If you were offered the reins of the free world, would you turn it down? George Washington set a striking example with his belief in the peaceful transfer of power. He let his friends know he would never agree to be named King of the United States, even if the position were to be offered.
On several occasions, George Washington was offered the temptation to take a role in the United States governance that to a different man may have seemed the natural course of action. Especially when considering both his popularity and the lifelong sacrifices he made in service to his country. One of the most prominent examples came in May of 1872 in a letter from General Lewis Nicola, a long-time correspondent, and fellow service member. Nicola suggested that in response to the army's frustration with Congress and for the preservation of peace General Washington should take a position, if not in the title "King," then in authority. George Washington's response was absolute:
“I am much at a loss to conceive what part of my conduct could have given encouragement to an address which to me seems big with the greatest mischiefs that can befall my country. If I am not deceived in the knowledge of myself, you could not have found a person to whom your schemes are more disagreeable." - General George Washington, 1872
His belief that one person should not scheme to take so much power for themselves, and his dedication to the republican government they were trying to form, is perhaps one of the greatest marks of Washington's legacy. It was his decision to step down from the office of President after his second term that set the precedent until President Franklin D. Roosevelt that the executive office should be transferred voluntarily and peacefully after the second duly elected term. This precedent did not become law until 1951.
The Limits of Government
George Washington warned that the branches of government should respect one another, not infringing upon the power and duties of the other branches. He warned that without staying within the bounds of checks and balances established for the branches they would eventually merge into a single entity whose tyranny would destroy the liberty of the American people.
This belief in small limited government is a core principle of freedom according to the conservative perspective. The growth in power and centralization of the American government has been a long-debated topic of conversation across the country. With too small a government, as demonstrated when the states operated under the Articles of Confederation, the essential functions of government are almost impossible to perform. With too much government, history recounts many examples of miserable populations struggling under the boot of tyrants. For liberty to flourish, it is necessary to strike a balance between the two.
How would you grade the United States on maintaining a balanced government between too little and too much power? Do you think the U.S. should have a more limited or centralized government than what we have currently?
*All opinions expressed by WYO Conservative guests are theirs alone and may not represent the views of WYO Conservative’s Founder and Owner, Donna K. Rice, or any WYO Conservative affiliates.