Study Guide

George Washington Farewell Address

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Farewell Address

With the government legitimized, Washington finally felt free to retire. As his second term drew to a close, he drafted what has come to be the most famous piece penned under his name, his "Farewell Address." The Address is worth our attention for its symbolism alone. Although signed by Washington, it was a collaborative piece. Washington dug up the valedictory speech Madison had written for the end of his first term and sent it to Hamilton to be reworked. By then, Madison and Hamilton had become sworn political enemies: Hamilton was the most prominent Federalist, and Madison was Jefferson's chief Republican lieutenant. The opposition was not lost on Washington, nor was his role in transcending party divisions. For all the strife, Washington was still the man who could unite all hearts. In the Address, Washington focused on the long-term stability of the nation, calling for Americans to join in the preservation of their country. And with that, he finally exited the public stage.

Washington was eager to escape the spotlight. The presidency was a bruising job, and he was glad to be rid of it. Besides, he had some unfinished personal business of his own he badly wanted to attend to.

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