- The Washington Times - Monday, November 10, 2003

On Veteran’s Day, we honor those who have risked their lives in military service for America. Other countries have similar commemorations of the valor of their servicemen and women, but the vision Americans have fought for sets ours apart. From Revolutionary times, our military forces have fought to create and defend something unprecedented — what Abraham Lincoln called “a new nation conceived in liberty.”

To honor America’s vision along with those who served to protect it, we should remember how that vision was put into words by the man who may be our most essential veteran — George Washington. He was essential to our Revolution’s success, the creation of our Constitution, and the precedent of how to govern under it. But he also knew his efforts were a means to an end — liberty.

“Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth.”

“We mean to support the liberty and independence which have cost us so much blood and treasure to establish. … ”

“Your Union ought to be considered as a main prop to your liberty; the love of the one ought to endear you to the preservation of the other.”

“As the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so ought it be the first to be laid aside when those liberties are firmly established.”

“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty on the supposition that he may abuse it.”

“Arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty. … ”

“Occupants of public offices love power and are prone to abuse it.”

“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”

“Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is a force, like fire: a dangerous servant and a terrible master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.”

“All those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protections of civil government.”

“Government … instituted to protect the consciences of men from oppression, it is certainly the duty of rulers, not only to abstain from it themselves, but … to prevent it in others.”

“The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”

“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension … is itself a frightful despotism. …The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose … on the ruins of the public liberty.”

“Liberty … is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction. … ”

George Washington was a man of action without whom America, which he called “this land of equal liberty,” would not exist. As he put it:

“The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves. … Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance or the most abject submission. We have therefore, to resolve to conquer or die.”

In many years as “first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen,” George Washington left us a legacy of wisdom in what he said as well as what he did. As we honor America’s veterans, who laid their lives on the line along with our first commander in chief, remember that what makes their sacrifices especially noble is that they have fought in the ongoing struggle to defend the liberty Washington led the way to win for us.

Gary M. Galles is an economics professor at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.

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