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WASHINGTON'S FAREWELL ADDRESS-MEETS THE TWO HOUSES OF CONGRESS FOR THE LAST TIME-HIS SPEECH-REPLIES OF THE SENATE AND HOUSE-MR. GILES-ANDREW JACKSON-OFFENSIVE PUBLICATION OF THE FRENCH MINISTER-JOHN ADAMS DECLARED PRESIDENT WASHINGTON'S LETTER TO KNOX ON THE EVE OF HIS RETIREMENT— THE SPURIOUS LETTERS-HIS FAREWELL DINNER-JOHN ADAMS TAKES THE OATH OF OFFICE-GREETINGS OF WASHINGTON AT THE CLOSE OF THE CEREMONY.
THE period for the presidential election was drawing near, and great anxiety began to be felt that Washington would consent to stand for a third term. No one, it was agreed, had greater claim to the enjoyment of retirement, in consideration of public services rendered; but it was thought the affairs of the country would be in a very precarious condition should he retire before the wars of Europe were brought to a close.
Washington, however, had made up his mind irrevocably on the subject, and resolved to announce, in a farewell address, his intention of retiring. Such an instrument, it will be recollected, had been prepared for him from his own notes, by Mr. Madison, when he had thought of retiring at the end of his first term. As he was no longer in confidential intimacy with Mr. Madison, he turned to Mr. Hamilton as his adviser and coadjutor, and appears to have consulted him on the 'sub
ject early in the present year, for, in a letter dated New York, May 10th, Hamilton writes: "When last in Philadelphia, you mentioned to me your wish that I should re-dress a certain paper which you had had prepared. As it is important that a thing of this kind should be done with great care and much at leisure, touched and retouched, I submit a wish that, as soon as you have given it the body you mean it to have, it may be sent to me."
THE FAREWELL ADDRESS.
The paper was accordingly sent, on the 15th of May, in its rough state, altered in one part since Hamilton had seen it. "If you should think it best to throw the whole into a different form," writes Washington, "let me request, notwithstanding, that my draft may be returned to me (along with yours) with such amendments and corrections as to render it as perfect as the formation is susceptible of; curtailed if too verbose, and relieved of all tautology not necessary to enforce the ideas in the original or quoted part. My wish is, that the whole may appear in a plain style; and be handed to the public in an honest, unaffected, simple garb."
We forbear to go into the vexed question concerning this address; how much of it is founded on Washington's original "notes and heads of topics;" how much was elaborated by Madison, and how much is due to Hamilton's recasting and revision. The whole came under the supervision of Washington; and the instrument, as submitted to the press, was in his handwriting, with many ultimate corrections and alterations. Washington had no pride of authorship; his object always was to effect the purpose in hand, and for that he occasionally invoked assistance, to ensure a plain and
clear exposition of his thoughts and intentions. The address certainly breathes his spirit throughout, is in perfect accordance with all his words and actions, and "in an honest, unaffected, simple garb," embodies the system of policy on which he had acted throughout his administration. It was published in September, in a Philadelphia paper called the Daily Advertiser.*
The publication of the Address produced a great sensation. Several of the State legislatures ordered it to be put on their journals. "The President's declining to be again elected," writes the elder Wolcott, "constitutes a most important epoch in our national affairs. The country meet the event with reluctance, but they do not feel that they can make any claim for the further services of a man who has conducted their armies through a successful war; has so largely contributed to establish a national government; has so long presided over our councils and directed the public administration, and in the most advantageous manner settled all national differences, and who can leave the administration where nothing but our folly and internal discord can render the country otherwise than happy."
The address acted as a notice, to hush the acrimonious abuse of him which the opposition was pouring forth under the idea that he would be a candidate for a renomination. "It will serve as a signal, like the dropping of a hat, for the party racers to start,' writes Fisher Ames, "and I expect a great deal of noise, whipping and spurring."
Congress formed a quorum on the 5th day of De
* The reader will find the entire Address in the Appendix to this volume.
1796.] PRESIDENT S LAST SPEECH TO CONGress. 263
cember, the first day of the session which succeeded the publication of the Farewell Address. On the 7th, Washington met the two Houses of Congress for the last time.
In his speech he recommended an institution for the improvement of agriculture, a military academy, a national university, and a gradual increase of the navy. The disputes with France were made the subject of the following remarks: "While in our external relations some serious inconveniences and embarrassments have been overcome and others lessened, it is with much pain and deep regret I mention that circumstances of a very unwelcome nature have lately occurred. Our trade has suffered and is suffering extensive injuries in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of the French Republic; and communications have been received from its minister here, which indicate the danger of a further disturbance of our commerce by its authority; and which are in other respects far from agreeable. It has been my constant, sincere and earnest wish, in conformity with that of our nation, to maintain cordial harmony and a perfectly friendly understanding with that Republic. This wish remains unabated; and I shall persevere in the endeavor to fulfil it to the utmost extent of what shall be consistent with a just and indispensable regard to the rights and honor of our country; nor will I easily cease to cherish the expectation, that a spirit of justice, candor and friendship, on the part of the Republic, will eventually ensure success.
"In pursuing this course, however, I cannot forget what is due to the character of our government and nation; or to a full and entire confidence in the good
sense, patriotism, self-respect, and fortitude of my
In concluding his address he observes, "The situation in which I now stand for the last time in the midst of the representatives of the people of the United States, naturally recalls the period when the administration of the present form of government commenced, and I cannot omit the occasion to congratulate you and my country on the success of the experiment, nor to repeat my fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the universe and Sovereign Arbiter of nations, that his providential care may be still extended to the United States; that the virtue and happiness of the people may be preserved, and that the government which they have instituted for the protection of their liberties may be perpetual."
The Senate, in their reply to the address, after concurring in its views of the national prosperity, as resulting from the excellence of the constitutional system and the wisdom of the legislative provisions, added, that they would be deficient in gratitude and justice did they not attribute a great portion of these advantages to the virtue, firmness and talents of his administration, conspicuously displayed in the most trying times, and on the most critical occasions.
Recalling his arduous services, civil and military, as well during the struggles of the revolution as in the convulsive period of later date, their warmest affections and most anxious regards would accompany him in his approaching retirement.
"The most effectual consolation that can offer for the loss we are about to sustain, arises from the ani