Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Advice from George Washington

In reading "The Real George Washington" I've become more convinced than ever that the Constitution is more relevant today even than it was in the time it was written. This is because, as I'm fond of saying, the Founders based the Constitution not on contemporary political theory of the 1700's, but on the immutable principles of human nature. They understood humanity very well.

George Washington proved that in his often quoted farewell address. One part of it struck me as I read because it is particularly relevant today:
"Toward the preservation of your government and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect in the forms of the Constitution alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown."

That is not to say he didn't feel the Constitution should be amended. He counseled with regard to change, "let it be by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed." (The Real George Washington, pages 586-587)
In other words, if anyone tells you we must change the way the system works fundamentally to resolve a present crisis, it should be rejected. Basic changes should be approached carefully and deliberately, never in a rush or panic, and considered fully before implemented. This is why the Amendment process is such a difficult one. It forces full consideration of any proposal. This is vital, because hasty changes can foul a great system of governance even when those making them have the purest of intentions.

When those proposing change have less than pure intentions, an unsuspecting populace may have freedom snatched away in the surprised blink of a complacent eye.

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