George Washington worried about the downsides of political parties. Indeed, the timeless wisdom of George Washington is as timely today as if he had been watching social media and press reports in the 21st Century. In his Farewell Address (written in 1796), George Washington warned against any “organized faction”. Such factions are “often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community.”The “spirit of party . . . agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosities of one part against another, foments occasionally RIOT AND INSURRECTION.”
Among the many “worthwhile” things my daughter learned in college, she learned that you can win at poker either by playing-the-cards or by playing-the-people.
Since I’ve only played poker once in my life—and no money was involved—this came as a revelation to me.
Instinctively, I play poker—and live my life—by playing-the-cards rather than by playing-the-people.
I look at all the cards—at all the relevant facts and circumstances—to determine the wisest course of action.
I recoil at the idea that I would change my positions because other people “persecuted” me. (See my blog “Dangers Along the Way: Heavy Traffic”).
I believe that I am blessed when people insult me, persecute me, and falsely say all kinds of evil against me because I’m saying or doing the right thing. (Matthew 5:11).
I believe that I should not be like those people who the Gospel of John criticizes because “they loved human praise more than praise from God.” (John 12:43).
I believe that, to suit their own desires, people surround themselves with false teachers who say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3).
No wonder that I—and many other people—have problems with politicians, political parties, and politics.
Politicians are famous for saying whatever people want to hear!
No wonder George Washington worried about the downsides of political parties.
Indeed, the timeless wisdom of George Washington is as timely today as if he had been watching social media and press reports in the 21st Century.
In his Farewell Address (written in 1796), George Washington warned against any “organized faction”.
Such factions are “often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community.”
“]A]cording to the alternate triumphs of different parties . . . [the government generates] ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than . . . consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests.” (emphasis added).
Such “small but artful and enterprising” factions “are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious and unprincipled men . . . subvert the power of the people and . . . usurp for themselves the reins of government . . ..” (emphasis added).
Therefore, George Washington wrote “Let me now . . . warn you in the most solemn manner about the baleful effects of party generally.”
The “spirit of party . . . serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosities of one part against another, foments occasionally RIOT AND INSURRECTION.” (emphasis added).
Of course, an even more fundamental problem is the question: “What is the purpose of the poker game?”
Play cards that will do for others what we would want others to do for us?
Or play people so they will do for me whatever I selfishly want?
Factions of cunning, ambitious and unprincipled people are playing strip poker!
Strip people of money. Strip people of power. Strip people of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
George Washington was not perfect. Most notably, he owned and exploited slaves.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray. (Isaiah 53:6).
But George Washington closed his Farewell Address by confessing:
“I am . . . too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evil to which they may tend. I also carry with me the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence.”
And so, George Washington won the “poker game” by playing-the-cards, not by playing-the-people.
He played the card: “consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels and modified by mutual interests” (his Farewell Address).
He played the card: all people are created equal. (the Declaration of Independence).
He played the card: all people have unalienable rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. (the Declaration of Independence).
He played the card: all governments are created to secure these unalienable rights, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. (the Declaration of Independence).
He played the card: establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity (the Constitution of the United States of America).
He didn’t play the “poker game” in the ways that a bad shepherd does—to win for himself by stealing and killing and destroying. (John 10:10).
George Washington played the “poker game” in the ways that a Good Shepherd does—to win for “We the People” by empowering us to enjoy Life to the full! (John 10:10; the Declaration of Independence; and the Constitution of the United States of America).
For other thoughts arising from games, please read my blog “Chess Lessons: Playing for a Draw”.
For other thoughts about George Washington, please read my blogs “Juneteenth: George Washington” and “George Washington Refuses To Become a King”; and please read “Chapter 2: We the People” in my book Visions of America (published in one volume with my book Visions of the Church), at pages 31-57.