Washington's Farewell Address

Date: 1796
  • President Washington decided to retire after serving 2 terms (established 2-term tradition for presidents, "silent law")
  • His Farewell Address was never delivered orally, but it was printed in newspapers.
  • Washington strongly advised against "permanent alliances" like the Franco-American Treaty of 1778 (that was still in effect). He favored "temporary alliances" in the case of emergencies - this would keep the weak nation together (and out of war!)
  • Significance: Washington warned against political parties and promoted neutrality, 2 things that would be broken in the future. Washington set a precedent for keeping a strong national government, promoting patriotism, and keeping morality in the government.

A summary of his address:

  • Praises the benefits of the federal government. "The unity of government...is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence...of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize."
  • Warns against the party system. "It serves to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration....agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one....against another....it opens the door to foreign influence and corruption...thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another."
  • Stresses the importance of religion and morality. "Where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice?"
  • On stable public credit. "...cherish public credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible...avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt....it is essential that you...bear in mind, that towards the payments of debts there must be Revenue, that to have Revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised, which are not...inconvenient and unpleasant..."
  • Warns against permanent foreign alliances. "It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world..."
  • On an over-powerful military establishment. "...avoid the necessity of those overgrown military establishments, which, under any form of government, are inauspicious to liberty, and which are to be regarded as particularly hostile to Republican Liberty."

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