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 President George Washington as a valedictory to “friends and fellow-citizens” after 20 years of public service to the United States. He wrote it near the end of his second term of presidency before retiring to his home at Mount Vernon in Virginia.
The letter was first published as The Address of Gen. Washington to the People of America on His Declining the Presidency of the United States in the American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796, about ten weeks before the presidential electors cast their votes in the 1796 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. It was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers throughout the country, and later in pamphlet form.
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 it aside and ran for a second term because of heated disputes between Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson which convinced Washington that the growing tensions would rip apart the country without his leadership. This included the state of foreign affairs, and divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties.
As his second term came to a close four years later, Washington prepared a revision of the original letter with the help of Hamilton to announce his intention to decline a third term in office. He 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
1883 – Mabel Vernon, American educator and activist (d. 1975)
Mabel Vernon (September 19, 1883 – September 2, 1975) was an American suffragist, pacifist, and a national leader in the United States suffrage movement. She was a Quaker and a member of the American Woman Suffrage Association. Vernon was inspired by the methods used by the Women’s Social and Political Union in Britain. Vernon was one of the principal members of the Congressional Union for Women Suffrage (CUWS) alongside Olympia Brown, Inez Milholland, Crystal Eastman, Lucy Burns, and Alice Paul, and helped to organize the Silent Sentinels protests that involved daily picketing of Woodrow Wilson’s White House.
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