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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/6289/listen-to-americas-first-action-hero/

Listen to America’s first action hero

February 22, 2007 by

Americans define themselves as principled people of action. That is one reason we revere George Washington, who was essential to our revolution’s success, the creation of our Constitution, and the precedent of how to govern under it, yet voluntarily stepped down from power out of principle (which King George said made him the man of the age). But his words as well as his deeds reflect America’s essence, and we would be wise to celebrate his February 22 birthday by remembering his insights.

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”

” … freedom … [is] a blessing, on which all the good and evil of life depends … “

” … the spirit of freedom beat too high in us to submit to slavery … “

“We have taken up Arms in Defense of our Liberty, our Property; our Wives and our Children: We are determined to preserve them or die.”

“The cause of America and of liberty … against which all the force and Artifice of Tyranny will never be able to prevail.”

“Our cause is noble. It is the cause of Mankind!”

” … we mean to support the liberty and independence which have cost us so much blood and treasure to establish … “

” … express your utmost horror and detestation of the Man who wishes, under any specious pretenses, to overturn the liberties of our Country … “

“As the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so ought it be the first to be laid aside when those liberties are firmly established.”

” … your union ought to be considered as a main prop to your liberty; the love of the one ought to endear you to the preservation of the other.”

“Liberty will find itself … where the Government … [will] maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.”

” … everyone will reap the fruit of his labors; every one will enjoy his own acquisitions without molestation and without danger.”

“[Government] has no more right to put their hands into my pockets, without my consent, than I have to put my hands into yours … “

“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”

“Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

“Government … [is] instituted to protect the consciences of men from oppression…”

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty on the supposition that he may abuse it.”

” … all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government.”

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

“It has always been my creed that we should not be left as an awful monument to prove, ‘that Mankind, under the most favorable circumstances, are unequal to the task of governing themselves, and therefore made for a Master.’”

George Washington was a man of action without whom America, that he called “this land of equal liberty,” which had “the fairest prospect of happiness and prosperity that ever was presented to man,” would not exist.

After many years as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” George Washington left us a legacy of wisdom in what he said as well as what he did. At a time when many in our Capitol have abandoned all but the pretense of following the principles of the man it is named for, we would be wise to heed his advice. We still face a daily struggle to defend the liberties he led the way to win for us.

{ 4 comments }

Ed February 22, 2007 at 11:42 am

Read Rothbard’s “Conceived in Liberty” and see if you still like Washington. The usual hagiographies leave a lot to be desired.

Keith February 22, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Washington is worth admiring for one fact at least: he walked away from power. History is full of examples of leaders that couldn’t do that. Would we have preferred a Cromwell or Napoleon?

Black Bloke February 22, 2007 at 10:00 pm

A good post for Washington’s Birthday, thanks LvMI!

Question, what’s the source for this quote: “Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

Does anyone know?

Nick Bradley February 23, 2007 at 8:15 am

Washington’s farewell address laid the groundwork for American non-interventionism:

“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 connection as possible. Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.”

However, Washington never made the “entangling alliances with none” comment, which was instead made by Jefferson 5 years later.

Washington’s comments were more likely aimed at maintaining good relations with Revolutionary France and avoiding an alliance with Britain; relations w/ France were falling apart at the time of the speech — hundreds of US commercial vessels were seized by the French navy in 1797 and the “Quasi War” broke out only 1 year after that.

Of course, French anger was due to Jay’s Treaty, which acquiesced to anti-French measures by the British Navy.

Jay’s Treaty was, of course, a counterbalancing reaction to Jeffersonian support to the French Revolutionary Wars (Jefferson and the Radicals were not yet disillusioned with the French Revolution).

Looking back, the proper foreign policy by the US would have been to abrogate all treaties made with France after the House of Bourbon fell. That would have left the US completely neutral.

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