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

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none of the elements provided by Washington being omitted,
except such as had too pointed a reference to partisan oppo-
sition, and the whole being enlarged and combined together
by the collateral thoughts and illustrations of Hamilton upon
his new plan ; and this entire plan goes into the Farewell
Address, some portion of the filling up by Hamilton's ori-
ginal draught being omitted, most probably by Hamilton in
his amended copy or in his reviswriy and other portions struck
out by Washington from his final copy, though Hamilton
had introduced several of them from express passages in
Washington's preparatory draught. Adopting a mechanical
measure of contribution by the preparatory draught of Wash-
ington, when compared with the original matter by Hamil-
ton, as he extended it in his draught, Washington's part was
not in quantity a moiety of the whole. But such a measure
of those contributions, is obviously unsatisfactory and defec-
tive. We may get a better notion of them by an analysis
of Hamilton's original draught, which will be in fact an
analysis of Washington's FareweE Address. I may say,
however, that the principal original contribution by Mr.
Madison, is that which repeats the vows that Washington
would carry into his retirement and his grave, and is the
ninth head of Hamilton's abstract. All else is substantially,
and by original suggestion, Washington's or Hamilton's.

In his original draught, Hamilton made the unity of
Government, or the Union, the central and radiating thought,
and the focus to which all important reflections from any
quarter of the work, except the personal introduction,
tended. Washington had breathed a warm wish of his heart
for the maintenance of the Union, in that paragraph of the
Hints or Heads of Topics, which I have already transcribed, —

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" that it," oiir Union, " may be as lasting as time ;" and many
of his sentiments have an obvious influence upon the prospe-
rity and continuance of the Union ; but he does not expressly
connect them with that object, nor make it the point to
which they converge.

In Hamilton's original draught, after the personal intro-
duction, the great subject is opened at once. Of the love of
liberty, which is first noticed, no recommendation was neces-
sary to fortify the attachment of the people to it. Two lines
only are given to that subject. But after these lines which
enter upon the topics of advice and admonition, as soon as
the introduction had closed, all that follows the expression,
UNITY OP GOVERNMENT, is exhibited and comprehended as
inducements of sympathy, or motives of interest, in the
people, to maintain the Union.

Hamilton calls it the main pillar of their independence, of
their peace, their safety, freedom, and happiness. In his
abstract he had called it the rock of their salvation ; but,
with great propriety, as Washington was to speak, he left
that phrase to its more solemn appropriation, and substituted
in his draught " the main pillar op their independence."

He first speaks of it as the point in their political fortress
against which the batteries of internal and external enemies
would be most constantly and actively, however covertly and
insidiously, levelled ; and therefore it was of the utmost im-
portance that they should appreciate in its full force the
immense value of their political union to their national and
individual happiness, that they should cherish towards it an
affectionate and immovable attachment, and should watch for
its preservation with zealous solicitude.

For this, he says, you have every motive of sympathy and

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interest ; aad following Washington's thoughts, and in some
degree his language, appeals to the people as " children for
*' the most part of a common country," and declares that
that country claims, and ought to concentrate their affec-
tions ; that the name of American must always gratify and
exalt the just pride of patriotism more than any denomina-
tion which can be derived from local considerations. " You
" have, with slight shades of difference, the same religion,
" maimers, habits, and poUtical institutions and principles ;
*' you have, in a common cause, fought and triumphed toge-
" ther. The independence and liberty you enjoy are the
" work of joint councils, efforts, dangers, sufferings, and suc-
*' cesses. By your union you achieved them, by your union
" you will most effectually maintain them."

After adverting to the considerations which addressed
themselves to the sympathy or sensibility of the people to
maintain the Union, he proceeds to show that they were
greatly strengthened or outweighed by those which appUed
to their interest ; and that here every portion of our country
would find the most urgent and commanding motives for
guarding and preserving the union of the whole.

It is then that he introduces that pregnant paragraph, both
succinct and comprehensive, which unfolds the relations,
capacities, and dependencies of the North, the South, the
East, and the West, their strength in combination, their pro-
portional security from external danger, less frequent inter-
ruption of peace with foreign imtions, and exemption from
broils and wars between the parts, if disunited, which their
rivalships, fomented by foreign intrigue and opposite alliance
with foreign nations, w:ould produce. The germinal thought
is Washington's, the germination is Hamilton's.

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The advantages of nnioii being legaided as so condusiye
in this aspect, he proceeds to show that the spirit of party ^
die intrigue of foreign nations, and the corruption and ambi-
tion of individuals, aie likely to piove more formidaUe adver-
saries to the miity of onr em{Hie, ibsca any inherent difficulties
in the scheme ; and that it was against these that the guards
of national opinion, national sympathy, national prudence, and
virtue, were to be erected.

Then b^ins the reference to party differences of opinion,
to menaces of dissolution from one part to another, on account
of this or that measure, tending to make men consider the
Union as precarious, and to weaken the sentiment in its
£ivor ; with an emphatic rebuke of parties characterized by
ge(^raphical discriminations — ^Northern and Southern States
— Atlantic and Western country — producing groundless
jealousies, which make men aliens to their brethren, and
connect them with aliens ; and sustaining the rebuke by a
reference to the care of the Administration in negotiating
treaties with Spain for the special benefit of the West, and
to confirm their prosperity.

This jealousy between sections, necessitates the Union and
one government, for which no alliance between.the parts can
be a substitute ; and here the draught appropriately refers
to the Constitution, the offspring of the people's choice, and
amendable by them in case of need, but, imtil changed,
sacredly binding upon all, and the government imder it, the
offspring of like choice, entitled to respect for its authority,
compliance with its laws, and acquiescence in its measures,
as well by the fundamental maxims of true liberty, as by
the principle that the right to establish government presup-
poses the duty of every individual to obey the established

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government. All obstructions to laws, all combinations and
associations to counteract the regular action of the estabUshed
authorities, are therefore contrary to the fundamental prin-
ciple, and of the most fatal tendency; and in like manner,
a spirit of innovation upon the principles of the Constitu-
tion, by effecting alterations in its forms, which tend to
impair the energy of the system. Time and habit are as
necessary to fix the true habits of governments, as of any
other human institutions. Experience, and not hypothesis
and opinion, is the surest standard by which the tendency of
existing constitutions of government can be tried.

The draught, after thus noticing the Constitution and one
government as indispensable to the duration of the Union,
and that no alliances between parts would be a substitute,
recurs to the subject of party spirit, and solemnly cautions
the people against its baneful effects. The view before
taken is enlarged, so as to comprehend the general aspect
of this feehng, its shapes, its growth, the domination of one
fection over another, the spirit of revenge it excites, and the
formal and permanent despotism in which at length it ends.
Disorders and miseries resulting from this, predispose men
to seek repose in the power of a single man; and the leader
of a prevailing faction turns the disposition to the purposes
of his ambitious self-aggrandizement.

Further consequences result from it : it distracts the coun-
sels and enfeebles the administration of government — opens
inlets for foreign corruption and influence, which find an
easy access through the channel of party passions. The
notion that parties in free countries are a salutary check
upon the administration of government, and tend to invigo-
rate the spirit of liberty, is, within certain limits, true. In

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monarchical governments, patriotism may look upon it with
favor ; in those of a popular kind and purely elective, it is
not to be fostered.

The draught then proceeds to the guards of national
opinion, — ^in habits of thinking among the people, to pro-
duce caution in the several departments, that they may avoid
encroachments upon one another, and change, by usurpation;
of national sympathy, virtue, and prudence, by recommenda-
tions of religion and moraUty, industry and frugality ; to the
nurture of public credit, as a means of security and strength ;
to good faith and justice, as leading to peace and harmony
with all nations. The last topic is particularly developed in
its bearing upon the influence of foreign nations, — the na-
tional attachments and antipathies it avoids ; the immense
dangers of both; the partialities which the neglect of it
produces, denying privileges to one and conceding them to
another — exciting jealousy and ill-will, and giving to ambi-
tious and corrupted citizens, fecility in betraying or sacri-
ficing their own country.

Perhaps the finest lessons in the draught of the Address
are taught in this part of it, which imfolds the topic of
foreign influence, its inischie& and impolicy, and the dissua-
sives from it which are suppUed by the true interests of a
united nation. It was a pressing evil in the day of the
Farewell Address. It carried our country to the very edge
of the precipice, from which we might have fallen to dis-
memberment and ruin, by coalition with France, and her
wars of ambition against the world. If the Farewell Ad-
dress saved us from this, though it saved us from nothing
else, it would deserve to be regarded as a blessing from
Heaven through the counsels of Washington, not less in

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magnitude than the blessing of Independence, which was
vouchsafed to his sword.

It is with this topic that the draught finishes the central
subject and argument. The remainder of it is occupied
with a reference to the proclamation of neutraUty, and the
then existing war, the only occasional topics of the Address ;
and it concludes with a modest peroration, corresponding
with the abstract, and breathing the full heart of the
Father of his Country, to his native land and the people
he had always loved, and had served for three-quarters of
his life.

This analysis of the original draught has been made with
two objects in view. The first has been to demonstrate the
connection between the draught and the abstract, and that
the draught was the appropriate clothing of the abstract,
fitting it as the muscles of the human body do their proper
bones, and having such development and expansion only as
were necessary to give it fit expression and energetic action.
Where Hamilton had the clue to Washington's language as
well as thoughts, he followed it faithfully, as faithfiilly in
the abstract as in the draught ; where he had the guidance
of Washington's thoughts or su^estions alone, he notes the
subject more briefly in the abstract, intending to give the
rein more liberally to his own thoughts and language in
the development of the draught. We get the pith of the
address in the abstract ; and when we go to the draught,
we find it all plainly^and most perspicuously drawn out, so
as to be intelligible to every capacity, that it might be un-
derstood by "the yeomanry," and at the same time so
becomingly, as to " meet the eye of discerning readers, par-
" ticularly foreigners," yet not containing, perhaps, a single


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metaphor or figure of speech, which is not a perfectly fami-
liar one, that it might not be. accused of artifice or insince-
rity. It is perfectly accurate, in the best style of an elevated
state paper, its general propositions everywhere so qualified,
in a natural and easy manner, as to make them irrefutable,
and without a sentence that is dogmatical, or is averred upon
personal authority, — every proposition being sustained by
both reason and persuasion, the conscience of the writer
going on step by step to the end, in union with his intellect.
If Hamilton had not deeply loved and respected Wash-
ington, he could not have so clothed his abstract with his
draught. But this is not all the merit or the claim.

If this is not authorship, in some sense, I know not what
authorship is, and it covers the entire paper, Washington's
thoughts, and Madison's thoughts, and all. It seems, indeed,
to be rather a case of complex and skilful authorship in
Hamilton, as we think it must be conceded to be by every
man who has tried his pen in composition, to make a regular
work from irregular or unconnected materials, to expand
them into new forms, and to give them bearing throughout
upon one great and cardinal point, the union of the people :
the only object for which it was worth Washington's while
to give his counsels to the country, all else in the Address
being ceremony and valediction. It may not have been so
difficult for Hamilton to do this, as it might have been for
others ; for Washington's materials were not irregular to the
eye or the mind of Hamilton. They were all incorporated
in his own mind in their just order and bearing; and his
work was to exhibit their order, rather than to form it. But
it is his great praise that he did it with simplicity, fidelity,
and affection ; and it will be no deduction from the praise of

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Washington, if the memory of Hamilton shall live forever in
the work.

But we have had in view another object. In the progress
of this question about the authorship of the Farewell Ad-
dress, it has been thought usefiil by Mr. Sparks to suggest,
that as a mere hterary performance, though able and excel-
lent, it is neither extraordinary, nor such as if disconnected
from the name of Washington, would have excited much /
curiosity about the author, nor in any degree superior ta
many other papers known to be written by each of the per-/
sons named.

There would be some difficulty, perhaps, in proving the
postulate that is implied in this last comparison. No wri-
tings so known have been vouched to its aid. From the
positive part of the averment, I hope it is not presumption
to express my dissent. If state papers, or great public
papers Uke this, are to be classed among works of Uterature
at all, and doubtless they sometimes may be, they must be
subject to those laws of taste which particularly respect the
end or object to be attained, in connection with a rather
didactic manner of attaining it. There is necessarily some
compression in this method'; and making due allowance for
this, or rather looking at the whole work of the Farewell Ad-
dress in this direction, the general judgment of men has, in
this dissent, probably concurred. Its simplicity, its purity, its I
grouping, its light and shade, the elevation of its tone, and '
its perfect transparency of meaning, make it a work of ex-
traordinary hterary merit in the order or class to which it
belongs. We are not to compare it with papers, where the
fields of imagination and of illustrative fact have been wide
open to the writer, and embellishments from every quarter,

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moral and classical, have been within his reach. The path
of the Farewell Address was almost severely straight, and
the deviations by Hamilton to give it flexure, without too
wide a departure, have been managed with great skill. Per-
haps this impression of the paper is partly the effect of early
association, having read it as a college senior with infinite
delight, within a week probably after its first publication ;
and perhaps also it is as much a moral as a literary judg-
ment, for it is a paper of infinite discretion, as well as of
great political wisdom, which I admit it owes as much to
Washington as to Hamilton, though perhaps as to perfect
discretion, not primarily. But regarding it only as a work
of composition, the general opinion both of educated men
and of statesmen seems to be, that it is not only very able,
but that in the category of state papers it ought to be
regarded as classical. Such a paper would have caused a
most reasonable curiosity to know the author, if it had been
written suppositiously, and would have made the fortune of
the writer if he had been discovered.

But the paper is not seen in its greatest magnitude, when
regarded merely as a literary performance. It rises to an
elevation higher than most kinds of literature, in command-
ing a view of the relations of all the parts of this country to
each other, and of the whole to foreign nations, and in
carrying the eye to the distant future, as the witness and
proof of its counsels and admonitions. In this aspect, it is
both a platform and a prophecy, a rule for administration,
and a warning to the whole country ; and it owes this exten-
sively to Hamilton, though primarily and fundamentally to
Washington. Its large and pointed references to the spirit of
party, and especially in the sectional or State relation, seem

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to have been written with a special apprehension of what is
now unfolding before us, though it must be admitted that
there is one present and most dangerous aspect of that spirit,
which the universal love of freedom then prevalent in the
country, kept back from the contemplation of either Wash-
ington ors Hamilton, as it did from that of the citizens of the
United States generally, imtil many years afterwards.

There is one point of great political concernment which,
at least in appearance, is passed over by yboth Washington
and Hamilton, — ^the point of that drying and wilting inter-
pretation of the Constitution, which has assumed the name
of State Rights, — that portion of the doctrine, I mean,
which requires express words in the Constitution, or neces-
sary implication, to carry power to the Government of the
United States — the same jealous disposition in those who
fevor that rule of construction, which kept us out of a Federal
Constitution for five years after the public enemy had left
us free to make one ;* and seems to be exhausting by
desiccation, legislative and judicial, the best blood the Consti-
tution possesses, and which, as the Constitution of a Public
State and United Nation, it ought to possess, for the nourish-
ment of its powers of internal government, — a doctrine by
which no one of the States has gained anything, nor can
gain anything that will not be counterpoised by the gain of

* For a clear and very interesting account of the struggle between State Rights and
a comprehensive and effective Union, I refer to " The History of the Republic of the
** United States of America, as traced in the writings of Alexander Hamilton and his
** Cotemporaries, by John C. Hamilton," — a noble and fearless tribute of filial reverence,
in the form of authentic history, to a most able, frank, honest, and honorable man, and
one of the great men of his Age, and of the Wobld.


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other States, and by which the true Federal strength of all
the States is, and ever must be, seriously impaired.

^The Farewell Address does not notice the point explicitly ;
but it is there neverthelei^. It must be recollected that this
kind of interpretation was the occasion of sharp controversy
in Washington's first cabinet, and that the views of Hamil-
ton in regard to it, in opposition to Jefferson and the At-
torney-General, Randolph, obtained Washington's sanction,
after long and de^berate consideration ; and as Washington
was aware that Hamilton had been represented as being
desirous in the Convention to bring on a consolidation of
the States, though with no justice whatever, and most cer-
tainly with less justice than Madison might have been, he
probably deemed it best to take no explicit notice of the
point in his Farewell Address, and Hamilton, as his repre-
sentative, only glanced at it, by referring to the debility of
the Government, of which he probably regarded this jealous
interpretation as one of the principal promoters. Yet there
is one clause in the Address which we may infer from strong
evidence was introduced by Washington himself, that may
have been intended to cover this ground, and was substi-
tuted by him for a clause in Hamilton's original draught, a
little altered in Hamilton's revision. The three clauses will
be cited presently.

Having now exhibited the direct proofs which bear upon
the formation of the Farewell Address, I proceed to notice a
great and perhaps conclusive indirect proof, which by a
remarkable oversight, has been for some years thought by
many persons to show, that the labor of bringing this great
paper into the world, was the travail of Washington alone,
who has proved his own composition of it by manifold marks

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in the autograph copy, which was handed to the printer, by
whom it was published in September, 1796. It is a copy of
this document, with its erasures or cancellations restored and
placed at foot, first printed under the direction of Mr. Lenox,
the proprietor, for private distribution, and recently pub-
Ushed in the Appendix to the fifth volume of Mr. Irving's
life of Washington, which enables me to bring together in
this place a notice of the alterations on the face of the auto-
graph copy, and of some of the opinions which have been
expressed upon the question of authorship, in the belief that
they are corroborated by those alterations.

Mr. Sparks's remark in view of these alterations, is, I
submit, a misapprehension. After making* a general state-
ment of facts in regard to the preparation of the Address by
Washington, and to Hamilton's agency in correcting and
improving it, a statement which he believed to include all
that was known with certainty upon the subject, Mr. Sparks
proceeds to say : " It proves that an original draught was
" sent by Washington to Hamilton; that the latter bestowed
" great pains in correcting and improving it ; that during
" this process several communications passed between them ;
" and that the final draught was printed from a copy," by
which I understand him to mean a copy of Washington's
draught so corrected, " containing numerous alterations in
"matter and style, which were imquestionably made by
" Washington." Washington's Writings, vol. xii, p. 396.

Mr. Sparks does not appear to have seen Hamilton's
original draught, or Hamilton's correction and revision of
that draught, nor to have become aware of them, before he
wrote this paragraph, or before he completed the paper in
his Appendix, upon Washington's Farewell Address. I

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should infer, also, that at that time he had not seen the
whole correspondence between Washington and Hamilton
on that subject ; though he certainly had access to General
Hamilton's letters, which were among Washington's papers.

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 9 of 20)