George Washington, the Father of Our Country, was a leader of uncommon courage and goodness. As he left office he distilled the great wisdom he had acquired over 20 years of selfless service to his country into a letter, written directly to us. His counsel has never been more relevant, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage.
by E. Douglas Clark
For most Americans, however, the Father of Our Country is nothing more than an austere icon, his substantial wisdom long since forgotten. The problem is not that he didn’t write; his letters alone as published in the University of Virginia’s Papers of George Washington Project will run an estimated 87 volumes. The problem is our neglect, our forgetting of the Father of Our Country.
If there is one letter we should remember, it is the one he wrote directly to us as he left office, distilling wisdom acquired over his 20 years of selfless service to his country. First published on September 19, 1796, the letter came to be known as George Washington’s Farewell Address.
Its relevance has never waned, but today, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s marriage ruling on June 26, 2015, Washington’s Farewell Address calls to us as if he were speaking now. The brief excerpt below speaks not only of unconstitutional encroachment but also of morality and religion as indispensable to our freedom.
“The habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism…
“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity…
“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. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
America owes its existence to this remarkable man who himself did not “look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric” of freedom in his day. Today, in the wake of the notorious Supreme Court marriage decision that has divided the nation, the fabric of freedom is again being shaken by the very dangers of which Washington warned. America can be saved only if we heed his warning and follow his example of courageously meeting the challenge before us. “Who that is a sincere friend to [free government] can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?”
It is republished here with permission.