What was the message in George Washington's farewell address?  

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larrygates eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Washington's farewell address to the American people was not delivered orally, but rather was published in a number of newspapers, first in Philadelphia. He had originally prepared an address at the end of his first term, when he had considered retiring; but later changed his mind. He used the draft of his first speech in preparing the second, and relied on suggestions from James Madison and Alexander Hamilton in preparing it. One of the sad instances of history is that at this point, Washington had lost confidence in Thomas Jefferson, his Secretary of State and author of the Declaration of Independence. For this reason, Jefferson was not consulted. The final address was both eloquent and fitting for so great a patriot. It contained six main points which are illustrated by the quotes below:

1.  His first point was to praise the new government created by the constitution:

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.

2.  Perhaps because of his dispute with Jefferson, he advised against a party system of politics:

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.

3.  Morality and religion were important, even though Washington himself was not a religious man:

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?

4. Public Credit should necessarily be maintained:

...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...

5.  His most famous pronouncement was to warn against foreign alliances:

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world..."

6. Finally, Washington warned against too powerful a military:

"...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."