George Washington’s Farewell Address & America the Beautiful As Seen From Pikes Peak
President’s Day, 2020
Palmer Ridge High School in Monument, Colorado
So our first President George Washington was born on this day almost 300 years ago. And it was 64 years after that day in 1732, in September 1796, that our first president allowed the publication of his Farewell Address in the newspaper the American Daily Advertiser, on the last day of Summer.
Washington was leaving office voluntarily after two terms, but, because he was the first President, Americans were afraid of what would come next. Washington’s Farewell Address, mostly written by a certain former Secretary of the Treasury named Alexander Hamilton, had the goal of convincing Americans that the American Republic could survive without him, and outlined how such a survival was possible.
Washington’s first warning to his fellow Americans was to maintain the unity of the states, reminding us that our independence, peace, safety, prosperity and liberty are all dependent on maintaining the Union against enemies foreign and domestic. He also reminded Americans that we do not have more than slight differences in manners, habits and principles (after all, we all want a better nation for the next generation), and the triumph of those principals will be the result of working together.
Washington went on to state his support for the new Constitutional government, arguing that it is the right of the people to alter their government, but also arguing that should only be done through Constitutional amendments. As he put it, “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.”
Washington also went on to argue against the baneful effects of parties. He saw that political parties have their place, but also have their dangers, and can lead to “alternate domination” of one party over another and eventually despotism if all parties are not restrained.
Washington continued his defense of our Constitution, arguing that the system of checks and balances and the separation of powers within that system are important for preventing one person or one party from seizing all power. He says that if Americans believe the power of the government should be changed, it should be done through Constitutional amendments and not through use of force.
This speaker won’t get into detail regarding the rest of the address. Washington’s support for organized religion in public life, avoiding a national debt and paying that debt off when it can’t be avoided, avoiding foreign entanglements of any kind and promoting free trade by ensuring stable trade, all of that’s in his address and this speaker only agrees with half of it.
This speaker will go into detail about the song “America the Beautiful,” originally written in 1893 by Katharine Lee Bates, a hundred years after Washington’s Farewell Address, as a poem entitled “Pikes Peak”, which was, you might have guessed, inspired by a trip to the summit of Pikes Peak, visible to the west from this building where we stand.
It just so happens that 1893 was the year of a major financial panic which would lead to a years-long Depression, a Depression so severe it would lead to the rise of the People’s Party in 1896. It has been stated that Bates’ desire for a more inclusive America inspired the lyrics “America, America / God mend thine every flaw / Confirm thy soul in self control / Thy liberty in law. O beautiful for heroes proved / In liberating strife / Who more than self their country loved /And mercy more than life.” In short, Bates loved America the Beautiful so much she thought this country could make itself even better, even with all its flaws. And you people thought I was just going to talk about a mountain.
Speaking of long climbs, we have more than a dozen candidates to hear from in three different forums today, US House, US Senate and US President. The Senate candidates running to represent the State of Colorado, already gathered here on the stage, are up first, followed by the US House candidates for Colorado Congressional District 5 (centered on Pikes Peak), then followed by the candidates for President of the United States or their surrogates at high noon.