On This Day
1796 – George Washington’s Farewell Address is printed across America as an open letter to the public.
George Washington’s Farewell Address is a letter written by first President of the United States George Washington to “friends and fellow-citizens”. He wrote the letter near the end of his second term of presidency, before retiring to his home at Mount Vernon in Virginia.
It was originally published in David C. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796 under the title “The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States”, and it was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers across the country and later in pamphlet form. The work was later named the “Farewell Address” as it was Washington’s valedictory after 20 years of service to the new nation. It was published about ten weeks before the presidential electors cast their votes in the 1796 presidential election. It is a classic statement of republicanism, warning Americans of the political dangers which they must avoid if they are to remain true to their values.
The first draft was originally prepared by James Madison in June 1792, as Washington contemplated retiring at the end of his first term in office. However, he set aside the letter and ran for a second term after the disputes between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, which convinced him that growing tensions would rip apart the country without his leadership, including divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties, and the current state of foreign affairs.
As his second term came to a close four years later, Washington prepared a revision of the original letter with the help of Alexander Hamilton to announce his intention to decline a third term in office. He also reflects on the emerging issues of the American political landscape in 1796, expresses his support for the government eight years after the adoption of the Constitution, defends his administration’s record, and gives valedictory advice to the American people.
Born On This Day
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