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posted: 5/16/2013 5:00 AM

Responsible spending needed today, too

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Fisher Ames (1758-1808) was a Federalist Founding Father. He was a four-term congressman from Massachusetts who served 1789-1797; concurrent with George Washington's years as president. He helped write a key part of the Bill of Rights in 1789 and was known as one of the great orators among his peers, delivering in 1796 a great speech in support of the Jay Treaty that swayed enough Republican votes to secure its passage. The speech remained popular for a century, a favorite of later politicians Daniel Webster and also Abraham Lincoln, who allegedly liked to recite portions of it.

Fisher Ames said in a speech in May 1790: "The people are to watch us all, and I wish they always may." He said this in the course of debates over a bill to pay off the nation's war debts; the larger context was talking about Congress getting the nation out of debt and staying that way.

In this vein, in 2012 it was encouraging in Arlington Heights to see the people watch the park district's fiscal habits and strike down the two attempts to pile on more debt and tax. Ames would have been proud. But if he is looking down from heaven noticing our $17 trillion national debt, and could give Congress some advice, I'm sure he would repeat what he said later in that same speech: "A public debt is called a public evil, and the assumption is charged with tending to perpetuate and increase it."

I hope someday we can return to the practice of citizens serving in government responsibly like Ames and his colleagues of that era did. Not one of them promised wasteful welfare spending to perpetuate political careers. Fisher Ames and his peers were all men who embodied personal responsibility.

Harold Knudsen

Arlington Heights

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