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Primary Documents in American History

George Washington's Farewell Address

George Washington, first president of the United States George Washington, first president of the United States.
1 print: lithograph. [1828(?)].
From the original series painted by Gilbert Stuart for the Messrs. Doggett of Boston.
Prints & Photographs Division
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZ62-117116

George Washington's Farewell Address announced that he would not seek a third term as president. Originally published in David C. Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1796, Washington devoted much of the address to domestic issues of the time, warning against the rise of political parties and sectionalism as a threat to national unity. In the area of foreign affairs, Washington called for America "to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world." Although the ideas expressed were Washington's, Alexander Hamilton wrote a large part of the address. James Madison drafted an earlier version of the address in 1792.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

American Memory Historical Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

The text of Washington's Farewell Address can be found in the Annals of Congress and the American State Papers.

President Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation in 1862 recommending that the American people celebrate Washington's birthday with public readings of "his immortal Farewell Address."

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

This collection contains a copy of Washington's Farewell Address dated September 17, 1796.

Search Washington's Papers to find additional material related to Washington's presidency.

The James Madison Papers

Toward the end of his first term as president, George Washington contemplated his retirement and asked James Madison to assist him in preparing a farewell address. On May 25, 1792, Madison recounted the substance of his conversation with Washington concerning his desire to retire from public life. Subsequently, Madison submitted a draft of Washington's Farewell Address on June 21, 1792, which he put aside when Washington agreed to serve a second term.

On June 27, 1823, Madison responded to a letter written by Thomas Jefferson (see Thomas Jefferson Papers below) concerning the authorship of Washington's Farewell Address. In this letter, Madison discussed Alexander Hamilton's role in drafting the address.

In 1825, Madison recommended to Jefferson that the Farewell Address be used in the curriculum being developed at the University of Virginia.

The Nineteenth Century in Print: Periodicals

An article in the North American Review published in 1860 examines the authorship of Washington's Farewell Address.

The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress

In a letter dated June 12, 1823, Jefferson wrote to William Johnson with his views on the authorship of Washington's Farewell Address. Jefferson wrote, "With respect to his farewell address, to the authorship of which, it seems, there are conflicting claims, I can state to you some facts..."

Exhibitions

Creating the United States

This online exhibition offers insights into how the nation’s founding documents were forged and the role that imagination and vision played in the unprecedented creative act of forming a self–governing country. A section on the formation of political parties in the 1790s includes Alexander Hamilton's draft of George Washington’s Farewell Address.

Religion and Founding of the American Republic

This exhibit explores the role that religion played in the founding of the American colonies, in the shaping of early American life and politics, and in forming the American Republic. A section entitled Religion and the Federal Government contains Alexander Hamilton's draft of Washington's Farewell Address and a broadside of the address. In his Farewell Address, Washington advised his fellow citizens that "Religion and morality" were the "great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens." "National morality," he added, could not exist "in exclusion of religious principle." "Virtue or morality," he concluded, as the products of religion, were "a necessary spring of popular government."

Today in History

December 14, 1799

On December 14, 1799, George Washington died at his Mt. Vernon home after five decades of service to his country. This page links to Washington's Farewell Address and other online resources related to Washington.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

First Draft of George Washington's Farewell Address, New York State Library

Our Documents, President George Washington's Farewell Address, National Archives and Records Administration

The Papers of George Washington: The Farewell Address, University of Virginia

Rediscovering George Washington: Farewell Address, PBS

Washington's Farewell Address (PDF 252KB; requires Adobe Acrobat Reader), Government Printing Office

Washington's Farewell Address, United States Senate

Selected Bibliography

Gilbert, Felix. To the Farewell Address: Ideas of Early American Foreign Policy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961. [Catalog Record]

Kaufman, Burton Ira, ed. Washington’s Farewell Address: The View from the 20th Century. Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1969. [Catalog Record]

Paltsits, Victor Hugo, ed. Washington’s Farewell Address in Facsimile, with Transliterations of all the Drafts of Washington, Madison, & Hamilton; Together with Their Correspondence and Other Supporting Documents. New York: The New York Public Library, 1935. [Catalog Record]

Spalding, Matthew, and Patrick J. Garrity. A Sacred Union of Citizens: George Washington’s Farewell Address and the American Character. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1996. [Catalog Record]

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  November 14, 2013
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