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sonal admiration of both, and to do justice to each in the
matter of this celebrated paper.

I shall endeavor to make these statements as plain and
clear as possible ; abating none of their plainness and clear-
ness by a vain eflfort for literary eflfect. This may, perhaps,
take more space than may be agreeable to all; but those
who have an interest in the question, will not be unwil-
ling, perhaps, to give the necessary time and attention to
it, if they shall perceive that the examination is conducted
in a calm and impartial spirit, with an orderly arrangement
and an ample citation of proofs, a careful deduction of infer-
ences, and a fiill concentration of all these influences upon
the pubhshed Farewell Address of Washington.

I shall be under a necessity, in order to avoid a heavy
mass of quotations, of asking the reader to refer to the
printed and published works I shall name, if he desires
more full information than my extracts will give him, or
wishes to test my accuracy in making them ; and when I
shall offer a comparison between the original draught of an
address by Hamilton, and the Farewell Address signed and

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dated by Washington, on the 17th September, 1796, and
published by him to the country, I shall ask the reader to
make, with the exception of two or three clauses collated in
the Inquiry, the entire collation or comparison himself,
with the two papers imder his eye, to save me from exhibit-
ing, what some persons might deem an invidious parallel, if
they were placed side by side, in opposite columns or pages.
It seems worthy of particular remark at the outset, that
\ Washington does not appear to have intended, at any time,
to be the unassisted composer or writer of the Farewell
Address, Though it was not, strictly speaking, an official
paper, nor a state paper, appertaining to the regular duties
of his political office, and for which he might, and usually
did, refer to his official ministers and advisers, and some-
times to approved friends, for thoughts and clauses, that he
might consider and apply, or modify or reject, at his plea-
sure, — it was a paper, in his regard^ of a higher grade, and
calling for even more consideration, as it was to be in the
nature of a testamentary declaration of his political prin-
ciples, as well as to impart his counsels, and to express his
personal thanks and valediction to the whole people of the
United States.
The original conception, the ftmdamental thought, pur-
V pose, or design of this paper, was Washington's ; his first,
and it would seem his only, upon separate consideration
and deliberation, until the purpose was matured, when he
communicated it to another, who approved it. That design
comprehended, in addition to his cordial and thankftJ fere-
weU, upon retiring from civil life, a recommendation of
various patriotic counsels and admonitions to his country-
men, which should bring before them the blessings of their

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union under a federal government, the perfect adaptation of
their diversified soil and climate to such a union, the advan-
tages of their mutual dependence and intercommunity, their
common relation to foreign nations, and the dangers of either
local or foreign partialities and antipathies, and of party
spirit in all its shapes, whether of combinations to control or
obstruct the action of regular authority, or of pervading
jealousy to weaken its eflfects, or of virulent opposition and
censure, to discourage and drive from public office the
faithful servants who had been selected to administer it.
In a word, the advantages and the dangers of the whole
country, and the mamtenance of the Union, under a wise
and equal administration, as the best security and defence
of the public happiness, were to be his theme ; and no man
ever suggested a nobler theme, or was more worthy by his
patriotism, or so well entitled by his services, to make it the
subject of his final discourse and instruction. It was a
paper far above all ordinary official or state papers, was re-
lated to topics as high or higher, involving equal or greater
responsibility, addressed to greater numbers, and asking a
perpetual remembrance by the people, as they should tender
their political existence.

That Washington ought to have thought that such an
address was so personal, or " so connected with other obvious
" considerations," that he only " could with propriety write
" it," is a pure fancy, if we take in the whole of Wash-
ington's thought. Instead of such considerations being
" obvious," they are not even discoverable. No satisfactory
reason can be given for the proposition, that would not have
made it his duty to write everything that purported to
express his personal sentiments, whether official or imoffi-

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18 Washington's letter to madison.

cial — ^his speeches to Congress, and everything emanating
from his pubUc position. No reason of any kind was given
for it by Mr. Jay, in the place where it was first announced.
Upon the same hypothesis, whatever it may have been, he
ought not to have asked for thoughts, or revision and cor-
rection for his own draught of this paper, or for any assist-
ance whatever, which was the very thing that was asked of
him who has made the criticism ; and this would bring the
Address to a schoolboy exercise, that was to try Washing-
ton's progress in composition, and to bring dishonor upon
him, if he borrowed a feather, or a feather's weight, from
anybody else.

It is sufficient, however, to know that this thought was
not Washington's thought, upon this or any other occasion
of public concern. He thought the contrary, clearly and
constantly, in regard to the Farewell Address. He thought
it a year or more before the end of his first term of office as
President ; and he thought it till the matter was consum-
mated, about six months before the end of his last term.
By a letter dated the 20th May, 1792, he first opened the
subject freely to Mr. Madison.

His letter, and Mr. Madison's reply, and the draught of a
Farewell Address prepared by Madison, at Washington's
request, appear in the twelfth volume of " The Writings of
George Washington," edited by Jared Sparks^ in pages 382
to 390. I will present a summary of Washington's letter,
and some extracts from it, in this place.

After saying that he was unable to dispose his mind to a
longer continuation in the office he held, and that he looked
forward with the fondest and most ardent wishes to spend
the remainder of his days, which he could not expect to be

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long, in ease and tranquillity, — and saying further, that
nothing, but a conviction that by declining the chair of
government, it would involve the country in serious disputes
respecting the Chief Magistrate, could induce him to relin-
quish the determination he had formed, Washington pro-
ceeded to say as follows : —

"Under these impressions, then, permit me to reiterate the
** request I made to you at our last meeting, namely, to think of
*' the proper time and best mode of announcing the intention ; and
'Hhat you would prepare the latter." . . . " I would fain carry my
*' request to you farther than is asked above, although I am sensible
*' that your compliance with it must add to your trouble ; but as
"the recess may afford you leisure, and I flatter myself you have
'*■ dispositions to oblige me, I will, without apology, desire (if the
*^ measure in itself should strike you as proper, or likely to produce
"public good, or private honor) that you would turn your thoughts
*^to a valedictory address from me to the public, expressing, in
" plain and modest terms, that, having been honored with the Presi-
" dential chair, and to the best of my abilities contributed to the
" organization and administration of the government — that having
" arrived at a period of life when the private walks of it, in the
" shades of retirement, become necessary, and will be most pleasing
" to me ; — (and as the spirit of the government may render a rota-
" tion in the elective officers of it more congenial with the ideas [the
" people have] of liberty and safety*) — that I take my leave of them

* I possess a/ac nmile of Washington's letter of 20th May, J 792, to Mr. Madison, to
which, in this place, the copy in Mr. Sparks's Appendix does not literally conform. I
do not vouch for this fac timile^ though the resemblance to Washington's handwriting,
which is familiar to me, is perfect; and the copy in Mr. Sparks's Appendix, in other
respects, conforms to it. The clause, in the/ac «rm/« to which I refer, is as follows,
without marks of parenthesis, but beginning where the first mark of parenthesis in Mr.
Sparks's copy, which I follow, begins, after the words " pleasing to me ;" — "and the spirit
" of the government may render a rotation in the elective officers of it more congenial with

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^^ as a public man, and, in bidding them adieu, retaining no other
"concern than such as will arise from fervent wishes for the pros-
" perity of my country, I take the liberty of my departure from
" civil pife], as I formerly did at my military exit, to invoke a
'* continuation of the blessings of Providence upon it, and upon all
" those who are the supporters of its interests, and the promoters
" of harmony, order, and good government." ..." That, to im-
" press these things, it might, among other topics, be observed" —

and then the letter proceeds to state, and very briefly de-
velope, four topics, which, with very little variation of
Washington's words, may, in his own order, be represented
as follows: 1. That we are all children of the same country,
great and rich in itself, and capable and promising to be as
prosperous and happy as any which the annals of history have
brought to view ; and that our interest, however diversified
in local or smaller matters, is the same in all the great and
essential concerns of the nation. 2. That the extent of our
country, the diversity of our climate and soil, and the various
productions of the States, are such as to make one part not only
convenient, but indispensable to other parts, and may render
the whole one of the most independent nations in the world.
3. That the government, being the work of our hands, with
the seeds of amendment engrafted in the Constitution, may,
by wisdom, good dispositions, and mutual allowances, aided

'* their ideas of liberty and eafety, that I take my leave of them as a public man/' &c.
I have heard, and have no reason to doubt, that the fae timUe was made from the ori-
ginal letter, which came from a member of Mr. Madison's family, after Mr. Madison's
death. The word [life] within brackets is subject to my preceding remark ; it is not
in the/ae wniU, Indeed, this manner of bracketing words in a copy, is understood, 1
believe, to be an intimation that the original does not contain the bracketed word or

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by experience, be brought as near to perfection as any
human institution has ever been ; and, therefore, that the
only strife should be, who should be foremost in facilitating,
and finally accomplishing, such great objects, by giving every
possible support and cement to the Union. 4. And here
Washington's fuU words are extracted: "that however
" necessary it may be to keep a watchful eye over public
" servants and public measures, yet there ought to be limits
*' to it ; for suspicions unfounded, and jealousies too lively,
" are irritating to honest feelings, and oftentimes are pro-
" ductive of more evil than good."

Then coming more generally to the office Madison was
asked to perform, the letter says : — v\

" To enumerate the various subjects which might be introduced
" into such an address, would require thought, and to mention them
" to you would be unnecessary, as your own judgment will compre-
" hend all that will be proper. Whether to touch specifically any
" of the exceptionable parts of the Constitution, may be doubted.
" All that I shall add, therefore, at present, is, to beg the favor of
" you to consider, first, the propriety of such an address ; secondly,
" if approved, the several matters which ought to be contained in
"it; thirdly, the time it should appear, that is, whether at the
" declaration of my intention to withdraw from the service of the
" public, or to let it be the closing act of my administration, which
"will end with the next session of Congress."

There is one more clause in the letter, the final clause, a
part of which will be adverted to presently ; but, by what is
already shown, it is manifest that Washington asked Madi-
son both to write for him and to think for him in this
behalf; and that he guided Madison in regard only to cer-

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22 Washington's letter to madison.

tain topics, leaving to him an unlimited range as to others,
subject, of course, to his own revision and judgment, in
which he appears, at all times, to have possessed the fullest
confidence, whether in deciding upon his own capacity and
language, or upon the capacity and language of another.
And it is made fiirther manifest, that, so fer from regarding
the Address as a merely personal paper, it was to be, in
one contingency of time, what Washington called " the
^^ closing act of his administration;^^ thus bringing it at
once into the category of public and official papers.

This, however, is not all that is made plain by the letter,
as plain by what it does not say, as by what it does. Cer-
tainly, it was a letter that showed confidence and trust, and
so it must have been understood by the parties ; and it de-
manded reserve and silence at the time on the part of Madi-
son, from the imcertainty whether Washington would retire,
as he wished to do, and from the consequences that would have
resulted from bruiting his purpose prematurely to the world.
This motive for silence and reserve continued to the time of
Washington's final determination, in the beginning of 1796,
and even later than that, as will hereafter be seen. But
there is not a word about secrecy in the letter. It is not
Jieaded "confidential," nor described as confidential, to re-
strict the knowledge of it to the parties only ; and the last
clause of the letter proves, that in Washington's mind, the
confidence, as to the Farewell Address, stood upon the same
footing as if the subject had been the President's speech at
the opening of Congress ; for in precisely the same condition
of confidence as in the matter of the Farewell Address,
Washington adverted to the approaching session of Con-
gress, and said : —

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" I beg leave to draw your attention, also, to such things as you
" shall conceive fit subjects for communication on that occasion ;
" and, noting them as they occur, that you would be so good as to
" provide me with them in time to be prepared and engrafted with
"the others for the opening of the session."

Since the death of both Washington and Hamilton, a
notion of some special honorary secrecy and confidence, in
this reference for advice and assistance in the matter of the
Farewell Address, has been blended with the consideration
of the whole subject, and has led to both misconceptions
and misrepresentations. If the thought is analyzed vvith
any care, it will be found to contain, if I may follow Mr.
JeflFerson's authority for a word, that sort of heUttling appeal
to honor, which one lady of fashion makes to another,
when she borrows her diamonds to show off in. There is
no trace or implication of the feeling in this first letter to
Mr. Madison; and those who have suggested it, in some
disparagement of Hamilton, do not appear to have con-
sidered how equally it casts back upon the party by
whom the appeal was made, if it was made or intended.
A motive for the honorary secrecy must be imputed to
Washington, before the preservation of papers which reveal
its object, can be imputed to Madison or to Hamilton. If
the preservation of such papers involves Madison or Hamil-
ton in the indeUcacy of violating secrecy for his own advan-
tage, against the understanding and vsdsh of Washington,
that imderstanding and wish must involve Washington in
the vanity of desiring to pass as the unassisted author of
every part of the Address. There is not a circumstance in
the life of either Washington or Hamilton, that justifies the
one imputation or the other ; and a body of proofs vdll be

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24 MR. Madison's draught.

hereafter submitted, which, if any thing can prove a negative,
will prove that the purpose and thought, in the particular
case, were equally absent from both.

It is unnecessary to say much, in this place, about Mr.
Madison's draught of a Farewell Address. It is printed at
length in Mr. Sparks's edition of Washington's Writings.
It is a rather curt paper, not occupying in the whole three
fuU pages of Mr. Sparks's Appendix, even with an alternative
clause, which was to be omitted, if the notification of Wash-
ington's purpose to retire, and the expression of his counsels
and cautions, should make but one paper. It is not imrea-
sonable to suppose that Mr. Madison, at that time, may have
known himself to be drawn further away from the policy of
Washington, than Washington was aware of His feelings
of delicacy in the transaction may have been heightened by
the circumstance. The fact is historically true ; and Madi-
son's draught foreshadowed the proof of it. Madison confined
himself, in his draught, mainly to a repetition of Washington's
suggestions, developing them to a very moderate extent
only, and not using at all the power delegated to him, to
comprehend other topics. He aimed, as his reply to Wash-
ington imports, at that plainness and modesty of language
which Washington had in view, to the extent, as Washing-
ton's copy of this paper in his own original draught, will
show, of making him speak of his own " very fallible judg-
" ment^'^ of which Washington had not spoken in his letter,
and of his "-^ inferior qualifications for the trnsV^ — a dis-
claimer of what the unprejudiced part of the world knew
him to possess in a remarkable degree ; and did little more,
and says himself that he " had little more to do, as to the
" matter, than to follow the just and comprehensive outline

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" which Washington had sketched.'* In one particular, and it
was an awakening one, Mr. Madison fell short of even this.

It may be observed, that Washington's language, in the
fourth of the topics expressly suggested by him to Madison,
is very explicit. In that paragraph the principle assumed
is, that, "however necessary it may be to keep a watchftd
"eye over public servants and pubUc measures," — and
Washington afltons nothing in regard to this necessity, —
he does afiirm distinctly, that " there ought to be limits to
" it ; for unfounded suspicions and jealousies too lively, are
" irritating to honest feelings, and oftentimes are more pro-
" ductive of evil than good."

Every one knows that Washington had been stung and
irritated by the party arrows that were shot at him person*
ally, as well as at certain members of his administration ;
but the breadth and depth of this irritation, and the direc-
tion in which it spread, are not so well known. Some of
his papers reveal it with little disguise. He therefore
meant to assert, in the paragraph referred to, that a liberal
confidence in pubUc servants was, in such a government as
ours, the true principle^ and a watchful eye only a qualifica"
tion of that principle. Madison's draught, on the contrary,
places among the vows which Washington would carry to
his retirement and to his grave, " that its administration, in
" every department, may be stamped with wisdom and virtue,
" and that this character may he insured to it, by that watch-
" fulness which, on one hand, will he necessm'y to prevent or
" correct a degeneracy, and that forbearance, on the other,
" from unfounded or indiscriminate jealousies, which would
" deprive the pubUc of the best services, by depriving a
" conscious integrity of the noblest incitements to perform

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26 MR. Madison's draught.

This seems to have been rather an inversion of Wash-
ington's meaning, than even a dilution of it ; for by posi-
tion, as well as by force of the terms, it affirms watch-
fulness to be the principle, and forbearance the qualification.
Though Washington may have observed this, he retained
this form of statement, in so much of the paper he after-
wards prepared as was taken from Madison's draught, re-
stating, however, in the initial and final paragraphs of his
own section of that paper, the vital part of the same senti-
ment, which he had thus emphasized in his letter to Madi-
son. Hamilton certainly observed it, and Washington
finally held to a less questionable expression of his views,
as will be seen hereafter; and it will also be seen that
Hamilton brings forward in his original draught, modified by
himself or Washington afterwards, the substance of Wash-
ington's principle, and philosophically supports it by a dis-
tinction between " governments of a monarchical character
" or bias," and governments of a merely elective and popular

The proposition of Washington, in his letter to Madison,
might be regarded as true m the abstract, supposing a
democracy to possess virtue, the " one spring more," which
Montesquieu thinks is necessary to it. But the past expe-
rience of our own institutions, compels us to regard it prac-
tically as Utopian. If it was not applied in our first and
purest administration of government, it is not likely to be
applied in any. Mr. Madison must have known, from the
res gestce of times then shortly past and passing before him,
that he could not safely commit himself, even as a represen-
tative pen, to the plain enunciation of Washington's prin-
ciple. Hamilton also, perhaps, saw that it was impracticable;

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but he knew it to be Washington's pure and noble thought,
and therefore clothed it in the safest terms in his draught of
an Address.

As Washington surrendered his wish to retire at the end
of his first term of office, the use of Madison's draught was
postponed, until the subject recurred, in the course of
Washington's second term, when his determination to retire
became absolute, and he proceeded to the preparation of
another Farewell Address.

The purpose of this Inquiry calls for some precision in
the reference to proofs or authorities, to show the course of
Washington in this second preparation. AU of these proofs
have been for several years before the pubUc, in authentic
printed volumes, with the exception of Hamilton's repUes
to Washington's letters, and parts of Washington's original
or preparatory draught. The case might have been better
understood than it seems to have been, even without the
publication of these excepted parts ; but, as there appears to
be now but a single link of the chain wanting, and that not
an indispensable one, namely, the copy of Hamilton's ori-
ginal draught which he sent to Washington, amending con-
siderably the original draught, which he retained, and is now
printed in his works, it may assist the reader to have before
him, in one view, a statement of all the proofs I shall have
occasion to refer to in the course of this Inquiry. They are
as follows : —

1. The Appendix to the twelfth volume of Mr. Sparks's
" Writings of George Washington," No. HI ; " Washing-
ton's Farewell Address," pages 382 to 398, inclusive. This
paper contains copies of the letters between Washington
and Madison, on the subject of the Address — a copy of

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28 THE writer's authorities.

Madison's draught — and two portions of Washington's pre-
paratory draught, made before he consulted Hamilton. These
portions consisted, 1st, of Madison's draught, and, 2d, of an
original paper by Washington, bearing in Mr. Sparks's Ap-
pendix the title or heading of Hints or Heads of Topics.

2. The letters from Washington to Hamilton, on the sub-
ject of the FarewfeU Address, the originals of which are now
in the Department of State, and the printed copies are to
be found in the sixth volume of " The Works of Alexander

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 2 of 20)