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  Constitutional Debate

History repeats herself.

George Washington Comments on the
Debate Over the New Federal Constitution

Seven months before he became President of the United States, George Washington responded to a letter from William Barton, the herald on the third committee who first suggested the pyramid for the Great Seal.

In his September 7, 1788 letter to William Barton* Washington commented on the anti-federalist faction "hostile to the new Constitution":

  • "The minds of a certain portion of the community (possibly from turbulent or sinister views) are, or affect to be, haunted with the very spectre of innovation...

  • "They are indefatigably striving to make the credulity of the less informed part of the citizens subservient to their schemes, in believing that the proposed general government is pregnant with the seeds of discrimination, oligarchy, and despotism...

  • "They are clamorously endeavouring to propagate an idea, that those, whom they wish invidiously to designate by the name of the 'well-born' are meditating... to wrest the dearest privileges from the bulk of the people.

  • "The phantom... is conjured up by designing men, to work their own purposes upon terrified imaginations."

*William Barton was instrumental in designing the Great Seal.

George Washington could easily be talking about today's debate over federal healthcare. (Ironically, the most vocal opponents say they're trying to protect the Constitution.)

Clio, the Muse of History: Detail of Carlo Franzoni's marble statue (1819) in the U.S. Capitol National Statuary Hall where she records events from a winged chariot representing the passage of time.