the usual current of the passions or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations, but if I may even flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good – that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the impostures of pretended patriotism – this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare by which they have been dictated….”
The excerpts reveal George Washington’s insight and anticipation of challenges facing a new nation. This was the political, economic, and social environment that he and his family encountered and which impacts the story that begs to be told regarding his sibling, nieces and nephews…all of whom he significantly impacted through his values and leadership.