George Washington On Anacyclosis
John Adams was not the only American Founding Father to speak on anacyclosis. Another notable individual was George Washington himself.
He gave a Farewell address prior to his retirement with the following statements:
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.[i]
This section is important. In it, Washington addresses the issue of having a changeable constitution but one that can only be changed under the right conditions. He states that the constitution can only be changed by an “explicit and authentic act of the whole people”. Which is definitely not provided in modern America.
A constitution could only be changed by the whole people if it were approved by numerous safeguards that could not be subverted. Also, the constitution has lacked power in America because of the rejection of originalist legal interpretations (meaning it can be changed by a cultural judiciary, not the whole people) and the inability of the people to hold the political elite accountable to that constitution.
Additionally, the constitution must be obligatory to all. It is not negotiable or removable by any elite. Does our current system have this?
He goes on to say:
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 your 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
George Washington noted numerous very key trends of an anacyclosis-resistant government. He addressed the importance of stopping political partisanship (which causes division, especially when it is geographical), of stopping too far-out cultural anomalies appearing throughout the nation (that would produce geographic division – see my cultural bell curve idea), of a mixed government and constitution, of the importance of a proper morality, and of a proper distribution of power.
Later in the speech, Washington also addresses the serious threat of foreign involvement and foreign influence on republics. He states:
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.
Foreign influence is a massive red flag for any rule by many government. In practice, it can create a type of vassal state rule by few where the foreigner indirectly controls the “representatives” of the many.
The reason why the United States was a successful republic for much longer than some other republics is likely because of the actions of the Founding Fathers in implementing some of these beliefs. They helped, but clearly did not fully resolve, the issue of anacyclosis.
Too many loopholes still existed in the American framework even though the founders discussed some of them in-depth. Numerous key items they desired were never successfully implemented. For example, John Adam’s “tying of the hands” never got implemented. Neither did Washington’s distrust of foreign involvement get the proper credit it deserved. These are only a couple out of the dozens of safeguards that were left behind in the implementation of the American Republic. Not to mention the issues that arose that they couldn’t have anticipated.
But we have a lot more data on these issues now. They can be corrected in a different framework moving forward.
[i] George Washington. “Transcript of President George Washington’s Farewell Address” (1796).