Friday, June 16, 2017

Civic Education in America

George Washington firmly believed in the importance of civic education.

“[T]he best means of forming a manly, virtuous and happy people, will be found in the right education of youth. Without this foundation, every other means, in my opinion, must fail…”
Letter to George Chapman, December 15, 1784

“…Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness.”
First Annual Address, Friday, January 8, 1790

“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.”  Farewell Address, September 17, 1796

“[A] primary object of such a national institution should be the education of our youth in the science of government. In a republic what species of knowledge can be equally important and what duty more pressing on its legislature than to patronize a plan for communicating it to those who are to be the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”
Eighth Annual Message, December 7, 1796

In a Republic, civic education is the sine qua non, or indispensable ingredient to perpetuating our Constitutional form of government, the fruits of which are ordered liberty and felicity. Yet, it goes without saying that civic education is on the decline in America. Numerous studies and articles have focused on this deterioration in basic knowledge of the history and roots of our nation’s founding and source documents among students and citizens alike.  Most would agree that if we are to remain as a free society and continue to govern ourselves as an enlightened and responsible citizenry, we must devote greater resources and efforts to educating the rising generation.  There are many opportunities to become involved in this cause, extending from our own communities and local schools to higher education. Nowhere is this need more evident than at the college and university level, where in many circles American founding principles are often ignored, discarded, and even disdained in the curriculum and in public discourse. And, in places where there does exist a certain level of such education and acceptance in traditional American Heritage courses, frequently the offerings are limited and lack depth and substance in the areas of natural law principles (such as the writings of Locke & Sidney), the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and Washington’s Farewell Address, along with principles of the U. S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies (GWCCS) will be located in the heart of central Virginia, adjacent to the campus of an established, religious-oriented, liberal arts college located in Buena Vista, just hours from the homes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison — Southern Virginia University (SVU).  The Center will focus its efforts in three areas: Teacher Education, Citizen Education, and Student Education.

The Mission of the Center and its primary objectives are as follows:

“The George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies is a nonpartisan academic institute that promotes Civic Education, and the instruction, study, and ideological defense of the Constitution of the United States of America, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, using primary sources.”

“The Center offers classes and instruction on the Constitution, America’s founding documents, the lives and writings of the Founders, the Revolution and Founding of the American Republic, and will hold, sponsor or participate in events, conferences, seminars, workshops, symposia and related activities. It brings together students, teachers, scholars and citizens for consideration of constitutional principles, and issues relating to history, politics, and religion.”

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute (WJMI) has been engaged in teacher education in Virginia for the past ten years (since 2007).  WJMI is pleased to announce that it will be affiliated with the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies, primarily for purposes of co-sponsoring continuing education courses and workshops for secondary school teachers that teach Social Studies, Civics, U.S. Government and U.S. History.  

We invite you to visit the Center’s new website at: georgewashingtoncenter.org, and to support our efforts to promote and strengthen “Civic Education in America.” 

LEVELS OF GIVING
You are also invited to generously give and make a lasting donation to the founding of the George Washington Center for Constitutional Studies (GWCCS).  The Center is a 501(c)3 tax-exempt educational, literary and civic organization. Donations to the Center are tax deductible.

Member        $ 100.00+
Franklin        $ 500.00+
Hamilton       $ 1,000.00+
Madison        $ 5,000.00+
Washington   $ 10,000.00+
Benefactor     $ 50,000.00+
Founder         $ 100,000.00+

Founders, Benefactors, and Washington level donors (including groups) will be recognized on a plaque in the Center and will be invited to attend the dedication. 

Methods of giving/donations:


PayPal: gwccs.us@gmail.com

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Thomas Jefferson Quotes on Religion

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of people that their liberties are a gift from God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that His justice cannot sleep forever.” --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1794

“One of the amendments to the Constitution... expressly declares that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press,' thereby guarding in the same sentence and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press; insomuch that whatever violates either throws down the sanctuary which covers the others.” --Thomas Jefferson: Draft Kentucky Resolutions, 1798.

“We are all created by the same Great Spirit; children of the same family. Why should we not live then as brothers ought to do?”  -- Thomas Jefferson to the Delaware & Shawanee Nations, February 10, 1802

“He who steadily observes the moral precepts in which all religions concur, will never be questioned at the gates of heaven as to the dogmas in which they all differ.” --Thomas Jefferson to William Canby, April 12, 1803

“I am a Christian, in the only sense in which he wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to his doctrines in preference to all others, ascribing to himself every human excellence, and believing he never claimed any other.” – Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, April 21, 1803

“Among the most inestimable of our blessings, also, is that... of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will; a liberty deemed in other countries incompatible with good government and yet proved by our experience to be its best support.”
--Thomas Jefferson to John Thomas et al., 1807

“To the corruptions of Christianity I am indeed opposed; but not to the genuine precepts of Jesus himself.”  --Thomas Jefferson to Benjamin Rush, September 18, 1813

“It is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read.”
--Thomas Jefferson to Mrs. Harrison Smith, August 6, 1816

“The constitutional freedom of religion [is] the most inalienable and sacred of all human rights.” --Thomas Jefferson: University of Virginia Board of Visitors Minutes, 1819

“I hold the precepts of Jesus, as delivered by himself, to be the most pure, benevolent, and sublime which have ever been preached to man. I adhere to the principles of the first age; and consider all subsequent innovations as corruptions of his religion, having no foundation in what came from him. . . . If the freedom of religion, guaranteed to us by law in theory, can ever rise in practice under the overbearing inquisition of public opinion, truth will prevail over fanaticism, and the genuine doctrines of Jesus, so long perverted by his pseudo-priests, will again be restored to their original purity. This reformation will advance with the other improvements of the human mind but too late for me to witness it.” --Thomas Jefferson to Jared Sparks, 4 November 1820

“The genuine and simple religion of Jesus will one day be restored: such as it was preached and practised by himself.” --Thomas Jefferson to Van der Kemp, 1820

“But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore us to the primitive and genuine doctrines of [Jesus] this the most venerated reformer of human errors.” --Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, April 11, 1823

“Adore God. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered, be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss.” -- Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Jefferson Smith, 1825

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Adams-Jefferson Letters

“By the latter part of the 1790s Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had become bitter political opponents. The friendship they had forged as congressional and diplomatic colleagues, fellow revolutionaries, and members of George Washington’s administration did not survive the strain of Jefferson’s victory in the 1800 presidential election. Adams left the nation’s capital just before Jefferson’s inauguration in March 1801, and with the exception of brief notes they exchanged shortly thereafter, no letters passed between the two men for more than a decade. Jefferson tried to heal the breach after Abigail Adams wrote to console him for the loss of his daughter Maria in 1804, but to no avail. The eventual repair of their damaged relationship is attributable to the efforts of their mutual friend Benjamin Rush.

“On October 17, 1809, Rush wrote Adams that he had had a dream in which a “renewal of the friendship & intercourse” between the two ex-presidents took place [and “a correspondence of several years” ensued with “many precious aphorisms [truths], the result of observation, experience, and profound reflection” contained in their letters] -- a reconciliation to be prompted, Rush added, by a short letter from Adams to his former rival. Adams encouragingly replied that he had “no other objection to your Dream, but that it is not History. It may be Prophecy.” Early in 1811 Rush advised Jefferson of his ardent wish that “a friendly and epistolary intercourse might be revived” between the two men, expressing his firm belief that “an Advance on your Side will be a Cordial to the heart of Mr. Adams.” These initiatives bore no fruit at the time. 

"In the summer of 1811, however, Jefferson’s neighbors Edward Coles and John Coles visited Quincy, and Adams there told them that, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.” After these words reached Jefferson, he was moved on December 5, 1811 to write Rush about the continued warmth and depth of his feelings for his old friend. Sensing an opportunity, Rush soon passed the pertinent passages from Jefferson’s letter along to Adams. An olive branch having been extended, Rush implored Adams to write to Jefferson and for the two men to “embrace each other! Bedew your letters of reconciliation with tears of affection and joy. Bury in silence all the causes of your separation. Recollect that explanations may be proper between lovers but are never so between divided friends.” The first two letters [below] from January 1812 renewed direct contact between Adams and Jefferson and reestablished one of the most celebrated intellectual dialogues and literary conversations in American history, one that continued for 14 years until the last year of both men’s lives in 1826."[1]

January 1, 1812: Adams to Jefferson
As you are a Friend to American Manufactures under proper restrictions, especially Manufactures of the domestic kind, I take the Liberty of Sending you by the Post a Packet containing two Pieces of Homespun lately produced in this quarter by One who was honoured in his youth with Some of your Attention and much of your kindness. [John Quincy Adams’s Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory, Delivered to the Classes of Senior and Junior Sophisters in Harvard University, 2 vols. (Cambridge, Mass., 1810)]

All of my Family whom you formerly knew are well. My Daughter Smith is here and has Successfully gone through a perilous and painful Operation*, which detains her here this Winter, from her Husband and her Family at Chenango: where one of the most gallant and Skilful Officers of our Revolution is probably destined to Spend the rest of his days, not in the Field of Glory, but in the hard Labours of Husbandry.

I wish you Sir many happy New years and that you may enter the next and many Succeeding years with as animating Prospects for the Public as those at present before us. I am Sir with a long and Sincere Esteem your Friend and Servant, 
J. Adams
*[Adams’s daughter Abigail Adams smith had recently undergone surgery for breast cancer. Her husband was Revolutionary War veteran William Stephens Smith]

January 21, 1812: Jefferson to Adams
I thank you before hand (for they are not yet arrived) for the specimens of homespun you have been so kind as to forward me by post. I doubt not their excellence, knowing how far you are advanced in these things in your quarter. Here we do little in the fine way, but in coarse & midling goods a great deal. Every family in the country is a manufactory within itself, and is very generally able to make within itself all the stouter and midling stuffs for it’s own clothing & household use. We consider a sheep for every person in the family as sufficient to clothe it, in addition to the cotton, hemp & flax which we raise ourselves. For fine stuff we shall depend on your Northern manufactures. Of these, that is to say, of company establishments, we have none. We use little machinery. The Spinning Jenny and loom with the flying shuttle can be managed in a family; but nothing more complicated. the economy and thriftiness resulting from our household manufactures are such that they will never again be laid aside; and nothing more salutary for us has ever happened than the British obstructions to our demands for their manufactures. Restore free intercourse when they will, their commerce with us will have totally changed it’s form, and the articles we shall in future want from them will not exceed their own consumption of our produce.

A letter from you calls  up recollections very dear to my mind. It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties & dangers, we were fellow laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead threatening to overwhelm us & yet passing harmless under our bark we knew not how, we rode through the storm with heart & hand, and made a happy port. Still we did not expect to be without rubs and difficulties; and we have had them. First the detention of the Western posts: then the coalition of Pilnitz, outlawing our commerce with France, & the British enforcement of the outlawry. In your day French depredations: in mine English, & the Berlin and Milan decrees: now the English orders of council, & the piracies they authorize: when these shall be over, it will be the impressment of our seamen, or something else: and so we have gone on, & so we shall go on, puzzled & prospering beyond example in the history of man. And I do believe we shall continue to growl, to multiply & prosper until we exhibit an association, powerful, wise, and happy, beyond what has yet been seen by men. As for France & England, with all their preeminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, & the other of pirates. And if science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine, and destitution of national morality, I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest & estimable as our neighboring savages are —but whither is senile garrulity leading me? Into politics, of which I have taken final leave. I think little of them, & say less. I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus & Thucydides, for Newton & Euclid; & I find myself much the happier. Sometimes indeed I look back to former occurrences, in remembrance of our old friends and fellow laborers, who have fallen before us. Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence I see now living not more than half a dozen on your side of the Potomac, and, on this side, myself alone. You & I have been wonderfully spared, and myself with remarkable health, & a considerable activity of body & mind. I am on horseback 3 or 4 hours of every day; visit 3 or 4 times a year a possession I have 90 miles distant [Poplar Forest], performing the winter journey on horseback. I walk little however; a single mile being too much for me; and I live in the midst of my grandchildren, one of whom has lately promoted me to be a great grandfather.**  I have heard with pleasure that you also retain good health, and a greater power of exercise in walking than I do. But I would rather have heard this from yourself, & that, writing a letter, like mine, full of egotisms, & of details of your health, your habits, occupations & enjoyments, I should have the pleasure of knowing that, in the race of life, you do not keep, in it’s physical decline, the same distance ahead of me which you have done in political honors & achievements. No circumstances have lessened the interest I feel in these particulars respecting yourself; none have suspended for one moment my sincere esteem for you; and I now salute you with unchanged affections and respect, Th. Jefferson

**[TJ’s first great-grandchild was John Warner Bankhead (b. 1810), eldest child of Charles Lewis Bankhead and Mrs. Anne Cary Randolph Bankhead, first-born of Thomas Mann Randolph and Mrs. Martha Jefferson Randolph].

Note: By remarkable coincidence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4th 1826 -- the 50th Anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Adams' last words were, “Thomas Jefferson still survives,” though his old friend and political rival had died only a few hours before.
___________________________________________
[1] Lyman H. Butterfield, “The Dream of Benjamin Rush: The Reconciliation of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson,” Yale Review 40, 1950). [Quoted in the United States National Archives online: 

The Adams-Jefferson Letters: The Complete Correspondence, Lester J. Cappon, Editor (The University of North Carolina Press; September 30, 1988). https://www.amazon.com/Adams-Jefferson-Letters-Complete-Correspondence-Jefferson/dp/0807842303/

Sunday, March 5, 2017

"John Adams: Colossus of Independence" Teacher Workshop March 24th

Speaking of the debates for Independence in the Continental Congress in 1776, thirty-seven years afterwards, Thomas Jefferson declared that, "Mr. Adams was the pillar of its support on the floor of Congress, its ablest advocate and defender against the multifarious assaults it encountered." At another time, he said, "John Adams was our Colossus on the floor. Not graceful, not elegant, not always fluent in his public addresses, he yet came out with a power both of thought and of expression which moved us from our seats." (B. L. Rayner, “Life of Thomas Jefferson” Lilly, Wait, Colman, & Holden, Boston, 1834, p. 90).

The Washington, Jefferson & Madison Institute is pleased to announce that its next continuing education workshop will be on the topic of “John Adams: Colossus of Independence.” The program will include four, 50-minute sessions, each led by a moderator with an open discussion focused on original source documents. Instead of lectures or presentations, the format of the "roundtable" will be a civic conversation that draws deeply on the documents with participation by all. If you would like to participate in the roundtable, we ask you to prepare by doing the document readings (about 50 pages) and coming ready to discuss with your fellow teachers. After you register we will email you the Reader (or mail if you prefer a hard copy). Copies of the Reader will be provided at the conference as well.

WJMI welcomes the following panel of moderators to this conference:

Jeffry H. Morrison, Director of Academics at the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and Professor of Government at Regent University.

Tony Williams, WJMI Program Director and Senior Fellow at the Bill of Rights Institute.

J. David Gowdy, WJMI Founder & President.

The outline of the sessions are as follows:

 1. Legal and Religious Roots of Resistance to Great Britain 

 2. The Declaration of Independence and Political Philosophy 

 3. The Adams’ Presidency - Acts and Writings 

 4. The Adams-Jefferson Letters: An Intellectual Dialogue 

The Reader, a continental breakfast, as well as a luncheon, are all complimentary. The roundtable is primarily for public and private Virginia secondary school teachers who teach Social Studies, U.S. Government, Virginia Government, or U. S. History.

The workshop will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Friday morning, March 24th, 2017 at Prospect Hill Plantation Inn 2887 Poindexter Rd, Louisa, Virginia near Charlottesville. Registration will begin at 8:30 a.m. with a continental breakfast. The luncheon will be from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. The Seminar qualifies for four recertification points or 4 hours.

 If you wish to attend, please Contact Us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Washington's Birthday - Quotes from His Farewell Address

Abraham Lincoln issued a Presidential Proclamation on February 19, 1862, requesting that all citizens gather on the 22nd and celebrate Washington’s Birthday by listening to the words of his Farewell Address:

“It is recommended to the people of the United States that they assemble in their customary places of meeting for public solemnities on the twenty-second day of February instant, and celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Father of His Country by causing to be read to them his immortal Farewell address.”[1]

We hear much about "rights" in our time, but seemingly less of civic duty and individual responsibility.  Ironically, though neglected, Washington's Farewell Address not only sets forth true maxims of liberty, but it effectively constitutes a "handbook of an American citizen's responsibilities.”  He teaches the importance of union to our republic, loyalty to the Constitution, mutual respect among people and nations, and the value of honesty.   He confirms that morality and religion are indispensable to our individual and collective happiness and constitute the “twin pillars” of America's political prosperity.  All students and citizens should become familiar with our Founding Father's final counsel to each of us and to our nation.  In honor of Washington's 285th Birthday, following are a few of my favorite quotes and wisdom from his timeless Farewell Address (1789).  

UNION

The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad, of your safety, of your prosperity, of that very Liberty which you so highly prize.

[I]t is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety . . . .

AMERICANS FIRST

Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of AMERICAN, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.

LIBERTY HAS A PRICE

You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together. The independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.

RESPECT FOR AUTHORITY; OBEDIENCE TO LAWS

This government, the off‑spring 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. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty.

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.

All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and Associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the Constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle and of fatal tendency. 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, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the Mirror of the ill concerted and incongruous projects of faction rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests. 

SEPARATION OF POWERS

Liberty itself will find in such a Government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration to confirm themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding 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. A just estimate of that love of power and proneness to abuse it which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. 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 invasions by others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them.

DANGERS OF THE “SPRITY OF PARTY”

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. But 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. . . .

It serves always to distract the Public Councils and enfeeble the Public administration. It agitates the Community with ill founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another . . . .

RELIGION, MORALITY AND VIRTUE

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. 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? 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.

'Tis 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? 

EDUCATION

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.

PUBLIC CREDIT

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, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; 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 have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.  The execution of these maxims belongs to your Representatives; but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate.

FOREIGN RELATIONS

Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period a great Nation to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.

In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies 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. The Nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.

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 . . . .

HONESTY

I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs that honesty is always the best policy.
________________________________
[1] (Abraham Lincoln, Executive Letter dated February 19, 1862, James D. Richardson, ed., "Messages and Papers of the Presidents," (Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.,1902), 5:3289-90).

Friday, January 20, 2017

The First Inauguration of George Washington

On April 30, 1789, George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States of America.  “Since nearly first light that morning, a crowd of people had begun to gather around Washington's home, and at noon they made their way to Federal Hall by way of Queen Street and Great Dock (both now Pearl Street) and Broad Street in New York. Washington dressed in an American-made dark brown suit, with white silk stockings and silver shoe buckles; he also wore a steel-hilted sword and dark red overcoat.”[1] 

“As the first of every thing, in our situation will serve to establish a Precedent,” he wrote James Madison, “it is devoutly wished on my part, that these precedents may be fixed on true principles.”[2]   Standing on the balcony of Federal Hall, George Washington took his Constitutional oath of office as the first President of the United States.  The Constitution proscribes the following Presidential oath:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." 
(Article II, Section 1)

Washington took this oath with his right hand resting on the Bible, which had been opened to Genesis, chapter 49 (Jacob’s blessings upon his twelve sons -- the heads of the Twelve Tribes of Israel).  With his head bowed in a reverential manner, Washington added in a clear and distinct voice, "I swear, so help me God!" then bowing over the Bible, he reverently kissed it. Whereupon, Chancellor of New York, Robert Livingston (who administered the oath), exclaimed in a ringing voice, "Long live George Wash­ington, President of the United States!" -- which was replied to with loud cheers from the crowd, followed by a 13-gun salute.

The first inaugural address was subsequently delivered by Washington in the Senate chamber (to read the text of his address, please see: http://www.liberty1.org/inaug.htm). At this time there were no inaugural balls on the day of the ceremony, though a week later, on May 7th, a ball was held in New York City to honor the first President. “Washington arrived at the ball in the company of other American statesmen and their wives. That evening he danced with many of New York’s society ladies. Vice President John Adams, members of Congress and visiting French and Spanish dignitaries, as well their wives and daughters, joined in the festivities. Eliza Hamilton, wife of Alexander Hamilton, recorded her impressions of the ball in her memoirs, noting that the president liked to dance the minuet, a dance she thought was suited to his dignity and gravity.”[3]

To preserve the memory of the first Presidential Inauguration, a page was inserted in the Bible used by Washington, with the date and an inscription that included this poetic verse (the Bible used in the ceremony was from the Masonic St. John's Lodge No. 1, A.Y.M.)[4]:

Fame stretched her wings and with her trumpet blew.
Great Washington is near. What praise is due?
What title shall he have? She paused, and said
‘Not one - his name alone strikes every title dead.

(Bible kept at St. John's Lodge in New York City)[5]



[2] W. Abbott, ed., The Papers of George Washington (University of Virginia Press, Charlottesville, 1987), 2:216-17.
[4] “George Washington joined the Masonic Lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at the age of twenty in 1752. During the War for Independence, General Washington attended Masonic celebrations and religious observances in several states. He also supported Masonic lodges that formed within army regiments.” See https://gwmemorial.org/pages/george-washington-the-mason.