Mandeville, LA – Exclusive Transcript – There’s a marvelous story behind George Washington’s farewell address and the iterations that it went through. Madison started writing on it and helping Washington out. Something happened between Madison and Washington so Madison didn’t finish the job. Then Washington turned to Hamilton to put the finishing touches on it to prepare the address so he could put it in the form that he could publish and then could deliver. Check out today’s transcript for the rest…
Begin Mike Church Show Transcript
Mike: There’s a marvelous story behind George Washington’s farewell address and the iterations that it went through. Madison started writing on it and helping Washington out. Something happened between Madison and Washington so Madison didn’t finish the job. Then Washington turned to Hamilton to put the finishing touches on it to prepare the address so he could put it in the form that he could publish and then could deliver. There’s an interesting storyline about this because Washington — we sometimes ask the question today: Who was that last president that wrote their own speeches? Washington was probably not one of them, even though he was a marvelous writer. When it came to matters of public policy, he did not fancy himself a politician at all. He would defer to other people. The only thing he fancied himself was a promoter and defender of his oath to the Constitution. That’s how he approached his presidency.
You can see this in a couple of epochs in Washington’s life. One of them is in the presentation of what came to be known as the Jay Treaty, which many people were just livid about. Washington insisted that he had carried out his duty and that he had done it with the advice and consent of the Senate, and that he thought it was the best thing for the American republic, to forge some kind of a lasting, peaceful alliance with Great Britain. In his notes and in his diary, he keeps referring to “my oath to the Constitution will only allow me to do this.” Even though he was being advised to violate his oath, he kept saying that he couldn’t and wouldn’t, that he had done all he could do in concert with keeping with his oath.
So when it comes time to quit, he knows that the country of France is on the brink of entering a larger conflict than just the French Revolution. He thinks this may spread to the United States. There are a lot of people saying: Look, these guys helped us out and helped us buy uniforms and stuff when we needed them. We have to intervene. We’ve got to get involved. You know what Washington’s response to that was, after expressing his admiration and love of Marquis de Lafayette? Lafayette, when he went back to France to his wife and family, he had other kids after the Revolutionary War. He named one of his kids Washington. Not many people know that. Anyway, after expressing his admiration and his love for Lafayette, Lafayette kept visiting the U.S., including Mount Vernon, several times. Washington said: It doesn’t matter that they helped us. They chose to do that. We should choose not to conduct our affairs in that manner. We do not ever need to get embroiled in the affairs of the European nations, ever. They are their affairs and not ours. This is where he warned of entangling alliances. He met this pan world, meaning the planet.
I’m going to get this thing recorded with a narrative on it, kind of like what I just described to you. It’s very lengthy to read. I would have to go through and almost abridge some of the text just so — it’s also very verbose — that it’s understandable to the average modern man and woman. I’d have to alter some of the text so that it’s not 18th century but 21st century, just kind of modernize it a little bit. I think, though, viewed in proper context, it is a statement, a great statement of how nations and countries and the people that make up nations and countries ought to behave during war. There’s an awful lot that’s said these days — we’re going to get into Ron Paul in just a moment here.
There is an awful lot that is said on any given occasion — on television, radio and internet — about how we ought to conduct our affairs and whose side we ought to be on and how we pick and how we choose those sides. A consideration, though, of how Washington actually thought on these things — he is called the father of the country, after all. A consideration of how Washington also waged the war against the army of Great Britain and against the Hessian mercenaries, if viewed properly, if viewed in a historical context, you’ll come to the realization and conclusion that he was practicing some form of a just war theory. There’s no other way to state it. There were ample opportunities for George Washington, as commander in chief of the Continental Army, to be as violent and as vindictive and to seek retribution against British redcoats and Hessian mercenaries that were captured. He had left explicit instructions, general orders he called them, on so many occasions you can’t count it, an inestimable amount of occasions. Over and over and over again he kept telling his officers: We offer quarter. We offer quarter, meaning if somebody wants to take surrender, we take their surrender. We treat them humanely after that. We feed them, we clothe them, we do all that we can to see to it that we don’t harm them anymore. Once we’ve disarmed them, they’re no longer combatants, they’re humans. They’re citizens of another country that we hope to be at peace and amity with someday.
You think about that. Some of the things that were done to American captives, the British did not operate that way, the Hessians certainly didn’t. There are dozens and dozens of stories of Hessians just bayoneting, right through the heart, Continentals, militia members that tried to surrender at various battles in the early days of the Revolutionary War. Washington would have none of it, none of it. In reflecting on and choosing a path forward in these affairs, it’s important, I think, to always look backwards and stand on the shoulders of giants. What do you think Georgie would say about this? It doesn’t matter what “this” is. Just fill in whatever the current conflict is.
End Mike Church Show Transcript