Omar M. Campbell: Letter to Obama

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Wikipedia states that in 1792, George Washington did not want to run for a second term. He composed a farewell address to the people, but he ended up running and winning. Between 1792 and 1796, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton helped Washington revise the original 1792 draft of the farewell address. 

The result was a lengthy tome, read on the floor of the Senate when it reconvened recently. It contains much sagacious advice, even after 217 years, to your presidency and toward a positive legacy.

■ Debt: Washington warned against excessive borrowing and stressed the need for a balanced budget. Each generation must be responsible for its own debts and not pass them on to future generations.

■ Separation of powers: Washington believed that the system of checks and balances (legislative, executive, judicial) set up in the Constitution are essential to prevent a person or group (political party) from taking over the pepublic through manipulation or fiat.

■ Political parties: Washington made the case that the alternate domination of one party over another results in “coinciding efforts to exact revenge on their opponents, and is itself a frightful despotism. The tendency of parties to permanent despotism is because they gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual.” 

■ Religion, morality and education: Washington and all the founding fathers were deeply religious. He argued that religious principles promote property, reputation, and life values that are the foundations of justice. He also argued that education is needed to diffuse knowledge throughout the populace because the government needs informed and knowledgeable people.

Washington also favored private ownership of firearms so that the people could quickly form a militia in times of need.

Washington would be aghast if he could see the extent that his dicta have gone awry the last couple of centuries.

Omar M. Campbell  

Steamboat Springs

Comments

Joe Meglen 1 year, 6 months ago

Well put. If the founders could see what we have allowed to happen, they would be ashamed of us. They wouldn't be turning in their graves, they would be spinning.

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Scott Wedel 1 year, 6 months ago

Yeah, slave owners would be stunned at the modern world.

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Joe Meglen 1 year, 6 months ago

Scott,

It is a bit more complex than a bunch of dead white slave owners. The fact that some of the founders were slave owners at the time of the Revolution is often used to discredit them. Leftists, socialists, collectivists, academics, etc…routinely attack the founders as being racists in order trivialize the Constitution. It follows that if you discredit the authors you can ignore the Constitution’s guarantee of individual freedom and strict limits on government. Natural Law is the basis of the Constitution. Natural Law is what actually led to the understanding of self ownership and freedom. Under protest, the British Empire forced slavery on the Colonies for it was a form of cheap labor, not unlike current federal government policy to encourage illegal immigration. Those slave owning Founders were in many ways trapped by this system that had been in place for more than 200 years prior to the Revolution. One third of the Founders were not slave owners, some being outright abolitionists. Slavery was debated hotly at the time of the founding of the states United but the Union could not be made without compromising with some Southern agricultural states. At the time of the Revolution slavery was beginning to die a natural death, for both moral and economic reasons. Free labor was less expensive than slave labor, all costs considered. Many of the Founding Fathers who owned slaves as British citizens released them in the years following the separation from Great Britain (e.g., George Washington, John Dickinson, Caesar Rodney, William Livingston, George Wythe, John Randolph, along with others). Ben Franklin and Benjamin Rush stated America’s first anti-slavery societies. William Livingston did the same in New York. The fact is that the Founding Fathers were the first to introduce and nurture the idea in America of black equality and the eventual end to slavery. Americans of all colors owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to the Founders, a debt that can never be repaid. We can make small payments by not disparaging them and then doing what we can to further their noble cause.

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Howard Bashinski 1 year, 6 months ago

Hello Mr. Campbell,

Although I appreciate the sentiment of your letter, and I agree that the Founding Fathers are spinning in their graves, I don't think this type of argument is very strong.

We just can't legitimately compare today's world with the world of 1792. So many things are different - things that the Founding Fathers could never have anticipated - that we can't simply restate their sentiments and evaluate them in light of current society.

For example, Washington never could have foreseen the cost of the government in the 21st century. He almost certainly could not have foreseen investment banking, mortgage default swaps, or even the Federal Reserve. He might have a different opinion regarding debt if it was based on the realities of today. We just can't know. By the way, I'm not suggesting that our debt is a good thing; I'm just trying to make the point that we can't just "paste" Washington's opinions onto today's situation.

I'm not sure what point you were making regarding political parties. I don't think that today one party dominates the other. If you look at overall representation in Congress, Democrats and Republicans have an almost equal number of seats.

Finally, a word about using Wikipedia as a reference. Did you know that this can be edited by anybody in the world? That's what a "wiki" is for. There is nobody checking the information on Wikipedia for accuracy or truthfulness. At best, it is a good place to go to find other, more trustworthy references. It is good to be very careful using it as a reference.

Thanx for voicing your opinions and the well-written letter.

hb

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Tyler Goodman 1 year, 6 months ago

Mr. Basbinski,

“One who does not know his history is doomed to repeat it”

Even though Washington’s words were written in the late 18th century it does not mean they have no reverence today. He addressed fundamental elements of our federal government that still exist: the party system, public credit, foreign alliances, and military establishment. Although the actually machinery of these elements have changed through the years they still start and end in the same natural law the constitution is based in. The debt of the first generation of the union could have passed to the next generation as debits could (and will) pass from today’s generation to it’s next.

Your memory is apparently very short. Currently congress is fairly well balanced. However the two years after the 2008 elections: it wasn’t, one party dominated. What happened? We got a huge new government entitlement of which nobody really understands except for the fact it means higher taxes; paralyzing the capital that gives this country it’s strength. Not to mention it had little to do with the actual crisis of the moment. The separation of powers (which Washington talked about) kicked in and what happened: a butch of people got elected in 2010 with the mandate to stop what was happening. The president refuses to acknowledge this union was designed in a manner that his opposition will almost always be nearly as strong as he is. It’s time he reconciles with this and makes it work.

To your last point, the single fact that information comes from Wikipedia does not immediately discredit its accuracy. There are in fact lots of people checking the site for accuracy and truthfulness. With a high profile event as this we can take the information with a degree of confidence. In case you still don’t agree, here’s a link to Washington’s farewell address:

http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp

Here you’ll find the same points referenced by Mr. Campbell that ring stingingly true in our democracy of today from a source you’ll hopefully respect.

TG

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Howard Bashinski 1 year, 6 months ago

Hi TG,

You make excellent points!

I did not mean to suggest that Washington's comments are irrelevant. I was just trying to say that they need to be viewed in context, and can't be directly applied to the realities of today.

With respect to "one-party rule," with the exception of time frame you indicate, and the two terms of President Clinton, the Republican party has been in power since President Reagan was elected in 1980. That's 22 of the past 32 years.

And the Republicans ran up huge deficits during those years. As an example, http://federal-budget.findthedata.org/ indicates that in the year before President Clinton took office, the United States posted a 290 billion dollar deficit. By the end of the eight Clinton years, this had been turned in to a 236 billion dollar surplus. The debts of this generation are not always passed to the next.

By the end of the presidency of George W. Bush, the deficit was 459 billion. Also, the largest single entitlement program ever created was the Medicare Part D insurance coverage passed by a Republican congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush.

The deficit now is over a trillion dollars. Both parties seem to be trying to outdo each other! :)

My last point was about using Wikipedia in general; I did not say that the information in the original letter to the editor was inaccurate. This is just the teacher in me...

Thanx for your comments. I appreciate the opportunity for rational discourse!!

hb

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