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Washington’s Farewell Address

My son’s high school government teacher began this semester by having his students read and discuss George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address. After refreshing my memory of what Washington said as he prepared to leave the office of President, I thought it appropriate to share a selection from his address as we contemplate the state of our American Experiment.

“The unity of government which constitutes you one people is also now dear to you. It is justly so, for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts. 

For this you have every inducement of sympathy and interest. Citizens, by birth or choice, of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any appellation derived from local discriminations. With slight shades of difference, you have the same religion, manners, habits, and political principles. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint counsels, and joint efforts of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”


  1. Christopher Myers

    Thanks for posting Washington’s words upon leaving office, the second time he stepped away from power, adding George III’s appraisal, “the greatest man of the age” to a littany of attributes. His words deserve consideration, a rare thing these days. My question is: are our differences no longer shades but of such great opposition that they warrant dissolution or do they only seem so becaus no real problems (invasion, starvation, privation) exist give us perspective? The wealth, timing, and isolation of this land, combined with a cadre of deep thinkers, created this nation. I don’t know how many people still think of America as unique, something more than a squabbling mass fighting for space at the trough. I’m not willing to give up but I empathize with those who are.

  2. Susan Milford

    This august piece also warns of being involved in “any entangling foreign alliences.” Washington’s original prayer diary (which reveals an intimate relationship with Jesus) is owned by Princeton University and is “preserved” and ensconced in their underground archives. One must be a Princeton staff or graduate to ask to be allowed to see this under observation. Parts of this daily journal have been reproduced, but not it’s entirety. The Reverend Dr. Peter Marshall, Jr. (now deceased ) and David Manuel were allowed access and quote from it in their book, The Light and the Glory which is their thesis and defense that God was present in the founding of America. They used primary documents and didn’t “shoehorn”anything. I have a copy if you, Mont, and the teacher haven’t read it. A great read. Always a part of my lesson plans. Would love to share right away if you don’t have it. Just send me your snail mail. Susan at or text or call (864) 630.4213.

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