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The Shawnee News-Star
  • Greatest threats to the nation

  • In researching my next article, I read these “counsels of an old and affectionate friend” in which he lists the “greatest threats to the survival of the nation.” They are “disinterested warnings of a parting friend who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsels.” I share shared them here substantially verbatim.
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  • In researching my next article, I read these “counsels of an old and affectionate friend” in which he lists the “greatest threats to the survival of the nation.”
     
    They are “disinterested warnings of a parting friend who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsels.”
     
    I share shared them here substantially verbatim. [1]
     
    “Dear Friends and Fellow Citizens:
     
    1. It is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness. The name AMERICAN, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local identity. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles.
     
    2. Avoid overgrown military establishments. [Another great general who became President, Dwight Eisenhower, provided essentially the same advice in his farewell address on Jan. 17, 1961, referring to the triangular coalition of Congress, the Military, and defense industry contractors as the “military-industrial complex.”]
     
    3. Restrain, moderate the fury of political party spirit which renders alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affections. A government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict between the parts, can be an adequate substitute.
     
    4. The constitution is sacred, obligatory upon all, and it presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government. All obstructions to the execution of the laws with the real design to counteract the action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and a fatal tendency. These associations serve to organize faction, to give an artificial and extraordinary force to put in place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community. These associations 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 reigns of government, destroying the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
     
    5. Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports, pillars of human happiness, and firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with the private and public Happiness. Let us be skeptical of the proposition that morality can be maintained without religion. While the influence of refined education is conceded, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.
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    6. Promote as an object of primary importance institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge.
     
    7. It is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
     
    8. Cherish public credit, use it sparing, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, likewise avoiding 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.
     
    9. It is essential that you should bear in mind that to repay the public debt there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant.
     
    10. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct. Give to mankind the example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.
     
    11. 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 toward all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. The nation prompted by ill will and resentment sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government adopts, through passion, what reason would reject. A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican governments. Excessive partiality and dislike cause those whom they actuate to see danger on only one side and serve to veil the arts of influence on the other. The great rule of conduct for us is to have with them as little political connection as possible. It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world. There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate, upon real favors from nation to nation.
     
    With Sincerest Affection and Deepest Appreciation,
     
    George, Washington
    September 19, 1796
     
    [1] President Washington wanted to not run for re-election after his first term and began this document then to explain why. Because of the extreme rancor between Hamilton and Jefferson, Washington was persuaded to run for a second term. With the help of Hamilton, he prepared these remarks as his valedictory advice. They are the lessons learned in politics by two our nation’s Founding Fathers. First read to the House of Representatives in 1862, by 1899 it was read each year on Washington’s birthday in both houses. The House ceased this practice in 1984. It continues to be read annually in the Senate. In my judgment, the House should resume this practice — daily.
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