With the advent of a new year and the anniversary of the lamentable events of January 6, 2021, we can reflect on the positive accomplishments of our community. They include, but are not limited to, the continued robust support shown for front- line responders to the COVID pandemic, resolution of the long-festering Talbot Boys dispute, and emerging consciousness that the Trappe Lakeside Development may need further deliberation due to its potential adverse environmental and community impacts.
But it is also evident that the stress and strain of our national politics continue to manifest in our community—in letters to the editor and other commentary on a range of topics and especially the curious behavior of our representative in Congress. In light of the ongoing abrasion of our polity, it may be useful for those of us who frequent Easton’s Washington Street to recall a warning sounded by our first president in his farewell address in 1798.
According to Nathaniel Philbrick in his new book Travels with George, Washington ended his second term as President worried that a future leader could emerge “whose chief priority was to divide rather than unite the American people.” Such an event, according to Washington, could have dire consequences:
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. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.
Washington’s words from centuries ago have striking relevance to our times. One must hope that the strength our local community fabric will continue to counterbalance weakness afflicting our national politics.
J.T. Smith II served in the CIA, the Department of Health Education and Welfare, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce and the Department of State before becoming a partner in the law firm of Covington & Burling. He retired to Easton in 2005.