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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 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 a pamphlet form.
Unity and sectionalism
Washington began his warnings to the American people by stressing that their independence, peace at home and abroad, safety, prosperity, and liberty are all dependent upon unity among the states.
As a result, he warns them that the union of states created by the Constitution will come under the most frequent and focused attacks by foreign and domestic enemies of the country. He warns the American people to be suspicious of anyone who seeks to abandon the Union, to secede a portion of the country from the rest, or to weaken the bonds that hold the constitutional union together.
To promote the strength of the Union, he urges the people to place their identity as Americans above their identities as members of a state, city, or region, and to focus their efforts and affection on the country above all other local interests.
He further asks the people to look beyond any slight differences between them in religion, manners, habits, and political principles, and to place their independence and liberty above all else, wanting everyone to be united as one.
“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 a pamphletform. The work was later named a “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.
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.