George Washington Prophetically Speaks On Party Politics

Ol’ George predicted this current American mess a long time ago with harrowing prophetic insight. He saw the creeping danger of partisan parties (before they were even a factor in American politics) in the early constitutional republic he helped found. On his way out of office (1796) Washington warns us today:

“However [political parties] 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.

…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.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

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.”

Farewell Address, George Washington

 

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Author: Bryan Daniels

I am a follower of Jesus, a husband to Jessica, and a father of three boys: Josiah, Gideon and Judah. I teach high school math as a job, read reformed theology as a hobby, and write this blog just for kicks. With the rest of my time I coach football and track.

18 thoughts on “George Washington Prophetically Speaks On Party Politics”

  1. Gary Johnson (the Libertarian) got my vote this time.

    I wanted to comment on you post regarding abortion, Chief, but I couldn’t seem to log in that day and lost it all.

    The gist of what I wanted to say was that I don’t believe one can legislate morality (besides the FACT that Romney was never going to attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade – he voted pro-choice in Mass. and was likely only saying anything close to that as political rhetoric to please the Republicans. If there is anything I knew about Romney it’s that he would say anything to please anyone).

    I heard an interesting proposition recently I had never thought about but that rang true. The podcast speaker postulated that the Puritan’s “rebellion” is what actually led to abortion in this country. Think about it for a minute. The Puritans valued freedom (of religion, especially) above all. One could certainly argue that freedom (even in the church) has become god in America.

    Well, how do the proponents of abortion defend the practice? Women should have the right (freedom) to choose. Isn’t that what the Puritans came over here (murdering millions of Native Americans in their path) to do – establish freedom?

    What if Paul was right: the Law brings death.

    What if Paul was telling the truth: the Law increases sin.

    What if Paul really believed something that we really don’t: Grace changes people, not law.

    I have to wonder if abortion would be eliminated if the church ever learned how to truly love and apply grace to people on the outside? Judgment never leads to repentance, but God’s kindness does (Romans 2:4). Grace is the only thing that signifies. Grace trumps law just like mercy trumps judgment.

    Finally, I believe there is a fundamental flaw in attempting to apply God’s law to people outside of the community of believers. As horrific as abortion is, it remains a sin no more grievous than gluttony. But we have not yet learned that the root of sin (pride) is the issue, not the fruit (outward manifestations). Why else would Jesus have reserved His strongest words of judgment for those who believed that their actions constituted righteousness before God? Those outside the community (banned from temple worship) were shown love and mercy and friendship by Jesus, and yet these were living in blatant sin (tax collectors were known thieves, prostitutes, adulterers, etc.). Arguably, Jesus lived under one of the most evil governments in all of history, and yet all He ever said about it was “Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” He never attempted to even change the government of the synagogue of His day.

    What if Jesus knew what we have yet to learn: Real change starts as something as small as a mustard-seed of faith within the heart of an individual and spreads person to person like wildfire. In contrast, His Kingdom absolutely never starts at the highest levels of government to then “trickle down” somehow. If we didn’t learn that from Constantine, then what in the heck have we learned?!

    Peace, Chief!

    1. I disagree.

      Every piece of legislation has a moral position that it affirms (no matter how twisted).

      We can legislate morality. In fact, everytime a law is put on the books it comes from an explicity moral position, a good one or bad one. The original ruling of Roe V. Wade is an example legislating morality. Much of that ruling was based on completely false statistics of mother death’s/personal testimonies that proved false later, etc. To say a woman has the “right to choose” to snuff out the life of her child is stating an overt moral position that has been made into a law.

      If abortion is “murdering millions” as we both agree, then the law has a part to play. It is not wrong to have laws on the books that illegalize murder and rape of a human being, it is for the preservation of a society that we have these laws as constraints on wickedness. God instituted governmental systems to constrain the evil of mankind (Romans 14). He did this for our ulimate good.
      To know for a FACT that Romney wouldn’t appoint pro life justices would take a divine knowledge I don’t have access to. I do know for a fact that Obama would appoint Pro Choice justices because he already has.

      Obviously I agree with Paul’s view on the law.
      BUT when Paul speaks about the letter of the law “killing” he is speaking about the Mosaic Law the Jews clinged to for salvation, not any national civic law (otherwise he would have chastised the Roman govt he was under). This isn’t applicable to national laws that protect citizens from the govt or other citizens, otherwise one would have to take the ridiculous stance that the Holocaust shouldn’t have been made illegal. The Mosaic law kills SPIRITUAL pride so we would cling to Christ, the civic law (what we’re actually talking about here) protects those who would kill PHYSICALLY (IE abortion).

      The issue IS murdering babies; a grace that doesn’t compel me to move heaven and earth to combat that, is a cheap grace indeed.

      I agree: I’ll keep preaching radical grace, and I’ll keep preaching the radical injustice of abortion.

  2. Yes, I agree with you about civil laws, however, I don’t believe that establishing a law against abortion would necessarily (at this point) significantly reduce the number of abortions, just as laws against selling illegal drugs do not reduce the amount of people using them. Whether or not to get an abortion, use drugs, or break any other civil law is an individual choice (as our prisons full of murderers and drug dealers daily attests).

    That said, I most certainly welcome laws on the books against murder. While I know that a person determined to murder will do so despite civil laws, I also know that many who are not “determined” to murder but who may consider it would be deterred by the possible consequences of being caught. 🙂 What I’m not certain of is whether abortion would work the same way. I mean, it’s obvious that killing me (a human being you can see and touch) constitutes murder, but as we know, there are many who do not consider a fetus a human being.

    Even the Old Testament does not carry the same punishment for abortion as it does murder. Not much is said about abortion in the first place in the Bible, actually. I believe the Bible teaches us to value life from conception as a principle, however.

    Meanwhile, my real point in the post was the reason that I would not base my vote on the abortion issue. The reason I voted Libertarian this year is because I really do believe that the federal government has begun to infringe on our freedoms in an unhealthy way (NDAA would be a prime example of that). Personally, I would like to see less laws on the books rather than more, even if that means that we leave abortion alone. If the church would focus on God’s love for folks instead of judgment, I truly believe that there would be fewer abortions as people’s hearts are changed by the power of God’s love.

    Anyway, for me, this is really a moot point since I don’t believe that the right to an abortion will ever be taken away. I do appreciate the Catholic stance against the language of the health care bill which requires them to perform abortions in Catholic hospitals and I hope that they will be able to maintain their freedom in that area.

    Thanks for a great conversation, Chief! You always make me think, and that’s a great thing. 🙂

    1. I think I agree with everything you’ve written here, JudahFirst. Abortion is a horrible thing, but it’s true that it’s not as cut and dry as out-and-out murder. People do have different opinions about when an embryo should be considered a person. And the mother’s rights are still an issue that should be considered. Though they may be rare, pregnancies do sometimes occur from rape and incest, and there are instances when a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother. Those are issues that must be considered, complicated though they may be.

      Finally, I couldn’t agree more that the issue of abortion should not be the main issue people base their votes upon. Very little about abortion will change, regardless of which party gets elected. We stand to reduce the number much more effectively by supporting programs that provide better access to education and birth control — those are methods that should be much less controversial, and much more productive.

      1. I always appreciate your input Nate. I do believe education is key also, and one step in that direction would be to stop using dehumanizing words like “fetus” to describe a human life we’re taking out. I agree that abortion isn’ the only issue to vote on. My post about voting for Romney gave “One” big reason I was voting for him but that wouldn’t be the only one (I don’t care to get too caught up in the political weeds on here). In fact Romney’s stance was to give provisions to the cases you cited (rape, incest, etc.) I would only add that our country’s stance on abortion could easily get “changed”. All it takes 1-2 Supreme Court Justices to do that. Peace and grace.

  3. Prophetic? Uncanny? Or maybe he knew that from the very beginning… that governing with a “democracy” was a flawed system. Feeding into man’s sinful nature; “the lust of the eyes, the lusts of the flesh and the pride of life” and that would be to the great demise of this nation. (Capitalism)
    Maybe??? You always make me think…
    I pledge allegiance to my Lord Jesus Christ and Father in heaven…
    Stephanie

    1. First of all, we are not a democracy. We are a constitution republic. Hence the “I pledge allegiance to the….republic”. A democracy is a very flawed system, since you most certainly end up with mob rules. I hate to use the example, but I’ll use it anyway — Hitler had a lot of people on his side maybe even possibly the majority that the jews needed to be exterminated, this did not make it right. The beauty of a constitutional republic is that capitalism is allowed to flourish under the restraints of a constitution which is supreme above all branches of the government in guaranteeing the individuals rights. Those rights come from nature and from natures creator. In our republic we can make laws, but those laws are always supposed to respect our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

      In other words the Law is supposed to have only a negative effect on persons. When you try to take from or harm a person and their rights, the law steps in and stops this. Once that law changes from it’s rightful duty to taking from some and giving to others it becomes a sort of guide to false morality to those who live under it. They then feel justified in taking because the law is how it is accomplished and if it is the law then it must be right.

  4. Very interesting. Washington was a wise man, but I think political parties are here to stay. Without them, I fear a powerful personality could take over completely. I just hate the mud slinging and the cost of presidential elections.

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