Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Waiting for Duck Season


The night of 4/5 December 1979 was a particularly long night for the Colonel.  It was a long and painful night for the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.

Not much more than 8 months after the birth of their first child, Miss Brenda sidled up to the Colonel and whispered in his ear, "I'm pregnant."

The Colonel blinked, and then whispered back, "I'm deploying."

Those of you who know the Colonel personally, know that he is obsessed of the insanity that is duck hunting.  The fifth of December 1979 was the opening day of duck season in North Carolina and the Colonel was then stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina through which a broad shallow estuary flows and holds prodigious amounts of migrating waterfowl during the winter months.  

The Colonel had plans to be in a duck blind when the sun rose on the 5th of December.

Instead, the Colonel was bedside of the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda as she gave birth to a second son.

Jeremy could have been born on the 4th of December -- his mother's labor had begun early on that day.  But he waited for duck season.

He and the Colonel have been waiting for duck season every year since.       

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Kicking the Habit

2018 is shaping up to be a much different year for the Colonel.

He knows, there's still a good bit of 2017 to play through, but he's in the red zone with a comfortable lead.  Besides, no year has ever beaten him.

One of the reasons that the Colonel is optimistic about a different new year -- different in priorities, if nothing else -- is that he's going to cleanse his soul of an addiction that has ruled him for decades.

The Colonel is going to kick the Ole Miss Rebel Football habit.

Allow him to be crystal clear on this point: the Colonel will always be an Ole Miss Rebel -- proud that when the choosing time was upon him in the halcyon days of his misspent youth, he chose to go to Ole Miss... instead of college.  

It was the third best and second worst decision he ever made.

What was the Colonel's first and second best decisions, you ask?  Well, for those of you who don't know the Colonel personally and to whom the answer is not obvious by personal observation -- the first and second best decisions he ever made were Jesus and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, respectively.

The worst decision the Colonel ever made is, frankly, none of your business.

Ole Miss ranks as one of the Colonel's best decisions because the school began the process that marked him as a little different than everyone else.  The Marine Corps completed that process, but this missive isn't about the greatest fighting force mankind has ever seen.

This missive regards an institution whose very soul embodies the best and worst of the people from whose state it takes its name.

And, Ole Miss Rebel Football is the physical manifestation of all that is good (and not so good) about Mississippi.

To be an Ole Miss Rebel Football fan is to turn your back on the rest of the world and hike your kilt.

To be an Ole Miss Rebel Football fan is to pine for regular winning seasons, but take solace in the irregular upset of highly favored rivals.

To be an Ole Miss Rebel Football fan is to, with a straight face, walk proudly under the arch of the "Walk of Champions" even though the last football championships were so long ago that their memory exists only in the hearts of octogenarian Rebels.

To be an Ole Miss Rebel Football fan is to warmly and graciously invite opposing fans into your tailgate tent and then hotly and viciously tell them "we're gonna beat the hell out of you."  

For the Colonel, his Ole Miss Rebel Football fandom has been a drug with unpredictable and monstrous effects.  The highs are the highest and the lows are the lowest.

When the Colonel matriculated at Ole Miss in the mid-seventies Ole Miss Rebel Football was in a post-Archie Manning (and post- Johnny Vaught) hangover that left Ole Miss Rebel Football fans with so very little to cheer for that the only rallying cry of any consequence were the stirring strains of "Dixie" and the sight of tens of thousands of miniature Beauregard Battle Flags snapping to the beat. 

By the time the Colonel retired from the Marine Corps, moved back to the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere, and purchased Ole Miss Rebel Football season tickets, the miniature Beauregard Battle Flags had been banned in a spate of political correctness appeasement.

But, they still played "Dixie."

No matter how horrible Ole Miss Rebel Football got (and it got pretty stinkin' horrible) the Colonel and 50 thousand of his closest friends could (after shelling out way too much hard earned greenbacks for seats, parking, and stale concessions) fill the hallowed confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and do what no other public collection of people in the world could do -- sing "Dixie."

Without malice.  "Dixie" was our love song to a region that was way beyond the rest of the nation in racial reconciliation.  Scoff if you must at that notion -- but if you weren't there with the Colonel and 50 thousand of his closest friends (black and white), you just don't know the truth. 

Then, a paroxysm of political correctness appeasement once again seized the trembling hearts of the temp-help then poorly filling leadership positions in the University of Mississippi's administration.
"Dixie" was banned.  

You could feel the spirit lift from the campus and drift away on a north wind of neo-reconstructionism.

Amidst this spirit-killing de-dixiefication of Ole Miss Rebel Football, the long-standing mascot -- Colonel Rebel -- took a politically correct knife to the back.  He was replaced by a cartoon bear.  The bear has just recently been replaced by a cartoon landshark.

What's next?  

If the current trajectory continues, the nicknames "Ole Miss" and "Rebel" will eventually succumb to the fascism of political correctness.

Oh, and did the Colonel mention that the University of Mississippi -- a state-funded, public institution -- no longer flies the flag of the state?  

What's next?  Change the name of the institution, because the very name "Mississippi" offends the sensibilities of a very vocal and very small minority?

Will the flag of the United States of America slide down the pole in front of the Lyceum one evening, never to fly again, because it also offends the sensibilities of that very vocal and very small minority?

Here's a fact you can take to the bank.  The Colonel, and his money, will no longer be a party to fascism.  He'll no longer shell out way too much of his hard earned cash for seats, parking, and stale concessions, to sit in a half-empty stadium and have his tinnitus-ravaged hearing assaulted by bigoted and rapine rap.

The Colonel is kicking the habit.  He will, however, forever loudly and proudly be an Ole Miss Rebel.  

Even when the political correctness fascists get around to outlawing that self-identification.               

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Sweet Commands

Martha Cannon used to say, speaking of her son-in-law, "When I couldn't run him off, I adopted him."

The Colonel didn't need adopting -- he had very special parents doing a great job of raising him already -- but, Miss Martha saw the connection between her daughter and the Colonel and decided she would also lend a hand in shaping the young man who would probably end up becoming her son-in-law.

Martha lost the love of her life a year ago and came to live with the Colonel and the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.  She passed peacefully in her sleep early this morning and awoke in the arms of her Savior and looking into the eyes of her husband of 61 years. 

Four decades ago, when the Colonel took off with Miss Brenda, Miss Martha held his face in her strong hands and simply said, "You love my daughter."  

It wasn't a question.  It wasn't a request.  

It was a sweet command. 

Miss Martha was never demanding, but she was the master of the sweet command.  And, nobody dared disobey -- not out of fear, but out of tremendous love for a lady who never gave anyone a reason not to love her. 

The Colonel first became aware of an irresistibly cute and shy Brenda Cannon when they were barely 15.  It may not have been "love at first sight" but it was definitely not long after first sight that the Colonel, young as he was, decided that the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was someone to lay claim to for a lifetime.

When the Colonel met the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's beautiful mother, the deal was sealed.

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda's parents were not so sure.  In fact, they strongly counseled her to keep the Colonel at arms' length.  It was wise counsel.  But, to the Colonel's good fortune, Miss Brenda picked him to be one of the very few things on which she ever disagreed with her parents.

Jack and Martha Cannon were the Colonel's in-laws from the 31st of July in 1976.  But, they were more than just "in-laws."  Because Miss Brenda loved him with all her heart, they did too.

Miss Martha was a small-town girl from rural West Tennessee.  She went to work at Sears in Memphis right out of high school and there caught the eye of a stock-boy working his way through school at Memphis State.  Jack Cannon set his heart and mind on meeting (and marrying) the dark-haired beauty and finally finagled a date by inviting her to church.  They were married not many months later and parents of twin daughters within a year.  The next two decades took Martha far from Tennessee, following Jack's career as an Air Force pilot  --  Texas, Florida, Washington, Hawaii, New York, California, New Jersey, Tennessee, Panama...

Martha moved and set up household for her family more times than most folks take a trip out of state.  She kept her daughters safe and secure while Jack flew around the world representing the United States and helping keep the world safe for democracy.  She supported her husband's demanding career without question and with evident pride.  

When Linda and Brenda left home for college, Martha immediately opened her home to more children -- serving as a foster mom for dozens of children.  At her church in Panama City, Florida, Martha served as a pre-school Sunday School teacher for two generations of children, one of whom later became the Colonel's daughter-in-law.

To her grandchildren and great-grandchildren she was known as "Memaw," a name that everyone in the family, young and old, used with great affection.    

When Mr. Jack passed last year, the wise and courageous Miss Martha came to live with the Colonel and his bride.  What a blessing that year has been!  Caring for Miss Martha consumed each day, and enriched each one as well.

Compassionate, humble, positive, wise, devoted...  there's a whole dictionary of noble descriptions for this wonderful woman, and all the words in the world won't fill the hole in the Colonel's heart this morning.

Love you Memaw!                 

   


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Best Kept Secrets of an SLJO

Thirty-five years ago -- give or take a couple of weeks -- the Colonel, then a first lieutenant, was aboard a ship anchored in the protected waters of an Indian Ocean atoll called Diego Garcia.

The Colonel was then the junior officer on the staff of a Marine Air-Ground Task Force (today called a Marine Expeditionary Unit) embarked on one of the U.S. Navy's BUGS (Big Ugly Gray Ships).  As the junior officer on that staff, the Colonel had a long list of written primary and collateral duties; none of which superseded his unwritten duties as SLJO --[descriptive expletive deleted] Little Jobs Officer.  [descriptive expletive deleted] little jobs were often menial tasks that senior officers considered beneath the dignity of an enlisted man, but requiring the industry of a junior officer shamelessly protective of his career and willing to do anything to stay in the good graces of his superiors.

[descriptive expletive deleted] little jobs often popped up as events or requirements for which the aforesaid senior officers had failed to plan, and for which the time of the most junior and least experienced officer would not be considered a waste.

Assignment to these pop up [descriptive expletive deleted] little jobs often started the same way, but rarely ended like this one:

"Lieutenant George, come here!"

"Sir! It's Lieutenant Gregory."

"What?"

"My name is Lieutenant Gregory, sir."

"Wha... who?  Where is Lieutenant George?" 

"Sir, there is no Lieutenant George."

"Sure there is!  Short, skinny, balding, smart-[descriptive expletive deleted] with a budding Napoleon complex."

"Uh..., that's me, sir.  Lieutenant Gregory."         

 "Whatever, lieutenant...  What are you doing right now?"

"Well, sir, I was writing the operations report that you told me had to be on your desk by noon, and...

"That's not important right now.  Got another job for you.  There's a C-141 leaving from the airfield ashore in three hours.  Be on it."

"Aye, aye, sir!"  The Colonel (then still a lieutenant) spun on his heel and headed for the door.

"Wait a minute, George!  Where are you going?"

"It's Gregory, sir... I was headed ashore as directed." 

"Gregory?  What happened to Lieutenant George?"

The Colonel (then a lieutenant beginning to believe his anonymity meant he'd achieved his terminal rank) stood quietly at the position of attention and waited for further instructions.

"Take this binder, lieutenant.  The C-141 is going to Perth.  When you get there, go to the Parmelia Hilton and set up everything for our Birthday Ball.  The binder has everything you need to do -- follow it to the letter.  We'll be there in a couple of weeks, and..."      
"Perth, Australia, sir?" 

"Don't interrupt me, lieutenant!  Yes, Perth, Australia.  Do I need to send a lance corporal along to supervise you?"

"No, sir."

"Fine.  Listen carefully.  This is the most important job you'll ever have while assigned to this staff, and..."

"Sir, I thought you said that being assigned as the liaison to the Sultan of Oman's Land Forces for last month's exercise was the most important job I'd ever have..."

"Stop interrupting!  You didn't get that assignment -- I gave that mission to Lieutenant George.  Where is he by the way?  He would do a better job with this."     

"Sir... I'm Lieutenant George."

"Thought so!  You're not going very far in this man's Marine Corps if you can't remember your own name.  Now, when you get to the Parmelia Hilton, follow the checklist in this binder to the letter.  Do not deviate.  Do you understand?"

"Yes, sir."

"We've already made reservations for you.  Get going."

"Aye, aye, sir!"

Twelve hours later...at the front desk of the Parmelia Hilton in Perth, Australia:

"G'day, sah!"

"Huh..., yeah, I'm Lieutenant Gregory, U.S. Marines.  I believe I have a reservation..."

"Hmmm, we have a reservation for a Lieutenant George..."

"I'm Lieutenant George..."

"Right, mate.  No worries.  Could'a sworn you said 'Gregory'.  We've been expectin' you!  Here's your room pass.  Our Events Coordinator will ring you up in the morning."  

A bell rung, a porter grabbed the Colonel's bag, and a long elevator ride and a short walk later they were opening the door to his room.

Only it wasn't a "room."  The Colonel has paid onerous mortgages on spaces far smaller.  He followed the porter back down to the front desk.

"Excuse me.  About my room..."

"Sorry, sah.  Is there a problem with it?"

"No... I mean... yes..., I mean..., I'm afraid you've given me the key to the wrong room."

"So very sorry, sah!  Let me check that...  No, sah.  That's the right room."

"But, it's not a "room..."

"Well..., no, sah!  It's our best suite..."

"Hold on there, now, partner!  There ain't no way my per diem is gonna pay for two weeks in that suite!"

"Oh, no, sah!  It's complimentary!"

"Yeah, I know it's nice.  But, I can't afford it."

"It's complimentary, sah.  On the house.  Y'know, mate... free."  

"Even the fruit basket and bottle of wine?"

"Compliments of the house, mate."

Twelve hours, a fruit basket, a bottle of Western Australia's finest, and a long nap on a very long bed later, the Colonel's phone rang.  It was the Events Coordinator.  The Colonel showered and shaved, and lugged his thick binder down to her office.

Before the Colonel could start wading through the hundred or so pages of checklists, the Events Coordinator opened her own binder, "We've taken the liberty of organizing your event along the lines of the events your organization has held here for the past twenty years or so.  Everything is arranged.  Unless you have any additional requirements, all that is required from you is your signature on the contract."  

The Colonel quickly leafed through the Event Coordinator's binder.  It was identical to his.  

The Colonel signed the contract,

Thomas E. George 

Lieutenant George had a very nice, all-expense-paid, two-week stay in Perth, Australia.  And, that's all Lieutenant George has ever had to say about that...

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Earning the Lessons of War

Ninety-nine years ago, the guns fell silent.

For four years, mostly along a line that ran across Belgium, Luxemburg, and France from the Channel to the Swiss border, an incessant roar of artillery and staccato chatter of machine guns had filled the air.  From any listening point along that line the din of war was rarely ever squelched. 

Now, at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month -- 11 A.M. on the 11th of November, 1918 -- the only sound along the front was a ragged cheer from men long at war finally at peace.

The Great War was over -- the fighting ceased by an armistice later codified by a treaty of peace.  However, the pain and suffering, political disorder, and technological change wrought by the conflict would endure for, and impact, generations.  

The war had literally bled white an entire generation of European men.  Apocryphal, yet telling, is the belief that of the plaques honoring the war dead of each graduating class at the French military academy Saint Cyr, there is one that simply says "The Class of 1914."   (In reality, only three quarters of the class died in the WWI; but, that is, in itself, emblematic.)   

The horrors of this first "modern" war defy comprehension.  The slaughter wrought by the mismatch of ploddingly antiquated battlefield doctrine and galloping technological advances boggles the mind.  Nearly 11 million soldiers (and half that number of civilians) died.  Life in the trenchworks was a horrid existence -- vermin and disease sat to a soldier's left, death by shrapnel or gas to his right.  To leave the trenches and assault forward meant crossing ground churned by shell and swept by machine gun fire.  Advances were often measured in mere yards.  Casualties dwarfed any previous war's toll. 


The killing fields of France, scarred still by the detritus and designs of war, were sown with seeds of monstrous destruction from which sprouted literal death and maiming for years to come.  Mines, unexploded shells (many filled with poisonous gas), and barbed wire entanglements continued to claim victims for decades after the fighting ceased. 

Even the 1919 Treaty of Versailles -- the treaty of peace forced on a politically, if not militarily, shattered Germany by the victorious Allies -- contained its own clutch of eggs in which poisonous offspring incubated in the heat of national humiliation, and from which slithered serpents of deception and destruction to wreak even greater pain and suffering on future generations.   

The world of 1919 was a place much different than it had been in 1914.  Empires, whose hereditary monarchs once ruled far-flung colonial possessions and commanded respect and admiration on the world stage, now lay headless and shrunken corpses in the back-alleys of history.  In their place, upstart empires led by commoners stoking the flames of ideology (democracy, socialism, nationalist socialism, and militant religious nationalism) flexed their newly fledged wings and flew about picking over the abandoned territories like so many buzzards over carrion.  From this witches' brew of humiliation and populism, new, more deadly, conflicts arose. 

Many of the military strategists who fought in the Great War (Pershing and his Operations Chief -- Fox Conner; one of the Colonel's military heroes -- prominent among them) saw clearly the certain future world war.  Pershing and Conner had argued in late 1918, as the German army retreated from the Allied offensive made possible by American reinforcements, and the German people recoiled in revolution at the great slaughter, that the "unconditional surrender" of the German army should be demanded; but, the Allied supreme command (French) considered unconditional surrender by the Germans unrealistic.  The Allied offensive was reclaiming ground held by the German army since the beginning of the war, but the German army was still very much an effective fighting force.   As the toll of the war mounted on the German people, revolution brewed.  Kaiser Wilhem, support lost among both his people and the army, finally abdicated on 9 November.  The new German regime immediately sued the Allies for an armistice.  Half a year later, the civilian leaders of the victorious powers -- France, Great Britain, the United States, and Italy -- wrought (and forced on Germany) not just a treaty of peace, but a severe punishment that included devastating reparations, humiliating territorial concessions (Japan got Germany's colonies in China and the Pacific -- setting the stage for a future war in the Pacific), and unrealistic military limitations.  

Pershing and Conner opposed the harsh punishments imposed on Germany by the Allies in the Treaty of Versaille.  Conner saw clearly that the humiliation of who he considered "the strongest people" in Europe would blowback with another even larger war as a result.  Over the next two decades, Conner made it a point to prepare his proteges (Marshall, Eisenhower, and Patton, among many others) for the coming second world war he was certain would spring from the stipulations of the treaty. 

America -- never keen to enter the war in Europe -- quickly settled back into isolationism; and worse, unpreparedness.  In Fox Conner's mid 1920's assignment in charge of the U.S. Army's logistics, he was appalled to find that the Army's entire budget for one year was less than what was spent to keep the AEF in the field for one week.  Ammunition stocks were aging and dwindling at an alarming rate.  The Army's manning dropped precipitously in the twenties and thirties -- to less than a third the number that Pershing and Conner considered the minimum to keep a nucleus of prepared forces to meet the next threat and train a rapidly swelling wartime force.

(Such unpreparedness was, unfortunately, an American habit.  When the United States declared war on Spain in 1898, it had a relatively modern and effective navy; but the American army was miniscule.  The Spanish army in Cuba dwarfed the standing American army -- Spain had nearly 200,000 men in Cuba, armed with modern weapons.  In order to invade and "liberate" Cuba, a volunteer army was quickly raised.  Fortunately, Spain quickly grew tired of the fight and sued for an armistice -- although it's main force in Cuba was still effective.  The Colonel believes that had Spain really wanted to hold on to Cuba, and its other Caribbean territory, Puerto Rico, it could have easily done so -- within a half dozen weeks of landing on Cuba, tropical diseases had swept the American invasion force and reduced its fighting efficiency by 75%.)         

Clauswitz, one of history's most profound students of the nature of war, maintained that war was not a failure of politics and diplomacy, but was itself an extreme extension of those interstate activities.  By logical extension, preparedness for war strengthens a nation's diplomatic hand.  America's ability to exercise the influence in world affairs won by great sacrifice in 1918 was squandered by myopic populist politicians and nearly nonexistent a decade later.

Of the lessons of war Conner's mentorship imparted on the generation of military leaders that saw America and her allies through to victory in the next great war, the maxim that while weapons, doctrine, terrain, and weather change -- human nature does not, is perhaps the most salient.  Conner taught this maxim to prepare Marshall and Eisenhower to expertly conduct the coalition-building required to make many allied nations fight as one.  While that was indeed the competency that Marshall and Eisenhower needed most, there is a greater, big picture lesson for our Republic.

War is the one certain constant in the nature of man.  Denial of this fact places a nation at existential risk.  Peace is ephemeral -- out of humanity's grasp by God's design.   But, freedom and relative security is attainable -- at cost.

Ninety-nine years ago the guns fell silent.  The Colonel's maternal grandfather was one of a million American fighting men whose voices joined the chorus of cheers that swept the lines at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  The sacrifice those men -- and those like them in generations before and after -- laid on the altar of freedom must be remembered.  It also must animate us to internalize and apply the lessons of war.  

There is no more fitting tribute to an American veteran than to earn, through respect and preparedness, the freedom and security for which they fought.              

Friday, November 03, 2017

The "Invisible Figure"

One hundred years ago -- November 5th, 1917, to be exact -- one of the most influential, and practically unknown, Mississippians of the 20th Century was named acting Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations (G-3) for the fledgling American Expeditionary Force (AEF) forming in France for participation in the war against Germany.  The eyes of the world were on the AEF and it's dashing commanding general, John J. "Blackjack" Pershing.  The hopes of the bled-white French and British allies were on the infusion of manpower that promised to come with the entry of the United States into the Great War.  The man upon whose shoulders Pershing placed the burden of planning the largest foreign expedition of American forces in the nation's 140 year history, was Fox Conner of Slate Springs, Mississippi.  

Pershing's AEF would be formed from a literal standing start.  The plan to field 100 divisions to help the Allies drive the Germans out of France was particularly daunting given the fact that the United States Army in 1917 had no divisions.  The largest standing maneuver organizations the Army had were a handful of infantry regiments of a few thousand men each.  The plan that Conner and his fellow planners had developed in the few short months since the United States had declared war on Germany in April of 1917 called for very large (28,000 men) divisions organized in two brigades of two regiments each.  

Organizing and training this behemoth force was one thing.  Getting a million men and their equipment to France in a matter of months was quite another.  Shipping was at a premium and German submarines were sinking allied shipping at an alarming rate.        

Colonel Fox Conner's office in Chaumont, France, near the border with Switzerland, was a world away from the cotton fields of his youth in Calhoun County, Mississippi.  He could not have arrived at this opportunity for professional stardom on the world stage from a more unlikely beginning.  This son of a Confederate soldier blinded at Shiloh is perhaps the epitome of the uniquely American ideal that one's starting point has no bearing (except that which one allows) on one's life accomplishments.

Fox Conner's path from Mississippi cotton fields to prominence in the United States Army was kick-started by his thirst for reading, which in turn was nurtured by his educator parents.  Accepted into the Class of 1898 at the United States Military Academy at West Point, Conner persevered through persecution for his humble southern beginnings and graduated near the top of his class.  The prevalent attitude amongst American military professionals at the end of the 19th Century was that graduation from West Point was all the professional military education one needed for the duration of a career.  Conner didn't buy into this attitude.  The first two decades of his career were marked by continual study, particularly in his occupational specialty (artillery), but also in the art and science of high level staff planning and strategy.  

Perhaps the seminal assignment of his first two decades of service, was Conner's posting to a French artillery regiment in 1912.  At the time, the French Army possessed the world's preeminent artillerists, as well as general staff planners second only to the Germans.  Conner returned to the United States in 1914 with three strengths unique in the American Army -- fluency in French, knowledge of world-class artillery, and advanced staff planning expertise.   When the first coordination meetings occurred with the French (and British) following US entry into the war, Conner was an obvious choice to participate in a supporting role.  His inclusion by Pershing on the AEF staff was largely in recognition of the highly professional way in which Conner had contributed to those early meetings. 

As American forces arrived in France throughout the first year of US involvement, Pershing and Conner withstood tremendous pressure from the British and French to piecemeal small American units into British and French formations.  The American plan was to assemble a nearly three million-man army in France and then employ that force in a war of maneuver (as opposed to the static trench warfare of the first three years' fighting) to take the war to the heart of Germany.  Conner's plan called for this massive force to be available in the Spring of 1919.

One of the cardinal rules of war is that the enemy gets a vote.  When Lenin's Revolution took the Russian Army out of the war in the fall of 1917, the German Army was able to shift scores of divisions from the Russian front to face the Allies in France.  By the time of the German's 1918 Spring offensive, the AEF had barely established only one of the planned four dozen Corps (each comprising four divisions).  With Paris threatened by a rapidly advancing German offensive, Pershing and Conner, despite their desire to hold their forces out of the fighting until 1919, threw their four divisions into the fight.  

Long war-story short, the German offensive faltered short of Paris and the ensuing counter-offensive by the Allies ended the war with the Armistice signed into effect on the 11th of November, 1918.

But Fox Conner's story doesn't end there -- not by a long shot.  In the run-up to the First World War, Conner befriended and began a mentorship with two young officers you may have heard a little bit about.  One was a profane squeaky-voiced tank enthusiast by the name of Patton.  The other was a serious and strikingly intelligent young staff officer by the name of Marshall.  George C. Patton and George S. Marshall had a little bit to do with the successful execution of a little scrape known as the Second World War.

Patton introduced Fox Conner to a down-on-his-luck friend by the name of Eisenhower.  Young Ike's career was going nowhere fast.  He had missed out on the fight in France in 1918 -- his tank unit was scheduled to embark on shipping for France in late November 1918.  Conner saw potential in Eisenhower, when no one else did.  When Conner was given command of the garrison in the Panama Canal Zone, he took Major Eisenhower with him as his second in command.  Duty in Panama in the inter-war years was stultifyingly boring, but Conner drilled Eisenhower incessantly in staff planning, strategy, combined operations with multi-national allies, and, perhaps most importantly in the art of recognizing talent. Two years with Conner gave Eisenhower a professional education that twenty years in staff colleges couldn't touch.  

Eisenhower later praised Conner as the "outstanding soldier of my time," and credited Conner as the "one more or less invisible figure to whom I owe an incalculable debt."   

At the end of his career Fox Conner was one of the leading officers of the United States Army.  In retirement, he was a highly respected lecturer at the U.S. military's war colleges.  

He wrote no memoir.  He ordered his letters and papers destroyed on his death.  He survives in memory nearly as invisibly as he served.

It shouldn't be so.   
              

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Corps Novembers

On Friday, next week, the Colonel's beloved Marine Corps celebrates it's 242nd birthday, and a day later our nation sets aside the day to honor all those who have served the nation in its armed forces. In honor of the occasion, the Colonel republishes the following, one of the first posts on the Colonel's Corner:

November is an important month for Marines, and is particularly a month tied to memories for this Marine. The obvious reason for its importance to Marines is that the Corps celebrates its establishment on 10 November. On that date in 1775, nearly 9 months BEFORE the signing of the Declaration of Independence, a rebellious outlaw group of landed gentry and merchants, ostensibly acting in representation of the will of the people of the 13 British colonies in North America, and calling themselves the Continental Congress, resolved that two battalions of Marines be raised for service with an all but non-existent rebel fleet (a resolution for establishing a navy had only been passed less than 4 weeks previous). Marines attach great celebratory import to the date 10 November, but few realize that the two battalions initially authorized by Congress were actually never raised.

You see, Congress had this great idea. They wanted to invade Canada. Mind you, we had just initiated open conflict with the greatest nation on the planet by skirmishing with its small occupation/constabulary force in America, and needed to be thinking about protecting the territorial integrity of the 13 Colonies against the sure to come full-scale British military operation to quell the rebellion. But, Congress wasn't thinking about border security (sound familiar?) and fancied themselves strategists of the first order. Part of their great invasion plan was an attack on the British naval base at Halifax, Nova Scotia. The two battalions of Marines the Continental Congress resolved to raise were to be the assault force of that naval raid. George Washington, in command of the Continental Army, objected to the diversion of resources, and the plan (along with the two battalions of Marines) never got past the drawing board.

But, an American navy of sorts was growing (converted merchant ships mostly) and the British naval model called for Marines on board to act as the captain's security force (18th Century sailors were an undisciplined lot), as sharpshooters during engagements at sea, and as a landing force for small-scale expeditions ashore. The American colonists were British after all, and they copied the Royal Navy right down to the printed regulations. There was an abundance of out-of-work able seamen in colonial seaports, and some of the more trustworthy were enlisted to serve as Marines. A tavern-keeper with scant martial or maritime experience was the first Marine officer commissioned by the Continental Congress. Samuel Nicholas was evidently prized for his recruiting skills and for the fact that he owned Tun Tavern in Philadelphia -- a local watering hole frequented by the aforementioned idle able seamen. To this day, Marines celebrate their birthday with a toast of rum-punch, supposedly the drink supplied by Nicholas to seal the deal on each enlistment. One has to wonder how many toasts were drunk BEFORE the aforementioned idle able seamen scrawled their X on the enlistment contract.

November is an important month for Marines for other reasons as well. On 10 November 1918, one hundred and forty-three years to the day after the Continental Congress had resolved to raise two battalions of Marines, two brigades (or the remnants thereof) of Marines prepared for the final assault of the First World War (that operation -- the crossing of the Meuse River -- occurred the night before the war ended with an armistice on 11 November 1918). That a United States Marine Corps even existed at that point is an amazing and twisted story of near-extinction, evolution of missions, and fighting spirit of Marine leaders who tenaciously fought to save their jobs. But, a Corps of Marines did exist when the US entered the War in France in 1917, and Marines quickly established a name for themselves (thanks in great part to Army censorship of their own exploits) at the bitter battles of Belleau Wood, Soisson, Chateau Thiery, and Mont Blanc. Not much of the original two Marine brigades survived the war. What did survive was a reputation for battlefield ferocity, and perhaps more importantly, experience by senior Marine leaders in large scale military operations and staff planning.

The month of November has another Marine Corps red-letter date -- 20 November 1943. On that date, at the conclusion of the first year of our war with Japan, the Second Marine Division conducted the first full-scale test of amphibious assault doctrine developed by Marines during the interwar years. While amphibious landing operations had been conducted earlier in the war, most notably at Guadalcanal, the 20 November D-Day on Betio in the Southwest Pacific Tarawa Atoll, was the Corps' first truly opposed amphibious assault. It was a near disaster, plagued by poor intelligence regarding the tides and reefs surrounding the island, poor application of naval gunfire support, and horrible ship-to-shore communications. The Japanese commander of the island had boasted that his defenses were so formidable that it would take "a million men, a thousand years" to overcome. Five thousand Marines of the Second Marine Division took Tarawa in less than 4 days. The cost was horrific -- 1085 Americans gave their lives for that speck of coral -- but the payoff was a treasure trove of lessons-learned that helped to perfect the conduct of amphibious operations and made possible successful Allied amphibious assault landings around the globe -- across the Pacific to bring Japan to its knees, and across the English Channel to force Hitler into his death bunker in Berlin.

From a force of 6 Divisions and a like number of Air Wings, the Marine Corps, following cessation of hostilities in 1945, dropped to less than a third of that size and was scattered in reserve when Kim Il Sung (the current North Korean Commie's granddaddy) sent his forces into South Korea in June of 1950. Scraped together quickly from mostly WWII veteran reservists, the understrength First Marine Division spearheaded MacArthur's bold 15 September 1950 Inchon landing that turned the flank of communist forces pinning the remnants of US and South Korean defenders holding the Pusan Perimeter at the southern tip of the peninsula. Two and a half months later, the First Marine Division had retaken Seoul, re-embarked on amphibious shipping, sailed around the peninsula to Wonson, and advanced to the North Korean border with China. In the bitter cold of one of the worst winters in a region known for bad winters (history is replete with battles fought in record-breaking winters, as if God tries to cool off warring mankind's ardor), the First Marine Division was attacked, on 27 November 1950, by the ten divisions of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army Ninth Army Group. Battling sub-zero cold and 100,000 Chinese, the Marines conducted a fighting withdrawal back to the coast and survived, barely, as a fighting force.

More recently, the month of November achieved further acclaim in the Corps' battle history with some of the most ferocious house-to-house fighting Marines had seen since the battle to retake Hue City during the 1968 Tet Offensive. Required to eradicate Al Queda and insurgent forces in the key Sunni Triangle city of Fallujah, ten days of bitter fighting began on the 7th of November, 2004.


November is a personal red-letter month for the Colonel as well. The first of November 2003 marked the official end of nearly three decades of his uniformed service to the United States of America.

Semper Fidelis, Marines!  Here's health to you and to our Corps!  

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Sleepless in Oxford

The Colonel knew what he signed up for when he joined the Marines.  

His mother was nearly apoplectic and his career Air Force NCO dad couldn't decide whether he was more upset that his son was going into the Marines or that he was going to be a [expletive deleted] officer.  They, and everyone else in the Colonel's world, opined with amazing foresight that serving in the Marine Corps would be hard at first and then get worse.

So, the Colonel knew what he was getting into.

Nobody, however, warned the Colonel about the absolute gut-wrenching, soul-sucking, hate-inviting, head-in-hands, cap-throwing anguish that would attend his life every football season as an Ole Miss Rebel.  

Thanks to his aforementioned career Air Force dad's assignments, the Colonel spent little time in Mississippi (his parents' home state), and knew precious little about Mississippi -- other than lots of doubled consonants.  There was that fifth grade year ('66 -- '67) in Columbus, while his dad went to fight the communists in Vietnam -- but, other than that, he had no clue.  He knew more about Morocco, Panama, and other foreign places (like Arkansas and Louisiana), than the 'Sip.  He was 18 and a stranger in a strange land when the Colonel's folks dropped him off in front of his dorm in Oxford.  

Ole Miss greeted the Colonel like something foreign on the bottom of a penny loafer.  Ole Miss was old money, southern aristocracy, and partying preppies.  None of which matched the Colonel's pedigree.  To say he didn't fit is like saying you shouldn't put ketchup on a T-bone.

Duh.

And, yet...  even though Ole Miss didn't love him, the Colonel fell in love with Ole Miss.  

It wasn't love at first sight -- more like love at long association.

And, it was a tumultuous, if not torrid, affair, punctuated with Rebel yells and early fall mornings cutting through the Grove for that 8 o'clock class, alone on his path and in his thoughts, the greatest of which was why in the name of all that is righteous did he let his academic advisor sign him up for a 5 semester hour math class that met at 8 in the morning every... day... of... the... week.

An 8 o'clock 5 semester hour math class should have been enough warning to send the Colonel running for his life.  That particular first semester freshman hell was, it turned out, harbinger of the nature of his life-long, love-hate relationship with Ole Miss.

And, speaking of harbingers...  Ole Miss football in the mid-seventies was atrocious.  The first season of games attended by the Colonel was painful.  

Eleven on a scale of one to ten painful.

Root canal by a recent dental-school grad painful.

Bumper hitch ball - shin collision painful. 

Listening to Donald Trump pa...  

You get the picture.

Rebel football was so bad in 1974 that South Carolina beat us 10-7 on our homecoming.

Why is that so bad you ask?

South Carolina won just one football game that year...

Then, just when the Colonel finally resigned himself to muddling in the mire of Ole Miss football mediocrity, the Rebels would pull off a stunning upset (Alabama and Georgia in '76, Notre Dame in '77); playing football like they actually knew how to play to win.

The last ten years -- since the Colonel returned to, and re-retired on a slice of country paradise just north of the campus..., and bought season tickets -- have been particularly painful.

There have been spectacular wins against hated rivals and complete collapses against non-conference patsies.  The emotional roller coaster that is to be an Ole Miss Rebel is not for the faint of heart.

Luckily, the Colonel, as has been pointed out by many close to him, has no heart...

Still, the Colonel gets entirely too wrapped up in the outcome of a game played by a bunch of teenagers.  So much so that most Saturday nights during football season, he doesn't sleep.

Not one wink.

Win or lose, late into the wee hours of Sunday morning, the Colonel will toss and turn, replaying the game's turning points.  It's stupid, the Colonel knows.  But, he ain't smart and you can't make him...    

Tonight, a hated rival -- LSU -- comes to town.  Nothing epitomizes what it is to be an Ole Miss Rebel more than Rebel Nation's absolute and abject hatred for LSU.  Tonight, the Colonel will pay way too much to park way too far away and hike way too long to climb way too high to his season-ticket seats for which he pays way too much of his hard-earned pension to yell way too hard for a bunch of teenagers in whom he invests way too much of his emotional energy.

In all probability -- if his long history with Ole Miss is any indication -- the Colonel will walk a couple of miles back to his car tonight, dejected, frustrated, and swearing that this is the last year he's gonna subject himself to this insanity.

Then, again... we might just win.

Either way, the Colonel won't sleep much tonight.          

      

              

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Columbus Dei

The Colonel doesn't understand the big deal about Columbus.

Seriously, he got lucky.

Timing is everything and the Genoese (Italy didn't exist at the time) map-maker hit the court of Ferdinand and Isabella at just the right time.  The rulers of the united kingdoms of Castile and Aragon (Spain didn't exist at the time) were feeling froggy after finally running the last of the Moors out of the Iberian peninsula and they jumped at the chance to enrich themselves with the opening of a new trade route to the Orient.

But, if Columbus hadn't gotten backing from the court of Castile, the Colonel feels quite comfortable in positing that another intrepid explorer from any one of a number of European countries would have very soon found his way across the Atlantic and washed up on a beach in the Caribbean or found shelter in a bay along the North American eastern seaboard.  It was just a matter of time.

Heck, French fishermen were already sailing pretty darn close.  And, we don't need to even begin a discussion about Norse longboat landings several centuries prior to that of Columbus's leaky second-hand caravels.  

It's a bit ironic, since Columbus was in search of a westward sailing route to China, that there's fairly good circumstantial evidence that a Chinese mariner hit the west coast of North America seventy years before Columbus bumped into the Bahamas.

The Colonel's point, blunt as it may be, is that we make far too much of a big deal out of Columbus (Cristobal Colon).  His "discovery" of the "new world" was a happy accident (happy, unless you happened to be an Arawak) that would have been accomplished by somebody else within a very few years.

(For the Bama and LSU fans who may have stumbled upon this blog whilst searching for pachyderm print toilet paper or a corn dog recipe, the Arawaks mentioned above were the inhabitants of the Caribbean islands when Columbus arrived.  They no longer exist.) 

And, while we're on the subject (if tangentially) of European exploitation of the Western Hemisphere, can we please dispense with the tired, and quite specious, argument that the "native" inhabitants of the Americas would have continued to live peaceful, noble lives in complete harmony with their environment if not for European interference.   

First of all, even the most cursory examination of Amerindian history reveals rampant inter-tribal warfare (replete with massacres, displacement, and -- gasp! -- cultural appropriation), large-scale terra-forming and nature-displacing city-building, and wholesale destruction of local environments.   

Second, even if Europeans had not attempted to colonize in the Americas and only contented themselves with establishing trade with the Amerindians, there would still have been no way to prevent the introduction of diseases for which the Amerindians had no natural resistance and from which perished upwards of 90% of the native populations extant in the Western Hemisphere at the end of the 15th Century, C.E.

Granted, the next three centuries of European exploitation of the Americas were replete with actions judged heinous by our "modern" sensibilities -- slavery and forced labor chief among them.  But, to assume that those practices began with the exploitation of the Americas, and were the exclusive province of European cultures, plumbs the depths of historical ignorance.

So, let's cool the Columbus jets, shall we?  Let's put his accomplishment in the proper perspective -- recognition, without lionization or stigma.

      

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Real Colonel Rebel

During his operational time as an infantry officer in the Marine Corps, the Colonel's radio call-sign was "Rebel."  It was naturally and obviously acquired because the Colonel didn't go to college -- he went to Ole Miss.  

When the Marine Corps advanced him, at the turn of the century (this century, not last -- he ain't that old) to the rank by which he will forever self-refer, the Colonel determined that he could and would also forever self-refer as the 21st Century personification of the Ole Miss mascot -- Colonel Rebel. 

The Colonel is the real Colonel Rebel. 

Imagine his dismay when, in 2003, the temp-help filling positions of leadership in the University of Mississippi's administration caved to a very vocal and very small minority demand that Ole Miss retire a mascot that very vocal and very small minority deemed offensive.  Eventually, a rigged election selected a danged bear as the new Ole Miss mascot.  

A bear.

A goofy bear -- bearing absolutely no qualifications nor any historical association with Ole Miss.   

Em - bear - assing.

Well, as of this week, the bear is dead.  The temp-help filling positions of leadership in the University of Mississippi's administration caved to a very vocal and very small minority of students who wanted the bear replaced by...

... ready for this?

A landshark.

The inmates are firmly in charge of the asylum.  

The animals are running the zoo.

The second lieutenants are leading the regiment.

The monkeys are managing the circus. 

Donald Trump is the pres...

You get the picture.

Unconstitutional political correctness is rampant on our Republic's college campuses and Berkley ain't the epicenter.  

The Colonel declares, with not one scintilla of parochialism, that Ole Miss is the epicenter of unconstitutional political correctness -- the very poster child of the pestilence of idiocy infecting our nation.      
Appeasement of the political correctness fascists (political correctness is the ultimate expression -- the very face -- of fascism) is a never-ending exercise in frustration and loss of physical and intellectual freedom. 

Appeasement always begets additional demands from the appeased, because the demand to which the appeaser accedes was never really the reason for the protest.  Political correctness is far less about social sensitivity and far more about accretion of social power at the expense of another's right to the innate human freedoms of expression, self-determination, association, orientation, and religious belief.  

The slashing saber of political correctness cuts both left and right.  For this reason, our wise (if imperfect) forebears incorporated in our republic's plan of governance certain protections (and a means for strengthening the original plan's protections) against the capricious societal use of mob rule (also known as "democracy" -- a term not found anywhere in the Constitution) to deny the holding of minority viewpoints critical in a truly "free" society. 

But..., holding a Constitutionally protected minority viewpoint does not give an American citizen veto over the Constitutionally protected beliefs and actions of the majority.  The Constitution does indeed protect the rights of the minority.  The Constitution does not protect the feelings of the minority. 

Governmental, or other authorities', actions which attempt to protect the feelings of the minority at the expense of the rights of the majority are UNCONSTITUTIONAL. 

By the way...  the Colonel is deeply offended by the caricature of a fisticuffs-ready leprechaun and the term "Fighting Irish."  Irish mercenaries were enlisted to hunt down and kill the Colonel's politically outlawed clansmen (MacGregors) in Scotland several centuries ago.  Irish immigrants were enlisted to hunt down and kill the Colonel's politically outlawed kin during the War for Southern Independence.

And..., exploiting a shark as a mascot is the very height of disregard for animal feelings.

Just saying.     




Thursday, September 28, 2017

Lumber Liquidator

The Colonel used to suffer from ADHD.  These days it's just ADD -- there ain't no hyper left in any of his activities anymore.

But the ADD shows up all over the Colonel's vast holdings here at the astronomical center of the southern sanity universe.  There's at least a dozen projects scattered around the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere -- none of which are more than 90% completed.

The major project that the Colonel has been pushing toward the 90% completion mark all summer is a combined lumber-drying solar kiln and lumber storage facility adjacent to his sawmill (Semper Filet).  

The operating theory behind the solar kiln is that a clear, south-facing roof and flat black interior walls will raise the interior temperatures well above the ambient and speed the drying of lumber fresh off of Semper Filet.  The Colonel figures he can dry lumber in his solar kiln in as little as a couple of months during the high sun season, where before it took six months or more for lumber stacked in the open to dry enough to be used for various almost finished projects.  

The Colonel has been ploddingly planning this particular structure for several years, studying construction concepts and deciding on the dimensions for the building.  Most of the DIY plans he perused seemed much too small for his purposes -- the Colonel intends to build a doghouse cabin down by Lake Brenda and that's going to take a lot of lumber.  So, the Colonel's solar kiln building is going to be three times bigger than anybody else's.

And, no, he's not compensating.  The Colonel just has plenty of experience with underestimation.  There was that dock that he built on Lake Brenda ten years ago, for example.  The year had been exceeding dry and the water was very low.  So low, in fact, that the Colonel estimated it would be decades before water levels reached anywhere near full pool.  The Colonel built the dock so that its deck would be dry up to 90% of full pool.  

The Colonel underestimated.  Three days of heavy rain the following March provided him with the opportunity to brag about catching fish swimming over his dock.  

When the Colonel commissioned the construction of his Man Toy Storage and Sawdust Production Facility, he figured that a 50' X 20' building would be large enough to house all his toys and a shop.

Wrong.  By a factor of three.

Most of the plans for DIY lumber drying solar kilns call for a relatively compact shed with a footprint of around 6' X 12'.   The Colonel hasn't a doubt in his military mind that a building that small will not even come close to cutting it for his purposes.  He's thinking a bit more "industrial-sized."   

The Colonel's building has a 24' X 16' footprint, with three separate stalls.

So far, framing up the Colonel's lumber storage and drying facility (he uses the acronym, LSD) has consumed all of the lumber that his personal forest-to-mill operation produced over the last 5 years, and, although it runs counter to his self-reliant lumber production philosophy, the Colonel has been supplementing his lumber needs with regular runs to the commercial lumber yard in town.

The other day the Colonel pulled up to the house, his beat up old pick-up -- Semper Fillit -- filled to the gunnells with a load of store-bought 2 x 6s.  The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was pulling weeds in her flower beds and welcomed the Colonel home in her most loving way,

"Where have you been all morning, Knucklehead?"

"Had to go to town for some supplies," the Colonel answered -- careful to not make eye contact.

"I see that.  I thought you said when you spent ten grand on that noisy saw mill that you would never have to buy wood again."

"It wasn't ten grand," the Colonel countered, still carefully avoiding eye contact.  "It was less than eight."

"Yeah, but you have easily spent another two grand on blades, log handling tools and gas for that noisy old thing."

The Colonel busied himself with unloading lumber from Semper Fillit and, without making eye contact, corrected the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, "Its name is Semper Filet."

"What?"

"Semper Filet, the sawmill's name is Semper Filet."

"More like Semper Fundit," the Colonel's bride countered. "Why won't you look at me?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," the Colonel answered, still carefully avoiding eye contact.

"Look. At. Me."

The Colonel stood from his lumber labors and faced the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.  "Yes, dear."

"Don't you 'yes, dear' me!  You spent a bunch of money on wood this morning didn't you?"

"Lumber."

"What?"

"It's lum-ber. You keep callin' it 'wood.'"

"Quit changing the subject!  How much did you spend?" 

The Colonel turned back to his lumber labors and mumbled, "couple hundred."

"What?  Did you say you spent a couple hundred dollars on that load of wood?"

"Lum-ber."

"Li-ar. I know when you say 'couple' you mean a whole lot more than just two."  

The comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda was beginning to give the Colonel thoughts about changing her nom d' amor.  

"The Colonel is thinking about changing your nom d' amor."

"Nom da what?"

"Nom d' amor.  You know, the lovingly descriptive term the Colonel uses for you when he writes or talks about you."

"That's not a real word.  You're just making stuff up, again."

"Whaddayou mean, 'again'?  The Colonel only occasionally 'makes stuff up.'  Most of the time he is using 'creative license'."

"Stop that!"

"Dear, the Colonel can no more restrict his use of creative license than a stepped-on copperhead can keep from bitin'."

"No, knucklehead, stop referring to yourself in the third person!"

"Dear, the Colonel can no more restrict the use of his trademark third person style than..."

"Please just stop!"  The comely and kind-hearted (pending change) Miss Brenda raised her dainty flower garden-gloved hands, palms facing the Colonel.  "How much are you going to spend on this monstrosity of a building blighting the landscape?"

"Dunno."

"You 'dunno', or you don't 'wanna' say?  Seriously, knucklehead, your grammar gets worse by the day.  For a man with two Masters degrees under his belt, you talk like the fifth grade was your 'senior year'."

"I. Don't. Know." 

"That's better."  The comely and kind-hearted (change pending) Miss Brenda's dainty flower garden-gloved hands were now resting on her dainty hips.  "Now, let me get this straight.  You bought a sawmill so that you wouldn't have to buy lumber anymore.  Now you have used up all of your own lumber, and are buying more, to build a building in which you are going to dry and store lumber that you make on that noisy old saw mill..."

"Semper Filet."

"Oh, shut up!"  

Monday, September 25, 2017

Silent Stance

The Colonel as Reviewing Officer for a Graduation Parade at MCRD,
Parris Island, shortly (no pun intended) before his retirement from active duty.
Everyone else has weighed in on the professional athlete protest during the National Anthem, so here's the Colonel's take:

The Colonel has been on record, from a time early in his adult life, as a very high risk to do serious jail time if he ever catches someone intentionally desecrating the national colors. That commitment has not changed, even though the swiftness of the Colonel's inevitable retaliatory strike may have lost a step or two with the passage of years.

The Colonel has saluted our Republic's colors thousands of times in uniform and out, at the sound of morning colors, at the playing of the National Anthem, at their passing on parade, and at the playing of taps for fallen warriors. The Colonel has even knelt on a couple of occasions and presented the folded colors of a fallen warrior to his widow. Not many things move the Colonel, but he is moved to tears nearly every time the National Anthem or Taps play -- particularly the older he gets.

Oh, how old and tearful he feels this morning. He must say that the current kerfuffle over kneeling players -- stoked by the self-aggrandizing current temp-help in the Oval Office -- is symptomatic of a loss of national vision... on both ends of, and throughout, the political spectrum.

The Colonel fears the people of our great nation -- made "great" not through the actions of our elected representatives, but by the sacrifices of its liberty-loving citizens -- have gouged bloody battle lines of civil strife down the middle of America's soul. We take vehement vocal issue at every perceived slight, at every utterance of our political foes, and at the actions of those who choose to exercise their American liberties in a manner with which we disagree.

What moves the Colonel this morning is the dawning realization, in the pea-sized collection of cognitive goo lying fallow in the bony recesses of his follicully-challenged brain housing group, that we Americans are standing sightless and deaf behind self-built battlements of individual indignant self-righteousness, screeching epithets at fellow Americans.

The Colonel almost wishes that we were mute, as well as blind and deaf.

But, that's the point. We Americans don't have the right of sight and hearing, but we do have the right of free speech.

Sight and hearing is the responsibility that comes with free speech.

The Colonel gets it -- and feels it -- the sight of pampered, overpaid actors and athletes using their publicly-paid-for stage to exercise their right of free (if misguided) speech is infuriating at first sight. But, in our fury we should not close our eyes and ears to the viewpoints of others -- no matter how misguided we feel they may be.

Our fury only feeds their mistaken belief.

The Colonel hasn't watched an NFL game in nearly a decade -- for reasons completely unrelated to the current situation. Frankly, the Colonel believes fantasy football has tainted the NFL experience (the Colonel is a dinosaur, he knows) -- but that's grist for another post. Anyway, the Colonel has far more pleasurable pastimes for his Sunday afternoon -- long, mouth-agape, snore-filled naps, chiefly.

So, please join the Colonel as he continues to rise to the position of attention and tearfully salutes the banner of patriots' dreams and widows' pride.

Or not. That's your right.  

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Washington's Farewell Address, 1796

George Washington's Farewell Address
"FRIENDS AND FELLOW-CITIZENS:
1 The period for a new election of a citizen, to administer the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprize you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
2 I beg you at the same time to do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.
3 The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement, from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence impelled me to abandon the idea.
4 I rejoice, that the state of your concerns, external as well as internal, no longer renders the pursuit of inclination incompatible with the sentiment of duty, or propriety; and am persuaded, whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire.
5 The impressions, with which I first undertook the arduous trust, were explained on the proper occasion. In the discharge of this trust, I will only say, that I have, with good intentions, contributed towards the organization and administration of the government the best exertions of which a very fallible judgment was capable. Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others, has strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself; and every day the increasing weight of years admonishes me more and more, that the shade of retirement is as necessary to me as it will be welcome. Satisfied, that, if any circumstances have given peculiar value to my services, they were temporary, I have the consolation to believe, that, while choice and prudence invite me to quit the political scene, patriotism does not forbid it.
6 In looking forward to the moment, which is intended to terminate the career of my public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of that debt of gratitude, which I owe to my beloved country for the many honors it has conferred upon me; still more for the steadfast confidence with which it has supported me; and for the opportunities I have thence enjoyed of manifesting my inviolable attachment, by services faithful and persevering, though in usefulness unequal to my zeal. If benefits have resulted to our country from these services, let it always be remembered to your praise, and as an instructive example in our annals, that under circumstances in which the passions, agitated in every direction, were liable to mislead, amidst appearances sometimes dubious, vicissitudes of fortune often discouraging, in situations in which not unfrequently want of success has countenanced the spirit of criticism, the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected. Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that Heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence; that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual; that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained; that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and virtue; than, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing, as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection, and adoption of every nation, which is yet a stranger to it.
7 Here, perhaps I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation, and which appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsel. Nor can I forget, as an encouragement to it, your indulgent reception of my sentiments on a former and not dissimilar occasion.
8 Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts, no recommendation of mine is necessary to fortify or confirm the attachment.
9 The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.
10 For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of american, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the Independence and Liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.
11 But these considerations, however powerfully they address themselves to your sensibility, are greatly outweighed by those, which apply more immediately to your interest. Here every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the Union of the whole.
12 The North, in an unrestrained intercourse with the South, protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds, in the productions of the latter, great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry. The South, in the same intercourse, benefiting by the agency of the North, sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand. Turning partly into its own channels the seamen of the North, it finds its particular navigation invigorated; and, while it contributes, in different ways, to nourish and increase the general mass of the national navigation, it looks forward to the protection of a maritime strength, to which itself is unequally adapted. The East, in a like intercourse with the West, already finds, and in the progressive improvement of interior communications by land and water, will more and more find, a valuable vent for the commodities which it brings from abroad, or manufactures at home. The West derives from the East supplies requisite to its growth and comfort, and, what is perhaps of still greater consequence, it must of necessity owe the secure enjoyment of indispensable outlets for its own productions to the weight, influence, and the future maritime strength of the Atlantic side of the Union, directed by an indissoluble community of interest as one nation. Any other tenure by which the West can hold this essential advantage, whether derived from its own separate strength, or from an apostate and unnatural connexion with any foreign power, must be intrinsically precarious.
13 While, then, every part of our country thus feels an immediate and particular interest in Union, all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations; and, what is of inestimable value, they must derive from Union an exemption from those broils and wars between themselves, which so frequently afflict neighbouring countries not tied together by the same governments, which their own rivalships alone would be sufficient to produce, but which opposite foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues would stimulate and embitter. Hence, likewise, they will avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty. In this sense it is, that your Union ought to be considered as a main prop of your liberty, and that the love of the one ought to endear to you the preservation of the other.
14 These considerations speak a persuasive language to every reflecting and virtuous mind, and exhibit the continuance of the union as a primary object of Patriotic desire. Is there a doubt, whether a common government can embrace so large a sphere? Let experience solve it. To listen to mere speculation in such a case were criminal. We are authorized to hope, that a proper organization of the whole, with the auxiliary agency of governments for the respective subdivisions, will afford a happy issue to the experiment. It is well worth a fair and full experiment. With such powerful and obvious motives to Union, affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those, who in any quarter may endeavour to weaken its bands.
15 In contemplating the causes, which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern, that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by Geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western; whence designing men may endeavour to excite a belief, that there is a real difference of local interests and views. One of the expedients of party to acquire influence, within particular districts, is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts. You cannot shield yourselves too much against the jealousies and heart-burnings, which spring from these misrepresentations; they tend to render alien to each other those, who ought to be bound together by fraternal affection. The inhabitants of our western country have lately had a useful lesson on this head; they have seen, in the negotiation by the Executive, and in the unanimous ratification by the Senate, of the treaty with Spain, and in the universal satisfaction at that event, throughout the United States, a decisive proof how unfounded were the suspicions propagated among them of a policy in the General Government and in the Atlantic States unfriendly to their interests in regard to the mississippi; they have been witnesses to the formation of two treaties, that with Great Britain, and that with Spain, which secure to them every thing they could desire, in respect to our foreign relations, towards confirming their prosperity. Will it not be their wisdom to rely for the preservation of these advantages on the union by which they were procured? Will they not henceforth be deaf to those advisers, if such there are, who would sever them from their brethren, and connect them with aliens?
16 To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a Government for the whole is indispensable. No alliances, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute; they must inevitably experience the infractions and interruptions, which all alliances in all times have experienced. Sensible of this momentous truth, you have improved upon your first essay, by the adoption of a Constitution of Government better calculated than your former for an intimate Union, and for the efficacious management of your common concerns. This Government, the offspring of our own choice, uninfluenced and unawed, adopted upon full investigation and mature deliberation, completely free in its principles, in the distribution of its powers, uniting security with energy, and containing within itself a provision for its own amendment, has a just claim to your confidence and your support. Respect for its authority, compliance with its laws, acquiescence in its measures, are duties enjoined by the fundamental maxims of true Liberty. The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their Constitutions of Government. But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish Government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established Government.
17 All obstructions to the execution of the Laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency. They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.
18 However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
19 Towards the preservation of your government, and the permanency of your present happy state, it is requisite, not only that you steadily discountenance irregular oppositions to its acknowledged authority, but also that you resist with care the spirit of innovation upon its principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the constitution, alterations, which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited, remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true character of governments, as of other human institutions; that experience is the surest standard, by which to test the real tendency of the existing constitution of a country; that facility in changes, upon the credit of mere hypothesis and opinion, exposes to perpetual change, from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion; and remember, especially, that, for the efficient management of our common interests, in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable. Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.
20 I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the state, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
21 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, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
22 The alternate domination of one 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.
23 Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
24 It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.
25 There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.
26 It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution, in those intrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective constitutional spheres, avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another. 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. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the Guardian of the Public Weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes. To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way, which the constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for, though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly overbalance in permanent evil any partial or transient benefit, which the use can at any time yield.
27 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 connexions with private and public felicity. 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? 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, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.
28 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 ?
29 Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.
30 As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is, to use it as sparingly as possible; avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the debts, which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burthen, which we ourselves ought to bear. The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should practically bear in mind, that towards the payment of debts there must be Revenue; that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that the intrinsic embarrassment, inseparable from the selection of the proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any time dictate.
31 Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages, which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a Nation with its Virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices ?
32 In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential, than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The Nation, which indulges towards another an habitual hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The Nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the Government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The Government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times, it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of Nations has been the victim.
33 So likewise, a passionate attachment of one Nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite Nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest, in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter, without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite Nation of privileges denied to others, which is apt doubly to injure the Nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained; and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, (who devote themselves to the favorite nation,) facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.
34 As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent Patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practise the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the Public Councils! Such an attachment of a small or weak, towards a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.
35 Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens,) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake; since history and experience prove, that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of Republican Government. But that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defence against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation, and excessive dislike of another, cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots, who may resist the intrigues of the favorite, are liable to become suspected and odious; while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.
36 The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connexion as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop.
37 Europe has a set of primary interests, which to us have none, or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.
38 Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient government, the period is not far off, when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality, we may at any time resolve upon, to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.
39 Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?
40 It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.
41 Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.
42 Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing, with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them, conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view, that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.
43 In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course, which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But, if I may even flatter myself, that they may be productive of some partial benefit, some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the fury of party spirit, to warn against the mischiefs of foreign intrigue, to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism; this hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare, by which they have been dictated.
44 How far in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself, the assurance of my own conscience is, that I have at least believed myself to be guided by them.
45 In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe, my Proclamation of the 22d of April 1793, is the index to my Plan. Sanctioned by your approving voice, and by that of your Representatives in both Houses of Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me, uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.
46 After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it, I determined, as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it, with moderation, perseverance, and firmness.
47 The considerations, which respect the right to hold this conduct, it is not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe, that, according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from being denied by any of the Belligerent Powers, has been virtually admitted by all.
48 The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without any thing more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the relations of peace and amity towards other nations.
49 The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be referred to your own reflections and experience. With me, a predominant motive has been to endeavour to gain time to our country to settle and mature its yet recent institutions, and to progress without interruption to that degree of strength and consistency, which is necessary to give it, humanly speaking, the command of its own fortunes.
50 Though, in reviewing the incidents of my administration, I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors. Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me the hope, that my Country will never cease to view them with indulgence; and that, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service with an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.
51 Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by that fervent love towards it, which is so natural to a man, who views it in the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several generations; I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my heart, and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors, and dangers.

George Washington
United States - September 17, 1796"