By Al Colombo
I have always said that what is bad for one faction of people within this country is bad for all. Whatever law seeks to provide an advantage to any particular religion, for example, is bad for all, whether they happen to be atheists or simply apathetic in their religious views. Another example is that of the institutionalization of laws that seek to provide advantages to one or several particular races over that of one or more others.
Take, for example, the issue of "affirmative action." Although on its face it may appear to equalize the ground on which both whites and blacks stand, truth be known it fosters anger and hate which results in a net loss. By the same token, laws that provided rights and privileges to whites at the exclusion of blacks were likewise bad for all.
Should we not be perfectly honest with one another in that to foster truly equal rights, both whites and blacks must come to trust and respect one another? How can whites trust those blacks who would take their money and their jobs on the merit of skin color alone? Those blacks who would take advantage of their fellow countrymen, whether they be white or black, pink or orange, cannot be trusted in any issue, in any quarter, not even by their own race.
The other issue of concern, concern for any free and liberated nation, is that of special interests by way of party ownership by way of blind loyalty and obligatory agreements with foreign nations.
The fostering of two, three, or more parties in a free and liberal political system as ours within the United States would, at first view, seem to represent the greater political good and balance of the nation. It would, if you will, seem to offer a more responsible attitude towards all peoples of this nation. However, there is much reason to consider that the opposite is true--that it actually generates greater support for one group, one region, one political thought, one or certain races, over others.
At the end of our first president's term of office, George Washington set out to warn the people of this nation regarding opportunists who parade under the banner of "party." It was his contention, as it ought to be all people of good nature, that, when taken to the extreme we see today, "parties" become a hindrance, a virtual stumbling block to true and proper Liberty and our established Republican Freedom.
Without further ado, I give you George Washington:
... "I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discrimination. 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" (George Washington, 1796 Farewell Address).
Washington was concerned about the party system because it represented an effort on the part of a few to gain in some manner over others. The very issue of party represents one thought, one interest, over that of others. In this regard, one party seeks to gain political power over that of the other. By so doing, such interests, by their very nature, cannot represent the good of the whole. (And no, this is not socialism at work. It is merely proof to the fact that "United we stand and Divided we shall fall.")
Why would Washington advocate a no-party system? I'm not entirely sure that he did, but it must be noted that he did oppose party influence in government because of the manner in which the English system worked. Here, in the 17th century, the parties of that time represented very narrow interests and groups within the British population. The Tories and Whigs represented different ends of the population and they sought continually to gain the upper hand over the other.
The Tories represented the landed gentry and Anglican clergy while the Whigs represented large land owners, mercantile interests, and financial concerns. Guess who became disenfranchised because of this party structure? It was the little man, the lower classes, who suffered. Now you know why Washington sought to warn us of the inherent danger of trusting in party lines and supporting them blindly.
In closing, George Washington, in his last will and testament, also warned the people of this joined Union of states that he regretted the fact that young boys were being sent to foreign lands where they were given an education designed to instill foreign values.
In his own words, these young lads learned "principles unfriendly to republican government and to the true and genuine liberties of mankind."
As you read the following small portion of his speech, as given in 1796, please do take the time and care to compare his enlightening description of what will surely occur, and what certainly has taken place, if party interests are not kept in perspective to the greater good of Country.
In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as a matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicious propagated among them of a policy in the general government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the Mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain and that with Spain, which secure to them everything they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the Union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren and connect them with aliens?
To the efficacy and permanency of your union, a government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a constitution of government better calculated than your former for an intimate union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This government, the offspring 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 y our 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 basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacrredly obligatory upon all. 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 fashion, rather than the organs of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common councils, and modified by mutual interests.
However, combinations or associations of the above description 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.
Towards 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. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of your common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discrimination. 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.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight), the common and continued mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
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, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the doors to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty. This within certain limits is probably true, and in governments of a monarchical cast, patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
In due time you will be able to read Washington’s entire Farewell Address on www.giantkillers.org. Watch for this great work in the Historical section of the main web site.
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