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This Week in History:
February 20 -26, 1732
George Washington's Birthday

February 2011

George Washington at Princeton, by Charles Willson Peale, 1779.

The threat of new wars today, as a result of the accelerating economic breakdown crisis and the policy of British empire instigated "long wars" impel us this week to turn our attention to our Republic's first President, George Washington, and his Farewell Address. Of course, we celebrate Washington's birthday on Feb. 22. He was born in 1732, and served his country in a public capacity from the age of 18 forward, leaving office as President of the United States in the early months of 1797.

George Washington was not a prolific writer, and, indeed, his Farewell Address, on which he labored with his close collaborator, Alexander Hamilton, is his most famous production. The Address was delivered in September of 1796, as an announcement of his impending retirement from political life, and he took pains to review the major lessons which he took from the founding, and first two Presidential terms, of the young republic.

The two major lessons can be summarized as follows: avoid the "Spirit of Party," and "permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations and passionate attachment for others." These warnings take on special significance today, as our nation is threatened with the destruction of its soul, precisely because it is giving in to both.

When President Washington was writing these words, he well knew that his beloved nation, and even his own Administration, were being ripped apart by the split then opening up between the Democratic-Republican and Federalist Parties, which were tearing into each other with a passion, and seeking to play one section of the nation (the South) against the rest. But while his words specifically refer to this disastrous situation—which ultimately was overcome, if then briefly, in the Union victory in the Civil War, Washington's warnings should be heeded today, when partisan advantage is holding sway over the interests of the nation. The relevant sections read:

"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 these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your Interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole."

Washington cited the threats to this Union, in terms of arguments for sectional interests, or threats to the Constitutional process of decision-making, or to the "energy of the system" [an energetic executive—ed.]. He concluded this section with a general warning "against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.... The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of Party are sufficient to make it the interest and the duty of a wise People to discourage and restrain it.

"It serves always to distract the Public Councils with ill-founded 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, 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 subjected to the policy and will of another."

Ultimately, Washington said, this evil can only be eliminated by habits of "religion and morality." But this should be aided by the promotion of "Institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened." Would that our political parties today—corrupted and venal as they are—would follow this advice!

Foreign Policy

President Washington then turned to relations among nations, beginning with the following positive vision:

"Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, 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? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human Nature. Alas! Is it rendered impossible by its vices?

"In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations and passionate attachments for others should be excluded; and that in place of them just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or a 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. Antipathy in one Nation against another, disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate envenomed and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill will and resentment sometimes impels to War the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the Nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the Liberty, of Nations has been the victim."

Therefore, Washington says:

"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest."

In sum:

"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 mischiefs of foreign Intrigue, to guard against the Impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompence for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated."

 Leaders of our nation would do well to take President Washington's words to heart, and those of the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton. We are now at the tail end of the monetary-financial system, which has been controlled by the same enemy that Washington and Hamilton fought to free the world from -- the British empire. The empire is bankrupt and dying, and can be defeated now. There is no need for wars, and the war policy will end if America adopts the Glass Steagall Policy immediately,  a fixed exchange rate system for cooperation with other nations, and the NAWAPA plan for economic development.   


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.

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