Washington’s Inaugural Address: Rely on Truth and God

Thomas Griffin 7/4/21

On April 30, 1789 George Washington delivered his inaugural address and became the first president of the United States. His words remind us that our country was founded by and fought for by noble, courageous, and faithful men who were grounded in God’s providential care.

“It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official Act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the Universe…and whose providential aids can supply every human defect.” Washington knew that even as the American experiment was launched into existence, they were only able to arrive at this moment because of God’s hand. The small band of rebels and outliers began a movement that spread like wildfire across the colonies and led to David conquering the Goliath of the British Empire. 

Here we encounter the all-important trait of the founding fathers. They were confident in their cause and in their own power, but they persevered, above all else, out of faith and out of the awareness that their cause was principled. The odds of their fight winning out against the mammoth of the British should have scared them immensely and buckled them from pursuing freedom actively. However, nothing would stop them; their belief in victory was seated in God and in what was right. So, they marched on.

Tradition, conservatism, freedom of speech and religion are now the new David’s who are lined up against the Goliath of cancel culture, wokeism and Godless ideologies. So many people who love their country are now pondering, “How did we get here? How could it be that our America has become so entrenched in Godless and lifeless philosophies?” Unfortunately, fear of modern Goliath’s and British Empires often buckles the movement to rediscover the principles our country was founded upon.

Today, George Washington shouts to our nation that victory belongs on the side of what is right and just. He knew that the most important aspect of a good president and leader is choosing the best course of action for those he leads. This pushed him to say boldly, “I behold the surest pledges, that as on one side, no local prejudices, or attachments; no separate views, nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests”

Perhaps, no greater piece of advice can be given to our elected officials than these previous lines. The position they hold is one that should be revered and used for the common good, not party allegiance or personal profitability. Tribalism in politics has led us to believe that we must only hate the other side. At no point ought we to view them as human beings but only as enemies who hold ridiculous policies and ideologies. 

In fact, it is the very promise to be unbiased that made President Washington even more up to the task of his office. “I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my Country can inspire,” because there is “an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness.” The pride of the position appealed to Washington because of the proper virtue implied by holding the office. His type of language may appear to modern ears as ancient and ultra-traditional, but to the patriot it is refreshing amidst the contemporary calls to tear down monuments and redefine political and biological aspects of reality. 

Most remarkably and suitable for our modern ears is the fact that Washington’s short speech alludes to God, the divine, or heaven over ten times. Many people remark that the need for God is an unnecessary one that no longer applies to our time, and yet, we wonder why there is so much hatred, evil and destruction in our cities and communities. We wonder how our country could have become so divided and how Americans could have so much vile for their fellow countrymen. Meanwhile, it is the loss and rejection of God that led us here. No one can claim that the first president didn’t warn us of such a fate. 

The remedy is God and virtue. To conclude his inaugural address, Washington implores the aid of “the parent of the human race” who “has been pleased to favor the American people” with the opportunity to peacefully establish their own form of government. Specifically, he asks God to give the American people the “advancement of their happiness,” and through relying on “the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.” 

Interesting concept: that human happiness depends on temperance, wisdom, and faith. To think before we act and not be controlled by our emotions or the mob, to not only think about decisions that make us more popular but to act on what is true, and to ensure that we never neglect to admit that we depend on a Creator, a God, for our existence and care.

If Americans rooted in Washingtonian wisdom desire to defeat modern Goliath’s like his rebel army did, we must sink our heels into the ground of the principles of truth and faith that molded our nation. Depend on God and do what is right, and watch the United States rise up again against unspeakable odds. Don’t count out America for a principled victory; it is in our blood to do so.

Thomas Griffin teaches at a Catholic high school on Long Island and lives with his wife and son. He writes for several Catholic media outlets.

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