President Washington’s Legacy Remembered

For over a century, the United States Senate has annually honored the birthday of our nation’s first President, George Washington, by reading on the Senate Floor his powerful “Farewell Address.” As President Washington declared his decision to step down from office after two terms (notable in itself as he did not seek to be a permanent chief executive), he took the opportunity to offer a valedictory statement promoting national unity and faithfulness to the Constitutional Republic experiment that had begun eight years earlier. One key area President Washington took care to highlight was the significance of religion for the nation:

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked: 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? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

Last year, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) read the address. This year, a Republican will be chosen to read it upon the Senate’s return from recess during the final week of February.

By Aaron Mercer, Vice President Government Relations

Published: February 15, 2013