Thursday, 22 October 2009

George Washington and the 'Special Relationship'

Facing odds that must have seemed insurmountable, with starvation, military and political defeat staring him in the face at Valley Forge, General George Washington learned a thing or two about how to hold a nation and an army together.

On the completion of two terms as President of the new Republic, Washington delivered a Farewell Address to his fellow citizens.

He outlined his motives for the address such:
'But a solicitude for your welfare which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.'

Included in the address was an interesting comment on what is now referred to as the 'Special Relationship.'

George Washington on the 'Special Relationship'

'So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.'

As quotes of American Presidents go, this has replaced my former favorite quote by another President who also learned a thing or two about adversity:

'Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.'

Jimmy Carter.

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