This Thursday, September 17th, 2009, will be the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the US Constitution. We have come a long way as a nation in that time, but have we gone the way our founding fathers intended us to go?
In his farewell address as the first and arguably the greatest President of the United States, George Washington made many references to our nation preserving its liberty by not becoming too entangled in foreign affairs.
Washington had endured a serious conflict as our nation’s first President. France and Britain were trying to convince the new nation to take a side in their long-contested war. So tense was this conflict that Thomas Jefferson, a supporter of France, resigned as Washington’s Secretary of State when Alexander Hamilton, a supporter of Britain, convinced Washington to sign on to the creation of a central bank.
Washington’s farewell speech was forward looking. He spoke of the dangers of our nation’s foreign entanglements, which could result in our government’s policies being influenced by foreign affairs and not the nation’s domestic needs. Washington’s warning held somewhat steady until the beginning of the 20th Century. Beginning with World War I and then continuing with World War II, the United States became a major player in the world’s affairs and has not looked back since.
Washington believed we could not truly be a free people if we allowed foreign affairs to be on an equal footing with domestic affairs. Washington was not a protectionist. He actually argued for free trade as he wrapped up his farewell speech. Washington was simply concerned that our nation would neglect the freedoms and liberties of our people if we let the opinions of foreign nations dictate our public policies.
America has seemed to stray from the founder’s vision on foreign affairs over the last century. America has strayed from the founder’s vision on domestic policy as well.
In 1913, the Congress of the United States passed the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This amendment then went to the legislatures of the states for ratification. The 17th Amendment took the power to appoint US Senators away from the state legislatures and allowed for the direct election of Senators.