©7-2016 Matt Fitzgibbons, PatriotMusic.com
Yesterday I watched two people talking about a recent highly-publicized miscarriage of justice. While the first went through the list of crimes the public figure is getting away with because of political connections, the other slumped a bit, waved his hand and said, “They’re all corrupt. It’s always been that way.”
I beg to differ. Yes, it’s true that we Americans are living in a time when the political class is immune from the laws they write for the rest of us and both parties are systematically dismantling our inalienable rights. It’s true that honor, duty, sacrifice and integrity are rare commodities in today’s public figures. But this view that corruption and elitism is the status quo and always has been is EXACTLY what corrupt politicians and much of the mainstream media want us to believe. It is the state they need to convince both they and us that dishonesty is not only normal but necessary. It is the shadow in which they thrive.
The truth is: We choose whether to allow ourselves or each other to become numb to injustice. We choose the characters of our public personalities. We choose whether to remind ourselves and each other that it wasn’t always so and doesn’t have to be today either. This dark medium of complacency which too many of us have accepted as our natural environment can easily be erased with the light of history and the occasional reminder of the many Americans of character. Several American Presidents immediately come to mind which illustrate how we used to choose people with higher standards… and how we can again.
At the end of the American Revolution, the defeated King George III is purported to have asked American artist Benjamin West what George Washington intended to do next. West replied, “He will return to his farm” to which the King responded, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”
George Washington had served as Commanding General of the Continental Army for 8 years, successfully defeating the greatest military power in the world at the time. His widespread support throughout the new Republic meant that he could have easily done what military commanders have typically done after such a remarkable victory… take command of the civil government and become King. Instead, on December 23, 1783, he resigned his commission to the Congress, mounted his horse which he had waiting at the door, and returned in time to have Christmas dinner at his beloved Mt. Vernon.
His personal expenses throughout the war amounted to approximately $450,000 for which he later submitted receipts for reimbursement. However, he refused to be paid for his service as Commanding General but pleaded with Congress to fairly compensate everyone else who had served, writing to his cousin,
“You ask how I am to be rewarded for all this? There is one reward that nothing can deprive me of, and that is the consciousness of having done my duty with the strictest rectitude and most scrupulous exactness.” 1.
Also in 1796, Vice President John Adams had just won the Presidency over Thomas Jefferson by only 3 Electoral Votes. According to Senate rules, as the Vice President and presiding officer of the Senate, Adams was required to count his own contested ballots. He sat down, offering Jefferson an opportunity to contest the count. Jefferson said nothing, effectively making Adams the second President of the United States. Jefferson later confided in his closest friends that although he did in fact, suspect the ballot count to be in dispute, he would not “wreck the country over a few pieces of paper.” 2.
When Harry S. Truman departed the White House in 1953 at the close of his second term, he returned to his simple home in Missouri and to his paltry $112.56 a month Army pension. Although he had been both a U.S. Senator and U.S. President, neither office was entitled to a pension. Past Presidents were not to receive office, travel expenses or Secret Service protection until an act of Congress in 1958. 3. Truman was approached by a variety of corporations which offered to alleviate his financial problems, including a real estate developer which offered him $100,000 a year. Truman wrote in his 1960 book,
“I turned down all of those offers. I knew that they were not interested in hiring Harry Truman, the person, but what they wanted to hire was the former president of the United States. I could never lend myself to any transaction, however respectable, that would commercialize on the prestige and the dignity of the office of the presidency.” 4.
2. Schweikart, Larry and Allen, Michael. A Patriot’s History of the United States. Sentinel, 2004