Monday, January 31, 2011

A Common Shared Vision.... Does the Vision Live Yet Today?

by: Les Carpenter
Rational Nation USA
Birthplace of Independent Conservatism

George Washington, often called the Father of our country, and Thomas Jefferson, author of  The Declaration of Independence, were  fiercely patriotic men that shared the vision of an independent and free democratic republic. They were respectively the first and third Presidents of the United States of America. While sharing the same vision for America they had differing and conflicting views on how to achieve the same vision.

Washington became a staunch advocate for a strong central government, having suffered through eight years of the Revolutionary War as Commander in Chief  observing, and living the ineptitude of a weak decentralized Continental Congress. Jefferson on the other hand was an unshakable advocate for a limited federal government with more powers being reserved to the states.

From the earliest beginnings of the great American Experiment our founders held different and opposing views on the role government should play in our free and democratic republic. A government in which the people freely elected representatives to speak for them.

The enduring strength of our republic has been its ability to craft solutions to the common problems of its citizenry. The nation accomplished great things not through rancor and ideological purity, but rather by focusing on the common cause of America and its people.

For two and a third centuries our republic has been a beacon of liberty for the rest of the world to emulate. It has, at the same time, been the most benevolent nation in terms of aid to counties not as bountifully blessed as our own.

The American people are a unique and individualistic people. We are unlike any the world has ever witnessed, either before our glorious Revolution or since. Liberty and self governance is the ideal for which there is no equal. Our great nation has flourished on these very ideals.

Our people have always been unique among nations. This is because we have had the liberty to freely express our differences with the government we duly elect. Our experience(s) as a nation ought to be the guiding light if you will to our future. It has long been said those who fail to understand history are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. In as much as this is true, is it not also true that by failing to understand history we are also unable to recognize histories successes and build upon them?

History has always been a love of mine. It has alway fascinated me and lead me to vistas I otherwise would not have aspired to were it not for my love of history. And so you may ask, what is your point. A fair enough question as I have asked the same of myself many times over.

My point is just this.... If the man largely responsible for the very existence of our nation as we know it (if you doubt this please read Washington: A  Life), and the man who crafted our Declaration of Independence could work for a common cause greater than themselves then it stands to reason that today the proponents of a stronger central government and those advocating a more limited and less intrusive government out to be able  find the wherewith-all to work out their differences that result in strengthening our nation.

Espousing the benefits of a particular belief(s) or philosophy should be encouraged. Open and heated debate on the merits or lack thereof should be welcomed and accepted as the norm. Dissenting opinions ought be fertilized and watered so as to grow and take root should they merit further consideration.

Our nation was founded on the efforts of many who understood that heated, and often cantankerous debate was necessary to work through the many differences of opinion that existed in our unique American culture. Today we are again facing a huge divide in our differing opinions on how we ought to be governed going forward. It is indeed incumbent on this generation to work through and beyond our differences. The opportunity for our grandchildren to succeed may well depend on what we do today.

Is it not time we "get it together" for all concerned? Future generations are depending on us. Our founding fathers just might be waiting to see if  we make  the right decisions. On the final score (note) none of us can be sure. What we should all recognize is that respectful, open,  and honest debate on the issues is good and desirable.

Unfortunately it is true the words of  our nation's first President have likely been long ago forgotten ...

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. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it 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 of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts. 

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. 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. 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; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes. 

But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole. 

The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and 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. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connection with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.
Above from President Washington's farewell remarks to the nation.

It is perhaps also true with respect to the words of our third President.  Excerpt from his first inaugural address....
About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people—a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.
Full text of President Thomas Jefferson's first inaugural address.

The differing political views were obvious in the late 1700's and early 1800's. They remain starkly obvious  and different today. The question to be answered is... Do we have the tenacity to overcome them and remain a unified nation.

Only time will tell. I remain hopeful.


  1. in reading of both of those speeches i do not see a difference in viewpoints but a recognition of the same viewpoint but from two different perspectives.

  2. Griper - I think perhaps you just made my point.

    However, George Washington, like Alexander Hamilton, was a proponent of a strong centralized government. They were both Federalists, Jefferson was not. A historical fact.

    Jefferson on the other hand an advocate of a more limited and decentralized federal government with greater control flowing to the states. He was more of a States Rights kinda persona. Another historical fact.

    Point being... are we, in our day and age, given the great differences facing the body politic capable of crafting solutions to common problems our people are facing? Another, and perhaps it is the more perplexing question of the two is... are there enough people with the intellect and wisdom required to affect such solutions?

    I am beginning to think not.

  3. that can be explained easily, RN if you look at the division of power between State governments and federal governments. we would want a strong federal government to deal with foreign affairs and the enemies of this united States. that would be Washington's perspective. and that was the primary purpose of its creation.

    Jefferson' perspective was in terms of domestic policy which constitutionally was left to the States.

    both were addressing the issues of federal government in regards to its role in each area.

    Washington's expertise was in the area of waging war so it would only be natural that he viewed the federal government from this perspective. he was a soldier by career.

    make sense?

  4. By todays standards both would be considered limited government politicians.

    However, Washington and Jefferson had differing views as to governance.

    Overall vision same... method of getting there different. Not at all unlike today.


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