“All obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency.
They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.
However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”
Destroying the Fundamental Principle
Contrary to popular opinion, the Founding Fathers were by and large devoted Christians. Not only were they devoted, they were practicing Christians. They did not just show up to church on Sunday, say a prayer over dinner, and dust off their Bible a couple times a year. Rather they were the kind to read, seek to understand, and then apply what they read in God’s Word.
This fact is on full display right here in Washington’s Farewell Address. With a deep understanding of the Bible, Washington was telling America Biblical principles that would ensure America remained stable and successful as a free, representative government of, by and for the people.
A quick look at Scripture will prove the point.
Romans 13:1-2 “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.”
The principles here in this passage demonstrate why Washington thought this point so vital to America’s survival. If we had a government protecting our rights, we had a duty to obey that government.
At this point, some people are probably balking at the very idea of this being the case. After all, wasn’t the American Revolution all about rebelling against a government? Wasn’t it all about throwing off and disobeying an established government?
For the answer to these questions, let us turn to an excellent, schollarly article by noted historian David Barton. On the question of whether or not the American Revolution violated the principles of obeying authority, he has this to say:
“…[M]ost Christian denominations during the Founding Era held that while they were forbidden to overthrow the institution of government and live in anarchy, they were not required blindly to submit to every law and policy.
Those in the Founding Era understood that the general institution of government was unequivocally ordained by God and was not to be overthrown, but that did not mean that God approved every specific government; God had ordained government in lieu of anarchy – He opposed anarchy, rebellion, lawlessness, and wickedness and wanted civil government in society.
Therefore, a crucial determination in the colonists’ Biblical exegesis was whether opposition to authority was simply to resist the general institution of government (an institution ordained by God Himself), or whether it was instead to resist tyrannical leaders who had themselves rebelled against God.
(The Scriptural model for this position was repeatedly validated when God Himself raised up leaders such as Gideon, Ehud, Jepthah, Samson, and Deborah to throw off tyrannical governments – leaders subsequently praised in Hebrews 11:32 for those acts of faith.)
That the Founders held the view that the institution of government is not to be opposed but that tyranny is, is a position clearly evident in their writings.
The Founders clearly believed that they were not in rebellion to God’s ordained institution of civil government; they were only resisting tyranny and not the institution itself. In fact, Rev. Jacob Duché (a supporter of the British) argued from the Bible in favor of the American position, explaining:
“Inasmuch as all rulers are in fact the servants of the public and appointed for no other purpose than to be “a terror to evil-doers and a praise to them that do well” [c.f., Rom. 13:3], whenever this Divine order is inverted – whenever these rulers abuse their sacred trust by unrighteous attempts to injure, oppress, and enslave those very persons from whom alone, under God, their power is derived – does not humanity, does not reason, does not Scripture, call upon the man, the citizen, the Christian of such a community to “stand fast in that liberty wherewith Christ….hath made them free!” [Galatians 5:1]
The Apostle enjoins us to “submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake,” but surely a submission to the unrighteous ordinances of unrighteous men, cannot be “for the Lord’s sake,” for “He loveth righteousness and His countenance beholds the things that are just.””
When a free, representative government is in place, we have a duty to obey that government. Anything designed to tear down that kind of government, a government that is protecting our rights, will have “fatal tendencies”.
An Enterprising Minority
Our modern, mainstream media is designed in such a way as to highlight the worst that society has to offer. Typically, their cameras are focussed in tight on what Washington terms an “enterprising minority”.
The goals for America’s government was for it to be “the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.” However, this is hard to accomplish when all we see on the media is an inflated version of those who would rather divide in order to accomplish their own goals.
Those goals are, as Washington put it, “the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction.” In other words, they want to get their own way and have no concern for the proper role of government.
That is why people in this kind of factions are so eager to discount and destroy the Constitution. It is one of the few things that attempts to stand between them and their project of faction.
When you see a protest on the news, ask yourself – how many red-blooded Americans are just staying peacefully at home, living their lives like normal in the midst of this exaggerated chaos? Chances are, the answer is – a lot.
So many parts of Washington’s Farewell Address are prescient warnings of what is to come. His advice has been ignored by so many. That is one of the reasons I write this. To remind America of what the Father of our Country wanted us to know. If we relearn these principles, perhaps there will be some hope for our future.
Washington is honest, saying that sometimes these enterprising factions may prove to be beneficial. Through these less than savory means, they may at times accomplish some good or at least something that is a popular result. However, the problem comes when they are allowed to fester, creating more division within the United States.
He warns against cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men (sound like anyone you know?). Using the potent power of these noisy, artful groups, men like this will try to steal the power that rightfully belongs to the people. Even worse than that, they then do all they can to kick the ladder over after they’ve ascended. They want the power, and they don’t want anyone else having a chance to challenge them.
The takeaway here is that the reins of government belong to us. You and I have this privilege and this responsibility. Most want to enjoy the privilege without the responsibility. However, they will quickly find that by surrendering their responsibility to cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men, they will very soon find themselves without their beloved privilege with no way of getting it back.