The Founding Fathers On The Government Shutdown: “We Told You So”

government shutdown

Sometimes a story comes in that’s too unbelievable to pass by, and today, that’s the government shutdown. With our headquarters right outside of D.C., we’re in a prime location to see the mayhem and the direct consequences of a huge chunk of the D.C./MD/VA workforce being furloughed. And while the whole area and the media are running around screaming like banshees because of Congress’ ill-advised game of chicken between the two parties backfired across the board, we’re sitting back feeling less than shocked.

You see, in our ever-growing factious and polarized political system, it was inevitable that one day the two parties were going to collide like high-speed particles and leave the rest of the nation dealing with the aftermath. We’ve seen it coming for years, with each election more vicious and filled with vitriol than the next, and yet we act surprised. Which is surprising in and of itself, as we were warned, very succinctly at the very founding on this nation and again after the Civil War.

So Congress, instead of ranting at you to put on your grown-up pants, quit your absurdities that are costing your already weak economy even more, and begging you to learn to play well in a bipartisan sandbox (OK, we couldn’t help a little bit of a rant here). We’re giving you advice straight from the Founding Fathers and early presidents themselves. A little history lesson might go a long way.

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John Adams: 

“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

—Letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780), “The Works of John Adams”, vol 9, p.511

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George Washington:

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It 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 animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

…And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

—1796 Farewell Address to the Nation

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Abraham Lincoln:

“In times like the present, men should utter nothing for which they would not willingly be responsible through time and eternity.”

—December 1, 1862 Message to Congress


Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its faults, — if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a blessing to the people, if well administered; and I believe, farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other.

—Speech to the Constitutional Convention (September 17, 1787); reported in James Madison, Journal of the Federal Convention, ed. E. H. Scott (1893), p. 742.




So Congress, in the words of some of our greatest leaders: #wetoldyouso.

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