Washington’s Farewell Address 1796


After having read “Hamilton” came across reference to Washington’s farewell address. Further, it may be the case Hamilton had a non-trivial role in helping to form this speech.

I am not doing just to picking out important phrases other than they resonate with me. Please refer to the full text in the above link.

My comments in “italics” below.

  • Friends and Citizens
  • the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust
  • do me the justice to be assured that this resolution has not been taken without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation which binds a dutiful citizen to his country
  • am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest
  • the office to which your suffrages have twice called me have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire
  • whatever partiality may be retained for my services, that, in the present circumstances of our country, you will not disapprove my determination to retire
  • a solicitude for your welfare, which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me, on an occasion like the present, to offer to your solemn contemplation, and to recommend to your frequent review, some sentiments which are the result of much reflection…appear to me all-important to the permanency of your felicity as a people. These will be offered to you with the more freedom, as you can only see in them the disinterested warnings of a parting friend
    •  unity of government which constitutes you one people…it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence
      •  from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth
    • you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness
    • indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest
  • Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections (hints on the birth/choice this may be Hamilton input?)
  • With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles (does this still apply today as it did 200 years ago?)
  • every portion of our country finds the most commanding motives for carefully guarding and preserving the union of the whole
  • The North protected by the equal laws of a common government, finds in the productions of the latter great additional resources of maritime and commercial enterprise and precious materials of manufacturing industry
    • The South sees its agriculture grow and its commerce expand
    • (it’s not so much north/south anymore but rural vs urban…we need both to sustain a full country)
  • all the parts combined cannot fail to find in the united mass of means and efforts greater strength, greater resource, proportionably greater security from external danger, a less frequent interruption of their peace by foreign nations
  • there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands
  • contemplating the causes which may disturb our Union, it occurs as matter of serious concern that any ground should have been furnished for characterizing parties by geographical discriminations, Northern and Southern, Atlantic and Western
    • designing men may endeavor to excite a belief that there is a real difference of local interests
    • expedients of party to acquire influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and aims of other districts
  • To the efficacy and permanency of your Union, a government for the whole is indispensabl
    • No alliance, however strict, between the parts can be an adequate substitute;
  •  The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government
    • But the Constitution which at any time exists, till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all
    • The very idea of the power and the right of the people to establish government presupposes the duty of every individual to obey the established government
  •  obstructions to the execution of the laws, all combinations and associations, under whatever plausible character, with the real design to direct, control, counteract, or awe the regular deliberation and action of the constituted authorities, are destructive of this fundamental principle, and of fatal tendency
    • They serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force
    •  they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men
    • to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of governmen
  • One method of assault may be to effect, in the forms of the Constitution, alterations which will impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be directly overthrown
  • warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally
    • in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy
    •  The disorders and miseries which result gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual
    • opens the door to foreign influence and corruption
  • an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty
    • in governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged
  • the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration
  •  spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one…and create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism
  •  The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into different depositaries, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient and modern
    • If, in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates.
      • But no change by usurpation
        • it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed
  • Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports
    • virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government
  • Promote institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge
    •  it is essential that public opinion should be enlightene
  • cherish public credit. (again…this sounds very Hamilton)
    • essential that you should practically bear in mind that towards the payment of debts there must be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant
  • Observe good faith and justice towards all nations
  • inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded
  • passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils
    •  the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists (Hamilton again?)
    • gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country
  •  foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government
  • The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible (this again sure sounds Hamiltonian)
  • steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world
  • Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest
  • our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences
    • diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce
    • it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another
    • There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation

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