Unheeded Warnings – Dire consequences – Part 1

Posted By on July 10, 2011

“These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel.”Farewell Address, George Washington, 1796

Growing up I was constantly taught to heed the advice of my elders. Who were my elders according to this instruction? Anyone older than I, and thus having more experience and insight into lifes many trials. My brothers and I learned to sit in a room full of adults and listen, not as a part of the negative imperative that “children should be seen and not heard,” but rather as a sign of respect and honor. Our parents and grandparents schooled us in the use of “sir” and “ma’am,” again as a sign of respect to another person. Never were we allowed to address an adult by their first name as Mr. Hixon, or Mrs. Campbell. After being transferred to South Carolina by the Navy it was a bit of an adjustment to follow the local custom of Ms. Mary, or Mr. David.

As a result, my brothers and I, have a healthy and practical respect and appreciation for those individuals older than we are. I can sit for hours and listen to the tales of life, love of struggle and triumph from these special people who have learned so much through life. I enjoy the special feeling of seeing the joy on their faces, and in their voices as they revel in the past and share the wisdom they have acquired.

Along with this I have developed a keen sense of listening, and heeding the advice of my seniors. I cannot tell of the times I have ignored some bit of advice, some admonition or some seemingly off-the-wall suggestion, and then suffered the consequences; a mistaken decision, a wrong path chosen, a failed relationship.

It was from this context, and with these life experiences that I first read “George Washington’s Farewell Address” in the mid-80’s. As I delved further into the text of this man’s message I became more and more intrigued. Each new paragraph brought to me fresh insight. Each new subject revealed a wealth of wisdom long ignored in the American political arena, and our interactions as citizens in area of contest. It exposed the failures of our politicians, and by extension our failures as a nation as we have yielded to the accepted practices not knowing they are the source of our problems. It is easy to blame the politician, but within the american system of government we are all responsible. How can I fully blame the man, or woman, I for whom I have cast my vote, and thus is to be the extension of my voice, my conscience? Especially when I vote to send that person once again to the centers of government, whether State or Federal, knowing full well they have violate my supreme trust and not been a trustworthy representative.

Thus I know turn to that seasoned, and trustworthy charge presented to us by he was:

“First in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in humble and enduring scenes of private life. Pious, just humane, temperate, and sincere; uniform dignified, and commanding; his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private charter gave effulgence to his public virtues. Such was the man for whom our nation morns.” John Marshall, official eulogy of George Washington, delivered by Richard Henry Lee, December 26, 1799

While many men of the founding generation are, and were honored and respected, George Washington stands alone above the assemblage. Not only was he probably the tallest in physical stature, but his character stands peerless among them. As we read above, he was “first in the hearts of his countrymen…” The intense, and often over critical examinations of modern historians often attempt to show him as flawed, something which he never failed to admit, weak and not a strong tactical military leader. These are assertions which accompany an investigator who cannot separate himself, or herself from the present, and project themselves into the context of the period in which “His Excellency,” the General lived.  For the period of the War of Independence and through the last years of the 18th Century, he was unquestionably the best choice, nay the only choice who could have accomplished what he did.

As we begin our quest to understand his warnings, I believe it would be shortsighted to overlook portions of his first inaugural address which set the tone for his attitudes, insights and – yes – his faith. Too often today historians attempt to separate, sanitize and remove all references to the faith of the founding fathers. This is a gross injustice both to our understandings of the character of these men, and to our ability to fully know these great men. In looking at Washington, in particular, it is impossible to remove his faith from any dialogue where we consider his character. In fact, it was his faith that made him who and what he was, a man of peerless character, virtue and humility. His faith motivated him, energized him in his lowest moments and determined how he treated his fellow man. In short, it was his faith that established his character.

Here are a few quotes from the very first inaugural address ever given by a US President under the Constitution:

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.

…that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness…

…since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…

…since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Modern historians continually mystify me when they attempt to redefine the words of The General, here President Washington. Those perceiving the world in a sectarian, or God free world view continually attempt to distance the events of the founding period from the statements of the founders linking the hand of God, Providence or “the Benign parent of the Human Race.” They eliminate references to God, or the miraculous from the accounts written at the time. When this is done they effectively eliminate the beauty and uniqueness of the American story. Who are we, over two hundred years after the fact, to change the perceptions and accounts of those who were there to experience them? Who are we to state the George Washington was only giving in to superstitions and a outdated, outmoded, primitive believe in a divine being? Who are we to state that when he recounts miraculous events, he is simply mistaken?

So, we see at his very first public address as president, he directly acknowledges the had of God in the establishment of this country, and clearly states that we are uniquely “…bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men…” It is here we find the first of George Washington’s warnings, unheeded by the majority of Americans today, “…propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained…” On the stage of American politics and within the once hallowed halls of our educational system, we are disregarding “the eternal rules of order and right.” We have turned our backs on the very foundation upon which our founding fathers established us.

Have the “propitious smiles of Heaven” now stopped on our behalf? I’ll leave you to answer that question for yourself.

_________________

To read the entire text of George Washington First Inaugural Address.

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