August 15, 1786 – George Washington Expresses His Frustration Over the Weak American Government

On this day in history, George Washington wrote a letter to John Jay, expressing his discontent about the [pre-United States] lack of federal power. He opined:

I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation, without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union, in as energetic a manner as the authority of the different State governments extends over the several States.”

John Jay

John Jay

Washington claimed it was absurd to be fearful of vesting Congress with more authority for national purpose and laments:

…what a triumph for the advocates of despotism to find that we are incapable of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal liberty are merely ideal and fallacious! Would to God that wise measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too much reason to apprehend.”

(Little did he realize that vesting Congress with more power would not necessarily result in increased efficacy.)

Nevertheless, Washington was excoriated by other Founders like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, who thought Washington, Hamilton, and Adams expressed monarchist proclivities.

George Washington

George Washington


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