America, Be Careful: Trump Has Already Involved A Foreign Power in Our 2020 Election As Washington Once Warned.
George Washington, in giving his revered Farewell Address to the Nation in 1796, gave forth a national warning.
Washington was entitled to do so after his long years of service to provide us with such a warning. The remarks were not simply political, for Washington, although constitutionally capable, declined to stand once more for election.
As Washington described his speech, it was “the disinterested warnings of a parting friend…” As much as any, the New Nation was the child of Washington’s sacrifice in labor and in service. It is in this Address that Washington teaches the young Nation: “I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy.”
And, this is what Washington said: “This government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support.”
In this, Washington was telling us that the Government established under the Constitution may only endure if we ourselves remain responsible for its care and thriving by nurturing those same principles and circumstances which first brought it to pass. The retiring First President continued:
“The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.” Washington called forth as well religion and public morality as the supports of our National virtue: “Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?”
And in giving warning, Washington called forth the common travails endured so recently together: “With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.” From this we can deduce that Washington was not referring just obliquely to the “regionalism” and burgeoning sectionalism that he already saw blowing cold winds on our National Unity.
In seeking unity, Washington knew that regionalism must succumb to the impelling motives of our Union: “Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole.”
And President Washington then invokes the supremacy of our Constitutional reign. For it indeed had “overawed” the power of a monarch. For without the duty of each individual to obey “the established government” — meaning the Constitution and its commands — then the principal power of the people to establish the government could not survive. So said Washington.
Then President Washington gives the sternest warning of all — one oft quoted but in danger of going unheeded. As Washington told us: “combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to 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 reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
In simpler words, factions may temporarily seem to satisfy our appetites for power or prestige — our popular ends — and, they may gain power in our Nation’s affairs and life — but they will become avenues for “unprincipled men” to destroy the “very engines” which have created this Government. His warning goes on:
“I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.” Washington was, if anything, a practical and savvy political actor. He knew well of the existence of parties in National life. What Washington was warning against was party for simply the sake of itself — the pursuit of party loyalty with a divisive zeal.
Washington tells us where such divisive zeal will end:
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism.” Despotism.
By “alternate domination,” Washington foresaw a revolving door of party factionalism as opposed to the enduring stability of national unified interests and varying degrees of legitimate political opinion. This would lead to despotism — by alternating turns — but despotism nonetheless. For Washington understood the National Interest could soon be replaced and shunted aside for the mere pursuit of temporary political domination — perhaps, never to be regained.
As Washington said: “[b]ut this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of public liberty.
Then in the final warning to the Republic that he had helped to win with such great difficulty, Washington said this:
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it.”
It is this “foreign influence” not simply “impartial” foreign relations, that Washington inveighed against — the probability that the temptation to aggrandize domestic political power by the solicitation of foreign influence — lying ready and waiting to extend its sphere of power — in this Washington saw the possibility of our unhoped for doom: “How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils.” He was right to give warning. Washington bluntly predicted: “Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.” The warning spoke too plainly. By this liberty could be abandoned.
Even as Washington importuned posterity, he hoped against its failure: “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 Washington had persisted against this unhoped for doom of liberty in his valediction given mid-address by a blessing to his country:
“Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free Constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it.”
We, at this moment, cannot forget that sacred blessing.
-Albert Turner Goins, Sr.
[This essay was written in 2019.]