Our thoughts are turning presidential as time progresses toward a new election cycle. Another four years have slipped by and we see various possible candidates vying for our attention. What a wonderful country we live in where we have the right to speak freely and change leadership as we see fit. Some leaders we like and some we dislike. Some Presidents are so exceptional that they are remembered in a positive light throughout history. Our first, President George Washington is one of those leaders, and today, Jan. 8, marks the anniversary of his first "State of the Union" address, which was also the first of our new nation. The year was 1790 where Congress was assembled in New York City.
A look back in history reveals Washington's thoughts, concerns, and ideas for the future as well as the mood of the country. He spoke with language to garnish support for a standing national army so that we would always be prepared to defend ourselves. Much was yet to be organized within our new government and Washington spoke of the need of funding for expenses such as foreign affairs, commerce, public education and such, which is certainly not a new topic today, considering all the expenses our federal government incurs. What is a bit unfamiliar to us today however, are Washington's comments about new states joining and supporting the new federal republic. We've had 50 states for quite some time now, but back then when our nation was born, we had few, making it a fragile proposition. It could be said that these last state holdouts that had reservations about supporting this new nation eventually led to our strength.
One such holdout was North Carolina. They rejected the new Constitution in 1788 because it did not have a Bill of Rights. During post revolutionary times and when the Constitution was first drafted, a good many people voiced concern over the amount of power afforded to a new federal government. Federalists favored a strong one while Anti-Federalists worried about an overreaching arm and supported less government at the federal level. It was only when it was promised that a Bill of Rights would be added to the Constitution that these representatives from concerned states adopted the Constitution. Interestingly, New York was the third from the last to approve in the summer of 1788, right ahead of North Carolina in November. It was not a run-away vote in New York either. In fact, it was nearly tied with votes for and against. This "bottom of the list" statistic is one we can be proud of because it was only on such insistence that we now have the first 10 amendments to the Constitution, otherwise known as the Bill of Rights.
George Washington gave his first State of the Union Address in New York City 222 years ago today.
Where would we be without it? It's the Bill of Rights that protects the powers of the states and basic rights of people. The government does not give us these rights. They are inherently ours; the role of the government is to safeguard them and cannot limit our freedoms as the British government had done. This right is what allows us to worship and speak freely without retribution, even as in this column. George Washington was a great leader who led us to a successful conclusion from the Revolutionary War and was our President when we were a new and precarious nation. It was 222 years ago today during the first State of the Union Address that he urged and inspired citizens as to what he saw as the nation's good fortune. In the coming months it would behoove us to think about our founding values and the sacrifices by so many people. This can help us decide who will be the best man or woman to continue to safeguard our Constitution and not forget our birth. New York did its part in the past and can do it again. Don't take things as face value. Ask questions, analyze, and think thoroughly think things through.
Make it a good week and be an informed citizen, Mary and Rosamond