Washington’s Farewell Address

“When Washington early in 1796 determined to retire in March, 1797, he revived the idea of issuing a valedictory address to the American people. He reverted to Madison’s draft of 1792, and wove it into the structure of a new address he was preparing. This new holograph manuscript of Washington is called Washington’s first draft. After it was finished, he had a conversation with Alexander Hamilton in Philadelphia, showed him this first draft and asked him to redress it. This Hamilton agreed to do. The first thing that Hamilton did then, was to make a digest of it, called Abstract of points to form an address, as a syllabus for his own use in making a new draft of the Farewell Address, and leaving Washington’s holograph first draft untouched. In the correspondence that passed between the President and Hamilton during ensuing months, the form that the address was to take was altered. Washington had suggested to Hamilton, that if he were to form it anew, it would of course “assume such a shape” as Hamilton was “disposed to give it,” but always “predicated upon the Sentiments” which Washington had furnished.

It was here that Hamilton began a major draft. It followed his Abstract of Points closely. But as the result of correspondence between them, and the passing of the major draft back and forth, that draft became in process “considerably amended,” and so was endorsed by Hamilton: “Original Draft. Copy considerably amended.” It is therefore always referred to as Hamilton’s major draft.

Now, after Hamilton had sent this major draft to Washington, he told him he was preparing another draft for incorporating, meaning thereby, that if Washington was determined to use his own first draft and wished to redress it by Hamilton’s structure and additions, he could do so by availing himself of the draft for incorporating in which case Hamilton’s major draft would be discarded. But Hamilton thought the major draft the better. Washington agreed with him, though he said it was too long. Washington began the preparation in his own hand of a manuscript for the printer. This is called Washington’s final manuscript.

In its preparation he availed himself of all the drafts that had come into his hands, but principally Madison’s draft and Hamilton’s major draft; and he made changes of his own in the process of revision to the very end before its publication. Throughout the preparation Washington’s ideas or “sentiments,” as he liked to call them, were preserved. Hamilton knew, as Madison had before him, that whatever he might do in reshaping, rewriting, or forming anew a draft, the results should be “predicated upon the Sentiments” which Washington had indicated. This central fact was adhered to. Hamilton was solicitous to be governed by it. He had recognized that Washington would be the final judge, and considered his own part in the undertaking as an affectionate act, without putting upon it the least suspicion of restraint. He was magnanimous to Washington, when he wrote: “Whichever you prefer, if there be any part you wish to transfer from one to another–any part to be changed–or if there be any material idea in your own draft which has happened to be omitted and which you wish introduced–in short if ther be anything further in the matter in which I can be of any [service], I will with great pleasure obey your commands.” And it was precisely this freedom, as has been shown, that Washington pursued in preparing his own final manuscript for publication. In the last analysis, Washington was his own editor; and what he published to the world as a Farewell Address, was in its final form in content what he had chosen to make it by processes of adoption and adaptation. By this procedure every idea became his own without equivocation.”



Washington’s Farewell Address was printed by David C. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia), on 19 September 1796. Neither the proof sheet that Claypoole made for Washington’s examination nor the copy that Claypoole worked from in making the proof sheet has been found. The New York Public Library owns Washington’s final manuscript of the Farewell Address as well as drafts made by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton and a number of letters relating to the preparation of those drafts. In 1935 the Library published Victor Hugo Paltsits’ Washington’s Farewell Address: In Facsimile, with Transliterations of all the Drafts of Washington, Madison, & Hamilton, Together with their Correspondence and Other Supporting Documents, and the digitized facsimiles of Washington’s final manuscript of the Farewell Address were made from that book with the Library’s permission. Copies of the book may be obtained from the Library’s Publications Department. The brief introduction above is taken from the preface of Paltsits’ edition.

2 thoughts on “Washington’s Farewell Address

  1. George Washington’s Farewell Address Analysis
    Maria F. Juarez
    Liberty University
    Professor Edward Soto

    In this Analysis I will be breaking down certain points which are found in George Washington’s
    Farewell Address. We will look over a couple areas of his speech of which can be related back to
    contemporary government. These areas are Political parties of which he felt strongly and made it
    known. Then there is the number of terms the President must be limited to serve. Now he did not
    make this a policy then and there but rather lead and showed it by example. By stepping out at
    two terms so the tradition followed. Finally we will look at his thoughts on foreign alliances of
    which he also felt very strongly about. All these points were made in his address and given to the
    American people as helpful suggestions.

    Determining Speech
    George Washington gave one very famous speech at one point in his very productive life.
    This speech was his Farewell Address. These were wise words of which he decided to bestow
    upon the American people before he retired. With numerous well made and useful

    United Nation
    General Washington mainly stated in this eloquent address suggestions for future leaders
    of this new nation. One suggestion was to stay away from political parties. As he stated
    “However political parties may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course
    of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled
    men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of
    government destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion”.
    He felt political parties would divide the nation. In modern government we can see how true his
    words were. Our current political parties certainly divide the people of this nation and never
    come close to a concrete agreement. (Juarez,2015)

    Another word of advice given in this meaningful speech was to stay away
    from a third term. This tradition was kept until FDR. After FDR served presidency, the tradition
    was turned into a written policy. Most famously known by the 22nd Amendment. No more than
    two terms must be served by a president. This is very important because the purpose was to
    avoid a president from holding that much power for too long, as it could lead to what they were
    fighting from; a king. (Juarez,2015)

    Foreign Alliances
    Lastly he encouraged the nation to stay away from permanent foreign
    alliances. Mainly Europe, it was one of the most important points he makes in his address. We
    must consider that he did not say to stay away from foreign alliances in a complete manner rather
    we must not create alliances which are set in stone.(Juarez, 2015)

    Europe the menace
    At a time when Europe was a more hefty figure it was best to steer
    clear from them, is what George Washington was trying to get across. In contemporary
    government we have various alliances which come in handy and are not as much a threat to us
    directly. “It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the world”.

    McClellan , J. (2000). LIBERTY, ORDER, AND JUSTICE. Indianapolis: LIBERTY FUND,

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