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President George Washington’s farewell address “To the People of the United States” was delivered to the public through the medium of the Philadelphia Daily Advertiser newspaper and was immediately reprinted in other newspapers and in pamphlet form throughout the country, and in England, Ireland, and Scotland as well. All contemporary editions derived directly or indirectly from the Daily Advertiser newspaper source.
The composition of the address was a collaborative effort, with James Madison co-authoring with Washington an early draft that was reviewed and revised at least twice to incorporate suggestions by Alexander Hamilton. The final draft, in Washington’s handwriting, was submitted to Timothy Pickering and others in the Cabinet before being given to the printer.
Washington’s “farewell address” emphasizes the importance of Union, the danger of partisanship, the threat of parties allied to foreign countries or interests, the accomplishment of a national government, the precedence of national over sectional interests, the maintenance of the public credit, the avoidance of large military establishments, and the overall momentousness of the American experiment in democracy. Throughout the address Washington demonstrates the restraint, modesty, and humility that—combined with his personal judgment, honesty, steadfastness, commitment to the republic, and devotion to the idea of liberty—made him so deeply reverenced by his contemporaries and by fellow-citizens for centuries to come.
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Washington, George, "'Farewell' Address to the People of the United States, Announcing His Intention of Retiring from Public Life at the Expiration of the Present Constitutional Term of Presidency" (1796). Zea E-Books in American Studies. 31.
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