Today our country has evolved into an Oligarchy form of government, where groups control power and authority. This was not the ‘Republican form of Government’ our Founding Fathers envisioned, which explains Americans discontent. Fortunately, we can look to history for the purpose behind having a Federal Government.
Initially, the United States was established utilizing the State-centric Articles of Confederation (1777); however, it did not take long for Americans to recognize that it was insufficient for adopting and enforcing a fair and uniformed set of principles, behaviors and legislation across States. Hence, George Washington led the Convention to establish a Federal Government.
The following quotes and excerpts have been organized to explain the purpose behind the structure, logic and principles of the Constitution. Tami anticipates that upon reading these excerpts most Americans will recognize that we did have an unique form of government and that the majority of those ideals have been ignored or discouraged because of Oligarchy interests
Thank you to all these writers and supporters of George Washington's legacy.
Flexner, James Thomas. 1974. Washington The Indispensable Man. Made and Printed in the United States: William Collins Sons & Co Ltd.; Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and The Claremont Institute. 2002. Rediscovering George Washington. Curriculum Developers: Steve Antley and Thomas; Ellis, Joseph J. 2004. His Excellency George Washington. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; Brookhiser, Richard. 1996. Founding Father Rediscovering Washington. New York: The Free Press; Johnson, Paul. 2005. George Washington The Founding Father. New York: HarperCollins; Liberty Fund; Wikipedia.
Principles of the Republican form of Government
The American Revolution, which pitted the self-reliant individual against hereditary power, was a world- shaking explosion of new points of view. J. Flexner: 242.
On one side stood those who wished Americas revolutionary energies to be harnessed to the larger purposes of nation building; on the other side stood those who interpreted that very process as a betrayal of the Revolution itself. J. Ellis: 230.
There was also the problem of whether constitutional change was desirable. Much of the political class was happy with the current arrangements: nobly so, to the extent they feared that a strengthened government would encroach on liberty; less nobly, to the extent that they enjoyed being big fish in the small ponds of the states. Supporters of change would have to make the case that a new government would not threaten liberty, and that they were not primarily motivated by the desire to be big fish in the bigger pond of the nation. Washingtons presence would help immeasurably to make that case. R. Brookhiser: 56.
The Founders justification for a Republican form of Government was premised on the idea that the state of nature would lead to despotism. James Madison explained: Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. In a society under the forms of which the stronger faction can readily unite and oppress the weaker, anarchy may as truly be said to reign as in a state of nature, where the weaker individual is not secured against the violence of the stronger; and as, in the latter state, even the stronger individuals are prompted, by the uncertainty of their condition, to submit to a government which may protect the weak as well as themselves; so, in the former state, will the more powerful factions or parties be gradually induced, by a like motive, to wish for a government which will protect all parties, the weaker as well as the more powerful. PBS
James Madison explained the relationship between the state of nature and government by raising the following question: But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions. PBS
Justice Harlan wrote in his Supreme Court dissenting opinion Plessy vs. Ferguson, in view of the constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. The law regards man as man, and takes no account of his surroundings or of his color when his civil rights as guaranteed by the supreme law of the land are involved. PBS.
Federal Government History
Washington wrote the Irish patriot Sir Edward Newenham: You will permit me to say that a greater drama is now acting on this theater than has heretofore been brought on the American stage, or any other in the world. We exhibit at present the novel and astonishing spectacle of a whole people deliberating calmly on what form of government will be more conducive to happiness; and deciding with an unexpected degree of unanimity in favour of a System which they conceive calculated to answer the purpose. J. Flexner: 212.
Much of the strength & efficiency of any Government in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of the Government, as well as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its Governors. I hope therefore that for our own sakes as a part of the people, and for the sake of posterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this Constitution (if approved by Congress & confirmed by the Conventions) wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts & endeavors to the means of having it well administered. Sept 17, 1787 Convention speech Franklin. Liberty Fund
The pamphlets supporting the Constitution, particularly The Federalist written by Hamilton, Madison, and John Jay, persuaded Washington that This Constitution is really in its formation a government of the people; that is to say, a government in which all power is derived from, and, at stated periods, reverts to them; and that, in its operation, it is purely a government of laws, made and executed by the fair substitutes of the people alone. It is clear to my conception that no government before introduced among mankind ever contained so many checks and such efficacious restraints to prevent it from degenerating into any species of oppression. J. Flexner: 210.
Our eyes run quickly over those paragraphs urging New Englanders and Virginians to think of themselves as Americans, to understand their regional differences as complementary strengths in a flourishing national mosaic. J. Ellis: 236.
Washington complained our measures are not under the influence and directions of one council, but thirteen, each of which is actuated by local views and politics. J. Ellis: 127.
At the ideological level, Washington was declaring that he instinctively understood the core principle of republicanism, that all legitimate power derived from the consent of the public. J. Ellis: 143.
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. Washington Farewell Address 1796
It was, indeed, one of Washingtons achievements that he gave America a federal government that as able to act decisively when required, this being implicit in the Presidential powers. P. Johnson: 101.
Washingtons 1794 message to Congress: It has demonstrated, that our prosperity rests on solid foundations; by furnishing an additional proof, that my fellow citizens understand the true principles of government and liberty: that they feel their inseparable union: that notwithstanding all the devices which have been used to sway them from their interest and duty, they are now as ready to maintain the authority of the laws against licentious invasions, as they were to defend their rights against usurpation. It has been a spectacle, displaying to the highest advantage, the value of Republican Government, to behold the most and least wealthy of our citizens standing in the same ranks as private soldiers. R. Brookhiser: 91.
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 nation Union to your collective and individual happiness;. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796.
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. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796.
To the security of a free Constitution it contributes in various ways: By convincing those who are intrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of Government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people: and by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority; between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of Society; to discriminate the spirit of Liberty from that of licentiousness cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy, but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the Laws. George Washington First Message to Congress
Return to Despotism
To every description of citizens, indeed, let praise be given. But let them persevere in their affectionate vigilance over that precious depository of American happiness, the Constitution of the United States. George Washington message to the Third Congress 19 November 1794: 'Self-Created Societies'.
Could a new small nation maintain its independence in a world of contending empires? R. Brookhiser: 91.
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 perpetrated the most horrid enormities, 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. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations northern and southern Atlantic and western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart burnings which spring from these misrepresentations. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
Washington believed the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the Republican model of Government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people. J. Flexner: 215; Washingtons Inaugural Address of 1789
Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
Washington wrote to Lafayette, It has always been my creed that we should not be left as an awful monument to prove, that Mankind, under the most favourable circumstances for civil liberty and happiness, are unequal to the task of Governing themselves, and therefore made for a Master. R. Brookhiser: 72; Flexner: 215.
When a government fails to get the consent of the governed, or when it violates the rights of the people, the people are justified in exercising their natural right of revolution and institution a new government. PBS
The split between Jefferson and Hamilton fostered the creation of the two-party system. Though full-fledged parties, with national platforms, campaigns, and conventions, would not emerge until the 1830s, their embryonic origins first became visible during Washingtons presidency. J. Ellis: 216.
Thomas Jefferson said You say that I have been dished up to you as an Anti-Federalist, and ask me if it be just. My opinion was never worthy enough of notice to merit citing; but, since you ask it, I will tell it to you. I am not a Federalist, because I never submitted the whole system of my opinions to the creed of any party of men whatever, in religion, in philosophy, in politics, or in anything else, where I was capable of thinking for myself. Such an addiction is the last degradation of a free and moral agent. If I could not go to heaven but with a party, I would not go there at all. Therefore, I am not of the party of Federalists.
Jefferson continued These, my dear friend, are my sentiments, by which you will see I was right in saying I am neither Federalist nor Anti-Federalist; that I am of neither party, nor yet a trimmer between parties. J. Ellis: 216.
The little country had one thing in plentiful supply: political energy. It is a truism that the Framers did not envision political parties, and it is true that they did not write them into the Constitution. But within five years after the constitution was written the very same Framers had created a rudimentary party system: Federalists around Treasury Secretary Hamilton, Republicans around Madison (and Jefferson). Brookhiser: 80.
Washington ran his administration on a nonparty basis. He hated party, and as head of state as well as government had to be above it. And he was above it in the sense that he did not fit into the stereotypes of either of the two groups now forming the federalists, led by Hamilton, who wanted a strong centralized government on the English-European model, or the supporters of Jefferson, favoring decentralization and power vested firmly in the states. Events and practical necessities tended to push the President in a federalist direction, but many of his interest were those of a Virginian land owners, and so Jeffersonian. Paul Johnson: 94.
For his part, Washington described the Republican campaign against the Jay Treaty as a blatantly partisan effort masquerading as a noble cause, one that somehow the Virginians had convinced themselves was in the national and not just their regional interest: With respect to the motives wch. Have led to these measures, and wch. Have not only brought the Constitution to the brink of precipice, put the happiness and prosperity of the County into imminent danger, I shall say nothing. Charity tells us they ought to be good; but suspicions say they must be bad. At present my tongue shall be quiet. J. Ellis: 230.
He confessed to Jay that the vicious personal attacks and willful misrepresentations that dominated the debate were ominous signs of a new kind of party politics for which he had no stomach: These things, as you have supposed, fill my mind with much concern, and with serious anxiety. J. Ellis: 230.
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 mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard 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. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
It [party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community will ill founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foment occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subject to the policy and will of another. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they [parties] 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. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
Special Interest Logic
But if the Laws are to be so trampled upon, with impunity, and a minority (a small one too) is to dictate to the majority there is an end put, at one stroke, to republican government; and nothing but anarchy and confusion is to be expected thereafter; for Some other man, or society may dislike another Law and oppose it with equal propriety until all Laws are prostrate, and every one (the strongest I presume) will carve for himself. Yet, there will be found persons I have no doubt, who, although they may not be hardy enough to justify such open opposition to the Laws, will, nevertheless, be opposed to coercion even if the proclamation and the other temperate measures which are in train by the Executive to avert the dire necessity of a resort to arms, should fail. How far such people may extend their influence, and what may be the consequences thereof is not easy to decide; but this we know, that it is not difficult by concealment of some facts, and the exaggeration of others, (where there is an influence) to bias a well-meaning mind, at least for a time, truth will ultimately prevail where pains is taken to bring it to light. George Washington to Charles M. Thruston; R. Brookhiser: 90; Flexner: 316.
As part of this subject, we cannot withhold our reprobation of the self-created societies, which have risen up in some parts of the Union, misrepresenting the conduct of the Government, and disturbing the operation of the laws, and which, be deceiving and inflaming the ignorant and the weak, may naturally be supposed to have stimulated the urged the insurrection. Mr. Fitzsimons Proceedings in the House of Representatives on the Presidents; Speech 24-27: 'Self-Created Societies'
Will any reflecting person suppose, for a moment, that this great people, so widely extended, so actively employed, could form a common will and make that will law in their individual capacity, and without representation? They could not. Will clubs avail them as a substitute for representation? A few hundred person only are members of clubs, and if they should act for the others, it would be an usurpation, and the power of the few over the many, in every view infinitely worse than sedition itself, will represent this Government. Wednesday, 26 November 'Self-Created Societies'
And let me conjure you, in the name of our Common Country, as you value your own sacred honor, as you respect the rights of humanity, and as you regard the Military and National Character of America, to express Your utmost horror and detestation of the Man who wishes, under and specious pretences, to overturn the liberties of our Country, and who wickedly attempts to open the flood gates of Civil discord, and deluge our rising Empire in Blood. Joseph Ellis: 143.
Senate and Veto
It was his constitutional duty to make recommendations to Congress in his annual address, and this he did, although charily and always in terms of general principles rather than specifics. But once the legislative debates began, he meticulously kept hands off. He considered that legislative action had ceased to be his concern until, according to constitutional provision, a bill that had been enacted was placed on his desk for approval or veto. J. Flexner: 221.
Washington believed that presidential veto was not primarily intended to be used because of disagreement over policy. Its true object was to enable the President to protect the Constitution. This assumed that the President would be an impartial judge, unmoved by the pressures of partisan conflict such a man as Washington in fact was. J. Flexner: 221.
He believed the veto should apply only to bills he judged unconstitutional, and this was the reason; Congress, without fuss, upheld the veto. Johnson: 106.
Another use of the veto, foreseen by Hamilton in The Federalist, was to protect the Presidency from congressional encroachment. For this Washington had no need, perhaps because his own hands-off policy in relation to the legislature reassured the Congress. Once Congress had abandoned its efforts to control the tenure of the department heads [cabinet], it enhanced the power of the Presidency by showering responsibilities on Washington. J. Flexner: 222.
Cabinets and Department Logic
The cabinet system he installed represented a civilian adaptation of his military staff, with executive sessions of the cabinet resembling councils of war designed to provide collective wisdom in a crisis. As Jefferson later described the arrangement, Washington made himself the hub of the wheel with routine business delegated to the department heads at the rim. It was a system that maximized executive control while also creating the essential distance from details. Its successful operation depended upon two acquired skills Washington had developed over his lengthy career: first, identifying and recruiting talented and ambitious young men, usually possessing superior formal education to his own, then trusting them with considerable responsibility and treating them as surrogate sons in his official family; second, knowing when to remain the hedgehog who keeps his distance and when to become the fox who dives into the details. J. Ellis: 197-198.
His aim, however, was to run them both in harness, indeed to run the cabinet as a body that represented regions, more than parties. P. Johnson: 94.
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 these states, under the auspices of liberty, Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
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 depositories and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the other, 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 correct 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. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been and ever will be pursued until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. Federalist 51
Washington personally preferred a unified body of national law, regarding it as a crucial step in the creation of what the Constitution has described as a more perfect union. When nominating Jay to head the Supreme Court he argued that the federal judiciary must be considered as the Key-Stone of our political fabric. since a coherent court system that tied the states and regions together with the ligaments of law would achieve more in the way of national unity than any other possible reform. J. Ellis: 200.
But throughout Washingtons presidency the one thing the Supreme Court could not be, or appear to be, was supreme, a political reality that Washington chose not to contest. J. Ellis: 201.
10th admendement -The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, not prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. P. Johnson: 102.
Here was the lesson Washington had learned commanding the Continental Army: American independence, if it were to endure, required a federal government capable of coercing the states to behave responsibly. J. Ellis: 237.
On the issues of agrarian versus business (urban) Only Washington transcended the dichotomy, wishing to gather equally from both systems what he considered most useful to the United States. J. Flexner: 249.
Prosperity would be the natural harvest of good government. Flexner: 214.
Jefferson believed, as Washington had once done in theory, in an America on Roman lines, with wealth created by landowners and farmers. But Washington had discovered, when running the army, how vital local manufacturing was to supply musket and canon, ammunitions and uniforms. In any case, he shared Hamiltons realistic view that it was all too late to build a Roman America: the industrial age was already taking over. Many of Washingtons dearest schemes to expand and accelerate transported demanded workshops and factories, roads and bridges, turnpikes and canals. He had already met John Finch and discussed with him his plans to speed up canal traffic by new kinds of propulsion, including (from 1789) steam. In 1787 and 1788 the first two big textile factories, in cotton and wool, opened in New England. So, with all due misgivings, the President backed Hamiltons policy, and it was during his presidency that America achieved takeoff into self-sustaining industrial growth. P. Johnson: 95.
Washington visualized a mixed economy in which agrarianism and business activity would move together. American financial forms needed strengthening because they were weak. The United States, Washington rightly believed, would remain primarily agricultural for many generations. Should at any future date the balance show signs of tipping too far the other way, the matter could be handled then. For the time being, the need was to reconcile all parts of the nation to policies which would strengthen all parts. Flexner: 247.
Although Washington agreed with Jefferson that the United States should and would remain an agricultural country, he demonstrated, as the Presidency loomed, a sudden interest in manufacturing. Why should America allow her staples to be processed abroad? In his eagerness to encourage a native textile industry, he was to wear at his inauguration a great rarity: a suit made from cloth woven in the United States. J. Flexner: 214.
Madison scoffed at the idea that a bank could be authorized under the right to regulate Trade. He asked, with a farmers sublime ignorance of such matters, Would any plain man suppose that a bank had anything to do with trade? The developing debate was a confrontation between two basis attitudes towards the Constitution: Strict interpretation vs. the acceptance of implied powers. J. Flexner: 240.
Hamilton surmised Strict interpretation, he pointed out, would, by banning any response to new situations, soon make the federal government obsolete. The State governments, being not similarly tied, would keep up to date and therefore takeover, thus defeating the object of the federal union. J. Flexner: 240.
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 preference; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed-in order to give to trade a stable course, to define the rights our merchants, and to enable the government to support them- conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstance and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned as varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another that it may pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character-that by such acceptance it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
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 later. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
It was a vision of international relations formed from experience rather than reading, confirmed by early encounters with hardship and imminent death, rooted in a relentlessly realistic view of human nature. J. Ellis: 236; Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
The president insisted on a declaration of neutrality, an important first instance of the presidential power to determine foreign policy, if necessary and prudent, without consulting Congress. Neutrality, he insisted again and again in this second term, was in Americas interest, which she must follow while reserving all her rights. He felt it incumbent on him, as the first president, to stress the Americanism of her policy: she was not yet another European nation, obliged to make choices of allies and combinations but a completely new transatlantic entity making her own decisions according to rules of self-interest that had nothing necessarily to do with Old Europe. P. Johnson: 108.
At moments of crisis, Washington appealed beyond interest to the feelings of his countrymen. But these feeling could not be relied upon to operate across national boundaries. In its dealings with the world, America must do what other nations do, and look to itself. R. Brookhiser: 95.
It followed that all treaties were merely temporary arrangements destined to be discarded once those interest shifted. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796; J. Ellis: 235.
In international affairs, the people should guard against ambition as their greatest enemy. J. Flexner: 214.
The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
The nation which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
So likewise, 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. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations has been the victim. Washingtons Farewell Address 1796
George III said his [Washingtons] retirement from the presidency, coupled with his resignation as Commander in Chief fourteen years earlier, placed him in a light the most distinguished of any man living, and that he was the greatest character of the age. The greatest character of the next age agreed. Though their careers overlapped, Washington was not aware of Napoleon, who was a French officer during the 1790s. But Napoleon was aware of him. After he had seized a crown and a continent and lost them both, Napoleon said, They wanted me to be another Washington. R. Brookhiser: 103; PBS.
Whereas Cromwell and later Napoleon made themselves synonymous with the revolution in order to justify the assumption of dictatorial power, Washington made himself synonymous with the American Revolution in order to declare that it was incompatible with dictatorial power. J. Ellis: 142.
They [soldering] also provided him with a truly searing set of personal experiences that shaped his basic outlook on the world. J. Ellis: 12.
Which is to say that the cause [American independence] he headed had not only smashed two British armies and destroyed the first British Empire, it had also set in motion a political movement committed to principles that were destined to topple the monarchial and aristocratic dynasties of the Old World. J. Ellis: 73.
His youthful experience with the British System of preferment through family connection made him seek, as few of his successors have done, to avoid all favoritism, to judge altogether on the qualifications of the individual. J. Flexner: 222.
The usually critical John Adams noted, He seeks information from all quarters and judges more independently than any man I ever know. J. Flexner: 222.
Personally, he despised the British presumptions of superiority that rendered him a mere subject. J. Ellis: 127.
As in Shays Rebellion, Washington was even more concerned with the legitimacy of law than with order. R. Brookhiser: 91.
In three policy areas, however, the location of the national capital, foreign policy, and Indian affairs he abandoned levitation or delegation for meticulous personal management in the mode of his Mount Vernon leadership style. J. Ellis: 206.
He was convinced that he was on the side of destiny or, in more arrogant moments, sure that destiny was on his side. Even his critics acknowledged that he could not be bribed, corrupted, or compromised. J. Ellis: 74.
In writing Jefferson, Monroe, assessed Washingtons role: Be assured, his influence carried this government. J. Flexner: 211.
Slavery and Indians
He did not view Native Americans as exotic savages, but as familiar and formidable adversaries fighting for their own independence: in effect, behaving pretty much as he would do in their place. Moreover, the letters the new president received from several tribal chiefs provided poignant testimony that they now regarded his as their personal protect: Brother, wrote one Cherokee Chief, we give up to our white brothers all the land we could any how spare, and have but little left and we hope you wont let any people take any more from us without our consent. We are neither Birds nor Fish; we can neither fly in the air nor live under water We are made by the same hand and in the same shape as yourselves. J. Ellis: 212.
Washington sought to stop the removal of Indians, which later transpired under Andrew Jacksons administration. Instead, he envisioned multiple sanctuaries under tribal control that would be bypassed by the surging wave of white settlers and whose occupants would gradually, over the course of the next century, become assimilated as full-fledged American citizens. J. Ellis: 212.
Washington passed treaty to protect Indians; however, the Georgia Legislature defied the proclamation. He could not protect the encroachment of white settlers on Indian lands. J. Ellis: 213.
But Washington was aware that there was no prospect of the South ratifying a constitution that did not recognize (and by implication legitimize) slavery in some way. P. Johnson: 104.
Washington shared Franklins views on slavery as a moral and political anachronism. On three occasions during the 1780s he had let it be known that he favored the adoption of some kind of gradual emancipation scheme, and would give his personal support to such a scheme whenever it materialized. J. Ellis: 201.
He endorsed Madisons deft management of the debate and his behind-the-scenes maneuvering in the House, which veto to prohibit any further consideration of ending the slave trade until 1808, as the Constitution specified; more significantly, Madison managed to take slavery off the national agenda by making any legislation seeking to end it a state rather than federal prerogative. Washington expressed his satisfaction that the threatening subject has at last been put to sleep, and will scarcely awake before the year 1808. J. Ellis: 202.
Whatever his personal views on slavery may have been, his highest public priority was the creation of a unified American nation. The debates in the House only dramatized the intractable sectional differences he had witnessed from the chair at Constitutional Convention. They reinforced his conviction that slavery was the one issue with the political potential to destroy the republican experiment in its infancy. J. Ellis: 202.
George Washington Farewell Congressional Recommendations
No tribe had done as much as the Cherokees to accommodate itself to white encroachments on its tribal land and to adapt its own customs and mores to permit peaceful coexistence with the advancing wave of white settlements. I have thought much on this subject, Washington explained, and anxiously wished that these various Indian tribes, as well as their neighbors, the White People, might enjoy in abundance all the good things which make life comfortable and happy. J. Ellis: 238.
In his final address to Congress, Washington made several specific recommendations. The nation desperately needed a small navy to police its coastline and protect American commerce from predatory Islamic pirates in the Mediterranean. It also needed a national military academy to provide a professional officer class for the army and, the old plea, a national university on the Potomac. Congress should also consider legislation to encourage the countrys nascent but latent manufacturing sector. Federal subsidies to encourage improved agricultural techniques were also a shrewd investment, as were salaries for federal employees in order to assure recruitment of the most able citizens. J. Ellis: 238.
British troops were evacuating their western posts; border disputes in Maine and Florida were being sensibly adjudicated; the economy was humming along nicely; a new treaty with the Creeks offered hope for an end to frontier violence in the Southwest. The only dark cloud French raids on American shipping in the Caribbean, was regretful, but surely the French would come to their senses. The tone was patriarchal, as if a father granted custody of an infant child was reporting proudly that the child was doing well and was now safely past its infancy. J. Ellis: 238.
Washingtons 1789 Inaugural Address
Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and who providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the Unites States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allocated to his charge. Washingtons 1789 Inaugural Address
In these honorable qualifications, I behold the surest pledges, that as on one side, no local prejudices, or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests: so, on another, that the foundations of our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principle of private morality; and the preminence of a free Government, be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its Citizens, and command the respect of the World. Washingtons 1789 Inaugural Address
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