In his farewell address, Washington warned against permanent foreign alliances and what?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his Farewell Address, President George Washington warned of a number of things. However, the speech has become famous for two of the warnings.  One thing he warned about was the “permanent alliances” with foreign countries that you mentioned in your question. The other thing that he warned about was “the baneful effects of the spirit of party generally.” In other words, he was warning about partisanship and the idea of putting one’s political party interests ahead of the interests of the nation as a whole.

Washington believed that the spirit of partisanship could actually lead the country to fall into despotism. He did not think this was likely, but he did think that we should not dismiss the possibility that it would happen. Even if things did not get that far, he said, partisanship was dangerous.  He said, for example, that partisanship

agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another…

This spirit, he says, drives us apart as Americans and makes us hate one another and be willing to believe the worst about one another. This is something that sounds very plausible given our current political situation and the levels of animosity felt between adherents of our two political parties.

Thus, the other thing that Washington warned about was the “spirit of party,” or the effects of excessive partisanship.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When President Washington left office, he gave the country some advice. One point he mentioned was to avoid making permanent alliances. President Washington felt that if the United States made permanent alliances with countries, it could lead the United States into conflicts that the United States did not want and could not afford. He believed that making alliances with some countries could make the United States enemies with other countries.

President Washington also cautioned against making long-term agreements. He believed that our needs would change throughout the years. If the United States made a long-term agreement, such as a permanent trade agreement, it might not be in the best interests of the United States in the long run.

President Washington also said that the American people should not form political parties. He believed that political parties could divide the country. He was worried that people would make decisions about issues based on what was good for the political party instead of basing those decisions on what good for the country.

yyberman1 | Student

President George Washington was acutely aware of the impact of a public appearance and used his farewell address to present what would later be considered a towering statement of American political purpose. Delivered from 32 pages of handwritten notes, Washington issued several warnings which he felt were critical to preserving his vision for America. 

As you mentioned one warning was to be wary of attachments and entanglements with other nations.  This commitment to neutrality was largely seen as an anti-French position as it overrode a 1778 treaty with France which promised mutual support. A second warning advised against excessive political party spirit and political party spirit and geographical distractions.

There were several contributors to this address, most notably James Madison who penned the opening and Alexander Hamilton who wrote much of the body. It was printed in the Philadelphia American Daily Advertiser on September 19, 1776 and the original manuscript is at the New York Public Library. Until the 1970s the address was read annually in congress on Washington's birthday.


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