Writers of public school curriculum would do well to note that George Washington, the Father of our country, was a culturist. Washington laid out his culturist principles in a document all school children used to study, his 1796 Farewell Address to the nation, upon completing his second term as President.
Far from celebrating our multicultural ties to the Old World, Washington argued that, “it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; . . . 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.” He told his audience that, “Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections.” And in this context Washington took solace in the fact that, “With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles” because this similarity created strong cultural ties within our national community.
Washington further showed himself a culturist when he meditated for some time on the importance of public morality to the success of our “experiment” in self-government. Highlighting religion he wrote, “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. A volume could not trace all their connections with private and public felicity.” He declared culturist considerations a duty when he told the nation, “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?”
Washington’s Farewell Address echoed another core culturist precept when he discussed isolationism. Among his many statements against foreign entanglements he asked us not to “entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice.” He probably emphasized avoiding entanglements with Europe as it was the only region with which we would seriously consider meddling. To the extent that we must have alliances, culturism suggests we should bolster Western nations. But, on the whole, culturism advocates against foreign entanglements. Furthermore, he urged us to “take vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.”
Thus in his turgid farewell to the nation, Washington expressed the tenets of culturism perfectly. Rather than urging a multicultural philosophy that emphasizes our differences, he feared diversity undermining our unity and emphasized our commonality. Rather than calling indifference to public morality a virtue, he argued that the survival of our republic depended on our cultivating a sense of duty. Not a globalist, he cautioned against wars. And as he did, he suggested that we put the concerns of our Western brethren first and then pay off the accumulated debt immediately. Like all the Founding Fathers, George Washington was a great culturist because he prioritized America’s solvency in his thoughts. And, along with all else he did, his Farewell Address solidifies his position as a great American culturist.