On September 19, 1796, nine years after members of the Constitutional Convention signed the final draft of the Constitution, George Washington published his Farewell Address. Having served as president for the first eight years of the young nation, he was worn out by burdens of the presidency and attacks of political foes, Washington was concerned about the safety of the Constitution and survivability of the eight-year- old United States. He believed that the stability of the Republic was threatened by the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation’s domestic affairs. With the assistance of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the president composed his political testament “to the People of the United States” designed to inspire and guide future generations as well as point to potential threats to the republic. The “Farewell” first appeared in the Philadelphia Daily American Advertiser and then in papers around the country.
Prior generations of Americans had recognized the powerful counsel of our first president at another time of great peril to the United States. In 1862, recognizing the relevance of Washington’s Farewell warning about the fatal tendencies in republican government, the Constitution endangered by civil war, citizens of Philadelphia petitioned Congress that “the Farewell Address of Washington be read aloud on the morning of that day (Washington’s Birthday) in one or the other of the Houses of Congress.” Both houses agreed and assembled in the House of Representatives’ chamber on February 22, 1862, George Washington’s birthday. Since then the Farewell Address has been read yearly by members of congress. Unfortunately, the threats to our nation and the counsel provided by the founding fathers has not been heeded by these same political representatives.
At this political juncture of the journey, 234 years into the American people’s experiment in self government, Americans are politically divided, torn apart by factionalism and concerned about foreign intrigue it is important to pay attention to the counsel of this remarkable founder. Having served as president for the first eight years of the young nation, George Washington’s concern centered on the safety of the Constitution and survivability of the eight-year- old United States. With the aid of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, Washington composed a “Farewell Address”, his political testament “to the People of the United States”, designed to inspire and guide future generations as well to point to potential threats to the republic.Now, 243 years into our great experiment in self government, our nation politically divided, we must pay attention to Washington’s forward thinking counsel. Washington’s Farewell speech can prompts an assessment of where we are as a nation .