20 Unheeded Warnings in Washington’s Farewell Address

President George Washington

  1. Be vigilant, people will seek to use the government for selfish ends.
  2. Avoid overgrown military establishments; they are hostile to liberty.
  3. Prevent all obstructions to the execution of the laws.
  4. Control bureaucracies; make sure they all work together.
  5. Avoid political parties; they will cause divisive factions and unscrupulous men will use them to undermine the government.
  6. Give allegiance to the Constitution; improve it as necessary.
  7. Do not alter the Constitution lightly, or based on hypothesis; apply the experience applied when it was created.
  8. Be suspicious of administrators; they may serve themselves rather than the people.
  9. Watch for consolidation of power in any department of government.
  10. Preserve existing checks and balances and add more where power needs to be checked.
  11. Religion and morality are essential to create the virtue necessary to preserve the union.
  12. Promote widespread education; democracy requires literate citizens that understand the system of governance and take responsibility for themselves.
  13. Avoid debt; and immediately discharge any debt created by war.
  14. Taxes are unpleasant; government spending should be candidly conducted.
  15. Cultivate peace and justice toward all nations.
  16. Avoid alliances and maintain neutrality among nations.
  17. Avoid dependency; a weak state that allies with a stronger state will become its servant.
  18. Real patriots will resist intrigues, while dupes will surrender to interests.
  19. In trade, give no nation a favored nation status.
  20. Be guided by principles, not interests.

If the United States had heeded these warnings in George Washington’s Farewell Address, it would be a far more happy and prosperous society today. In 1787 Washington presided over the creation of the United States Constitution with some of the wisest men of his day. They understood social and political history, human nature and cunning, the temptation to consolidate power, and the importance of assent to a social contract.

When George Washington retired from office after two terms he set an example to the world for the voluntary limitation of power, something few Kings or rulers have had the character to do. However, his Farewell Address was equally important as it warned of dangers that could undermine the American experiment. These warnings were given from wisdom, experience, and a sincere concern for the future of the nation.

Many public schools in the past required knowledge of our political system and the reading of this speech. Every citizen ought to be able to understand why these warnings are important and how to defend against them. However today many public schools are aligned with a faction (their labor unions) and place their own interest above society.

In Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, I discuss in detail how the American experiment was undermined and hijacked by the very forces Washington warned against. It is amazing how perceptive he was of the potential dangers and how thoroughly his advice has been ignored, to the detriment of the United States.

 

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About Gordon Anderson

GORDON L. ANDERSON is the President of Paragon House, Editor-in-Chief of International Journal on World Peace, and Adjunct Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. He earned an M.Div. in Christian Ethics at Union Theological Seminary in New York and a Ph.D. in Philosophy of Religion from Claremont Graduate University. He is author of several articles and books including Philosophy of the United States: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0.

Comments

20 Unheeded Warnings in Washington’s Farewell Address — 3 Comments

  1. I am blessed to have seen this article and again. Thank you for this article. I think America needs this to talk about and learn from it and put this in effect. But I don’t Know how long before that happens.

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