Home > Market Commentary > George Washington on National Unity and Partisan Politics

George Washington on National Unity and Partisan Politics

In this column I will continue the theme of quoting Washington’s Farewell Address, this time on the topic of national unity and political partisanship. First, a summary of Washington’s thoughts on the importance of national unity and how to remain on guard against those who would compromise it, followed by an exact quotation of his own words.

  1. Unity of government is important to the citizens of the United States because unity supports our independence, peace, safety, prosperity and liberty.
  2. I can foresee, however, that many will employ mistruths, often covertly and indisiously, to weaken our conviction to preserving national unity.
  3. It is of the utmost importance that we properly estimate the value of our national union, and develop the unwavering habit of preserving it; moreover, our collective efforts to do so should always be cordial.
  4. We should disapprove of — to the point of embarrassing — those who would even suggest national unity is not necessary, or that any portion of our country or its citizens can be alienated from the rest.
  5. Some will attempt to undermine our national unity by misrepresenting the opinions and goals of others; this is something from which you cannot shield yourself too much, as these mispresentations will make us feel alien to one another, when instead we should be fostering feelings of fraternal affection.
  6. The alternate domination of one party over another, especially when sharpened by the spirit of revenge, is itself a frightful form of despotism, which gradually leads to a more formal and permanent despotism.
  7. This despotism leads citizens to seek security by granting individuals absolute power; but leaders who would accept such power are only interested in elevating themselves at the expense of public liberty.

The exact quotations from Washington’s Farewell Address follow below:

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.

In contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as 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 heartburnings which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.

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.

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Categories: Market Commentary
  1. April 4, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Yeah, It’s quiet interesting post.and useful information.

  2. April 5, 2011 at 5:52 am

    hii,,

    i read this blog post and i learnt more !!
    thanks for such a post

  3. E.J. Thormaehlen
    April 8, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    The Father of our country warned us. We don’t have to wonder what he is thinking at this time as we struggle with our present dilemma.

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  5. December 7, 2015 at 8:05 pm

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