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An inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. online

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form in Washington's behalf, — but wholly insufficient to
enlighten him in regard to Hamilton's draught, or to Wash-
ington's previous communications with Madison, Mr. Jay
proceeded to express a definite opinion upon the whole mat-
ter of the authorship of the Farewell Address. 1. He gave
an explicit opinion upon the general proposition, that the
Farewell Address was a personal act of Washington, and
that nobody else could, with propriety, be its author. 2,
That it was not likely that Hamilton, or any other person
but Washington, was the author, because Washington was
perfectly able to write it himself. 3. That if it was " pos-
" sible to find a man among those whom Washington es-

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^teemed, capable of offering him such a present '^ as an
address, which contained what the Farewell Address does
contain, — ^the broadest ayowals of his very fallible judgment,
and the inferioriiy of his qualifications, — ^"^ it was impossible
^^to belieye that President Washington was the man to
^ whom such a present would be acceptable."

The presumptive internal evidence from the Farewell Ad-
dress, combined with that of Washington's ability, which
Mr. Jay argues at lai^ in his letter, and very well, and the
direct evidence arising from that interview with Hamilton,
therefore resulted to impress Mr. Jay's mind with the con-
viction, most necessarily implied by his whole letter, though
not, I believe, anywhere in it expressly stated, that Wash-
ington was the sole author of the Farewell Address, such
corrections or amendments of it only excepted as Hamilton
had read in that interview, and some of little importance,
which had been made by both the parties in the course of it.
But it gives me pleasure to add that, considering the lapse
of time between the date of that interview, in 1796, and Mr.
Jay's letter, in 1811, there is a very reasonable excuse for
Mr. Jay's regarding the corrections and emendations of
Washington's draught by Hamilton, as having gone into the
published Farewell Address ; because almost all the correc-
tions of Washington's draught contain the same thoughts,
expressed in nearly the same language, as in Hamilton's
original draught, and most probably in the amended copy
Hamilton sent to Washington. I am very happy to suppose
that these important passages in the published Farewell
Address, contributed to recall the corrections or emendations
of Washington's draught, which Hamilton had read to him,
and to strengthen Mr. Jay's belief that the Farewell Ad-

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MR. jay's wisdom AND PURITY. 169

dress was identically Washington's draught corrected by
Hamilton. But in volume as well as plan, the original
draught of Hamilton, and the coirected draught of Wash-
ington, were entirely unlike ; and some long passages which
Hamilton may have left in the corrected draught of Wash-
ington, are excluded altogether from his own, particularly
those on the subject of political calumny and party abuse,
which squared better with parts of Washington's plan than
they did with his own, and which are therefore excluded
from it.

There were few wiser men in this country, and no purer
man anywhere, than John Jay. There is a halo round his
venerable head, which we recollect, that makes it exceed-
ingly painful to represent him as having erred so capitally
in his conclusions, from the partial evidence before him;
especially as his professional astuteness, and the wariness of
his judgment, in judicial or quasi-judicial cases of import-
ance, was one of his eminent characteristics. Something,
perhaps, in Judge Peters's letter to Mr. Jay may have
tended to narrow the scope of his inquiry, or a little to
surprise his accurate judgment in this matter: but I have
looked in vain to the Life of Mr. Jay by his son, and else-
where, for further elucidation of the subject.

It is from this letter, perhaps, — probably from Judge
Peters's exhibition of it, or repetition of its contents, at a
day several years before the publication of Mr. Jay's Life
by his son, — that has arisen the uncomfortable feeling I
have adverted to, in regard to the authorship of the Fare-
well Address, and with it the opinion or sentiment of Mr.
Sparks, that in some way it concerned the honor of Ham-
ilton, to destroy all traces of his connection with it.

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Tbeie is not the least eridenoe in the wodd that the obli-
teration of sudi tiaces erer entered into the heart or mind
of Washington; and no man of understanding who shall
carry or trace bade sodi a tfaongfat to its root or principle,
can £ul to peroeiTe diat it will infer a weakness in Wash-
ington, diat is out of keeping with his whole life, and with
the ex^dt langoage of the Farewdl Address itsel£

Hamilton appears to hare preserved the abstract and
original rong^ drangfat, because there was no motive to
destroy them. He conld not have destroyed them with the
supposed motive, without feeling his own respect for Wash-
ington in some d^ree impaired by the motive. He kept
them, as he kept the original draughts of some of the clauses
he had prepared for Washington's speeches, as a record of
his own sentiments, and as a part of the transactions of his
political life. He kept no copy of his corrections of Wash-
ington's draught, nor of the amended copy of his own
draught, nor of the revision of that draught, nor of any of
his letters to Washington on this subject, nor indeed of any-
thing in r^ard to it , for the two papers he left behind him were
not copies, but the rough originals. This was all that Ham-
ilton did. He did not destroy them ; that is alL Privacy at
the time was material, as the correspondence shows, because
the purpose of Washington to retire, was intended to be held
in reserve, for public reasons, until the last moment. Ham-
ilton expressly advised him to this eflfect. It is from this
cause, perhaps, that no more copies were taken. Hamilton's
own engagements and want of health prevented his making
them, and the employment of a clerk would have endangered
a disclosure of Washington's purpose. The originals of
Washington's letters he preserved, as he probably did or

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ought to have done, all that had ever been addressed to him
by that venerated hand. And this was the extent of his
provision. After Hamilton's lamented death, — I place im-
plicit confidence in the family tradition — ^it was not any of
his family who discovered the rough original draught, but it
was an eminent public man, to whom access to Hamilton's
political papers was allowed, and who found it in one of
the pigeon-holes of his cabinet. And thus it came to the

Such reserve and delicacy as Hamilton observed in regard
to the assistance, Washington may have expected, and it is
commonly expected in like cases. He may have expected,
that, for the time then present, and perhaps while he was
living, publication would not afford occasion of gossip or
invidious party criticism, and become an instrument in the
hands of party to weaken the influence of his counsels, by
attributing them to the management of others ; which, those
who lived in that day may remember, there were men enough,
high and low, well disposed to insinuate, without any proof
or shadow of proof. A reserve of this kind may have been
patriotically desirable, without the least infusion of vanity ;
and something of this nature may constitute the true limita-
tion of reserve in all cases of like assistancie by a minister or
friend to a public chief, expressing his sentiments in his own
name, whether officially or unofficially, to any part of the
country, or to the people at large. I cannot, I think, be
mistaken in the sentiment, that if Washington had desired
more than this, it would have been a weakness ; and that if
Hamilton had practised more than this, it would have been
a derogatory suspicion. To annex the pains of dishonor to
the preservation of a paper by the assisting party, would not


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162 washikotoh's pkesebtatiok of all the papers

only in this case misconceiye the yiews of the party assisted,
as they will immediately appear, but would in all cases
encircle the oflSce of a friend with thorns, which might fittally
wound his character, whether a paper was accidentally or
intentionally preserved by him ; and would end in depriving
all public chiefi of such aid, by surrounding it with insuffer-
able penalties. Whatever may be thought of the general
rule or principle, however, Washington's own course demon-
strates infaUibly the existence of an exception in this case,
which he was competent to establish, and did establish, com-
prehending and justifying the course of Hamilton, whether
it was accidental or intentionaL And this, is shown by a
species of evidence quite irresistible.

Washington preserved copies and originals of all the
papers and correspondence, on the subject of the Farewell
Address, from his first application to Mr. Madison, in 1792,
down to the publication of that Address, in 1796.

He preserved a copy of his letter to Mr. Madison, and
the original of Madison's letter of 20th June, 1792, in reply.
Either Washington preserved them, or Madison the counter-
parts, the original of Washington's letter, and a copy of the
reply ; for it is only from one or both of these sources that
Mr. Sparks can have obtained them for his paper on the
Farewell Address. Washington preserved the original of
Madison's draught, the original of his own draught, the
original of Hamilton's correction of it, the originals of all
Hamilton's letters, and we presume, — for this was his
habit,— copies of the letters he had written to Hamilton,
touching the same matter. He preserved, we have no
doubt, the reviami of Hamilton, as he preserved all the
other papers ; for it is morally certain that from Washing-

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ton's cabinet it must have come, directly or indirectly, to the
certain person in Mr. Jay's letter, if there was accuracy in
Judge Peters's statement. Washington was even anxious
to keep copies of all these papers ; for he urged upon Ham-
ilton the safe-keeping and return of his own draught, because
he had no copy, except of the " quoted part," which was
Madison's ; and of this he had the original. There is no
difficulty, moreover, in suggesting why he was so tenacious
of that draught, and so desirous of its being returned to
him, — namely, that by it would be at aU times shown what
was his own, and what the contribution of another, to the
Farewell Address. Washington preserved all these papers
until his death, with his usual and very remarkable care ;
and he left them at his death to the inspection of affection
or curiosity, which he knew to be unlimited in*regard to all
that concerned him. Nay, fiirther: this care of papers, in
relation to a subject vastly more interesting to affection and
curiosity than any paper he ever published, must be, to
every one who reflects upon it, a most persuasive proof of a
foregone determination or conclusion on the part of Wash-
ington, that the full history of the Farewell Address, from
the beginning to the end, including all the parties, and all
their specific contributions, should be known at his death.
One of his noble motives for this, — ^not looking to himself
at all, but to the friend whose public virtues he knew, as
well as his high-toned fidelity, — may not improbably have
been, to show by them Hamilton's part in the preparation of
the Address, and his more than accordance with it^ senti-
ments ; that in this way, by Washington's agency, might be
put down, the inveterate misrepresentations of a rising party,
by the heads of which Hamilton was calumniated as hostile to

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repablican goTemment, and to the priiici[^ of the Const!-
tatioiL Such a motire would have peilectly corresponded
with Washington's known affection and regard. Let ns not
be oTer-jeakKis for sndi a man, wbo was as tme as steel to
lus pvinciples and fiiends^and was infinitely above the petty
jealousies which embitter the small traffickers for the praise
of the world !

Scnne of his letters to Hamilton are marked private;
others are not so marked. Hie very first and inllest of all,
tiie letter of die 15th May, is not so maiked. It is this by
whidi he commits his Valedictory Address to Hamilton,
mentioning it by name, commenting upon it extensively,
and requesting him to correct it, with authority to write it
anew, if he saw fit — stipulating only for the guidance of his
own sentiments. These were the Man, and these were all
that he cared to have followed as his own. , The letters
of the 26th June and 10th August are not marked private^
nor that of the 6th September. Those of the 25th August
and 1st September are so marked. Can any person, upon
the inspection of these letters, raise the proposition, that
those marked private were to be regarded as specially
private or confidential, and the others not so ] or that there
was anything in that mark where it was used, except a par-
tial observance of routine, sometimes followed by accident,
and sometimes omitted in the like way, to distinguish a
public letter, or a £uniliar one, from a letter that was to be
treated with some reserve % There is nothing in this mark,
or in any part of the case, that shows a purpose in Wash-
ington to have the intervention of Hamilton treated with
special secrecy. There was an intimation to the contrary,
in the plainness with which he referred to Madison's

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aid, and to his purpose of bringing home to one or two per-
sons, the consciousness that the aid had been given upon a
former occasion, and was not given now. If^ however, the
mark private^ or any other mark, had looked to special reserve,
it must have been used as a restriction for that time only,
and for its then present purpose, because the careful reten-
tion of the papers we have referred to, until Washington's
death, is irrefragable proof to that effect. It is an irrefu-
table answer to every one, who shall impute to Washington
the small vanity of wishing to pass for the writer of what
he did not write, or to Hamilton the correlative wrong of
preserving what he ought not to have preserved. We bring
such men down to a level fer below them, to the level of the
common vanities of common men, if we impute such foibles
to them. Washington knew well, as every great or very
eminent public man has known, that privacy, in its absolute
sense, was not for him. He knew that all his papers re-
lating to public transactions of note, must sooner or later
become known ; and not from affectionate curiosity only, or
from the envy that follows public greatness as a shadow,
even after it has become, in one sense, less than a shade
itself but from a grave public and abiding interest in the
life and transactions of the man upon whom they bore.
Washington knew all this as well as most men, and possibly
better; and prepared for it accordingly, not by destroying
or inventing, as some have done, but by letting everything
concerning him be seen as it was. The sentiments of that
Farewell Address were his own — ^principally by his sugges-
tion ; the leading or fundamental sentiments, exclusively so.
This was the gold ; the rest was the minting.

The whole of this invidious objection, which has been

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166 THE ORntcnoN to peesebying Hamilton's draught

noticed, is founded on a mistake. It is a mistake, whether
we T^ard the subject in the light of general usage or of
principle, to apply to such a paper as the Farewell Address,
the rule which may be thought to prevail in cases of confi-
dential Uterary assistance, supplied to a friend who is com-
peting for Uterary honor as an author. That rule cJtnnot
have, and, in the practice of the world, has never received,
an application to the case of a political or military chief,
communicating his instructions or thoughts to the people,
or to any branch of the public authorities. Such communi-
cations are essentially a public act, and not a personal one,
except that, in such a leave-taking as Washington's, we
may suppose that he searched the depths of his heart for the
thoughts which he meant to utter to the people ; and very
many of the great thoughts of that paper are from his own
heart. In the first intention, the paper would have been
more a personal one, than it afterwards became, to Wash-
ington's entire satisfection, through a just consideration of
his great public relation to the whde country and people.
The official character in such a case, and the direction to the
whole people, coidd not be thrown off, without impairing the
weight and infiuence of the writing, and almost its perti-
nency. The difference between a speech or message to the
two Houses of Congress, and such an address to the people,
may be a constitutional one in this sense, that there is an
affirmative provision in the Constitution which includes the
one expressly, without expressing the other ; but, in the
sense of public concern, and of executive supervision, there
is no difference between them. Washington did not regard
the paper as a personal one only. He read it to his Cabi-

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net,* and he ordered it to be recorded in the Department of
State. He was not competing for favor as an author, but
recommending principles of government, and rules of political
action, within the range and scope of the Executive office ;
and by whom he was assisted in giving form or expression
to his thoughts, or in suggesting thoughts for his considera-
tion, was a matter that no more touched his self-love, or his
sense of self-respect, than the like service did in regard to a
speech or message to Congress. No one, who has formed a
just estimate of that great man, can imagine that he regarded
his personal dignity, or his personal value and efficiency,
and, least of all, his true claims to respect and reverence, as
reduced or compromised, in the least degree, by his asking
the aid of a friend, who had been his trusted minister, to
aiyange his thoughts, or to improve their expression, upon
any public subject on which he felt it his duty to speak. He
was so high-spirited and sensitive, as well as sincere, that
the glimpse of such a thought would have turned him aside,
as certainly, perhaps, as any man that ever lived. The
resort to such assistance was all the more likely to be made,
and was all the more frequently made, because no one was
more justly entitled to feel conscious, that his powers of
thought and expression were such as to place him on a per-
fect level with his office and duties ; though, on occasions
when he might encounter criticism from enemies or adversa-
ries — and he had them both — ^he may have thought that his
active life had not permitted him to become so sure of the
various colors and shades of language, or so intimate with

♦ I state this fact upon the authority of a letter from Colonel Pickering, then Secre-
tary of State, which is in the possession of John C Hamilton, Esq.

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168 BEJumEfl r?o3r the SEsrEcnrs costeibutioss

the be^ fimns of composition^ as to enable him to select
with fecilitT, in the fiice of such critics, the jJan and words
which would give the most certain and eflFectiye expression
to his thoughts, and the best protection against their per-

It is a small question to raise, after the deadi of two great
public men, neither of whom, in his lifetime, suffered the
breath of dishonor to condense upon his garments ; and each
of whom, in his claims to a deathless reputation, could haye
referred to a thousand proofs that are stronger than the
Farewell Address, or the original draught of it. But, having
been raised, through accident or design, through levity or
malevolence, my admiration of each has made me unwilling
to vrithhold the humble labor of putting it in its proper li^ht
in regard to both. \

Having now concluded this Inquiry, after placing in the
body of it, or pointing out in the documents it refers to,
ample and authentic materials from which every reader may
form an opinion for himself, there is little occasion for ex-
pressing my own, upon the whole matter. I must avoid,
however, the appearance of affectation, by suppressing it
altogether at the conclusion, after having, no doubt, inti-
mated portions of it incidentally, and sometimes perhaps
unintentionally, in the course of the essay.

I have not the least intention, however, of either institu-
ting, or leading to, a comparison of the respective values -of
the several contributions to the Farewell Address. If that
question shall be raised, of which I should think there is
little probability, at least among men who have sufficient
sentiment to regard that Address as the testament of Wash-

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ington, and Hamilton as the indicter of his Will, the com-
parison must have diflferent results, as it shall be made upon
either political, or moral, or literary grounds ; for values of
these descriptions are not comparable altogether in their na-
ture, one or more of them passing by weight, adjusted upon
exact principles, and one at least by a variable and rather
arbitrary scale of taste or convention. Even the more pon-
derable parts are by no means on one side only. My dispo-
sition is to describe, and not to compare,

Washington was imdoubtedly the original designer of the
Farewell Address ; and not merely by general or indefinite
intimation, but by the suggestion of perfectly definite sub-
jects, of an end or object, and of a general outUne, the same
which the paper now exhibits. His outline did not appear
so distinctly in his own plan, because the subjects were not
so arranged in it as to show that they were all comprehended
within a regular and proportional figure; but when they
came to be so arranged in the present Address, the scope of
the whole design is seen to be contained within the limits
he intended, and to fill them. The subjects were traced by
him with adequate precision, though without due connection,
with little expansion, and with little declared bearing of
the parts upon each other, or towards a common centre;
but they may now be followed with ease in their proper
relations and bearing in the finished paper, such only ex-
cepted as he gave his final consent and approbation to

In the most common and prevalent sense of the word
among Uterary men, this may not, perhaps, be called author-
ship ; but in the primary etymological sense, — the quality of
imparting growth or increase, — there can be no doubt that

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it is «o. By derivation fiom himsdf, the Farewell Address
speaks the very mind of Washington. The fundamental
thoughts And principles were his ; but he was not the com-
\ poser or writer of the paper.

Hamilton was, in the prevalent literary sense, the com-
poser and writer of the paper. The occasional adoption of
Washington's language does not materially take from the
justice oi this attribution. The new plan, the different
form, proceeded from Hamilton. He was the author of it.
He put together the thoughts of Washington in a new
order, and with a new bearing ; and while, as often as he
coidd, he used the words of Washington, his own language
was the general vehicle, both of his own thoughts, and for
the expansion and combination of Washington's thoughts.
Hamilton developed the thoughts of Washington, and cor-
roborated them — included several cognate subjects, and
added many effective thoughts from his own mind, and
muted all into one chain by the links of his masculine logic.

The main trunk was Washington's ; the branches were
stimidated by Hamilton; and the foliage, which was not
exuberant, was altogether his; and he, more than Wash-
ington, pruned and nipped off, with severe discrimination,
whatever was excessive, — that the tree might bear the fruits
which Washington desired, and become his ftdl and fit

This is the impression which the proofs have made upon
me ; and I am not conscious of the least bias or partiality, in
receiving it from them.

It is quite impossible, I think, to divide the work by any-
thing like a sharp line between Washington and Hamilton ;

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 13 of 20)