George Washington's Fifty Axioms for a great america

When George Washington had completed his first term as President he wanted to retire and therefore addressed a farewell message to the American people. But he never released his farewell message because pressures from all sides induced him to accept a second term. Nevertheless, on September 19, 1796 as his second term drew to a close his famous “Farewell Address” was published which contained Washington’s “axioms” for a great America. To appreciate the wisdom of the “father” of our country, here are these “axioms” extracted from the text so that they might be individually studied and appreciated.

Washington’s Farewell Address is in volume 3 of the Annals of America, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968, pages 606 to 615. The punctuation has been modernized.

The Importance of Maintaining National Unity

[Compilers note: Historically speaking, Washington’s fearful apprehension, lest the states splinter apart, was well founded. All of the New England states continually threatened to seceded until the end of the War of 1812. In 1832, South Carolina threatened to secede until President Andrew Jackson said he would send down the army, and in 1860 South Carolina did secede and led other states into secession which split the Union and ultimately led fourteen states to declare war against the Union. The lives of over 600,000 Union soldiers were sacrificed to fulfill Lincoln’s words when he said “We will have Union with or without slavery.” And again, “Much as I hate slavery, I would consent to have the extension of it rather than see the Union dissolved…… (Abraham Lincoln—.–Speeches and Writings. New York: The Library of America, 1989, p. 333.) These events make the prophetic words of Washington all the more significant. Here is what he said:]

  1. “The name of American which belongs to you in your national capacity must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation …. 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. (page 608)
  2. “The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes …. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.” (page 608)
  3. “The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the production of the latter great additional resources….” (page 608)
  4. “The South … benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand.” (page 608)
  5. “The East… in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water will more and more find a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad or manufactures at home.” (page 608)
  6. “The West derives from, the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions [through] … the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union….” (page 608)
  7. “One of the expedients … to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations. They tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affections.” (page 609)
  8. “To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliance, however strict between the marts, can be an adequate substitute.” (page 609)

The Advantage of Governing Without Political Parties

  1. “…all combinations and associations… with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive… and of fatal tendency.” (page 610)
  2. “They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force, to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community… [and] to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of the faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils and modified by mutual interests.” (page 610)
  3. “However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely… 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….” (page 610)
  4. “Let me now… warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party…. This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists… in all governments… but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.” (pages 611)
  5. “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension… is itself a frightening despotism.” (page 611)
  6. “But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result [from wars between parties] 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.” (page 611)
  7. “…the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.” (page 611)
  8. “It [party spirit] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration.” (page 611)
  9. “It [party spirit] agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.” (page 611)
  10. “It [party spirit] opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.” (page 611)
  11. “There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true…. But… it isa spirit not to be encouraged… there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it.” (page 611)
  12. “[The spirit of party is like] a fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest instead of warming it should consume.” (page 611)

Changes In The Constitution Should Be By Amendment, Not By Usurpation or Encroachment

  1. “If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for… it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” (page 611)
  2. “The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the constitution which… exists–till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people–is sacredly obligatory upon all. The veryidea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government.” (page 610)
  3. “It is important likewise that 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.” (page 611)
  4. “The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the power of all the departments in one and thus to create…a real despotism.” (page 611)
  5. “…the preservation of your government and the permanency of your present happy state… [makes it] requisite… that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles…. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown.” (page 610)
  6. “in all the changes to which you may be invited, remember… that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution… [and] that facility in changes upon the credit of mere hypotheses and opinion exposes [you] to perpetual change….” (page 610)
  7. “Liberty itself will find… powers properly distributed and adjusted its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction (and fails] to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.” (page 610)
  8. “The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power by dividing and distributing it into different depositories and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasion by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern…. To PRESERVE them may be as necessary as to institute them.” (page 611)

To Secure Political Prosperity, Religion and Morality Are Indispensable

  1. “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.” (page 612)
  2. “In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert [religion and morality] these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties men and citizens.” (page 612)
  3. “Let it simply be asked–Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?” (page 612)
  4. “And let us with caution indulge the supposition that can be morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever… the influence of refined education… reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.” (page 612)
  5. “It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends… 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?” (page 612)

An Enlightened Electorate Requires Universal Education

34. “Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” (page 612)

Cherish Public Credit and Resist The Curse of a National Debt

  1. “As a very important source of strength and security, CHERISH PUBLIC CREDIT. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace….” (page 612)
  2. “But remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursement to repel it.” (page 612)
  3. “Avoiding likewise 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.” (page 612)
  4. “The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate.” (page 112)

Have An Honest Foreign Policy But Maintain A Separate Independence From Other Nations

  1. “Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct.” (page 612)
  2. “It will be worthy of a free, enlightened and… great nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence…. Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?” (page 612)
  3. “…nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies [antagonism] 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.” (page 612)
  4. “The nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.” (page 613)
  5. “Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur.” (page 613)
  6. “Likewise a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concession to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt … to injure the nation making the concessions by …exciting jealousy, ill will and [a] disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld.” (page 613)
  7. “And it gives to ambitious, corrupted or deluded citizens (who devotes themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interest oftheir own country…sometimes even with popularity, gilding with the appearance of a virtuous sense of obligation a commendable deference for public opinion or a laudable zeal for public good….” (page 613)
  8. “…such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seductions, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils!” (page 613)
  9. “The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.” (pages 613-14)

Trade Agreements

  1. “Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce but forcing nothing; establishing with powers so disposed, in order to give to trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and toenable the government to support… conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances… will permit, but temporary and liable to be… abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate.” (page 614)
  2. “…it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept… that by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of… being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more.” (page 614)
  3. “There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate, upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion which experience must cure [and] which a just pride ought to discard.” (page 614)


Could there be any greater advice given to us in our present situation than directly from the “father” of our country? NCCS has scheduled many seminars this year being hosted by those citizens around the country who have felt the nudging of the Founders’ spirit and have determined to do what they can do to spread the message of Liberty to those around them. We invite you to do the same.

Also, many more copies of The 5000 Year Leap, which contains a discussion of these principles, need to be distributed. The most effective way is for you to place them yourself, but if you would like to contribute a little extra, NCCS will see that copies of the book are placed in the hands of those who will appreciate it the most.

Thank you for your continuing support in spreading the message of freedom throughout the land.

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