Updated: Sep 28, 2022
In the United States, few names are as intertwined with freedom, history, and the American spirit as George Washington. And Today on September 19th, 1796 George Washington with the help of James Madison and Alexander Hamilton composed a 32-page speech called the Farewell Address, in the Farewell Address Washington speaks of the constitution which at the time of the speech was a short 8 years old and his concerns for it (what came before it, the Articles of Confederation were seen as inefficient at best and worthless at worst and as such many people worried for if the constitution which was one of the first constitutions of its time would suffer the same fate). He also addressed what should come of the country being neutral in other countries affairs and guiding future generations.
The changes made by the Farewell address are some of the most famous aspects of American politics, Washing talks about changing the Constitution only through amendments, and laws designed to weaken the constitution can not be made without opposition. Interestingly, Washington also speaks against political parties speaking against the Democratic-Republican party and the Federalist party in particular stating that every nation has fought against political parties because of their tendency to fight each other and gain more power over the other. He states that Political parties alternating domination is coinciding with attempting to take revenge on the other parties and has lead to terrible atrocities and “self righteous despotism.”
Only 70 years later, in 1862, a year into the American Civil War the constitution was threatened, and in the house of representatives, both parties agreed to read aloud the Farewell address on the morning of George Washington's birth. This event would occur a few more times in 1888 and 1899 and would become a yearly event in which a single speaker would read aloud the Farewell Address and inscribe their name and simple remarks in a black leather bound book which is held by the secretary of the senate, the first name in this book would be Joseph Foraker a Republican Senator from Ohio and in recent years notes have become longer and more elaborate including stories and small speeches by readers. In total 130 Senators from all 50 states excluding Alaska have read the Address starting with John J. Ingalls from Kansas and this year on February 22nd Patrick J. Leahy from Vermont delivered the speech
While the Address is too long to be fully shown in this article, many quotes can be taken from the speech, in particular, one “Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all,” while ignoring “permanent inveterate antipathies against particular Nations, and passionate attachment for others.” while it may be hard to understand but is most simply defined as “be peaceful, do not hold grudges or seek violence and treat all equally." The Farewell Address is a piece of American history which should be studied in history classes which has influenced almost all modern American politics even now.
Leian Jones is a Junior at Poudre high school who is in his first year at the Poudre Press and runs a blog called History, Today.
“About Traditions & Symbols | Washington's Farewell Address.” Senate.gov, https://www.senate.gov/about/traditions-symbols/washingtons-farewell-address.htm. Accessed 14 September 2022.
“Farewell Address - Friday, September 02, 2022 · George Washington's Mount Vernon.” George Washington's Mount Vernon, https://www.mountvernon.org/library/digitalhistory/quotes/article/there-can-be-no-greater-error-than-to-expect-or-calculate-upon-real-favors-from-nation-to-nation/. Accessed 14 September 2022.
“WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS.” GovInfo, https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21/pdf/GPO-CDOC-106sdoc21.pdf. Accessed 14 September 2022.