Curtis Dahlgren
How stands "liberty of thought and discussion" tonight, boys and girls?
By Curtis Dahlgren
May 9, 2018

". . the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth; if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error." – John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)

AFTER 711 COLUMNS, I wonder if I should write new stuff for old readers or post reruns of old columns for new readers? This week I decided for the latter. It's getting to be open season for commencement address givers, and I just wonder if George Washington would be allowed to appear on a modern campus of Higher Learning? How many protesters would show up? None of us in favor of slavery anymore, but I keep reminding people that Jefferson, Washington et al inherited slaves and it was against the law to free them, until the constitutional amendment process which they originated freed them. While you try to visualize that protest rally at a Washington graduation speech (say at Washington University in St. Louis) here's an excerpt from my Presidents' Month column, February 17, 2009:

Abraham Lincoln's favorite President was in fact George Washington, and he said that it was Washington's character that was key to his success [not his eloquence or charisma or his P.R. spin]! Nothing but pure character would have held the colonies together for so long during the Revolutionary War, Lincoln said, and here are some much-ignored quotes from Washington's Farewell Address:

"I have already intimated to you the dangers of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations . . . This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form [republics] it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

"The alternate domination of 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 ."

"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism . . The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories [branches of government and the states], and constituting each the guardian of the public [welfare] against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes.

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness – these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens.

"The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity [expressions of happiness]. Let it simply be asked, Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? [so help me God verboten]

"AND let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure [some people], reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle [we hear a lot of that these days].

"It is substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. WHO THAT IS A SINCERE FRIEND TO IT CAN LOOK WITH INDIFFERENCE UPON ATTEMPTS TO SHAKE THE FOUNDATION OF THE FABRIC?" [my emphasis throughout]

P.S. The integrity and intellectual power of our Founding Fathers are so obviously superior to that of our contemporaries that it almost goes without saying, but all of these principles of Washington are impugned by our media, and scorned by our pop culture and pop politicians on the Left alike. Virtually no one will be quoting him in a 2018 commencement address.

PPS: I took this photo of Mount Rushmore. Look closely and you will see tears running down the right side of George's face.

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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