20 Unheeded Warnings in Washington’s Farewell Address

Gordon Anderson, August 8, 2011

  1. Be vigilant, people will seek to use the government for selfish ends.
  2. Avoid overgrown military establishments; they are hostile to liberty.
  3. Prevent all obstructions to the execution of the laws.
  4. Control bureaucracies; make sure they all work together.
  5. Avoid political parties; they will cause divisive factions and unscrupulous men will use them to undermine the government.
  6. Give allegiance to the Constitution; improve it as necessary.  
  7. Do not alter the Constitution lightly, or based on hypothesis; apply the experience applied when it was created.
  8. Be suspicious of administrators; they may serve themselves rather than the people.
  9. Watch for consolidation of power in any department of government.
  10. Preserve existing checks and balances and add more where power needs to be checked.
  11. Religion and morality are essential to create the virtue necessary to preserve the union.
  12. Promote widespread education; democracy requires literate citizens that understand the system of governance and take responsibility for themselves.
  13. Avoid debt; and immediately discharge any debt created by war.
  14. Taxes are unpleasant; government spending should be candidly conducted.
  15. Cultivate peace and justice toward all nations.
  16. Avoid alliances and maintain neutrality among nations.
  17. Avoid dependency; a weak state that allies with a stronger state will become its servant.
  18. Real patriots will resist intrigues, while dupes will surrender to interests.
  19. In trade, give no nation a favored nation status.
  20. Be guided by principles, not interests.

If the United States had heeded these warnings in George Washington’s Farewell Address, it would be a far more happy and prosperous society today. In 1787 Washington presided over the creation of the United States Constitution with some of the wisest men of his day. They understood social and political history, human nature and cunning, the temptation to consolidate power, and the importance of assent to a social contract.

When George Washington retired from office after two terms he set an example to the world for the voluntary limitation of power, something few Kings or rulers have had the character to do. However, his Farewell Address was equally important as it warned of dangers that could undermine the American experiment. These warnings were given from wisdom, experience, and a sincere concern for the future of the nation.

Many public schools in the past required knowledge of our political system and the reading of this speech. Every citizen ought to be able to understand why these warnings are important and how to defend against them. However today many public schools are aligned with a faction (their labor unions) and place their own interest above society.

In Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, I discuss in detail how the American experiment was undermined and hijacked by the very forces Washington warned against. It is amazing how perceptive he was of the potential dangers and how thoroughly his advice has been ignored, to the detriment of the United States.


One thought on “20 Unheeded Warnings in Washington’s Farewell Address

  1. He was absolutely correct about all things. Especially, religion and education. After those two fell in schools, everything else came quickly.

    Also, the part “Avoid dependency; a weak state that allies with a stronger state will become its servant” made me realize something there as so many shows these days and policies are trying to form this dependency on allies only to find that after it is all over, those allies deceptively turn on them and they become a servant to them.

    There’s this show called, “Falling Skies” where the president, Tom Mason (main character) constantly praises being allied with an alien race to destroy another alien race. Yet the antagonizing rebellious character, John Pope and others in his administration constantly questions why they need to ally themselves with an alien race and that when the war is over they don’t know if that alien race will betray and destroy them.

    However, the president puts his faith and trust in them and then goes on to say, “Well, I’m sure after Churchill and Stalin allied with each other that they didn’t know what would happen after they got done with Hitler” and his friend, Colonel Weaver yells at him saying, “But we are talking about ALIENS here NOT humans!”

    My point is that whether it be aliens or humans, putting all your eggs and dependency on an ally is NEVER a good thing and George Washington’s farewell address (point #17) just proves it.

    You are who you are and that’s what makes you independent and free, the minute you start giving yourself over and depending on someone else is the minute you start losing your freedom. It’s OK to ask for help from time to time, so long as you are not constantly being dependent on it.

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