A Letter to Friends and Citizens

Washington_Farewell_Broadside

A broadside of Washington’s Farewell Address, from the Rare Book and Special Collections Division of the Library of Congress

It came to be known as George Washington’s Farewell Address.  But it was never given as a speech. Distributed instead as a letter to the people of the United States it’s considered one of the most important documents in American history.

In his letter to “Friends and Citizens,” Washington devoted most of it to offer advice as a “parting friend” on what he believed were the greatest threats to the survival of a fledging nation. Among his subjects were foreign relations and free trade, credit and government borrowing as well as political factions and the party system. The letter is a masterpiece and, although written 218 years ago, his advice is worthy of our attention as it still governs much of our public affairs today. Just as Ronald Reagan did more recently George Washington looked ahead to the country’s future with great optimism.

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The Weaker Sex and The Separation of Powers

“Peace has its victories, but it takes brave men and women to win them.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Baron De Montesquieu (1689-1755) was an 18th century French philosopher, political thinker and social commentator.  He was the first of the great French scholars associated with the Enlightenment a period in which the power of reason was brought to bear against the intolerance of religion and social norms.

Baron de Montesquieu

His ideas about the separation of powers had an enormous impact and became the basis for the United States Constitution.  Despotism he said was a danger for any government and he believed absolute power could be prevented by a system divided among the executive, legislature and a judiciary.

Despite Montesquieu’s belief in the principles of a democracy, he did not feel that all people were equal.  He approved of slavery and thought women were weaker than men and had to obey the commands of their husband. Continue reading