On September 17, 1851, the New York Daily Times published its first edition, including the following mission statement:
“We shall be Conservative, in all cases where we think Conservatism essential to the public good;—and we shall be Radical in everything which may seem to us to require radical treatment and radical reform. We do not believe that everything in Society is either exactly right or exactly wrong;—what is good we desire to preserve and improve;—what is evil, to exterminate, or reform.”
Its founders were Henry Jarvis Raymond, a journalist who had worked for Horace Greeley, and George Jones, a banker. The price was one penny. In 1857, the pair emended the name to The New York Times.
* * *
Without radio, television, internet, twitter or even Fedex, it all came down to a pamphlet. So George Washington had his speech printed up on this date and distributed nationally – i.e., throughout the colonies – because he wished to bid farewell to all his countrymen, not just the residents of the District of Columbia.
He spent the first part of it declining to run for a third term. At length. The subtext seems to be that he wasn’t really that happy about having agreed to a second term, but the Jefferson versus Hamilton conflict had everyone on edge and he leapt into the breach.
Then he says – with a bit of unexpectedly wry humor – “Here, perhaps, I should probably stop.” But doesn’t of course, because of his concern “for your welfare which cannot end but with my life…”
Washington then spends the bulk of his quite lengthy speech warning his countrymen about the danger of political parties. He suspects they will tend to rise geographically and will function as special interests. They will increase factionalism and distract from civic business:
” 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.”
Avoid this danger, he urges. Finally, for the remainder of his address, he warns against foreign entanglements.
Pretty amazing how he cut to the chase after only eight years leading a handful of folks in a struggling country. That “agitates the Community” is especially nice.
In closing, he points out that he has given 45 years of his life to public service and hopes the citizenry will forgive him his errors and that his failures “will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.”
Try tweeting that.