"But a solicitude for your welfare...and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me...to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments; which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all important to the permanency of your felicity as a People."
--George Washington in his Farewell Address to the People of the United States (1796)
Our first President, a man who pledged his Life, his Honor, and his Fortune to secure for us a nation wherein we could safely enjoy our God-given rights of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, left us with a series of warnings upon his voluntarily departure from the office of the Presidency. These warnings did not come from any normal man, but from someone who had lived under tyranny and therefore understood its seductive quality and the oppression it brings to the people.
George Washington was a man who took up arms against the most powerful empire on the planet to free his people from this tyranny. He was a man who was the first to administer the executive branch of a brand new form of government, designed to protect the liberties of its people. He knew it would forever face enemies who would seek to arrest the freedoms of the people and restore power to the hands of a few. He was a man who lived his life amongst a group of national leaders who had spent long hours studying human government and designing, discussing, and debating the new republic they were to create.
George Washington is someone who should be heeded.
Looking back at his thoughts on how to preserve our hard-won liberties, where do we stand today? Have we as Americans been successful keeping the threats at bay, or have we violated his guidance and, whether consciously or unconsciously, taken the return path to tyranny? Let us look at his advice, point by point, and consider where we are as a nation today.
1. The Union. "The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people...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...much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth..." He advised us to "indignantly [frown] upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our Country from the rest..." He also warns that "To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances however strict between the parts can be an adequate substitute." He states 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...the continuance of the Union as a primary object of Patriotic desire."
PASS. We have effectively preserved our Union through the years, which provides the main pillar of strength at home to preserve our liberties. A strong Union provides a bulwark against foreign adversaries who constantly seek to pick us apart, turn the parts against each other, and destroy our nation piece by piece. However, our Union could be torn asunder by the factionalism and Spirit of Party that have infected this nation, which will be discussed in points to follow. Should our Union be weakened in the slightest, our enemies will be sure to exploit it.
2. Overgrown Military Establishments. Because of the greater security the unity of the nation provides against external danger, we can therefore "avoid the necessity of those overgrown Military establishments, which under any form of Government are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty..."
FAIL. Since the conclusion of World War II and the onset of the Cold War, the United States has maintained a very large military in response to the fear of external threats. A constant threat of attack causes the people to be more apt to give up their rights in return for supposed protection by the government (The Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act are cases in point.). Some thinkers believe that a perpetual state of war is necessary to ensure the people's allegiance to their nation (see "The Report from Iron Mountain" study). High levels of military spending gives the government control over a large part of the national economy, enriches and empowers the banks and military-industrial complex, and supports the continued rationale for a permanent tax on the population through both income tax and inflation. Finally, this military force can be turned on the people should the wrong individual occupy the Oval Office.
3. The Sacred Obligation to Follow the Constitution. "The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, 'til changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole People, is sacredly obligatory to all."
FAIL. Our leaders do not believe they have a sacred obligation to support, follow, and defend the Constitution, even though they have sworn oaths to do so. Presidents such as Woodrow Wilson believed the Constitution needs to evolve in its meaning to remain up-to-date in changing times. We have Justices on the Supreme Court who believe the Constitution is no longer relevant in this age. Every branch of our government, both past and present, actively seek and find ways to circumvent and undermine that which the Constitution dictates. Most concerning are the powers being abrogated by the Congress and given to the Executive Branch by such laws as the War Powers Act which essentially gives the President the ability to declare war. Congress passes a great number of laws that should be handled at the State, local, or individual levels as per the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. All are essentially "work-arounds" to the limits purposefully imposed on our form of government by the Constitution.
4. Obstructions to the Execution of Laws. "All obstructions to the execution of the Laws...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 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.... However combinations...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..."
FAIL. We have an Executive Branch that refuses to enforce the laws passed by the Legislative Branch and makes laws through Executive Directive and regulation, and a Judicial Branch that legislates. These are done to advance the agenda of particular parties in contravention to the will of the people.
5. The "Spirit of Innovation" Undermining the Constitution. "Towards the preservation of your Government...it is requisite, not only that you 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."
FAIL. We have presidents calling for a Second Bill of Rights, a New Deal, a Great Society, and Hope and Change, all with grand ideas for social perfection that goes against the Constitution in its current form and will eventually lead to the establishment of tyranny in this nation.
6. The Danger of Political Parties. "Let me now...warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party.... It exists under different shapes in all Governments...but in those of popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy. 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. 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.... It 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..."
FAIL. In America today we are strictly limited to a two-party system with each party appearing to occupy diametrically opposed positions. However, should those who hold great wealth and power "back both horses," they will control the agenda of both parties and wield great power over our nation no matter who is elected. We are limited to the establishment's set of choices, where any voice outside of the established parties, no matter how right for the nation, cannot be heard. This is even a greater threat today as the Executive Branch holds so much power that it was not originally designed to have. But because it does, we cringe at the thought of who from the "other side"may occupy it, and anxiously await the day when "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."
7. The Separation of Powers. "It is important...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.... 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..."
FAIL. The Executive and Judicial branches have succeeded in gathering more power to themselves at the cost of the Legislative Branch and the Constitution. The Federal Government as a whole has taken upon itself the powers relegated to the States and the People not relegated to it by the Constitution.
8. The Importance of Religion and Morality. "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. ...reason and experience both forbid us to expect that National morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
FAIL. We have perverted "freedom of religion" to mean the "separation of church and state," which essentially means "freedom from religion." The Christian faith is being persecuted in America, driving the religion out of the public square and underground. Carnality is being celebrated openly in public. We have slaughtered millions of our children so that we can have "freedom of choice."
9. National Debt. "One method of preserving [public credit] 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 exertions 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."
FAIL. Our entire monetary system depends upon the creation of debt. The more debt sold by the Federal Government, the more money the Federal Reserve can put into circulation. The National Debt is increasing exponentially, with absolutely no plan to slow it down, let alone reverse the trend. Economic collapse is imminent.
10. Foreign Relations. "Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. ...to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a People always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that in the course of time and things the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? ...The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. ...The Nation, prompted by ill will and resentment impels to War the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. ...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.... 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.... Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence..., the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake... The Great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign Nations is in our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connections as possible. ...'Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent Alliances."
FAIL. Our President is called the "Leader of the Free World," a burden which requires that we continually look to shape the world in our image. We meddle in the internal affairs of other nations, and even go so far as to create reasons to go to war, such as in Iraq. Our government is infiltrated with foreign operatives, as in the case of the Muslim Brotherhood. We have carved up the world into "Combatant Commands" so that we have the command and control in place to "solve problems" anywhere in the world. Our nation has become an empire, and an imperial power tends to dominate other nations instead of showing them good faith and justice.
11. Foreign Commerce. "But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences...'tis folly in one Nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its Independence for whatever it may accept under that character..."
FAIL. Two items that seem to violate this thought are free trade agreements and granting most favored nation status.
Conclusion. With our nation failing to follow the advice of our first President in all but one category, how can that last category not fall as well with all its pillars removed? We must immediately seek to restore our nation to its original founding and purpose, lest we risk losing it altogether and witness the return of tyranny.
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Disclaimer: These opinions are solely my own, and do not reflect the opinions or official positions of any United States Government agency, organization or department.