Washington on God & American Exceptionalism

     General George Washington resigned his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Army to the Congress in 1783. His resignation established civilian rather than military rule, leading to democracy rather than potential dictatorship. He presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and was elected President in 1789, the only president unanimously elected by the US Electoral College.  His inauguration was held at the Federal Hall in New York City.  Below is the wordy excerpt of Washington’s First Inaugural Address relating to God and country which may have set out the concept of  American exceptionality.  Tomorrow, George’s love letter to Martha.  Rita Bay 

 “Fellow Citizens of the Senate and the House of Representatives”      

     Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me I trust in thinking, that there are none under the influence of which, the proceedings of a new and free Government can more auspiciously commence.
By the article establishing the Executive Department, it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration, such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you, will acquit me from entering into that subject, farther than to refer to the Great Constitutional Charter under which you are assembled; and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications, I behold the surest pledges, that as on one side, no local prejudices, or attachments; no seperate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests: so, on another, that the foundations of our National policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality; and the pre-eminence of a free Government, be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its Citizens, and command the respect of the world.
I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the economy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

Read the full text of the speech here: http://www.archives.gov/legislative/features/gw-inauguration/

 

4 Comments

Filed under Wednesday's Words

4 responses to “Washington on God & American Exceptionalism

  1. I think George Washington chose his words very carefully with a deep sense of responsibility for his country. His unselfish leadership stands head and shoulders above our current role model which seems more intent on taking expensive vacations on the backs and peril of his countrymen. Thank God we had George Washington to show us the way.

    • Thank you for your comment, Dan. Washington was exceptional. He dutifully accepted the call to serve his country as its first President, then set the precedent for serving only two terms when his election to a third term was a certainty. It was not until 1951 that the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was ratified limiting service to two elected terms. It is unfortunate that much of our nation’s history and cultural heritage is lost to today’s children. They can’t appreciate what they don’t know they have. Rita Bay

  2. Love your blog, Rita. Your love of history is evident and reading your blog will be a welcome addition to my day.

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