John Dickerson

John Dickerson is a CBS senior national correspondent and Chief Political Analyst. He is also a Contributing Writer to The Atlantic and is co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest.

Moody George Washington

George Washington wrote a 73 page draft of his inaugural address that was never delivered. It wound up being torn to pieces by Jared Sparks who handed out bits to people who wanted a scrap of Washington’s actual handwriting. It has been pieced together (for some time now this has been the case; I’m just late to the party). It contains some really philosophical and moody passages:

“If a promised good should terminate in an unexpected evil, it would not be a solitary example of disappointment in this mutable state of existence. If the blessings of Heaven showered thick around us should be spilled on the ground or converted to curses, through the fault of those for whom they were intended, it would not be the first instance of folly.”

It appears that the draft, which Washington sent James Madison, was produced by his secretary and not the great man himself. Washington sent it to James because he wasn’t so sure that it would meet the moment. Madison ultimately called it a “strange production,” and none of it seems to have been used on the actual day. This is why Jared Sparks, a historian and keeper of Washington’s letters cut up the rough draft and sold it. Here’s what Sparks wrote: “It is certainly an extraordinary production for a message to Congress, and it is happy, that Washington took counsel of his own understanding, and of his other friends, before he made use of this document. No part of it seems to have been formally introduced in the real message.”

By the way, let us all use the phrase and practice the habit of taking counsel of our own understanding.

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