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Ron Paul’s Farewell Address: An Anomaly in American History

Written by Gary North on November 19, 2012

On Wednesday, November 14, Ron Paul delivered his final speech at the podium of the United States House of Representatives. It was covered by C-SPAN live, and was later posted on C-SPAN’s site. It was soon posted on YouTube, and from there was posted on numerous sites.

Within hours, various media outlets began to comment on it, both from the Right and from the Left. From the ones that I saw, all of them were generally favorable. This was remarkable. In thinking about it over the weekend, I began to perceive just how remarkable it was.

I searched Google for “Ron Paul” and “farewell address.” I got almost 200,000 hits.

In the history of American politics, I can think of only four farewell addresses that ever got into the textbooks, and one of them was a fake. The most famous one was George Washington’s 1796 farewell address, and it was not an address. It was a newspaper article. The second came in 1961, which was Dwight Eisenhower’s famous military-industrial complex speech. The third one was Richard Nixon’s announcement after his defeat in 1962 when he ran for governor of California against Edmund G. “Pat” Brown. I’m not sure that it should be regarded an address; it was more of a press conference, but it counted as a farewell address . . . for six years. In it, he uttered the immortal words, “You won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore.” It was aimed at the media. Then, a dozen years later, he gave a real farewell address, the day before he resigned in disgrace from the presidency.

Ron Paul’s farewell address was the fifth. This is extraordinary. The media did not ridicule him as arrogant for having delivered such an address. On the whole, the media seemed interested in what he had to say. Yet his speech began with a statement of the fact, namely, that he had never had any measurable political influence in the House in his entire 22 years. He had never had one of his bills passed into law.

His farewell address was taken seriously as a statement of principles, precisely because he never had any direct political influence in passing legislation. He stood as a representative of a constitutional tradition that has had only two other representatives at the national level ever since the end of the Civil War: President Grover Cleveland and Congressman Howard Buffett, who served in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Virtually nobody remembers Buffett, although almost everybody in the financial world has heard of his son Warren.

Whatever the impact of Ron Paul’s farewell address, it is safe to say that no other congressman has ever delivered such an address at his retirement, at least not where the media took him seriously. It is unheard of that any Congressman would deliver such an address, and especially a Congressman who had no political power or the ability to spread election money around to his colleagues.

I regard this as a major historical indicator. I don’t know if it would be legitimate to call it a turning point. We don’t know at this time whether his career will be marked as an ideological turning point. What we do know is that he had a great deal of publicity, despite the fact that nobody believed that he would ever exercise direct political power. For a nationally known politician to build a career based on his never having attained political power, never wanting to attain political power, and never having anybody suggest that he was going to attain political power, is one of the great anomalies in the history of American politics. His career deserves a brief mention in the textbooks for the reasons I have just outlined. Who ever heard of a politician who received widespread publicity precisely because he never had any political power? This is a unique case.

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18 thoughts on “Ron Paul’s Farewell Address: An Anomaly in American History

  1. Publius Enigma says:

    Dr. Paul represents a concept, a principle, a vision. The difference between a cult and a religion is whether people are following the man, or following the principle. For if the man disappears, as we all eventually will, the guiding principles and reason remain.

  2. Unique and yet he should be the standard for all to emulate!

  3. I read Dr. Paul's speach yesterday and immediately copied and saved it. If he were the orator that Obama is, he could have saved America from the path that we are now on.

  4. why does everyone use the word cult as something negative, The Messiah's followers were called that also, yet people call themselves Christians, the Latin for this word is worship. I don't believe anyone worship Mr Paul or think of him as a religion.

  5. "Money talks and BS walks" But in Obama's case, with the help of the media, he walks right into the Whitehouse with all his lies. Well we can look forward to more of Michelle's 20Million dollars worth of vacations, while Veterens are homeless, and people are living behind my dumpster and eating out of it. More redistributions of the wealth, more bowing to the Saudi's who put him through college,(his Muslum brothers). More of our soldiers put on trial while our enemies are given trials and free legal representation instead of a fireing squad. His freeloading Mother-in-law living in our Whitehouse! Too bad guys like Ron Paul are cast aside and the criminals are running our country. God save our constituion and our country!

  6. Saltporkdoc says:

    I find it somewhat disenheartening that it becomes newsworthy when a man stands solidly on principle!
    No, I did not vote for Rep Paul, but I did and do stand firmly behind much of his constitutionalism. I wonder if we would still be speaking with a "British accent" and calling our scrip "pound Sterlings" if it were not for the fact that the Founding Father not only held strongly principled views, but also acted upon them under pain of death.
    Now, A,ericans can only be got out to vote if they think there's a free cellphone in it for them.
    I hang my head in shame.
    Wecome to Amerika [sic].

  7. goldenhawk says:

    Oh, but he was an orator. Noone in the political eastablishment would let him talk!

  8. What part are we on?

  9. Texas Chris says:

    If Paul had won the GOP nomination, and then beaten the Apologizer in Chief, and then NOT brought about the freedom and constitutionality he so rightfully attributes for our past prosperity, then his image, and the belief in capitalism, would have been tarnished for a generation.

    As it stands, he is almost a martyr, a might-have-been. His name is a rallying cry.

    He can be immortal.

  10. Texas Chris says:

    The Road To Serfdom.

  11. Johnny Genlock says:

    Andrew Jackson
    Farewell Address
    March 4, 1837
    Messages and Papers of the Presidents
    Andrew Jackson
    Andrew Jackson
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    FELLOW-CITIZENS: Being about to retire finally from public life, I beg leave to offer you my grateful thanks for the many proofs of kindness and confidence which I have received at your hands. It has been my fortune in the discharge of public duties, civil and military, frequently to have found myself in difficult and trying situations, where prompt decision and energetic action were necessary, and where the interest of the country required that high responsibilities should be fearlessly encountered; and it is with the deepest emotions of gratitude that I acknowledge the continued and unbroken confidence with which you have sustained me in every trial. My public life has been a long one, and I can not hope that it has at all times been free from errors; but I have the consolation of knowing that if mistakes have been committed they have not seriously injured the country I so anxiously endeavored to serve, and at the moment when I surrender my last public trust I leave this great people prosperous and happy, in the full enjoyment of liberty and peace, and honored and respected by every nation of the world.

    If my humble efforts have in any degree contributed to preserve to you these blessings, I have been more than rewarded by the honors you have heaped upon me, . . .

    . . It was not easy for men engaged in the ordinary pursuits of business, whose attention had not been particularly drawn to the subject, to foresee all the consequences of a currency exclusively of paper, and we ought not on that account to be surprised at the facility with which laws were obtained to carry into effect the paper system. Honest and even enlightened men are sometimes misled by the specious and plausible statements of the designing. But experience has now proved the mischiefs and dangers of a paper currency, and it rests with you to determine whether the proper remedy shall be applied.

    The paper system being founded on public confidence and having of itself no intrinsic value, it is liable to great and sudden fluctuations, thereby rendering property insecure and the wages of labor unsteady and uncertain. The corporations which create the paper money can not be relied upon to keep the circulating medium uniform in amount. In times of prosperity, when confidence is high, they are tempted by the prospect of gain or by the influence of those who hope to profit by it to extend their issues of paper beyond the bounds of discretion and the reasonable demands of business; and when these issues have been pushed on from day to day, until public confidence is at length shaken, then a reaction takes place, and they immediately withdraw the credits they have given, suddenly curtail their issues, and produce an unexpected and ruinous contraction of the circulating medium, which is felt by the whole community. The banks by this means save themselves, and the mischievous consequences of their imprudence or cupidity are visited upon the public. Nor does the evil stop here. . . .

  12. Texas Chris says:

    De Tocqueville was right.

  13. I remember when talking heads on TV (e.g., O'Reilly) derided Ron Paul for never having had any of his bills passed . Hopefully Ron Paul will now be remembered for having never voted for any of the dreadful bills that DID pass, and are now sending America over the cliff.

  14. Jacob Steelman says:

    It is a common fallacy to think that politicians must create legislation to be judged successful. In fact the law of the land was set by the Constitution and the job of Members of Congress, the President and the Supreme Court is to make sure the government adheres to the Constitution and its principles of limited government. Passing laws is normally contrary to the Constitution and limited government. That Ron Paul understood this and remained true to this is much to his credit.

  15. And we who believed in dr Paul are considered fringe and cult followers as well as kool aid drinkers well America Ur starting to wake up how ever slow it maybe It unfortunate that we could of had a true statesman lead this country away from the drowning cesspool it has become Given the people their freedoms lube try’s and the ability to pursue happiness. But NO the people were to stupid they wanted and did believe the media the devil himself God bless America and lets pray another dr Paul steps forward

  16. Bob Pegram says:

    I find it ironic how many people are now saying that Dr. Paul's politics are the best, but they didn't choose to vote for him in the primaries! It is amazing how easily the average voter, Republican or Democrat, can be manipulated by the media rather than standing on principle.

  17. Funny they can get a cell phone with proper ID, but it was too much hassle to expect them to get voter ID. Obama stands on this double standard of doing things. I cannot see how these so called intelligent people cannot see through this BS that big"O" puts out! Maybe they just don't want to see thru it.

  18. Well, we were told by the big shots of the Republican party that Ron Paul could not win against Obama, and therefore we had better vote for Romney or suffer 4 more years of Obama. Romney had already been decided on before it even got to my state in the primary. And Obama was already elected before all the votes were counted. Well is that fair to say the least?