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Washington's prophecies: The evils of power

George Washington kneeling in prayer

“The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolken describes man’s insatiable lust for “the Ring of Power”: “Always remember Frodo, the Ring is trying to get back to its master. It wants to be found.”

Power wants to concentrate.

In a real sense, George Washington held that “Ring of Power” and gave it up … twice. The first time was when Washington resigned his commission as general of the Continental Army in 1783.

The American-born painter Benjamin West was in England painting the portrait of King George III. When the king asked what General Washington planned to do now that he had won the war, West replied: “They say he will return to his farm.”

King George exclaimed: “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

The King was in disbelief as Washington’s actions were in stark contrast to kings throughout history who killed to get power and killed to keep power.

George Washington gave up power again when, after having served two terms as president, he returned to his Mount Vernon farm. This was similar to Roman leader Cincinnatus, who twice led the Roman republic to victory in battle then returned to his farm, resisting the temptation to be dictator.

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The world stood amazed as President Washington delivered his farewell address, which was printed in the American Daily Advertiser, Sept. 19, 1796.

President Andrew Jackson commented on it in 1837: “The Father of his Country in his Farewell Address … Washington … seemed to be … the voice of prophecy, foretelling events and warning us of the evil to come. … It is well known that there have always been those amongst us who wish to enlarge the powers of the General Government … to overstep the boundaries marked out for it by the Constitution.”

In his farewell address, Washington cautioned of dangers:

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