The First President George Washington was born 22 February, albeit we’ll observe his Birthday on Monday the 20th this year. The day will serve to round out a nice long weekend for many folks, welcome time off during the hardest month of winter. Federal employees too will enjoy the day: time to enjoy with family and friends; time to rest or catch up on projects around the house. The average citizen will enjoy the day the same way, and only hope most Government employees pause long enough to remember the man whom the nation honors with its respite.
Historians now openly talk about the way America has left her Constitution behind. Certainly there is a cumulative case to be drawn, probably starting with the War Between the States. Most accounts of government growth and the accretion of power in Washington , D.C. , prominently involve the Progressive Era, and of course the New Deal. Damage was done and also accumulated, but it was not until sometime after World War II when lawmakers actually stopped consulting the Founding Document, when public debates waned concerning the Constitution’s relevant meaning to contemporary public policy. Since the 1950s the Government simply uses political mandate to do whatever the Government wants to do.
Regulations and taxes pile up on people in the name of the People, imposed however by Government through a kind of modern virtual representation, which the Colonists utterly rejected of Great Britain . Just as the Constitution no longer acts as a parameter on what the Government does, neither can it be said of George Washington that he still informs young people and adults of what constitutes the ideal masculine character or responsible republican citizenship. Washington was a preeminent role model for these things until the middle of the Twentieth Century, when the study of biography receded in education and pop celebrity displaced historic heroes.
Washington might have been King but he chose elective office instead, and then he chose to leave that office after just two terms. He had more than the good judgment to quit while he was ahead! He indeed knew what was most important in his own life: his home Mount Vernon ; family and personal obligations; fellowship with friends; reflection, and the study of Scripture. He also knew the nature of power and the temptations attendant to power. He knew the crucial impact that leadership can have, but he valued civil liberties and freedom in society much more. Freedom had been the object of the Revolution, not dynasty or empire.
Washington was esteemed a very wise man, but he eschewed the power to impose his wisdom on everyone else. Washington esteemed the prerogative inherent to liberty, as something more important than either physical wellbeing or scientific certainty in a particular. People run their own lives, some successfully and some not—but it is after all the peoples’ lives and theirs to run. Various environments might be comparatively cruel or limited, chimerical or privileged. An asteroid might hit the earth someday, and the sky is always falling or liable to fall to the Chicken Littles amongst us. Still, families are natural institutions that govern even before the Government does. Government didn’t give a person life or sanction the marriage between the man and woman who had the baby. Indeed, the Church never asked nor asks permission to marry two people. The legal conventions are not always the same as religious ones, albeit for most of our history they have overlapped almost completely, mainly because of the approach to Government the Founders, George Washington included, took.
It bears repeating: It is the peoples’ lives—and so it should be their private choices that govern in nearly all particulars that pertain. This is true whether the individuals choose wisely or not, whether they are wrong or right; and whether they are brilliant or certifiably stupid, handicapped or studs. Individuals possess a prerogative to live according to their lights, regardless and irrespective of circumstances so long as they do not harm anyone else! Individuals possess natural rights according to natural law, and Government must have a compelling interest to intervene and mess with things. If Government does intervene, it does so by exception; further, it should be at the level of the State where a person lives and for some good reason, i.e., to protect others or to promote the general welfare, not necessarily the convenience of society. States are dual sovereign political entities alongside the Federal Government in the construct of Washington ’s Constitution and ours.
Imagine: Washington ’s Constitution, the Founding Document in light of his and the Founders’ worldview—a Restoration of the Republic. This is how I shall be remembering Washington , and how Government better start remembering if I read the Tea Party through to its logical potential conclusion. Remembering Washington means a dedication to the future and to a very similar project to that which he faced in his day. As freemen and freewomen we must choose to remember him and the Revolution, as well as the Constitution, which was its crowning achievement. Heroes did and do exist. Sometimes they are celebrities, but most of the time they are people proud to call themselves American, men and women of character and uncompromising determination to be free—free to dream and succeed, free to dream and fail on their own terms and God’s. Government is not God. The Constitution as amended, is not subject to the whim of the President or the Congress, not today anymore than it was in Washington ’s day. It is not subject either to the Supreme Court, in terms of decisions it has made based upon unconstitutional precedents entered in, which break the moral compact and implicit structure of federalism upon which our Union is entirely based. Government has made carrion of the so-called “living” Constitution and given us a Dead Constitution Walking. Political Revolution is in the air, or should we say brewing?
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford . Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he serves as State Director of the Republican Freedom Coalition (RFC) and is currently running for U.S. Congress (TX-District 25) in the Republican Primary. He is also author of two books, Horse Sense for the New Millennium (2011), and The Nexus of Faith and Freedom (2012). Both books are available on-line at
and from fine bookstores everywhere. Email: .