January 24: Presidents (The Future)

January 24
Presidents

68.

The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith.

~Franklin Delano Roosevelt

69.

We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.

~Franklin Delano Roosevelt

70.

The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.

~Andrew Johnson (1865–1869)

future 2mb

January 2: “The President” by Day Williams

THE PRESIDENT

 

To lead a nation means to sacrifice

The private life, where joy and calm increase,

For open hell and public paradise,

With every word and act a centerpiece.

 

The President‘s an anchor and a light,

The man who executes the rules and codes,

Commander of the military might,

A guard of freedom, pioneer of roads.

 

Without a vision people fall and die,

Without good leaders nations will decay,

But when the trust’s in God, He’ll multiply

His blessings to the people’s work and play.

 

May God provide a ruler to preside

With dreams and deeds that push the past aside.

December 22: Quotations of George Washington

1750s

  • Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.
    • Letter to Governor Dinwiddie (29 May 1754)
  • Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.
    • Letter of Instructions to the Captains of the Virginia Regiments (29 July 1759)

1770s

  • The General is sorry to be informed —, that the foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing, a vice heretofore little known in an American army, is growing into a fashion; — he hopes the officers will, by example as well as influence, endeavor to check it, and that both they and the men will reflect that we can have little hope of the blessing of Heaven on our arms, if we insult it by impiety and folly; added to this, it is a vice so mean and low, without any temptation, that every man of sense and character detests and despises it.
  • Unhappy it is though to reflect, that a Brother’s Sword has been sheathed in a Brother’s breast, and that, the once happy and peaceful plains of America are either to be drenched with Blood, or Inhabited by Slaves. Sad alternative! But can a virtuous Man hesitate in his choice?
  • But lest some unlucky event should happen unfavorable to my reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every gentleman in the room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with.
    • Washington’s formal acceptance of command of the Army (16 June 1775), quoted in The Writings of George Washington : Life of Washington (1837) edited by Jared Sparks, p. 141
  • Every post is honorable in which a man can serve his country.
  • The reflection upon my situation, and that of this army, produces many an uneasy hour, when all around me are wrapped in sleep. Few people know the predicament we are in, on a thousand accounts; fewer still will believe, if any disaster happens to these lines, from what cause it flows. I have often thought how much happier I should have been, if instead of accepting of a command under such circumstances, I had taken my musket upon my shoulders and entered the rank, or if I could have justified the measure of posterity, and my own conscience, had retired to the back country, and lived in a wigwam. If I shall be able to rise superior to these, and many other difficulties which might be enumerated, I shall most religiously believe that the finger of Providence is in it, to blind the eyes of our enemies; for surely if we get well through this month, it must be for want of their knowing the disadvantages we labor under. Could I have foreseen the difficulties which have come upon us, could I have known that such a backwardness would have been discovered in the old soldiers to the service, all the generals upon earth should not have convinced me of the propriety of delaying an attack upon Boston till this time.
    • In a letter to Joseph Reed, during the siege of Boston (14 January 1776), quoted in History of the Siege of Boston, and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill (1849) by Richard Frothingham, p. 286

Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all.

  • To expect … the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits, as from veteran soldiers, is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen. Men, who are familiarized to danger, meet it without shrinking; whereas troops unused to service often apprehend danger where no danger is.
    • Letter to the President of Congress (9 February 1776)
  • Let us therefore animate and encourage each other, and show the whole world that a Freeman, contending for liberty on his own ground, is superior to any slavish mercenary on earth.
    • General Orders, Headquarters, New York (2 July 1776)
  • The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.
    • General Order (9 July 1776) George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress, 1741-1799: Series 3g Varick Transcripts
  • The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be freemen or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their houses and farms are to be pillaged and destroyed, and themselves consigned to a state of wretchedness from which no human efforts will deliver them. The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most abject submission. We have, therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.

The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army . . .

  • There is nothing that gives a man consequence, and renders him fit for command, like a support that renders him independent of everybody but the State he serves.
    • Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776)
  • To place any dependence upon militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life – unaccustomed to the din of arms – totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill, which being followed by a want of confidence in themselves when opposed to troops regularly trained, disciplined, and appointed, superior in knowledge, and superior in arms, makes them timid and ready to fly from their own shadows.
    • Letter to the president of Congress, Heights of Harlem (24 September 1776)

If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us . . .

  • My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than can be reasonably expected; but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you probably can never do under any other circumstances.
    • Encouraging his men to re-enlist in the army (31 December 1776)
  • A great and lasting war can never be supported on this principle [patriotism] alone. It must be aided by a prospect of interest, or some reward.
    • Letter to John Banister. Valley Forge, April 21, 1778.
  • While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.
    • General Orders (2 May 1778); published in Writings of George Washington (1932), Vol.XI, pp. 342-343
  • It is not a little pleasing, nor less wonderful to contemplate, that after two years’ manoeuvring and undergoing the strangest vicissitudes, that perhaps ever attended any one contest since the creation, both armies are brought back to the very point they set out from, and that which was the offending party in the beginning is now reduced to the use of the spade and pickaxe for defence.The hand of Providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations. But it will be time enough for me to turn preacher, when my present appointment ceases…
    • Letter to Brigadier-General Nelson, 20 August 1778, in Ford’s Writings of George Washington (1890), vol. VII, p. 161. Part of this is often attached to a fragment of a letter to John Armstrong of 11 March 1782; it is also often prefaced with the spurious “governing without God” sentence, as this 1867 example from Henry Wilson (Testimonies of American Statesmen and Jurists to the Truths of Christianity) shows:
      • It is impossible to govern the world without God. It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly implore his protection and favor. I am sure there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during the revolution; or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of Him, who is alone able to protect them. He must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.
  • It gives me very sincere pleasure to find that there is likely to be a coalition of the Whigs in your State (a few only excepted) and that the Assembly of it, are so well disposed to second your endeavors in bringing those murderers of our cause—the Monopolizers—forestallers—& Engrossers—to condign punishment. It is much to be lamented that each State, long ’ere this, has not hunted them down as the pests of Society, & the greatest enemies we have, to the happiness of America. I would to God that one of the most attrocious in each State was hung in Gibbets, up on a gallows five times as high as the one prepared by Haman—No punishment, in my opinion, is too great for the Man, who can build “his greatness upon his Country’s ruin.”
    • George Washington to Joseph Reed, 12 December 1778, Founders Online, National Archives. Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 18, 1 November 1778 – 14 January 1779, ed. Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2008, pp. 396–398. Page images at American Memory (Library of Congress)
  • In the last place, though first in importance I shall ask—is there any thing doing, or that can be done to restore the credit of our currency? The depreciation of it is got to so alarming a point—that a waggon load of money will scarcely purchase a waggon load of provision.
    • Letter to John Jay, 23 April 1779, Founders Online, National Archives. Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 20, 8 April–31 May 1779, ed. Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, p. 177. Also found in The Life John Jay With Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers. by His Son, William Jay in Two Volumes, Vol. II., 1833
  • Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
    • Letter to Major-General Robert Howe (17 August 1779), published in “The Writings of George Washington”: 1778-1779, edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (1890)
    • Paraphrased variants:
    • Few men have the virtue to withstand the highest bidder.
    • Few men have virtue enough to withstand the highest bidder
  • Know my good friend that no distance can keep anxious lovers long asunder, and that the wonders of former ages may be revived in this — But alas! will you not remark that amidst all the wonders recorded in holy writ no instance can be produced where a young Woman from real inclination has prefered an old man — This is so much against me that I shall not be able I fear to contest the prize with you — yet, under the encouragement you have given me I shall enter the list for so inestimable a jewell.
  • A slender acquaintance with the world must convince every man, that actions, not words, are the true criterion of the attachment of his friends, and that the most liberal professions of good will are very far from being the surest marks of it. I should be happy that my own experience had afforded fewer examples of the little dependence to be placed upon them.
    • Letter to Major-General John Sullivan (15 December 1779), published in The Writings of George Washington (1890) by Worthington Chauncey Ford, Vol. 8, p. 139

Letter to Phyllis Wheatley (1776)[edit]

I shall be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses, and to whomNature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations.

Letter to Phyllis Wheatley (28 February 1776)
  • Mrs. Phillis: Your favour of the 26th of October did not reach my hands ’till the middle of December. Time enough, you will say, to have given an answer ere this. Granted. But a variety of important occurrences, continually interposing to distract the mind and withdraw the attention, I hope will apologize for the delay, and plead my excuse for the seeming, but not real neglect.
  • I thank you most sincerely for your polite notice of me, in the elegant Lines you enclosed; and however undeserving I may be of such encomium and panegyrick, the style and manner exhibit a striking proof of your great poetical Talents. In honour of which, and as a tribute justly due to you, I would have published the Poem, had I not been apprehensive, that, while I only meant to give the World this new instance of your genius, I might have incurred the imputation of Vanity. This and nothing else, determined me not to give it place in the public Prints.
  • If you should ever come to Cambridge, or near Head Quarters, I shall be happy to see a person so favoured by the Muses, and to whom Nature has been so liberal and beneficent in her dispensations. I am, with great Respect, etc.

1780s[edit]

America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of allNations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges.

  • [A]bolish the name and appearance of a Black Corps.
    • Recommendations to reorganize two Rhode Island regiments into integrated rather than segregated groups, in a letter to Major General William Heath (29 July 1780), in The Writings of George Washington, 19:93. According to historian Robert A. Selig, the Continental Army exhibited a degree of integration not reached by the American army again for 200 years (until after World War II).
  • Example, whether it be good or bad, has a powerful influence.
    • Letter to Lord Stirling (5 March 1780)
  • The many remarkable interpositions of the divine government, in the hours of our deepest distress and darkness, have been too luminous to suffer me to doubt the happy issue of the present contest.
  • The Commander in Chief earnestly recommends that the troops not on duty should universally attend with that seriousness of Deportment and gratitude of Heart which the recognition of such reiterated and astonishing interpositions of Providence demand of us.
    • Notes on general orders to the the troops, (20 October 1781), as quoted in The Writings of George Washington (1835) edited by Jared Sparks, Vol. 8, p. 189
  • Without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive. And with it, everything honorable and glorious.
  • I am sure there never was a people, who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs, than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe, that they have forgotten that agency, which was so often manifested during our revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God, who is alone able to protect them.
    • Letter to John Armstrong, 11 March 1782, in Ford’s Writings of George Washington (1891), vol. XII, p. 111. This is frequently attached to part of a letter to Brigadier-General Nelson of 20 August 1778, as in this 1864 example from B. F. Morris, The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States, pp. 33-34:
      • I am sure that there never was a people who had more reason to acknowledge a divine interposition in their affairs than those of the United States; and I should be pained to believe that they have forgotten that agency which was so often manifested during the Revolution, or that they failed to consider the omnipotence of that God who is alone able to protect them. He must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations.
  • Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence; true friendship is a plant of slow growth, and must undergo and withstand the shocks of adversity before it is entitled to the appellation.
  • Do not conceive that fine Clothes make fine Men, any more than fine feathers make fine Birds—A plain genteel dress is more admired and obtains more credit than lace & embroidery in the Eyes of the judicious and sensible.
  • If men are to be precluded from offering their sentiments on a matter which may involve the most serious and alarming consequences that can invite the consideration of mankind, reason is of no use to us; the freedom of speech may be taken away, and dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.
    • Address to officers of the Army (15 March 1783)
  • Happy, thrice happy shall they be pronounced hereafter, who have contributed any thing, who have performed the meanest office in erecting this stupendous fabrick of Freedom and Empire on the broad basis of Independency; who have assisted in protecting the rights of humane nature and establishing an Asylum for the poor and oppressed of all nations and religions.
    • General Orders (18 April 1783)
  • It may be laid down, as a primary position, and the basis of our system, that every citizen who enjoys the protection of a free government, owes not only a proportion of his property, but even of his personal services to the defence of it, and consequently that the Citizens of America (with a few legal and official exceptions) from 18 to 50 Years of Age should be borne on the Militia Rolls, provided with uniform Arms, and so far accustomed to the use of them, that the Total strength of the Country might be called forth at Short Notice on any very interesting Emergency.
    • “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment” in a letter to Alexander Hamilton (2 May 1783); published in The Writings of George Washington (1938), edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 26, p. 289
  • I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government; to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow citizens of the United States at large; and, particularly, for their brethren who have served in the Geld; and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacifick temper of the mind, which were the characteristicks of the divine Author of our blessed religion ; without an humble imitation of whose example, in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation.
    • Circular Letter to the Governours of the several States (18 June 1783). Misreported as “I make it my constant prayer that God would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind, which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion; without a humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy nation”, in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert,Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895), p. 315
  • The bosom of America is open to receive not only the Opulent and respectable Stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all Nations And Religions; whom we shall wellcome to a participation of all our rights and previleges, if by decency and propriety of conduct they appear to merit the enjoyment.
    • Letter to the members of the Volunteer Association and other Inhabitants of the Kingdom of Ireland who have lately arrived in the City of New York (2 December 1783), as quoted in John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington (1938), vol. 27, p. 254.
  • Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
    • Address to Congress resigning his commission (23 December 1783)
  • I am become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac, and under the shadow of my own Vine and my own Fig-tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the Soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame, the Statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all, and the Courtier who is always watching the countenance of his Prince, in hopes of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception. I am not only retired from all public employments, but I am retiring within myself; and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this my dear friend, being the order for my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, until I sleep with my Fathers.
  • A people… who are possessed of the spirit of commerce, who see and who will pursue their advantages may achieve almost anything.

Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last…

  • Democratical States must always feel before they can see: it is this that makes their Governments slow, but the people will be right at last.
  • As the complexion of European politics seems now (from letters I have received from the Marqs. de la Fayette, Chevrs. Chartellux, De la Luzerne, &c.,) to have a tendency to Peace, I will say nothing of war, nor make any animadversions upon the contending powers; otherwise, I might possibly have said that the retreat from it seemed impossible after the explicit declaration of the parties: My first wish is to see this plague to mankind banished from off the Earth, and the sons and Daughters of this world employed in more pleasing and innocent amusements, than in preparing implements and exercising them for the destruction of mankind: rather than quarrel about territory let the poor, the needy and oppressed of the Earth, and those who want Land, resort to the fertile plains of our western country, the second Promise, and there dwell in peace, fulfilling the first and great commandment.
    • Letter to David Humphreys (25 July 1785), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 28, pp. 202-3. The W. W. Abbot transcription (given at Founders Online) differs slightly:
      • My first wish is, to see this plague to Mankind banished from the Earth; & the Sons & daughters of this World employed in more pleasing & innocent amusements than in preparing implements, & exercising them for the destruction of the human race.

So far as I am acquainted with the principles & Doctrines of Free Masonry, I conceive it to be founded in benevolence and to be exercised only for the good of mankind.

  • My manner of living is plain. I do not mean to be put out of it. A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready; and such as will be content to partake of them are always welcome. Those, who expect more, will be disappointed, but no change will be effected by it.
    • Letter to George William Fairfax (25 June 1786), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 175.
  • There is not a man living who wishes more sincerely than I do, to see a plan adopted for the abolition of slavery.
  • If you tell the Legislatures they have violated the treaty of peace and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things cannot go on in the same train forever. It is much to be feared, as you observe, that the better kind of people being disgusted with the circumstances will have their minds prepared for any revolution whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To anticipate & prevent disasterous contingencies would be the part of wisdom & patriotism.
    What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking, thence to acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable & tremendous! What a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal & falacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.
    Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I cannot feel myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet having happily assisted in bringing the ship into port & having been fairly discharged; it is not my business to embark again on a sea of troubles. Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have much weight on the minds of my Countrymen — they have been neglected, tho’ given as a last legacy in the most solemn manner. I had then perhaps some claims to public attention. I consider myself as having none at present.

  • Altho’ I pretend to no peculiar information respecting commercial affairs, nor any foresight into the scenes of futurity; yet as the member of an infant-empire, as a Philanthropist by character, and (if I may be allowed the expression) as a Citizen of the great republic of humanity at large; I cannot help turning my attention sometimes to this subject. I would be understood to mean, I cannot avoid reflecting with pleasure on the probable influence that commerce may here after have on human manners & society in general. On these occasions I consider how mankind may be connected like one great family in fraternal ties—I endulge a fond, perhaps an enthusiastic idea, that as the world is evidently much less barbarous than it has been, its melioration must still be progressive—that nations are becoming more humanized in their policy—that the subjects of ambition & causes for hostility are daily diminishing—and in fine, that the period is not very remote when the benefits of a liberal & free commerce will, pretty generally, succeed to the devastations & horrors of war.
    • “From George Washington to Lafayette, 15 August 1786,” Founders Online, National Archives Source: The Papers of George Washington, Confederation Series, vol. 4,2 April 1786 – 31 January 1787, ed. W. W. Abbot. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995, pp. 214–216. Page scan at American Memory (Library of Congress)
  • If they have real grievances redress them, if possible; or acknowledge the justice of them, and your inability to do it at the moment. If they have not, employ the force of government against them at once.
  • The only stipulations I shall contend for are, that in all things you shall do as you please. I will do the same; and that no ceremony may be used or any restraint be imposed on any one.
    • Letter to David Humphreys, inviting him to an indefinite stay at Mt. Vernon (10 October 1787), as published in Life and Times of David Humphreys (1917) by Frank Landon Humphreys, Vol. I, p. 426
  • Your young military men, who want to reap the harvest of laurels, don’t care (I suppose) how many seeds of war are sown; but for the sake of humanity it is devoutly to be wished, that the manly employment of agriculture and the humanizing benefits of commerce, would supersede the waste of war and the rage of conquest; that the swords might be turned into plough-shares, the spears into pruning hooks, and, as the Scripture expresses it, “the nations learn war no more.”
    • Letter to Marquis de Chastellux (25 April 1788), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 29, p. 485
  • I hope I shall possess firmness and virtue enough to maintain what I consider the most enviable of all titles, the character of an honest man.
  • The unfortunate condition of the persons, whose labour in part I employed, has been the only unavoidable subject of regret. To make the Adults among them as easy & as comfortable in their circumstances as their actual state of ignorance & improvidence would admit; & to lay a foundation to prepare the rising generation for a destiny different from that in which they were born; afforded some satisfaction to my mind, & could not I hoped be displeasing to the justice of the Creator.
  • The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institutions may be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some instances be made subservient to the vilest of purposes. Should, hereafter, those who are intrusted with the management of this government, incited by the lust of power & prompted by the supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact among men (however provident in its construction & sacred in its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting and inviolable—and if I may so express myself, that no wall of words—that no mound of parchmt can be so formed as to stand against the sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the one side, aided by the sapping current of corrupted morals on the other.
    • p. 34 of a draft of a discarded and undelivered version of his first inaugural address (30 April 1789)
  • Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station; it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the People of the United States, a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes: and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success, the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either. No People can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand, which conducts the Affairs of men more than the People of the United States. Every step, by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation, seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency. And in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their United Government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be compared with the means by which most Governments have been established, without some return of pious gratitude along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage.
    • First Inaugural Address (30 April 1789), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 30, pp. 292-3

The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties…

  • I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire: since there is no truth more thoroughly established, than that there exists in the oeconomy and course of nature, an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness, between duty and advantage, between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy, and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity: Since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven, can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained: And since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the Republican model of Government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.
    • First Inaugural Address (30 April 1789), published in The Writings of George Washington, edited by John C. Fitzpatrick, Vol. 30, pp. 294-5
  • For myself the delay may be compared with a reprieve; for in confidence I assure you, with the world it would obtain little credit thatmy movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution: so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities and inclination which is necessary to manage the helm.
    • Comment to General Henry Knox on the delay in assuming office (March 1789)
  • The satisfaction arising from the indulgent opinion entertained by the American People of my conduct, will, I trust, be some security for preventing me from doing any thing, which might justly incur the forfeiture of that opinion. And the consideration that human happiness and moral duty are inseparably connected, will always continue to prompt me to promote the progress of the former, by inculcating the practice of the latter.

For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

The due administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good Government.

Response to the First Newburgh Address (1783)[edit]

Response to the first Newburgh Address (15 March 1783).
  • Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country.

Had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining…

  • You will, by the dignity of your Conduct, afford occasion for Posterity to say, when speaking of the glorious example you have exhibited to Mankind, had this day been wanting, the World had never seen the last stage of perfection to which human nature is capable of attaining.
    • Response to the first Newburgh Address (15 March 1783)

1790s[edit]

  • The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
    May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.

    • Letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island (1790)
  • To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
    • First Annual Address, to both Houses of Congress (8 January 1790).
    • Compare: “Qui desiderat pacem præparet bellum” (translated: “Who would desire peace should be prepared for war”), Vegetius,Rei Militari 3, Prolog.; “In pace, ut sapiens, aptarit idonea bello” (translated: “In peace, as a wise man, he should make suitable preparation for war”), Horace, Book ii. satire ii.

All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.

  • A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.
    • First Annual Address, to both House of Congress (8 January 1790)
  • All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.
    • Letter to Catherine Macaulay Graham (9 January 1790)
  • As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow, that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the Community are equally entitled to the protection of civil Government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.
  • It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
    • Letter to his niece, Harriet Washington (30 October 1791)
  • Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause; and I was not without hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy of the present age would have put an effectual stop to contentions of this kind.
  • Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. I had hoped that liberal and enlightened thought would have reconciled the Christians so that their religious fights would not endanger the peace of Society.

  • As misquoted in The Conservative Soul : How We Lost It, How to Get It Back (2006) by Andrew Sullivan, p. 131

The milder virtues of the heart are highly respected by a society whoseliberal principles must be founded in the immediate laws of truth and justice. To enlarge the sphere of socialhappiness is worthy the benevolentdesign of the Masonic Institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications which discover the principles which actuate them may tend to convince Mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.

  • Flattering as it may be to the human mind, & truly honorable as it is to receive from our fellow citizens testimonies of approbation for exertions to promote the public welfare; it is not less pleasing to know that the milder virtues of the heart are highly respected by asociety whose liberal principles must be founded in the immediate laws of truth and justice. To enlarge the sphere of social happinessis worthy the benevolent design of the Masonic Institution; and it is most fervently to be wished, that the conduct of every member of the fraternity, as well as those publications which discover the principles which actuate them may tend to convince Mankind that the grand object of Masonry is to promote the happiness of the human race.
  • We have abundant reason to rejoice, that, in this land, the light of truth and reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age, & in this land of equal liberty, it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.
    Your prayers for my present and future felicity are received with gratitude; and I sincerely wish, Gentlemen, that you may in your social and individual capacities taste those blessings, which a gracious God bestows upon the righteous.

  • The friends of humanity will deprecate War, wheresoever it may appear; and we have experience enough of its evils, in this country, to know, that it should not be wantonly or unnecessarily entered upon. I trust, that the good citizens of the United States will show to the world, that they have as much wisdom in preserving peace at this critical juncture, as they have hitherto displayed valor in defending their just rights.
    • Address to the merchants of Philadelphia (16 May 1793), published in The Writings Of George Washington (1835) by Jared Sparks, p. 202
  • If we desire to avoid insult, we must be able to repel it; if we desire to secure peace, one of the most powerful instruments of our rising prosperity, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war
  • I am very glad to hear that the Gardener has saved so much of the St. foin seed, and that of the India Hemp. Make the most you can of both, by sowing them again in drills. . . Let the ground be well prepared, and the Seed (St. loin) be sown in April. The Hemp may be sown any where.
    • George Washington in a note to his gardener at Mount Vernon (1794), The Writings of George Washington, Volume 33, page 270 (Library of Congress).
    • This quote is often confused with Make the most of the Indian hemp seed, and sow it everywhere! George Washington Spurious Quotations
  • When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes impressed with it insensibly.
    • Letter to Edmund Pendleton (22 January 1795)
  • Rise early, that by habit it may become familiar, agreeable, healthy, and profitable. It may, for a while, be irksome to do this, but that will wear off; and the practice will produce a rich harvest forever thereafter; whether in public or private walks of life.
    • Letter to George Washington Parke Custis (7 January 1798)

I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world…

  • It is infinitely better to have a few good men than many indifferent ones.
    • Letter to James McHenry (10 August 1798)
  • I have heard much of the nefarious, & dangerous plan, & doctrines of the Illuminati, but never saw the Book until you were pleased to send it to me. The same causes which have prevented my acknowledging the receipt of your letter, have prevented my reading the Book, hitherto; namely — the multiplicity of matters which pressed upon me before, & the debilitated state in which I was left after, a severe fever had been removed. And which allows me to add little more now, than thanks for your kind wishes and favourable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into, of my Presiding over the English lodges in this Country. The fact is, I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice, within the last thirty years. I believe notwithstandings, that none of the Lodges in this Country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the Society of the Illuminati.
  • It was not my intention to doubt that, the Doctrines of the Illuminati, and principles of Jacobinism had not spread in the United States. On the contrary, no one is more truly satisfied of this fact than I am.
    The idea that I meant to convey, was, that I did not believe that the Lodges of Free Masons in this Country had, as Societies, endeavoured to propagate the diabolical tenets of the first, or pernicious principles of the latter (if they are susceptible of seperation). That Individuals of them may have done it, or that the founder, or instrument employed to found, the Democratic Societies in the United States, may have had these objects; and actually had a seperation of the People from their Government in view, is too evident to be questioned.

  • As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality.
  • To sell the overplus I cannot, because I am principled against this kind of traffic in the human species. To hire them out, is almost as bad, because they could not be disposed of in families to any advantage, and to disperse the families I have an aversion. What then is to be done? Something must or I shall be ruined; for all the money (in addition to what I raise by Crops, and rents) that have been received for Lands, sold within the last four years, to the amount of Fifty thousand dollars, has scarcely been able to keep me a float.
    • Letter to Robert Lewis, 18 August 1799, published in John Clement Fitzpatrick, The writings of George Washington from the original manuscript sources, volume 37, pp. 338-9
  • I die hard but am not afraid to go. I believed from my first attack that I should not survive it — my breath cannot last long.
    • The first sentence here is sometimes presented as being his last statement before dying, but they are reported as part of the fuller statement, and as being said in the afternoon prior to his death in Life of Washington (1859) by Washington Irving, and his actual last words are stated to have been those reported by Tobias Lear below.
  • Tis well.
    • Washington’s last words, as recorded by Tobias Lear, in his journal (14 December 1799). Washington said this after being satisfied that precautions would be taken against his being buried prematurely:
About ten o’clk he made several attempts to speak to me before he could effect it, at length he said, — “I am just going. Have me decently buried; and do not let my body be put into the Vault in less than three days after I am dead.” I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, “Do you understand me? I replied “Yes.” “Tis well” said he.

  • A conflation of the last two quotes has also sometimes been reported as his last statement: “It is well. I die hard but am not afraid to go”.

Letter to Catharine Macaulay Graham (1790)[edit]

Letter to Catharine Macaulay Graham (9 January 1790), New York.
  • The establishment of our new government seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by a reasonable compact in civil society. It was to be in the first instance, in a considerable degree, a government of accommodation as well as a government of laws. Much was to be done by prudence, much by conciliation, much by firmness. Few, who are not philosophical spectators, can realize the difficult and delicate part, which a man in my situation had to act. All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external happiness of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it beyond the lustre, which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.

Farewell Address (1796)[edit]

I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it…

The Farewell Address (17 September 1796) Full text at Wikisource
  • Every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
  • Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
    The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize.
  • It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.

Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.

Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.

  • While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighbouring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
  • One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection.
  • To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns.
  • The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. 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.

It is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness.

  • I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
  • The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
  • The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
    It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.

Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.

  • Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity.
    • The Internet document known as “History Forgotten” or “Forsaken Roots” misquotes the opening of this section as follows: “It is impossible to govern the world without God and the Bible. Of all the dispositions and habits that lead to political prosperity, our religion and morality are the indispensable supports.”
  • Let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
  • It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule, indeed, extends with more or less force to every species of free government.
  • Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
  • As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear.

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports.

  • Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue?
  • Nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests.

In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened…

  • Real Patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favourite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests. (Note: spelling/capitalization likely original.[1]).
  • 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 connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
  • ‘Tis 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.
  • There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation.

Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all.

  • Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest.
  • In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
    • This has sometimes been misquoted as: Guard against the postures of pretended patriotism.
  • The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.
  • Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Posthumous attributions

Nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.

  • So, there lies the brave de Kalb. The generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles and to water with his blood the tree of liberty. Would to God he had lived to share its fruits!
  • Not only do I pray for it, on the score of human dignity, but I can clearly forsee that nothing but the rooting out of slavery can perpetuate the existence of our union, by consolidating it in a common bond of principle.
    • Attributed to George Washington, John Bernard, Retrospections of America, 1797–1811, p. 91 (1887). This is from Bernard’s account of a conversation he had with Washington in 1798. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).

Spray in the Strife

Spray in the Strife

I read fake news today oh boy
Another hit piece on the D.C. King;
And as the piece was by a cad
Known as a deadbeat dad,
The story didn’t add

Up, being shallow and bizarre;
It claimed he had some Russian friends–so strange
Because the writer seemed impaired;
I’d read his trash before;
None doubted that he’d been procured
By bankers and a sorcerer.

I watched a vid today, oh boy;
The Company had pushed another war;
A crowd of criminals found ways
To cook the black op books,
Having paid the crooks.
I’d love to cuff your pawns.

Spoke up, they censored me,
Tagged for saying let’s be free;
Pushed around and sprayed while cops stood down;
And frowning much, I noticed that I bled.
They stole my coat like spoiled brats,
Boarded the bus like desert rats;
Flipped me off and glared like crazy folks;
Somebody joked about their brutal schemes.

I read fake news today oh boy
Ten thousand holes in every article
And though the holes had grown each hour,
They shoved them in the shower.
Now they know how many holes it takes to make the Langley power.
I’d love to cuff your pawns.

~Day Williams

 

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), poem by Day Williams

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

(Feb. 12, 1809–April 15, 1865)

Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

I.

Obedient to Father God’s command,

Aware that I am dust and ashes borne

Through space at speeds I cannot comprehend,

I ask the Holy Spirit to relate
Through me, a sinner saved by grace not works,
How God has moved through history in men

And women who were individuals
With courage and resolve to follow Him.
For wisdom is to let God lead and love,

As Dante welcomed God’s control and grace,
And Milton called the Spirit as his guide,
And if another has a higher art

In any language known on Planet Earth
Or in the voids that humans overcome,
Let there be light upon his worth and works,

Let him reflect the glory of the Lord,
Who made the heavens and the earth, produced
The man from dust of ground, and made a soul

That lived by breathing in his nostrils breath
Of life, that he could be a friend of God.
How character is formed is mystery

To us who look from outside in, at acts
Instead of soul and spirit, though by words
And actions men express their inner springs.

With outward signs historians must be
Content, and poets may surmise the words
And thoughts which records fail to show, until

The day when all’s revealed, the veil’s removed,
The Bride of Christ is face to face with God.
For wisdom is to know the will of God

And follow it in truth and holiness,
In love that sacrifices selfish gain,
As character is formed in that pursuit.

II.
Where greatness starts is hard to know–is it
Predestined from before the miracle
We call conception in the way that God

Told Jeremiah his prophetic call
Was known before he was within the womb?
God can raise men of greatness from all walks

Of life, from palaces and shepherds’ fields.
From desert lands He raised up Abram, who
Lived by his faith, and changed his name when He

Promised that Abraham would have a son
And would be nations’ father, though his wife
Was ninety years of age, too old to bear

A child unless the Lord did miracles.
When called to sacrifice the promised child,
The father trusted God and raised his knife

In his obedience to kill his son,
And God rewarded his devoted heart
By sparing Isaac’s life, and gave a ram

Which substituted as the sacrifice.
Almost four thousand years passed by (between
Them was the birth, the ministry, the death

And resurrection of the Lamb of God)
Until another Abraham was born
To Tom and Nancy Lincoln, pioneers,

In a Kentucky cabin built of logs
That had one door, a floor of pressed-down dirt,
One window and a chimney made of sticks

And clay that carried smoke to winter skies.
“He’ll never come to much,” said Dennis Hanks,
The uncle of the homely child who wailed

At entry to a world of sin and blood.
A man has seldom been more incorrect,
For this new Abraham would learn of strength

Through secret power in obedience.
Young Abe grew tall on bacon and salt pork,
Wild turkey, venison, hot bread and cakes,

Which Nancy cooked on iron pots and pans.
His father tilled the land with wooden plow
To grow his corn and beans while Abe cut wood

And stacked the logs, packed coals, and kindled fires.
A lawsuit over title to the land
Encouraged Thomas Lincoln to remove

(A future lawyer in his family)
To Perry County, Indiana soil
Where settlements were sparse, and earth was rich.

III.

But milksickness took Nancy Lincoln’s life
At thirty-six, Abe whittling pine wood pegs
That held together planks the men had shaped

For Nancy’s coffin, and they buried her
Beside a path where deer ran through the woods.
The boy, who would in manhood hold a house

Together as it warred against itself,
Whose words would consecrate a battlefield,
Shed tears when Tom and Dennis buried her,

His childhood dying on a winter day.
His heart alone could understand its grief.
In thirteen months Tom married Sally Bush,

Who took a liking to young Abe, acquired
New clothes for him, and prompted him to read.
Abe read the Bible–source of Lincoln’s style

And love of righteousness declared in law–
And Pilgrim’s Progress, Life of Washington,
Aesop’s Fables, history, and DeFoe.

The home-schooled boy and future President
Grew up in Indiana, and became
A storyteller and a wit who worked

On farms, on flatboats and in blacksmith shops,
A man experienced at many tasks
And comfortable with people high and low.

On Sundays people went to meeting, men
Attired in deerskin pants and moccasins,
The women dressed their best, and neighbors talked

Of hunting game, of crops and children’s growth,
Until the Baptist preacher took a text
And preached the Gospel to the backwoods folks.

God-breathed, inscribed by men in holy fear,
The Word of God is sharper than a two-
Edged sword: it penetrates to split the soul

And spirit, joints and marrow; it is judge
Of thoughts and attitudes of human hearts.
The preacher’s Word sliced through the heart and bones

Of unschooled folks who lived by faith not sight,
And made a home in Lincoln’s heart and mind.
In eighteen-thirty Abe packed up again,

Driving a wagon drawn by oxen team
North of the Sangamon in Illinois.
Now six foot four, two hundred fourteen pounds,

He won New Salem’s praise when he prevailed
Against a bully in a wrestling match.
When Chief Black Hawk rode with five hundred braves

Across the river, Lincoln volunteered,
For duty called, and he was strong and bold.
Elected captain of a company,

He led this band, this “hardest set of men,”
Into no battles, and he had to save
An Indian who wandered into camp

From frontier soldiers eager to destroy
All Indians, including friendly ones.
The man who would emancipate the slaves
Thus stood alone, as he would often stand
Alone, to guard against abuse of force,
Protecting innocence from injury,

Obedient to mercy’s higher law.
Back in civilian life, declared a Whig,
He dared to stand against the crowd,

For all the Jackson Democrats enjoyed
The popularity their President
Had gained as military superstar.

IV.

Upon defeat for public office, Abe
Took different jobs: he ran a general store
And managed a post office; he split rails,

Worked at a mill, and surveyed land, then ran
Again and won in eighteen-thirty-four
And eighteen thirty-six, an able hand

At politics who linked his words to strength.
No abolitionist, he took the road
Between extremes, and made no enemies.

In his spare moments at his store, he read
On principles in Blackstone’s works,
Reciting definitions of the rights,

The wrongs, and remedies in English law,
Going at law in earnest, reading books
Until his eyes were red and glazed as though

A fire was burning under strips of ice.
In later years he told the men who asked
About a course of study in the law,

“Your resolution to succeed is more
Vital than any other single thing.”
He read and worked, and was enrolled with oath,

Attorney and a counsellor at law.
Licensed to practice law in every court
In Illinois, he rode the Circuit, learned

To pay attention to minutiae, used
The law and common sense to sway the judge,
And won respect for fairness, honesty,

And arguments abundant in their wealth
Of illustrations, principles, and wit.
Committed to the law and public life,

Where records show successes and defeats,
His life is not so difficult to trace, except
For the events behind his romances

With women: Ann, who died of fever in
Her early years, and made a mumbling ghost
Of Lincoln; Mary Owens, who refused

To marry him; and Mary Todd, ten years
His junior, who repeated vows with him
Inside her sister’s home one winter day.

“Love is eternal” said the words inscribed
Upon the ring he gave to her, whose tongue
Could terrorize delivery boys and maids,

And taught sad Abraham longsuffering
And patience, virtues leaders must acquire
To persevere through blizzards, hail and rains.

V.

Sometimes the spirit in a man compels
His rise to greater altitudes, as when
Napoleon ascended to become

A General and Emperor of France.
Sometimes the Lord directly intervenes
And gives a mission to a person, as

When He persuaded Moses from within
A burning bush to rescue Israelites
From bondage to Egyptian tyranny;

And other times the tides in men’s affairs
Force new decisions, pressing men up high
To heights they never dreamed they would attain.

Thus Lincoln, married man and family man,
A leader in the bar of Illinois,
Would have remained to practice law, obscure,

Unrecognized, a lawyer with a wit–
If slavery had remained in status quo.
When Stephen Douglas introduced a bill

That could extend the evil, slavery, to
The territories, Lincoln was aroused,
And, ignorant that higher goals were his

In time, he spoke to re-elect a man
Who also wanted slavery kept apart
In Southern states, without new lands to claim.

In fifty-eight, debates began between
Contenders for a Senate seat in Illinois,
As Lincoln rose to bear his cross, and said,

“A house divided cannot stand,” the words
Of Jesus when the Pharisees declared
That He drove out the demons by the power

Of Satan, for the aim of Lincoln was
To keep the nation from a civil war
In which the demons dominated souls.

VI.

That men and women strive to force their wills
On other people, whether due to race,
Political belief, defenselessness,

Or other pretext for their prejudice,
Is proven throughout history, in Rome
And Caesar’s wars, and with Cortez and Mao,

The Nazis, Huns, Czars, Mongol hordes; that God
Allows oppression to bewilder men
So that His glory radiates in hearts

Is also shown in Gospel verse, as when
The Lamb of God, before His followers,
Restored his vision to the man born blind.

Their consciences consumed in lust for gold,
Slavetraders profited by selling blacks
From Africa to Southern men to till

Plantations, feed their stock, and pick their crops.
To right a wrong whose poison branches stretched
For several centuries is not achieved

By swinging axes at the trunk for one day.
For decades Abolitionists spoke out
Against the wickedness of slavery–

Such men as Lovejoy, Howe, and Garrison–
Who added kindling to the Yankee fire,
And then a preacher’s daughter wrote a book

That started flames across America.
The movement only needed one who’d die
To further human liberty, and God

Had one selected and reserved to give
His life to whip the flames of discontent.
Old Testament-styled prophet, radical,

John Brown had failed to spark a slave revolt,
But he knew how to die a martyr’s death,
And he foresaw that only blood would purge

The crimes committed by a guilty land,
With hands that planned to brand the runaways,
A land which had denied identities

To persons for the colors of the skins.
His body lay a-moulderin’ in the grave,
And few could see calamity ahead

When the conventions met with candidates,
With speeches, music, screams, parades and votes.
“The taste is in my mouth a little,” Abe

Reported to his friends who said he might
Be nominated for the President.
The moving hand of God in history

Selects the instruments at His command,
And no plan prospers counter to the will
Of God, the God of liberty, for where

The Holy Spirit is, is liberty.
Our knowledge of the push and pull
Of great events is colored when we know

Results participants could not foresee,
And nomination by Republicans
Of Lincoln as their candidate surprised

The politicians, though in retrospect
We see the choice was foreordained to save
The Union from division and defeat.

VII.

The candidate was born in dirt and sweat,
Had no political machine to match
His competition, but was known to be

A moderate, though this was less than true.
More zealous than a scientist who probes
The secrets of the universe with tests

And theories, Lincoln sought experiment
In Constitutional obedience.
As God gives grace to humble men, and strikes

The proud from heights, He lifted Lincoln up
As President to press experiment
Beyond the explanation of poor words,

For Lincoln told a group who wanted peace,
“The Constitution will not be preserved
Until obeyed in every part of each

Of the United States, let grass grow where it may.”
His rival, Douglas, from debates three years
Before, held Lincoln’s stovepipe hat for half

An hour as the new President addressed
The nation on the brink of civil war,
And asked his fellow countrymen to trust

In Him who never has forsaken this
Favored land to conduct them from distress.
A pragmatist and visionary, he

Summoned the mystic chords of memory
To swell the Union’s chorus and to touch
The better angels of our nature, which

Had disappeared before the year had closed:
The chorus sang angelic hymns no more,
And turned instead to cannons, swords and guns,

To blood and dust, to horses’ shrieks, to mud
And mangled limbs, death rattles, shallow graves,
To concentration camps and ships on fire,

To fury of the friendships severed by
The love of self and money, as hatred steamed
Like venomed vapors in a sulfur cave.

Insomniac, he wandered rooms at night,
Endured reports both false and true, relied
On Him whose favor rested yet on those

Who dared experiment with liberty,
The government not by the rights of kings,
Not by the swords of military coups,

But by the people, individuals
With common wisdom by the grace of God,
With wisdom’s seven pillars as support,

The liberty to worship God without
The persecution of the state, the chance
To speak their minds in public forums, the right

To plan, to build, to plant, to love, to move,
To earn a profit and to make a home
Unhampered by police and servicemen,

Or bureaucrats with guns to back their rules.
He saw the storm approach and knew the hand
Of God was in the winds and blackened clouds.

Confederates, who knew the Yankees had
Low food supplies inside their fort, discharged
Their guns and cannons, and set fires that made

The Union yield, beginning war which both
The sides believed would end in several months.
But John Brown saw the truth before his death:

To purge a country of its sins takes blood,
The blood of young and old, the blood of kind
And cruel, blood of innocence, the blood

Of wickedness, the blood of butchers’ sons
And daughters, blood of housewives, farmers, blacks
And whites, storekeepers, teachers, blacksmiths, blood

Of mothers, fathers, newlyweds, the blood
Of privates, generals, sailors, schoolboys, blood
Of horses, chickens, pigs, cows, dogs and mules,

The blood of slaves, the blood of Presidents.
The battles of Bull Run, Antietam Creek,
In Fredericksburg, in Shiloh, Chancellorsville,

In Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Sherman’s March,
Atlanta–thousands fell in sacrifice,
The blood of sheep and goats to purify

The land which had offended Him who rules,
Invisible, in love and holiness,
With righteous judgments that appease His wrath.

VIII.

A man who suffered melancholy spells,
Abe wandered, wondered, worried, room to room,
He wrestled with the angel of the Lord

All night, but no angelic ladder led
Him on, the wilderness was dark, the path
Was lined with thorns, and guides were hard to find

Amid the press’s ridicule, the frauds,
The office-seekers lining White House halls,
And military men who failed to fight.

He aged with speed, face furrowed by his loads,
This man who quoted poetry at home,
Who loved to laugh with friends, who spoiled his boys,

Lost one to fever, and he had to tell
His wife, “Control your grief, or it will drive
You mad,” this man who bore a nation’s pain

Bore malice toward no man, and charity
Toward all, and visualized a people healed
From wounds of war and bloody sacrifice.

His prime concern to save the Union, Abe
Had no desire at first to free the slaves,
But when the battles went the Rebel way,

The President resolved he would proclaim
The liberty of slaves, and took advice
To time it with a Union victory,

Thus changing history and Judgment’s wrath,
Obedient to Providence’s will.
As woodcutters select their axes’ blades

To chop the elms and pines that scrape the sky,
The President selected generals,
Discarded them, replaced them, and advised

Them ’til the Union Army was well-honed
With Unconditional Surrender Grant,
The one whom Lincoln could not spare because

He fought, in charge of veterans who brought
The rebel army to retreat, defeat–
And Washington rejoiced when Richmond fell.

His years of patience justified at last,
The weary President, whose death was close,
Stood still and saw salvation of the Lord,

And took a barge to Richmond when it fell.
“There’s the Messiah,” said the blacks, who kneeled
And kissed the feet of Lincoln, who replied,

“That is not right. Kneel only to the Lord,
And thank Him for the liberty you will
Enjoy. I am a humble instrument

Of God, but you may rest assured that while
I live no one shall shackle you, and you
Shall have the rights which God has given to

All the citizens–you’re free as air;
Obey God’s laws, thank Him for liberty.”
With Lee’s surrender on an April day

By woods on a white road at the court house
In Appomattox, four years of war were done,
The nightmare having vanished in the blood,

The blood atoning for the nation’s sins.
As danger’s night retired, the star of peace
Returned to shine above the broken land.

IX.

As Lincoln planned to bind the nation’s wounds,
He dreamed one night he went from room to room
In the White House to search the source of sobs,

And came at last to the East Room, in which
Some soldiers stood as guards around a corpse
Upon a catafalque as mourners wept.

He asked, “Who’s dead in the White House?” to which
A soldier said, “The President was killed
By an assassin!” then the mourners’ cries

Of grief awoke him from this dream of death
Which lingered with the man like Banquo’s ghost.
He told his family of his dream, and that

The Bible told how God and angels spoke
To men in sleep, revealing truth in dreams.
Good Friday eighteen sixty-five was good

To honor crucifixion of the Lord,
Good as that sacred day commemorates
The love the Father lavished on His sons

By sending us His one and only Son
As perfect sacrifice for every sin,
Good as it signifies that man’s redeemed

And has an Advocate who stands before
The throne of God to plead on our behalf,
Good as it means grace, mercy, peace and love;

But for the citizens who’d suffered war,
And for the President who bore the weight
In manly strength, the day was Lincoln’s dream

Fulfilled, his death at an assassin’s hand.
The Savior of the Country lay in state,
The funeral procession took him back

To home in Springfield, Illinois, and he
Was buried in the grasses at Oak Ridge,
The President of the United States,

A martyr to the cause of liberty,
Not slave, not master, but a common man,
Believer in democracy’s great hope,

Obedient to God’s commanding hand,
The humble man who rose to save a land,
Who held the house together through belief,

Whose death tolled bells of all the people’s grief.

~Day Williams

February 22: George Washington

https://twitter.com/classifiedfact/status/788930245508210689

January 20: “America the Beautiful’s President”

AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL’S PRESIDENT

 

America the Beautiful’s President

Should know the LORD and practice poetry,

Write law, love people, use his heaven-sent

Irrevocable gifts and call to free

 

The spirits small and great, with collars blue

And white, and lead the people to the heights

By bolting wheels to visions old and new,

For with no vision people disunite.

 

The President who’s lived the quiet life,

Accustomed to the inward reverie

Aware of how the Holy Spirit moves,

 

Can face the conflicts, challenges and strife,

Will manage home and foreign policy,

And lead the nation so that it improves.

~Day Williams

October 20: Change

Day Williams created this graphic depiction of this date.
October 20
Change

803.
We are continually faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.
~John W. Gardner. John William Gardner (1912 – 2002) was President of the Carnegie Corporation and Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare under President Lyndon Johnson.

804.
Man will occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of the time he will pick himself up and continue on.
~Winston Churchill. Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill KG OM CH TD FRS PC (Can) (1874 – 1965) was a British politician and statesman, best known for his leadership of the United Kingdom during World War II. He was Prime Minister of the UK from 1940 to 1945 and again from 1951 to 1955. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.

805.
Any change is resisted because bureaucrats have a vested interest in the chaos in which they exist.
~Richard M. Nixon. Richard Milhous Nixon (1913 – 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign the office. Nixon had previously served as a Republican U.S. representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.

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