The First State of the Union Address
January 28, 2003 8:34 AM   Subscribe

The First State of the Union Address - Here is President George Washington's State of the Union Address from January 8, 1790. Have things really changed that much in 213 years?
posted by Argyle (15 comments total)
And I shall derive great satisfaction from a cooperation with you, in the pleasing though arduous task of ensuring to our fellow citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect, from a free and equal government.

posted by pedantic at 8:41 AM on January 28, 2003

Yes, things have changed. Your link was routine reading for high school students, as little as 25 years ago.
Daschle and Pelosi Pre State of the Union Briefing (RealPlayer video) / GOP Team Leaders
posted by sheauga at 8:41 AM on January 28, 2003

Did Washington pause every 10 seconds for a round of BS applause? This is the defining characteristic of every state of the union address I've ever watched. It's also why I'll just wait for a transcript of tonight's "event".
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 8:57 AM on January 28, 2003

Have things changed?

For one, Washington surely wrote his own speech. Peeple were ejacated back then.
posted by archimago at 9:00 AM on January 28, 2003

...there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of publick happiness.

Screw that, where's my tax cut!
posted by filmgoerjuan at 9:02 AM on January 28, 2003

...there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage, than the promotion of Science and Literature.

posted by gottabefunky at 9:02 AM on January 28, 2003

I doubt Dubya will be wrapping his tonsils around sentences like:

It would be superfluous to specify inducements to a measure in which the character and permanent interests of the United States [are] so obviously and so deeply concerned; and which has received so explicit a sanction from your declaration.

Yes, things have really changed that much. (Was it just a rhetorical question?)

The public would have been horrified by the idea of presidential candidates campaigning for themselves as recently as the late 19th century. (They were supposed to just accept the office.) On the other hand, the legislature was chosen by the state legislatures, and the idea of a universal public vote didn't play a serious role.

America had a measly influence on global affairs; communication among the states was difficult without an adequate road system. It was still cheaper to send goods to England than it was to send them from the coastal cities to 100 miles inland.

The Republic had recently all but failed thanks to the Articles of Confederation, and the near-coup that overthrew the government (the Constitutional Congress) was regarded with near-universal distrust. As the speech refers to, it was an open question whether the people could actually produce enough food to keep themselves alive. Labor was in shortage, not in surplus.

But I suppose there was war. By that standard, however, all history is the same.
posted by argybarg at 9:02 AM on January 28, 2003

Have things really changed that much in 213 years?

We have better dentistry.
posted by adampsyche at 9:13 AM on January 28, 2003

If you like reading old speeches, George Washington's farewell address is pretty damn interesting.
posted by cell divide at 9:19 AM on January 28, 2003

cell divide, thank you so much for that illuminating link.

We were in good hands at the beginning. But he knew what was coming:

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and lasting impression I could wish, that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our nation from running the course which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations.
posted by e.e. coli at 10:02 AM on January 28, 2003

They've probably changed more in the last 50 years (since the widespread use of television) then in the previous 153. Playing to the masses rather than to those politically involved enough to seek out the speech in the pre mass media days, requires a different kind of speech, and really, a different kind of speaker. Totally agree with PST's comment above re: BS applause. C'mon. Hold the applause until the end, it's not a rally. Oh no, wait. I guess it is.
posted by jonson at 10:18 AM on January 28, 2003

Playing to the masses...requires a different kind of speech, and really, a different kind of speaker

Exactly....I wonder how many people were actually there? Twenty-six senators, not that many more reps, and no amplification of any kind. Like a New York gentlemen's club, is how I've heard it characterized. Different, indeed.
posted by drinkcoffee at 10:54 AM on January 28, 2003

Careful -- you can invoke Washington and still advocate an increased military budget, decreased levels of foreign aid, and all sorts of questionable schemes to stimulate the economy.

To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.

The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed.
posted by eddydamascene at 11:02 AM on January 28, 2003

Let's see... Washington was an anti-colonialist who said this -

"The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure."

... and Bush wants to maintain (and extend) control over foreign dependencies by invading Iraq and giving control over its primary export to U.S. and British businesses. He claims not to need a war resolution to go to war with Iraq, and even threatened to go to war with Iraq without approval of the Senate if they failed to pass the resolution on Iraq.

In a world where wars can be won in a day, we live in a world where the most powerful man in the world has the unconstitutional "right" to go to war for 60 days without congressional approval.

So, yeah. Everything has changed, because back in Washington's day, the Constitution meant what it said.

The one thing that hasn't changed is that both Washington and Bush took an oath to "preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution"...
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:33 PM on January 28, 2003

To clarify that last bit, I meant to say "go to war for 60 days without a formal declaration of war."

The right to declare war strictly belongs to the legislature. It was originally designed like an on/off switch, and because the power of declaring war belonged only to the legislature, it is ludicrous and unconstitutional for them to cede that right to the president, any more than it would be constitutional for the Supreme Court to grant the president the right to decide what is constitutional.

Where did these "presidential privileges" come from? Surely, for them to be Constitutional, they must have been there since Washington's day, yet somehow overlooked...
posted by insomnia_lj at 2:41 PM on January 28, 2003

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