Farewell Address (1796)1
by George Washington
A speech first published in the American Daily Advertiser September 10, 1796.
Setting a precedent, President Washington leaves office peacefully, urging his fellow Americans to avoid political partisanship and involvement in European rivalries.
Friends and Citizens:
The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.
I beg you, at the same time, to 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; and that in withdrawing the tender of service, which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness, but am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.
The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, 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. I constantly hoped that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return to that retirement from which I had been reluctantly drawn. The strength of my inclination to do this, previous to the last election, had even led to the preparation of an address to declare it to you; but mature reflection on the then perplexed and critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations, and the unanimous advice of persons entitled to my confidence, impelled me to abandon the idea.
1 The Address was never actually delivered; it first appeared in the Philadelphia newspaper named above.
PORTRAIT: George Washington by Edward Savage (1796).
CITATION INFORMATION (in MLA format): Washington, George. "Farewell Address." Gleeditions, 17 Mar. 2011, www.gleeditions.com/farewelladdress/students/pages.asp?lid=406&pg=4. Originally published on The Avalon Project, 2008, avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/washing.asp.