You can see it on his face. Better yet you can read his resignation speech which echoes so much for me, it’s difficult to appreciate that this was written two hundred and twenty odd years ago – though I guess the language used is something of a giveaway. Crafted by his loyal and brilliant Aide-de-Camp, Treasury Secretary and service-long friend Alexander Hamilton, in collaboration with The First President, this was presented in advance of his retirement after two terms of office, setting a precedent for the US Presidency for many years to come.
The subjects referred to in the speech owed much to the challenges of the time in which it was written. The references to the insidious subversions and plots perpetrated by the devious egotist and avowed slaver, Thomas Jefferson weigh heavy in the text. The recent adoption of the Jay Treaty with Great Britain, the attempts by Jefferson’s Republicans to get the US to side with revolutionary France in their ongoing war with England, Jefferson’s persistent attempts to humiliate and destroy Hamilton and his hatred of modern liberalism and capitalism, all these are clearly addressed.
I am particularly attracted to Washington/Hamilton’s views on political parties and their prescient perceptions on their deleterious effects on stable government. The references to taxes and public debt, to constructing a strong, independent and outwardly friendly nation working in harmony with others but not establishing any fixed political agreements, enmities or favouritism but securing mutually beneficial trading agreements with all…music to my ears.
I very much wish I had known Mr. Hamilton, personally, and many in that country – and many without – would dearly love to see George Washington today in the White House he never quite lived to see for himself. Aside from the obvious impossibilities of such a dream, its evident that Washington would despair of such a role given the way in which his fears came so rabidly to life. A Senate, elected by the people of all things, both houses riven by a partisanship that has divided the country for decades, brought it to an economic and humanitarian standstill, permanently at war, saddled with a debt that would make an immortal shudder, ridiculed all the great values he held so dear and crowned itself a king of celebrity with not a hint of irony.
His lack of faith in human beings has been amply proven and rather than learn anything from the great men of history we are simply doomed to repeat our errors to extinction.