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

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with the original draught, of which the copy is said by

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Hamilton to have, been considerably amended, that such a
writer as Hamilton would not have made on such paper,
without de&cing it to a degree that would have called for
an apology. The corrections, we may presume, were en-
tirely verbaly — adding a clause on education, and writing
that, perhaps, in the margin, with a mark of reference to its
place in the body of the Address, which may account for
what will be found to have happened to it in Washington's
autograph copy. This, however, is to some extent conjec-
tural ; for Hamilton's revision of the amended copy of his
original draught is not accessible to me, nor has it been at
any time, as I understand, to Hamilton's fiimily. I have re*
ceived very credible intimations, that it has been seen at the
city of Washington, many years since Washington's death.
But, for the purposes of this Inquiry, or for the purpose of
gaining any weight whatever to aid the proof of the previous
existence and transmission of the original draught to Wash-
ington, or of its internal character as an exemplar of the Ad-
dress, I place no reliance on these intimations. They are /
noticed only to keep alive the hope, that the paper, if exist-
ing, may be placed where it may be used either for the con-
firmation, or for the refiitation of this Essay. It is impossi-
ble for any person to stand in a state of more pure neutrality
than I do, as to the direction in which the evidence shall
incline the scale of literary or artistic merit in the Farewell
Address, to one or the other party. It does not, in truth,
concern either Washington or Hamilton. In their lives
they were far above such a consideration; and since death
has sealed, indestructibly, the reputation of each, differentj
as the respective elements of it were, the whole question, m
this aspect, is of no moment whatever. It is the higher

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consideration of perfect honor, fidelity, and truth on each
side, in the whole transaction, that has given interest to a
statement of the entire evidence, preparatory to some final
remarks on the bearing of the parties, after the Farewell
Address was pubUshed to the world, in regard to the proofs
of co-operation.

After thus showing incontestably, by the correspondence,
that the amended copy of Hamilton's original draught passed
once to Washington, and came back to Hamilton, and that
this paper, revised by Hamilton, passed cmce to Washington,
and never came back, and that Washington had not in the
meanwhile touched Une or word, and did not touch line or
word in the body of the work, before it finally came back
to his hands, nine or ten days before he signed his Farewell
Address, — he said only " I shall expunge" certain parts, and
made pencil notes in the margin for consideration of other
parts,- — we are not only better prepared to estimate any
alterations Washington made (After it came back to him, but
are quite prepared, at this time, to dissent from the language
which Mr. Sparks has used, not certainly for the purpose of
obscuring, but to the actual obscuration, of the question of
relative contribution by Washington and Hamilton to the
Farewell Address.

It may be true Uterally, as Mr. Sparks says, that " several
" letters passed between them." Suggestions were made on
" both sides, some of which were approved and adopted,
" others disapproved and rejected. The draught* were
'' sent back and forth from one to the other." All this may
be true literally^ but it is not suhstantially correct, to the
effect of confounding the work of Hamilton with the work
of Washington in the Farewell Address. Washington, at

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the outset, proposed clauses in regard to party invectives,
and personal sensibility to them, which Hamilton did not
approve; and Washington acquiesced in the rejection of
theuL Hamilton made the work " more copious on material
" points, more dignified on the whole, and with less ^otism ;**
and Washington approved. Washington did not reject
a single sentence that Hamilton had written or suggested*
He said, "I shall expunge certain clauses, as unimpor-
" tant," &c. &c. ; and we shall see what they were by his
autograph copy. Seven days after Hamilton's revised
draught was sent back to him, Washington suggested two
new clauses, one of which Hamilton thought out of place,
and Washington acquiesced in its rejection; the other
Hamilton said would fitly come into the revision; and it
is found in the place which Washington had pointed out
as appropriate. The draughts did not go hack and forth
from the one to the other, in the true sense of that idiom.
In such a connection, the expression implies repetition, for
the purpose of mutual correction and change. It is the
same as to and fro, — several times in opposite directions^ for
mutual criticism and alteration. The facts show that there
was nothing like it.

The great fact that comes out of the correspondence, is,
that Washington, speaking of Hamilton's draught, after a
fortnight's consideration, adopts it, with full and strong
praise of its excellence, greater copiousness and dignity, and
with nfanifest satisfaction at the prospect of its impression
upon discerning readers, foreigners especially. I honor and
revere Washington infinitely too much to believe, that he
could have expressed this satisfaction, in connection with
the thought that Hamilton's relation to the paper was to

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Washington's adoption of the revision. 71

be forever concealed, to the abounding of his own praise.
The thought was impossible to him. His ovra sentiments,
in their fiill presentment, must have been the source of
his satisfection,^ and not his praise from the manner of pre-
senting them. He did not see for himself that there was
any occasion to revise the draught. He returned it only in
accordance with the writer's wish, for his fiirther improve-
ment of it.

There is even stronger proof of Washington's adoption of
this draught, than these expressions. Upon returning the
draught for Hamilton's revision, Washington expressly re-
quested, that if change or alteration should take place in it,
it should be so clearly interUned, erased, or referred to in the
margin, as that no mistake might be made in copying it^br
the press; thus, in some degree, adopting Hamilton's subse-
quent corrections by anticipation. And well and safely
might Washington do so, after perceiving how faithfully,
and with what true discernment and feeling, his own sen-
timents had been already appreciated and expressed by

This full adoption by Washington of Hamilton's corrected
original draught, with more than Washington's usual eflFu-
sion of feeling and language, taken in connection with his
eagerness to have it sent back to him without delay, so dis-
tinctly marked in any new corrections, as that it might
readily be copied for the press^ and with his further inquiry
in regard to the particular gazette that was to pubUsh it,
and his request for the draught of a letter to the editor, if
that course should be thought best by Hamilton, do amount
to such persuasive proof that the revised draught of Hamil-
ton, with or without minor alterations by Washington,

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would be copied for the press, signed, and published by him
as his Farewell Address, that even if Hamilton's original
draught and abstract, as well as the amended and revised
draught, had been destroyed or lost forever, no person accus-
tomed to weigh evidence would hesitate to say, from the
necessary import of Washington's and Hamilton's letters,
that the Farewell Address was copied and printed from
a draught by Hamilton, and not from. Washington's draught,
nor from that draught corrected by Hamilton. I shall post-
pone for the present, a ftirther acciunulation of proofe to the
same effect, until I have introduced another topic.

That preparatory draught of Washington, the same which
Mr. Sparks has described, and I have called, the preserved
paper, is so well identified as the draught which Washing-
ton sent to Hamilton on the 15th May, 1796, that it must
be unnecessary to say more on that point. A draught was
sent by Washington to Hamilton at that time, beyond all
doubt. This preserved paper corresponds with it in all the
points, which the letter of that date refers to. There is no
other draught or paper by Washington, and, as far as appears,
there never has been, to compete with that preserved paper,
for the character it bears, as a preparatory draught by Wash-
ington of a Farewell Address. Its own claims to be that
draught, are the strongest possible on the face of the pre-
served paper ; and there is not, nor does there appear ever
to have been, a paper by Washington, that has any claims
whatever to stand in its place. The preserved paper was,
therefore, the draught of Washington, which he sent to
Hamilton at the date referred to.

Yet, from the inability of Mr. Sparks so to regard it, has
proceeded all the indistinctness of his views in regard to the

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several contributions of the two parties ; and he appears to
have been fortified in it by Mr. Jay's letter to Judge Peters.
Though not distinct in his views of the degree of participa-
tion which each party had in the Farewell Address, Mr.
Sparks is very distinct in his expressions, that ther^ were no
means of ascertaining what Washington's draught was,
though he admits that a draught had been *' prepared" by
Washington. He remarks that Hamilton's " note" (of the
10th May, 1796) *4s dated more than four months before
" the Farewell Address was published ; and it appears that
" a draught of some sort, had already been * prepared' by
'' Washington." " What were the contents of the draught
" here alluded to, there are nmv no means of ascertaining.^^ And
again : referring to the paper in his own possession as editor
of Washington's Writings, which he has described as Hints,
or Heads of Topics, he says, — " Whether these hints were
" sent to Hamilton, as here written, or to what extent they
'' were previously enlarged and arranged, cannot now he

" tour

The result with Mr. Sparks, therefore, was, that there was
no point of beginning or starting, to make his survey of the
joint contribution ; and the non-existence of a ground plot,
by Washington, of what he had contributed in particular,
was consequently something like a desideratum to one, the
state of whose information disposed him to leave the definite
contribution of each of the parties in uncertainty. It is from
this feeling, I incline to think, Mr. Sparks took some sup-
port from Mr. Jay's letter which he quotes, as showing that
Washington's draught had not been seen by Mr. Jay, and
that the character of that draught was therefore still an un-
certainty. Mr. Jay's error, in thinking that the Farewell

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Address was, and could only be with propriety, Washington's
draught corrected by Hamilton, was, however, a very much
greater error than that of Mr. Sparks, who erred only in
point of expectation, that Washington's draught could not
be identified.

That interview between Hamilton and Jay, which Mr.
Jay's letter to Judge Peters describes, after previously giving
at great length, his opinions of Washington, and especially
of certain points in Washington's character, and of certain
internal evidence in the Farewell Address, to sustain his
conviction that Washington only was the writer of the Ad-
dress, merits particular consideration.

It was after the 30th July, 1796, and before the 10th of
August following, that the interview occurred. The date is
irrefragably fixed in this manner. Hamilton's letter of 5th
July to Washington, states that his own original draught was
then completed, though not copied and corrected. In his
letter to Washington, of the 30th July, Hamilton sent the
corrected copy of it to Washington, and said : " I have
" hegun the second part of the task, the digesting the supple-
" mentary remarks to the first address, which, in a fortnight, /
" hope also to send yaa^ This was Washington's draught
corrected " upon the general plan of it." On the 1 0th of
August, Hamilton sent that corrected draught to Washing-
toji. This, therefore, was the corrected draught which, be-
tween these last two dates, had been read by Hamilton to
Jay, in that interview.

It is proper, in this place, to make a copious extract from
the letter of Mr. Jay to Judge Peters, of the 29th March,
1811, from the " life and Writings of John Jay," vol. ii,
p. 336:—

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MR. jay's letter TO JUDGE PETERS. 75

" Your letter cbnveyed to me the first and only information I
have received, that a copy of President Washington's Valedictory
Address had been found among the papers of General Hamilton,
and in his handwriting ; and that a certain gentleman had also a
copy of it in the Bame handwriting."

" The intelligence is unpleasant and unexpected. Had the
Address been one of those official papers which, in the course of
affairs, the Secretary of the proper Department might have pre-
pared, and the President have signed, these facts would have
been unimportant ; but it was a personal act,— of choice, not of
official duty, — and it was so cbnnected with other obvious conside-
rations, as that he only could with propriety write it. In my
opinion President Washington must have been sensible of this
propriety ; and, therefore, strong evidence would be necessary to
make me believe that he violated it. Whether he did or did not,
is a question which naturally directs our attention to whatever
affords presumptive evidence respecting it; and leads the mind
into a long train of correspondent reflections. I will give you a
summary of those which have occurred to me ; not because I think
them necessaivy to settle the point in question, for the sequel will
show that they are not, but because the occasion invites me to
take the pleasure of reviewing, and bearing testimony to the
merits of our departed friend."

" Is it to be presumed, from these facts, that General Hamilton
was the real, and the President only the reputed author of that^
Address ? Although they countenance such a presumption, yet I
think its foundation will be found too slight and shallow to resist
that strong and full stream of counter-evidence which flows from
the conduct and character of that great man: a character not
blown up into transient splendor by the breath of adulation, but
being composed of his great and memorable deeds, stands, and
will forever stand, a glorious monument of human excellence."

The writer then proceeds to revievr at great length the
character and acts of Washington, and his abilities as a

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76 MR. jay's letter to judge peters.

writer especially, occupying nearly six pages of the volume
with this subject ; and, distinguishing, at their close, between
the full composition of such an address, and the correction
of it, which might be a friendly office, he proceeds to say : —

" Among those to whose judgment and candor President Wash-
" ington would commit such an interesting and delicate task, where
" is the man to be found who would have had the hardihood to say
" to him in substance, — Sir, I have examined and considered your
" draught of an address : it will not do ; it is really good for
" nothing. But, sir, I have taken the trouble to write a proper
" one for you ; and I now make you a present of it. I advise you
" to adopt it, and to pass it on the world as your own. The cheat
" will never be discovered, for you may depend on my secrecy.
" Sir, I have inserted in it a paragraph that will give the public a
" good opinion of your modesty. I will read it to you ; it is in
" these words : ^ In the discharge of this trust, I will only say,
" * that I have with good intentions contributed towards the organi-
" * zation and administration of the government, the best exertions
" ' of which a very fallible judgrnent was capable. Not unconscious
" * in the outset of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience
" ' in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others^ has
" * strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself.' "

" If it be possible to find a man among those whom he esteemed
" capable of offering to him such a present, it is impossible to believe
" that President Washington was the man to whom such a present
" would have been acceptable. They who knew President Wash-
" ington, and his various endowments, qualifications, and virtues,
" know that, aggregately considered, they formed a toii;t ensemble
" which has rarely been equalled, and perhaps never excelled.'*

" Thus much for presumptive evidence. I will now turn your
" attention to some that is direct.

" The history (if it may be so called) of the Address, is not un-

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MR. jay's letter TO JUDGE PETERS. 77

known to me ; but as I came to the knowledge of it under implied
confidence, I doubted, when I first received your letter, whether I
ought to disclose it. On more mature reflection, I became con-
vinced that if President Washington was now alive, and informed
of the facts in question, he would not only authorize, but also
desire me to reduce it to writing, that, when necessary, it might
be used to invalidate the imputations to which those facts give
color. This consideration terminated my doubts. I do not think
that a disclosure is necessary at this moment ; but I fear such a
moment will arrive. Whether I shall then be alive, or in capacity
to give testimony, is so uncertain, that, in order to avoid the risk
of either, I shall now reduce it to writing, and commit it to your
care and discretion, de bene esse^ as the lawyers say."
" Some time before the Address appeared. Colonel (afterwards
General) Hamilton informed me, that he had received a letter
from President Washington, and with it the draught of a Fare-
well Address, which the President had prepared, and on which
he requested our opinion. He then proposed that we should fix a
day for an interview at my house on the subject. A day was ac-
cordingly appointed. On that day Colonel Hamilton attended.
He observed to me, in words to this effect : that after having read
and examined the draught, it appeared to him to be susceptible of
improvement — ^that he thought the easiest and best way was to
leave the draught untouched and in its fair state, and to write the
whole over, with such amendments, alterations, and corrections as
he thought were advisable, and that he had done so. He then
proposed to read it, and to make it the subject of our considera-
tion. This being agreed upon, he read it; and we proceeded
deliberately to discuss and consider it, paragraph by paragraph,
until the whole met with our mutual approbation. Some amend-
ments were made during the interview, but none of much impor-
tance. Although this business had not been hastily despatched,
yet aware of the consequence of such a paper, I suggested the
giving it a further critical examination ; but he declined it, say-

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78 MB. jat'8 lbttbr to judge peters.

^^ ing that he was pressed for time, and was anxious to return the
** draught to the President without delay. It afterward occurred to
" me, that a certain proposition was expressed in terms too general
" and unqualified, and I hinted it in a letter to the President."

" As the business took the course above mentioned, a recurrence
" to the draught was unnecessary, and it was not read. There was
" this advantage in the course pursued, — ^the President's draught
" remained (as delicacy required) fair, and not obscured by inter-
" lineations, &c. By comparing it with the paper sent with it, he
" would immediately observe the particular emendations and correc-
" tions that were proposed, and would find them standing in their
" intended places. Hence he was enabled to review and decide on
" the whole matter, with much greater clearness and facility than
^Mf he had received them in separate and detached notes, and with
" detailed references to the pages and lines where they were advised
" to be introduced.'*

All this occurred, we must bear in mind, '\ some time be-
" fore the Address appeared" (the 19th September). It can
hardly be supposed, that what Mr. Jay, after the lapse of
fifteen years, still recollected as 8ome time, was less than some
weeks, in conformity with the date of Hamilton's letter of
the 10th of August.

I do not in this place pause to make a commentary upon
the earlier part of this letter, the ironical part of it espe-
cially ; nor upon that singular misconception of Washington's
true greatness, which made him accept from the hands of
Madison, and afterwards tenaciously hold to, those very ex-
pressions, which Mr. Jay supposed that no man living, who
had Washington's esteem, would have presented to him,
and which he therefore regarded as presumptive evidence
that the writing which contained them could have been

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MR. jay's letter TO JUDGE PETERS. 79

written by Washington only. I cannot, however, avoid
remarking at this time, that this first elaborate argument
against the suggestion that Washington had received assist-
ance in the composition of the Farewell Address, so far as
it was founded upon presumption from the language of that
Address, or from the character of Washington, is over-
thrown by facts then existing, though unknown to Mr. Jay,
and which are now perfectly clear and plain ; and so far as
it was founded on the facts of that interview between Ham-
ilton and Jay, is superseded by his own now manifest mis-
take, in supposing that a part of the case in regard to the
formation of the Farewell Address, was the whole. I will
restrict my use of the paper in this place, however, to the
concluding part of the extract, or rather to Mr. Sparks's
inference from it, as he quotes it in his Appendix to the
twelfth volume of Washington.

It is irrefragably deducible from this statement, supposing
Mr. Jay's recollections of the interview to have been per-
fectly accurate, after the lapse of fifteen years, that the
paper which Hamilton read to him was Washington's
draught, " corrected upon the general plan of it," which Ha-
milton, in his letter of 5th July, said he should prepare and
send forward. Washington's draught, Mr. Jay says, was
not read at that time, the course of the business having
made a recurrence to it unnecessary; which course Mr.
Jay describes, as being that of reading from another paper,
the draught including the particular emendations and cor-
rections that were proposed, and which emendations and
corrections, by comparing his draught with this paper,
Washington would find standing in their proper places.

Aft;er copying, in his Appendix to the twelfth volume of

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Washington's Writings, this portion of Jay's letter, Mr.
Sparks says : —

" It may be observed, that Mr. Jay does not profess to have seen
" Washington's first draught ; and, of course, he could not know
^' what alterations and amendments had been made by Hamilton.
*' He evidently received the impression, however, that the transcript
^^ was in its matter essentially the same as the original."

The fact that Washington's draught was not read at that
interview, is very clearly stated in Mr. Jay's letter ; though
there is nothing in the letter which professes that Mr. Jay
had not seen the draught, nor which implies that the
draught was absent. The contrary would be implied, both
from the office to be performed by the parties, and by the
general context of Mr. Jay's letter. From Mr. Jay's not
catching the name at the foot of the paper, he certainly did
not read it ; for the name was perfectly visible under the line
which erased it, as well as the words crossed by lines above*
It is not material whether Mr. Jay received the impression
that the transcript was in its matter essentially the same as
the original, or not ; though I think there is not a word in
the letter that implies such an impression, and it must have
been a remarkable correction and emendation, if the tran-
script was in its matter essentially the same as the original.
But this is of no importance. The material conclusion of

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 6 of 20)