George Washington's Pillars of Liberty

From “The Wisdom of George Washington” by Diana Schaub at Defining Ideas:

The Union comes first. As “a main Pillar” of independence, the “continuance of the Union” ought to be “a primary object of Patriotic desire.” Washington says that the nation “has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American . . . must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations.” The only two words in the Address to appear in all capital letters are “Union” and “American.” It becomes clear why the date line of the Farewell Address specified the location simply as “United States” rather than the usual Philadelphia or Mt. Vernon. Washington may be retiring to Mt. Vernon but he does so as an American not a Virginian.

For Washington, patriotism is a matter of “sympathy,” but not only sympathy. He supplements the cordial attachment of North and South, East and West, with “the most commanding motives,” namely those of immediate commercial interest. He shows how regional interdependence generates “an indissoluble community of interest asone Nation.” This appeal to Union, compounded of both sense and sensibility, culminates in Washington’s first warning against sectionalism and the “designing men” who would capitalize on geographic differences to divide and alienate affections rather than bridge them. Washington admits that political fraternity on such a large scale is an experiment, but as such, “’Tis well worth a fair and full experiment.” We are authorized to “distrust the patriotism” of the parochial naysayers.


Read the whole thing, and check out where Washington ranks on Dave Forsmark’s list of the 7 Most Badass Founding Fathers here.


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