Millercenter.org’s summary of speech:
“Washington calls on Congress to avoid local and party partisanship and encourages the adoption of a Bill of Rights, without specifically calling them by name. The first President demonstrates his reluctance to accept the post, rejects any salary for the execution of his duties, and devotes a considerable part of the speech to his religious beliefs.”
Thoughts on Transcript:
Very similar to General Mattis’s remarks in his confirmation hearings as President Trump’s Secretary of Defense. Mattis had enjoyed a long career in the military, rising to be one of the most respected leaders in the Marine Corps – beloved by all of the men who served under him and respected by most who heard of him, regardless of their political affiliation. Mattis retired during President Obama’s administration and was living in his hometown in Eastern Washington, taking care of his mother, when the call to service came. Mattis is known as a “Warrior Monk” – a very well read military man, one who never married, and one whose knowledge of history and literature formed a strong backbone of any decision or speech made. It is a safe assumption that he modeled some of his statement off of that made by General (and later President) Washington.
Washington, like Mattis after him, was a soldier who has retired but is now being called to serve.
The address is filled with both uncertainty and humbleness as he takes on the challenge of not only taking on the mantle of executive power of a young nation, but overseeing a completely new form of government which is fearful of both being too strong and too week.
There is praise of God and a request for His guidance.
Washington notes that the foundation of the USA government is in “Private Morality” and “Preeminence of Free Government”. The private morality appears to refer to both self-control and religious belief, though I would need to look up more documents of the time. At no point does private morality imply a disconnect between religious principles and the government.
I disagree with Miller Center’s summary in that I cannot find Washington being against political parties. His address is a call for unity, civility, and a promise to represent all, but there is nothing that says “parties are wrong”. The first part of the third paragraph of the speech is where this point might be taken from but, again, I do not see it.
Phrases I have underlined, starred, or otherwise marked:
“… no event could have filled me with greater anxieties …”
“… the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”
” … 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, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes …”
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency …”
“It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them.” (Referring to powers of President to recommend those measures he judges necessary and expedient)
“… the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. … [there exists an] indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity … [the] smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained”
“When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation.”
“… I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.”
“… I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since he has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.”
Thoughts on delivery (audio and/or video of speech):
None. They didn’t have that technology when Washington was inaugurated.