Monday, February 21, 2011

President's day and Washington's farewell address

S. 623, A bill to make the 22nd day of February,
 George Washington's Birthday,
RG 46, Records of the United States Senate.
I came across this interesting fact about President's day or Washington's birthday, however you like to think of today. Tomorrow, the Senate will read Washington's farewell address, which was written by George Washington in 1796, and first appeared in the Philadelphia  Daily American Advertiser and then in papers around the country.

The Senate tradition began on February 22, 1862, as a morale-boosting gesture during the darkest days of the Civil War.  Citizens of Philadelphia had petitioned Congress to commemorate the forthcoming 130th anniversary of Washington's birth by reading the Address at a joint meeting of both houses.  
Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson introduced the petition in the Senate.  "In view of the perilous condition of the country," he said, "I think the time has arrived when we should recur back to the days, the times, and the doings of Washington and the patriots of the Revolution, who founded the government under which we live."
The practice of reading the Farewell Address did not immediately become a tradition. The address was first read in regular legislative sessions of the Senate in 1888 and the House in 1899. (The House continued the practice until 1984.) Since 1893 the Senate has observed Washington’s birthday by selecting one of its members to read the Farewell Address. The assignment alternates between members of each political party. At the conclusion of each reading, the appointed senator inscribes his or her name and brief remarks in a black, leatherbound book maintained by the secretary of the Senate.
In 1956, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey wrote that every American should study this memorable message. “It gives one a renewed sense of pride in our republic,” he wrote. “It arouses the wholesome and creative emotions of patriotism and love of country.”
  • Extolls the benefits of the federal government. "The unity of government...is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence...of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize."
  • Warns against the party system. "It serves to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration....agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one....against another....it opens the door to foreign influence and corruption...thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."
  • Stresses the importance of religion and morality. "Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?"
  • On stable public credit. "...cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible...avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt....it is essential that you...bear in mind, that towards the payments of debts there must be Revenue, that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not...inconvenient and unpleasant..."
  • Warns against permanent foreign alliances. "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world..."
  • On an over-powerful military establishment. "...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."
"the name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism..."~ George Washington


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