George Washington's Farewell Address

George Washington's Farewell Address is a letter written by the first American President, George Washington, to "The People of the United States". Washington wrote the letter near the end of his second term as President, before his retirement to his home Mount Vernon. Originally published in David Claypole'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," the letter was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers across the country and later in a pamphlet form. The work was later named a "Farewell Address," as it was Washington's valedictory after 20 years of service to the new nation. It is a classic statement of republicanism, warning Americans of the political dangers they can and must avoid if they are to remain true to their values.

The first draft was originally prepared in 1792 with the help of James Madison, as Washington prepared to retire following a single term in office. However, he set aside the letter and ran for a second term after the rancor between his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and his Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, convinced him that the growing divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties, along with the current state of foreign affairs, would rip the country apart in the absence of his leadership.

Four years later, as his second term came to a close, Washington revisited the letter and with the help of Alexander Hamilton prepared a revision of the original draft 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.

The letter was written by Washington after years of exhaustion due to his advanced age, years of service to his country, the duties of the presidency, and increased attacks by his political opponents. It was published almost two months before the Electoral College cast their votes in the 1796 presidential election.

Read more about George Washington's Farewell AddressSummary, Legacy

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