George Washington’s Farewell Address –
Deuteronomy for the United States of America
Michael R. Butt
The Book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament is largely acknowledged as Moses’ Farewell Discourse to the children of Israel – given prior to his death. The word is defined as “repetition of the law”, meaning that Moses reviewed the moral, religious and political law that was set forth for Israel. He spoke of them as a nation, even though they had not yet obtained the land that would establish them as such. He enumerates both blessings for obedience to the law and cursing for disobedience to it. These are given in manner that is prophetic – he spoke not just to the people that stood before him, but to all future generations of the nation of Israel. As one reads the record in the Bible, one can witness that future generations were not faithful to their covenant, did not heed the warnings given to them and received the consequences that were delineated to them from their “Father” Moses.
The United States of America has its own Farewell Discourse from the one who knows us best – Father Washington. Before departing to retirement, and subsequently to the world of spirits, the great patriot, warrior, executive, sage and founder left to his countrymen counsel, wisdom, warning and prophesy regarding our gift of liberty embodied in our Constitution and the preservation of our Republic.
Although it takes some effort to examine it, being that he came from an era of refinement in our language, it is worthy of the task to do so. Obtaining a copy is as simple as typing the words in an Internet search and one can pick from a variety of sources – some even provide an outline and a vocabulary to explain the more complex terms.
I have been grateful to discover that preceding patriots have held the same view of the importance of this document. The following quote was spoken when I was age five:
If ever this country needed the timeless wisdom of the Father of our Country, it is today. How much our country could benefit by following the wisdom of our country’s first president…It would profit all of us as citizens to read again Washington’s Farewell Address to his countrymen. The address is prophetic. I believe it ranks alongside the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
(Ezra Taft Benson, “God’s Hand in Our Nation’s History”, given at Brigham Young University on 28 March 1976.)
I tremble to know what all has transpired and what careless and even diabolical acts have been performed to thrash the divine law of my nation - leaving it torn and tattered. I think about the quote of Benjamin Franklin, when leaving the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and asked by a bystander what form of government was attained – he answered, “A Republic, if you can keep it.”
It is a harsh reality to discover that we have NOT kept it! We no longer operate under the original form and intent of the Supreme Law of the Land and haven’t for over 100 years. In the year 1913 alone, the era when my GREAT-GREAT Grandparents were the voting constituency, our Constitution was assaulted so savagely and the founder’s imbedded genius so trampled that it can hardly be said that we have lived under its intended structure since.
I resonate with the image of being among the assembly foreseen by a nineteenth century Patriarch:
I looked and beheld that many who were angry with the rulers of the Republic, for the subversion of the Constitutional law, and their wholesale plunder of the public moneys, arose and proclaimed themselves the friends of the Constitution in its original form. These looked around for some others to sustain the country's flag inviolate, pledging themselves and their fortunes and sacred honours to that end.
(From Charles D Evans’ Dream of December 25, 1882 – emphasis mine)
These “rulers” would appear to include past and present leaders, scholars and other disrupting agents that have sought to inculcate into the minds of the citizenry the fallacy of being a democracy or involving the democratic process in the performance of our government. The founders were vehemently against any such ideology and purposefully designed our governmental system otherwise.
John Adams had this to say about a democratic government:
Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.
James Madison, in Federalist No. 10 gave this explanation:
…a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert result from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
A republic, by which I mean a government in which the scheme of representation takes place, opens a different prospect, and promises the cure for which we are seeking.
The Founders’ had designed for us a representative republic. The word “democracy” is nowhere found in the Constitution.
Democracies fail mainly at the point that a certain group discover that they can alter laws that make it possible to legally take away the property and liberties of others. They preach the attributes of democracy, but stealthily seize power as quickly as possible. They create conflicts by promoting to the minority groups that they are being abused on the basis of race, religion, wealth, political affiliation, location, and most recently – sexual orientation. They appeal to the emotions that will advance their desired outcomes, such as jealousy, greed, and entitlement.
President Washington sternly warned in his address:
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 councils 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.
The design of a Republic, where the Congress is divided by those directly elected by the people and those that are appointed by the States, is to create a barrier between the passions of smaller groups and solid laws that protect the whole; to avoid making decisions during the tempest of the moment and instead patiently waiting for the perspective that comes when calmer waters prevail. This is why it was devised to have members of the House of Representatives serving terms of two years versus Senators serving for six. Tragically, the 17th Amendment has obliterated this wonder of political engineering (the “Great Compromise” of the Constitutional Convention) and we have only experienced the damaging effect of the whims and desires of the people being given precedence for the longer six-year terms and have fashioned the term “career politician.” Like Aladdin’s genie, these demagogues grant wishes to any special interest group that will commit their votes and ensure there perpetual position of power, passing laws that place us in fetters and inflating the national debt to a point that is no longer sustainable – while many of them sup on a feast of private wealth acquired through back-door deals and “privileged” information.
Let the reader view some of the finer gems of the Farewell Address and discern whether we, like Israel of old, have ignored the wisdom of The Father of Our Country:
On the benefit of a Republican government: The unity of government…is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence…of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize.
On avoiding party systems: It serves to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration….agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one….against another….it opens the door to foreign influence and corruption…thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
On the importance of religion and morality: 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?
On maintaining stable public credit. …cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible…avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt….it is essential that you…bear in mind, that towards the payments of debts there must be Revenue, that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not…inconvenient and unpleasant…
On shunning permanent foreign alliances: It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world…
On restricting the growth of the military: …avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty.
On cherishing patriotism: ...the name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism…
As I have studied this great work as well as the voluminous history of the amendments and alterations imposed upon our Constitution and the impacts to our national culture, I feel like King Josiah of old who rent his clothes in anguish when the Book of the Law (as given by Moses) first sounded upon his ears, and he knew that his nation had detached itself from its moral, religious and political moorings and had drifted treacherously far from the safety of its founding shores.
It is time for this generation to awaken to the voice of our Founding Parent, study his counsel, recognize the need to return to the safety of his wisdom and work our way back toward the path that he and his fellow founders set us on. If we choose to ignore them, we do so at our own peril.
PGVoices for responsible government following Constitutional principles. True Conservatives who stand for private property rights, limited government and a free market economy. This blog will be a combined effort to give you easy to understand researched local government information.