Washington’s Farewell Address

George Washington, had many firsts as first President of the United States. Among them,and not specified by the constitution, was the idea of the presidential farewell address. It was published September 19, 1796 in the newspaper American Daily Advertiser and then in papers throughout the country in the following days and weeks.  In it Washington started by officially declaring that he was not going to seek a third term.  It was the remainder of the address which had advice in it that generations of American schoolkids had to learn.

It reads as an advice letter, from an older man to his children, not uncommon among people in this time period.  He warns against division in the country, whether regional base or otherwise.  The nation strength comes in its various parts staying united.  He asks that people ignore those who say that the young United States was going to fail.  He also warned the nation to stay out of entangling alliances, to get along with all nations, but to not have enemies or to have close friends of other nations either.  It’s a fascinating read, which leaves one wondering what the United States would be like if his advice was heeded.  It is also too bad that even as it was being published, dark clouds that Washington were warning against were already there.  The nation was divided in many ways already.

If you have never read before, if you have never heard of it before, I think that it is well worth a read. A copy of the complete text of the address can be found at the Avalon Project of Yale Law School here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp