Is exceedingly hard to come by these days…

“In executing the duties of my present important station, I can promise nothing but purity of intentions, and, in carrying these into effect, fidelity and diligence.”

~ George Washington, Address to the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts, 09 July 1789


I wonder if a single elected leader these days could honestly say they are carrying out their duties with good intentions and diligence?  I’m sure all of them swear they do regularly, but I suppose the perennial gridlock in Washington truly answers that question.  Poor George Washington, what an embarrassment it is to have a city whose personality is so counter to everything he was be named for him.  It’s almost an ironic name these days, and how people rail against Washington the city for its corruption and intractable politics.  Washington the man was the height of character, conscious of his own failings and the requirements of duty, and eager to bring the new government together into a functioning unit.  He appointed to his Cabinets men who were known to have differing opinions, and he sought their advice and input equally before coming to decisions.  He also respected the will of the Congress as reflecting the will of the People, and only sought to use his federal powers in instances where they were clearly needed.  To that end, he vetoed only 2 bills in his entire 8 years as President, and when he did so, he sent Congress 2 messages telling them exactly why he had.  In both instances, Congress chose not to override his veto.  And in the first case, they threw out their original bill and created a new one, per his suggestions, and sent it to him.  He promptly signed it.  Now there is a President and Congress who worked together.  But then, politics hadn’t quite gone so far down the drain at that point.

Adams and Jefferson, who were both caught up in a bitter ideological struggle over the meaning of the Constitution and served their turns as Presidents after Washington, never used the veto.  Nor did they go toe to toe with Congress at every opportunity.  This isn’t to say that either of their tenures was unmarked by policy disputes between themselves and the members of their Congresses.  And at the time, nearly every member of Congress had been involved in the Revolution or the writing of the Constitution, or was in a few ways a founder themselves.  But the partisan brinksmanship that continues to run roughshod over our nation was nowhere to be seen.  These were all men of deep convictions and closely held political beliefs that they had actually put their lives on the line for, and yet they still managed to all come together to make decisions and enact policies that have forever shaped our nation (and that governed the lives of the people at the time with order and dignity).  These men believed they owed it to their fellow citizens to generate laws and policies that would allow them to continue on in their “pursuit of Happiness,” without having to worry over whether the government would do its job.  Did they always agree?  Certainly not.  Did the people always agree with what they chose?  Not a chance.  Some of these men would lose elections and go home, and some would remain in office.  But the thing is, they worked hard, legitimately hard, to create compromises and come together to actually legislate.  If only our modern leaders had enough commitment to the people and their duty as public servants that they actually dedicated themselves to producing meaningful compromises to solve the issues we face, regardless of whether it meant being reelected or not.  How sad it is indeed that Washington is no longer associated with the great character of the man it was named for.


Res Publica

Documentation without Representation:

The Writings of George Washington

Address to the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts

09 July 1789

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