Washington’s first inaugural address

Anyone who professes to believe that America was “founded as a secular nation,” as Bruce Gourley of Montana puts it in the previous entry, ought to read George Washington’s first inaugural address, the main theme of which is America’s dependence on God. In this entry from April 30, 2006, the 217th anniversary of Washington’s inauguration, I go through the speech, quoting and discussing the religious parts. Of course the speech as a whole is well worth reading. Its sincerity, nobility, and deeply-thought-out quality cannot help but impress, and its elaborate 18th century syntax raises not a barrier, but a stimulating challenge, to understanding. It is an excellent thing with which to occupy and fortify one’s mind for a half hour or so, especially when the rest of the world is occupied with gaseous trivialities.

- end of initial entry -

Laura W. writes:

The fervor and humility of Washington’s inaugural address give the impression that he uttered it on his knees. Compare his words, “it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect,” his insistence that he receive no personal remuneration, and his repeated references to his patriotic love, to Obama’s self-glorying proclamations that today “the ground has shifted” beneath our feet and “we will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories.” Washington was just as much a hero in the eyes of the people, and yet he insists on his unworthiness.

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus—and non-believers,” Obama says. “We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth …” Washington inhabited a different mental universe—and so did every American in the new republic. So anxious was the first president to acknowledge the “eternal rules of order and right,” it’s inconceivable that he would have taken time to offer solicitude to those who acknowledge no eternal moral structure at all.

LA replies:

Starting at a few minutes after noon today, I read aloud Washington’s inaugural address. It’s not as long as I remembered—1,400 words. And yes, the quality of being on one’s knees before God is there.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 20, 2009 10:58 AM | Send

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