George Washington’s Farewell Address, “To The People of The United States”


George Washington’s Farewell Address was written to “The People of the United States” near the end of his second term as President of the United States. It was originally published in David Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, on September 19, 1796, and entitled “The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States.” The letter was almost immediately reprinted in newspapers across the country and later in a pamphlet form. The “Friends and Fellow-Citizens” Washington had addressed the letter to, later gave it the title of a “Farewell Address” to recognize it as their first President’s valedictory to his 45 years of service to the new republic.

Washington’s letter was originally prepared in 1792, with the help of James Madison, but was set aside after his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, and Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, convinced him that the growing divisions between the newly formed Federalist and Democratic-Republican Parties along with the current state of foreign affairs, would tear the country apart without his leadership as President. Exhausted years earlier due to his advanced age, years of service to his country, the duties of the presidency, and increased attacks by his political opponents, Washington declined a third term in office, and with the help of Alexander Hamilton and the original draft of his letter, revised the address to better reflect the emerging issues of the American political landscape in 1796.

Published almost two months before the electoral college cast their votes in the presidential election of 1796, the obvious purpose of Washington’s letter was to inform the American public and electors of his decision not to run for a third term as President of the United States. It also provided the President an opportunity to offer parting advice to his fellow Americans, express his concerns for the safety of and his support for the eight-year-old Constitutional government, and defend his administration’s record.

The full text of President Washington’s farewell address and other commentary can be found at

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