George Washington: The 1st Retrospective
“Whatcha got ain’t nothin new. This country’s hard on people, you can’t stop what’s coming, it ain’t all waiting on you. That’s vanity.” – Ellis, No Country for Old Men (2007)
Washington is the first in a 43 part series covering why those of you who predict impending economic and social disasters as well as the moral decay of our great nation are not unique nor special in your proclamations of doom. You have always existed. You have taken different forms over the years, but you are the same people you have always been. This is not to say you haven’t been right before, nor is it to say you won’t be right in the future. This only addresses the immediacy, or lack thereof, of the certain doom you forsee.
Arguably, George Washington’s greatest achievement as President was naming Alexander Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury (1789-1795). This decision set the course for the country in terms of the economy, for it established the framework of a national banking system. Hamilton proposed that the new government assume all of the leftover Revolutionary War debt of the thirteen original colonies thereby establishing a federal line of credit.
In order to do this, Washington, who backed the idea of the bank, had to make deals with people like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, a state that had already paid off most of its war debt. Washington suggested that Madison, Jefferson and Hamilton consider a compromise behind closed doors. In return, he offered the location of the new capital. He let them hammer out the details. Hamilton got the funding for the bank, and the Virginians got the capitol of the new nation, a piece of swampland in Virginia known as Foggy Bottom.
In 1793, war broke out between England and France. As a new nation who traded with both countries, we were asked to choose sides. The President chose neutrality for a war weary nation, a decision that would haunt his successors.
In 1794, Pennsylvania farmers were upset over a federal excise tax on liquor. They even dusted off an old battle cry from the Revolution “no taxation without representation”. President Washington felt that in 1776, they were rebelling against taxes that were passed at Parliament in London. These taxes were passed in Philadelphia and are the law of this land; therefore, they must be paid. Washington personally mustered 13,000 militiamen as a show of force in Pennsylvania quashing the aptly named Whiskey Rebellion. As the very first President of our new nation, Washington knew everything he did would be watched and would set the precedent. At this point, he felt it would be important to teach the country a lesson.
The Bitching Started With Washington
The lesson Washington taught was to stop bitching. For those of you currently bitching, these were your ancestors at the very start of the country crying and moaning about the overreach of the federal government, assumption of too much debt by the government, not protecting American interests by not involving ourselves in foreign disputes, or conversely involving ourselves in too many of them, and complaints about “taxation without representation” which were as laughable then as they are now, all within the backdrop of closed door Washington compromising. You started bitching as soon as we started to govern, so any call to a return to “what our founders intended” would put us right where we are today. That’s kind of the whole point.
John Adams would follow him.