John Avalon, in his “Washington’s Farewell: The Founding Father’s Warning to Future Generations,” quotes from Joseph Addison’s 1711 essay “Mischiefs of Party Spirit:”
“There cannot a greater judgment befall a country than such a dreadful spirit of division as rends a government into two distinct people, and makes them greater strangers and more averse to one another, than if they were actually two different nations.
The effects of such a division are pernicious to the last degree, not only with regard to those advantages which they give the common enemy, but to those private evils which they produce in the heart of almost every particular person. This influence is very fatal both to men’s morals and their understandings; it sinks the virtue of a nation, and not only so, but destroys even common sense.
A furious party-spirit, when it rages in its full violence, exerts itself in civil war and bloodshed; and when it is under its greatest restraints, naturally breaks out in falsehood, detraction, calumny and a partial administration of justice. In a word, it fills a nation with spleen and rancor, and extinguishes all the seeds of good nature, compassion, and humanity.”
These words, although written three centuries ago, provide a clear and useful warning for our times.
Stephen R. Turns,