In this new series, Independent OGs, writers at IVN News will chronicle the lives and exploits of independents throughout history – or as we are calling them: Independent O.G.s (short for Original Gangstas).
Of course George Washington was THE Independent OG of all American history, and it would seem that every president since has departed further and further from the example and precedent that Mr. Washington set.
To begin with, George Washington was in fact the only president in United States history not to have been affiliated with any political party (or faction as parties were called in his day). And not only was George Washington not a member of any political party, but he was vocally opposed to their very existence in United States governance. Here's what he said about them in his 1796 Farewell Address.
See if any of this sounds familiar to you today:
"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 faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels 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."
Not only was Washington seriously gangsta in his courageous resistance to the temptation of factionalism, especially since he did mostly agree with the policies of the Federalist Party, and could have used his influence as a universally beloved and trusted American leader to enshrine the Federalist Party's platform and power in the United States' new government, but he also resisted the temptation of monarchy, charting a historically independent course for the United States, making its government unique among the nations.
John Adams, a Federalist Party leader and the second president of the United States after George Washington, while serving as Vice President to Washington, was an outspoken proponent of an exalted presidential title, suggesting monarchical titles for the president of the new nation, such as: Excellency, His Highness, His Electoral Highness, and even His Majesty. George Washington opted for the more democratic "Mr. President," to chart America's independent course away from the excesses of executive power in Europe's monarchies.
Another way George Washington was THE Independent OG, was the independent course he envisioned for American foreign policy toward other nations. He did not want the United States to become entangled in the affairs of foreign government, but preferred strongly instead, that the U.S. should be fully independent of international politics, and said so quite clearly in his Farewell Address, along with the reasons why.
This is a long quote, but please read all of it, slowly and carefully, and relate its contents to the foreign policy problems that the United States faces today. In it is the remedy for all of America's foreign policy ills. If every American voter, politician, bureaucrat, and military officer read these words and took them to heart, we could forge a lasting peace in our lifetime for the American people:
"So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils. Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government. the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?
It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them."
President's Day is coming up soon, celebrating George Washington's birthday, which was in February. Let us in the days leading up to this monumental civic holiday, join together in encouraging independent thought, by sharing around and carefully contemplating these words of the United States' first only independent president, George Washington– that we may assume to ourselves and exemplify our manifest destiny of unique greatness among the nations, and be– as a shining city on a hill– an example to the world of what is possible to the best within us.