Monday, September 19, 2011

George Washington Wrote the Tea Party Agenda

Thanks to the wonderful Garrison Keillor and The Writer's Almanac on National Public Radio I learned that President George Washington published his famous Farewell Address 215 years ago today, on September 19, 1796. This address was never spoken or delivered to an audience, it was published in newspapers around the country.

After listening to Keillor, I decided to read the original address myself. Here is a link ot a PDF of the address in it's entirety: Washington's Farewell Address to the People of the United States.  It's a difficult read as English isn't the same language it was 215 years ago.  And Washington was verbose.  No 140 character tweets here.

According to historical accounts, Washington took over four years to write this address.  He had significant help from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  He had things he wanted to say, things he felt were important.

As many of you already know I have frequent breakfasts and lunches with a group of conservative Tea Party types who hold the majority here in rural central Mississippi.  These folks are most assuredly clinging to their guns and bibles.  We engage in lively, but good spirited debates.  

As I read Washington's Farewell Address (for the first time ever, I'm embarrassed to admit), I was struck that I read virtually EXACTLY what my breakfast Tea Party companions have been saying.  Not just sort of saying, but damned near word for word.  I don't know if ANY of these folks ever read Washington's Farewell Address.  They certainly don't ever claim to be quoting Washington, but they sure share his beliefs.

Washington had five major points of advice to his countrymen in his address.  To say Washington was passionate would be an understatement.

  1. Washington believed strongly in the importance of a balanced budget.  He felt our good credit was critical to the very survival of the nation.
  2. Washington believed in the importance of Religion and national morality.  Folks I'm not making this up, read it for yourself.  Let me quote Washington: "And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle."
  3. Washington believed in the importance of avoiding permanent foreign alliances.  To paraphrase he certainly wouldn't believe in Nation Building, nor would he ever want the United States become subservient to any foreign body.
  4. Washington feared Constitutional Amendments might weaken the Federal Government.  OK. he certainly called that one wrong, but he believed in a strong federal government.
  5. Washington Feared and Warned Against Political Parties.  My Tea Party breakfast companions and I don't often agree, but we're certainly together on this one.  Nothing hurts our society today more than the political parties that work only for power and rarely for the good of the people.
Although it's common to believe the Tea Party is an offshoot of the Republican Party, nothing could be further from the truth.  Tea Parties turn on Republicans quickly and field primary opponents to oust those who don't agree with their principles.

This is all food for thought.  Washington's words have wisdom, but they are 215 years old.  We occasionally accuse Tea Party conservatives of living in the past.   Some things have changed.  Some things haven't.

No comments: