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

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dangcr in our system is, sure of my heart, I shall ment is too feeble to with-
thftt the general govern- not conceal from you the stand the enterprises of
ment, organized as at pre- belief I entertain, that your faction, to confine each
sent, will prove too weak government, as at present member of the society
rather than too powerful.] constituted, is far more within the limits prescrib-
— Hamilton'' s Works, vol. likely to prove too feeble ed by the laws, and to
vii, p. 584. than too powerful.] — 5 Ir- maintain all in the secure

ving's Washington, 366. and tranquil enjoyment of

the rights of person and
property.] — Ibid.

Washington's own clause within brackets in the riglit
liand cohimn, has perhaps some advantages in point of ex-
pression over both the others. It implies the same truth
wlucli tlie otliers strongly express ; and in its terms, as a
conchision from tlie premises just before stated, it is an
equally explicit truth ; while it keeps back the declaration
of an abstract opinion, which might have been misunderstood
by rea.son of its generality, and extensively perverted by


misapplication. It gives out, at the same time, a (Ictinite
opinion in favor of a government of more strcMigtli, by illus-
trations which few would refuse to recei^•e as evidences of
constitutional weakness, and which was felt in some of the
trying periods of Washington's administration.

This is the clause in which, I suppose, Washington meant
to express, or at least to include, his dissent from what is
now the principle of State rights,— that the only constitu-
tional powers of the United States are such as are expressly
given in the Constitution, or are necessarily implied from
those which are expressly given ; a principle which, in re-
gard to the Constitution of a Nation, the Supreme power of
the Union, one of the co-equal powers of the world, would
seem to be more reasonably applied to the restraints which
are expressed in it, than to the powers themselves. In
regard to three great examples under the treaty-making
power, the acquisitions of Louisiana and of parts of Mexico,
and the boundary treaty with England, the principle of
express power, or necessary implication, seems to have had
but little play in abridging the fairly implied powers of the
Constitution. The main effect of that principle upon internal
legislation, seems hitherto to have been felt, and, probably,
will always be most sensibly felt, in the generation of par-
ties, which will make a feeble government, whatever the
Constitution may have intended. If it succeeds finally and
completely, it will look very much like what, in early times,
would have been called an anti-Federal triumph after a
Federal victory, which the adoption of the Constitution by
the States was acknowledged by all parties to have been.

The remaining instances of interposed new paragraphs by
Washington call for httle remark. The three paragraphs


upon tlic rii^lit. tlic duty, and the inducements of interest, to
i«isiu« and maintain the proclamation of neutrality, are, one
of fhrni ])r()bal)ly, an alteration of Hamilton's re^dsion ; and
tin- otluT two, pcrliaps, are Washington's, though this is not
clear. Nci flier of the three was in Hamilton's original
draught, tliough a l)lank space was left in that part, which
Hamilton possibly fill(>d up in his amended copy, or in his
revision ; hut, in the autograph, AVashington wrote out
the tirst paragraph, and, from a certain point, cancelled
it, and interlined several lines. He then wrote, on a
separate^ piece of paper, a paragraph in substitution of the
whole, — having, nevertheless, the same substance, and
waf(T(ul it over both the original and the interlined
words. — making a note on the margin in these words :
'' Tliis is the first draught, and it is questionable which of
*' tlu^ two is to be prefeiTcd." Of course, this wafering must
have occurred after the entire address had been copied. If
tliis is written on the margin of the wafered paper, the first
drauglit was probably Hamilton's ; but, if it was T\Titten on
the margin of the copy-book, I am at fault. The other two,
which have not been altered in any respect, may have been
written by either; but the good old Doric phrase, "humanly
six'akiiig," in the last of the three, is more like Washington
than Hamilton.

The pcMudtimate clause of the draught before him, which
Washington has cancelled, he has excluded as having " the
" apix^arance of self-distrust and mere vanity ;" as, for a like
rras«in. he had obliterated a preceding one, " to avoid the
'* imputation of affected modestv." Such alterations might
be thought to prove that Washington was revising what
another had indited, and not what he had composed himself.


But the concluding pages of AYashington's own drant^lit,
which may be seen in the Appendix, have satisfied mc tliat
this is not decisive.

This penultimate clause of the draught, as it has been
restored and placed at the foot of the page in ^fr. Irvine's
Appendix, has not been altered in a single word ; but a por-
tion of it has been carried into the last paragrapli of AVasli-
ington's Farewell Address, which was probably written h\
himself, and is a substitute for the last paragraph in Hamil-
ton's original draught. Hamilton himself, perhaps, throw
the two last paragraphs of the original draught into one, of
which Washington has taken a part and rejected a part, and,
adopting one thought from the rejected part, has made a
final paragraph for himself. The concluding part of Wash-
ington's own draught supplied a portion of these thouglits.
In these minute particulars, the criticisms must be received
as conjectural, especially as the original autograpli is not
now before me.

The alterations in the body of the printed copy of the
autograph, not noticed in the preceding remarks, are gene-
rally verbal, striking out a word or two, and putting in one
or two others. In the twenty-one pages of Mr. Irving's
reprint, there are five several pages, in three of whicli there
is no such alteration ; in another of them, three words, and.
in the other, two are struck out, and difl:erent, but equiva-
lent, words substituted. On the other pages there are morc^
of them, as the for a, against for from, customar// for iisual,
sparingly for little, shunning for avoiding, permanent, invete-
rate for rooted, an for a, to lessen the aspirate in hahittnd,
and others of hke kind, not always to the improvement
of the language ; and, at least, in one instance, to the


effort of makini,' public opinion co-operate in the discharge
of puhHc debts, instead of coincidiiKj with it, which was
Ilaniihon's word and meaning. The pages untouched by
Wjishington's p(Mi in this manner, I presume to be Hamil-
ton's orif^dnal (h-auglit, corrected, amended, and revised by
llamihon liims(>lf The n^maining pages I suppose to be
tlie same reuisiou, altered verbally, just as Washington
a])i)cars to have altered them in his autograph copy, and no


it" this has not been demonstrated in an absolute sense,
the proof falls short of it only by the absence of Hamilton's
reciKioii,— the original draught, however, so for supplying
■ its place, that no living man, nor all the men upon earth
combined, coidd have written such a paper as Washington's
Farewell Address, witliout the guidance of that original
drauglit, or of a draught made from it, with just such verbal
corrections of the original as we know came into Washing-
ton's liands before the autograph copy was made. If this is
not the highest degree of argumental evidence, it is the next
door to it, and is the highest practical proof.

Mr. Sparks's view of these alterations has, no doubt, been
affected by his not being aware, at that time, of the exist-
ence of Hamilton's original draught, and, in some degree
also, by Mr. Jay's opinion of the extent of Hamilton's work
in tlie Farewell Address. But Mr. Jay was under a denser
cloud than Mr. Sparks; and the imperfect Hght that Mr.
Jay followed was moreover a deceptive hght. So it appears
to me ; and Mr. Jav has contributed, unintentionally, much
more than Mr. Sparks, to turn the eyes of impartial men
from the consideration of the evidence, as it has from time
to time, subsequently, appeared ; though the death of Mr.


Jay, in 1829, before the publication of Hamilton's draii-lit,
and Washington's letters to Hamilton, probal)ly prevented
its having appeared to him.

It is very singular, that so harndcss an inciniry as the
question of the authorship of the Farewell Address, whidi
Mr. Jay's letter first noticed in a formal examination in
1811, and which Mr. Sparks considered, upon other grounds,
in 1837, the year in which his edition of Washington's
Writings was completed, should have been inseparably
blended, from the first of these dates, — the purport of Mr.
Jay's letter having been known, though not published
by his son until 1833, — with considerations that aftected
the honor of Hamilton on the one side, and the delicacv of
Washington on the other ; — Hamilton, as having preserved
a draught which he ought to have destroyed, and Wash-
ington, as ha\dng retained the reputation of a li'ujlier jinislt
in this worh than in his letters (this is Mr. Jay's language),
although it was not his own. These considerations resulted,
directly or reflectively, from Mr. Jay's very strongly ex-
pressed opinion that the Farewell Address was a personal
act, and that W^ashington onli/ could iciih propriety write it.
He might, Mr. Jay admits, have naturally submitted liis
composition to the judgment of friends, before he put tlic
last hand to it. They might have advised certain transpo-
sitions; "if the connection between any of the relative
" parts was obscure, they would make it more apparent ; if
" a conclusion had better be left to imphcation than cx-
" pressed, they would strike it out, and so vice versa ; if an
" additional remark or allusion would give force or liglit to
" a sentiment or proposition, they would propose it ; wliere
" a sentence was too long, they would divide it ; they woidd


*• rorrcrt rcduiulaiu-ios ; change words less apt, for words
" more apt. »S:c. t^c. Sec. To correct a composition in this
'• wav, is to do a friendly office ; but to prepare a new one,
'• and oltrr it to the antlior as a substitute for his own,
'- would deserve a different appellation." Jai/'s Life, vol. ii,

lliis distinction, in itself a rather shadowy one, was not
in A\'aslun^ton's mind at all. He submitted thoughts and
]>rin(iples as lieads or points in the Farewell iVddress to Mr.
Madison, and asked liini to write it out from beginning to end ;
and Mr. ^ladison did so. He asked Hamilton to correct
and amend the preparatory draught, which constituted the
jircHeri'td jxipcr, made partly of Madison's draught and
partly of his own composition, but gave Hamilton plain
authority, if he did not by implication inyite him, to put the
sentiments of the preserved paper into a new plan and in a
different form. Washington's opinion was demonstrably
different on this head, from Mr. Jay's. He asked assistance
in what ^Ir. Jay regarded the exceptionable form, from Mr.
Madison, and he opened the door to it widely for Hamilton.
He made no secret to one of the two eminent men, that he
liad asked and obtained it from the other ; and he meant by
the preserved paper, his preparatory draught, to bring to the
knowledge of the world the privity of Madison with a por-
tion of that draught, being quite indifferent to the opinion
they might form of the degree to which that privity had

Mr. Jay moreover distinguished betweeen an official paper
and the Farewell Address; but Washington made no such
distinction. Mr. Jay distinguished between cases in which
a secretary of the proper department might prepare a paper,


and the President sign it, from cases in Avliirli Wasliinirton
alone should prepare the paper and sign; but Wasliington
did not observe this distinction in regard to (executive
speeches or messages to Congress, — the most striking of liis
public papers. He made no secret of asking assistance in
his speeches to Congress, and asked it of Madison, wlio was
never in the cabinet until after Washington had retired from
office, and of Hamilton, after he had left ^Yashington's
cabinet to return to the profession of the law. Mr. Jay's
distinction was the formal but perfectly unlimited one, be-
tween Avriting an address, and correcting or amending it
after it was ^vritten. Washington's better distinction was
the substantial one, between contributing the fundamental
or leading thoughts of a public paper, which it was essential
to him should be his ow^n, and the almost arbitrary forms of
expressing them, w^hich he had no hesitation in committing
to the skill of a trusted friend. I do not speak of his ge-
neral practice or habits, but of the distinctions in his mind.
In fine, though Mr. Jay was very able to measure Wasliing-
ton in some of his largest dimensions, he does not seem in
his letter to Judge Peters to have measured him accurately
in the largest of them all, — the dimensions of that cxtraor-
dmary judgment, which suppressed all personal vanity in
himself, if he ever had any, estimated with perfect good sense
and wisdom all the real values that were in him or around
him, neither being misled nor misleading anybody by i)re-
tensions of any kind, and seeking truth and the best forms of
communicatini? it, from the friend who could best impart them
to him, for the benefit of the country. He was undoubtedly
modest ; but it is certain that he never fell short of his duty
or the expectations of the country by his modesty ; and it is


also certain, tlmt if every line of his pen in his communica-
tions to Con-rcss or to the people was traced to some other
person, it w(mia not abate his glory, or the honor and love
„r p(-()pl.% a single iohi. If his great modesty has con-
tribnted to tlie lustre of his immense elevation, as it un-
doul)tedly has, it will be difficidt to prove that he had too

nincli of it.

All the prejudices which have existed in regard to the
antliorship of the FareweU Address, seem to have proceeded
from i(>alousv of Hamilton, or from this hypothesis of ]Mr.
Jay ; but how entirely Mr. Jay's imperfect information led
him into th(> adoption and statement of it, may easily be
made obvious.

Judge Peters's letter had conveyed to Mr. Jay " the first
and only information" he had received, " that a copy of Pre-
sident Washington's Address had been found among the
papers of General Hamilton, and in liis handwriting, and
that a certain gentleman had also a copy of it in the same
handwiiting." Of course it would be assumed by some per-
sons, that Hamilton had made two copies of the Farewell
Address, and had kept one, and given away another, to fur-
nish tlie future proof of his authorship. It was upon this
hint, and possibly, though not certainly, with sometliing like
this interpretation of it, that Mr. Jay wrote his reply to
Judge Peters, of the 29th March, 1811, which ai3pears in
the work of Mr. Jay's son.

Every man of experience must be aware of this truth —
aiul the writer of this Inquiry hopes, that wherever his in-
ferences from evidence may call for its apphcation, he will
be regarded as having a full consciousness of it — that if an
observer of half a truth proceeds incautiously to infer the


whole truth from it, the half truth is just as likely to lead
him wrong as right-, and that half a foct is even more so.

We now know that General Hamilton left no copy of the
Farewell Address in his handwriting, but only his orijinal
rough drauglit of such an address, whicli was found among
his papers, and is now in the Department of State; that
there was a corrected copy and revision of that original
draught, also in his handwriting, which he sent to Wash-
ington, and which did not come back. In all probabiUty,
therefore, it remained among Washington's papers, on the
same subject, until his death ; and therefore, if any person
had in his hands another paper which purported to be a
copy of the Farewell Address, and was in Hamilton's hand-
writing, it was this corrected and revised copy of the origi-
nal draught.

It must have been obtained consequently from A\'ashing-
ton's papers, and from this source only ; and those only, who
had the custody of Washington's papers at and after the
time of his death, can be called upon to explain the circum-
stance, if it be true.

It is not surprising that the name of the cerfaiu person
who possessed another copy was not disclosed, possibly not
by Judge Peters, certainly not by Mr. Jay in his reply ; and
this gave an air of mystery to the circumstance ; and tlie
odium of that mystery, whatever it was, was reflected upon
General Hamilton, as is made obvious by Mr. Jay's letter.
And it thus happened that, in complete ignorance of every
fact in the case, except one, and that a misleading foct, that
Hamilton had read to Jay Washington's draught, '^ written
"over with such amendments, alterations, and corrections," as
Hamilton thought advisable, Mr. Jay proceeded to make


„ut wliat may he called a record, for posterity. Unfortu-
nately, it was worse than labor lost, for it was labor unin-
tentionally productive of evil. No man would regret it more
than Mr. Jay himself, if he were living.

"SU. Jav, at that time, and, doubtless, to the end of his
life, was wholly ignorant of the following most material
facts, which have been already exhibited to the reader: 1.
That ^^'ashington had written a long and explicit letter to
Mr. Madison, on the 2()th May, 1792, requesting him, at
that time, to write a Farewell Address, if he approved the
measure, and making large suggestions to him on the sub-
ject. 2. That Madison had replied to that letter, on the
20th June, 1192, and sent to Washington a draught, con-
tainini,^ those expressions in regard to Washington's " very
" fiilliblc judgment," and " the inferiority of his quahfica-
" tions," which strike everybody who reads the Farewell
Address, and irresistibly impressed Mr. Jay with the
belief, that no man could have written an address which
contained those words, except Washington himself 3. That
Washington had applied to Hamilton personally, in the
spring of 1796, to " redress" the draught which Washington
himself had prepared; and that, on the 15th May of that
year, he \\xoic to Hamilton, sending him the paper, and
requesting to correct it, and giving him also authority to
write it over anew upon the plan he thought best, founding
it upon the sentiments contained in Wasliington's paper;
and that Hamilton had executed the last power referred to,
before his interview w^ith Jay, — the execution of that power
being a matter which concerned Hamilton alone until Wash-
ington should approve it, and which Hamilton thought
proper to submit to Washington only. 4. That Hamilton,


before his inteniew with Jay, had ah-eady, on the SOtli July,
sent to Washington that new form of a Farewell Address ;
and, in the letter which inclosed it, promised to send him,
in a fortnight, Washington's own draught, corrected upon
the general plan of it. 5. That the matter npon wliicli he,
Mr. Jay, was consulted, on behalf of Washington by Hamil-
ton, was only one of the objects of AVashington's letter of the
15th May, this correction of Washington's draught, and
did not comprehend the other — the writing it over anew —
upon the plan Hamilton should think best.

If Mr. Jay had known these several matters, he would
have had an outline of all the heads of material facts up to
the time of his interview with Hamilton. But he was not
aware of any one of them ; nor was it necessary that he
should be, to enable him to assist in the correction or amend-
ment of Washington's draught, which was an entirely sepa-
rate and independent matter. Nevertheless, in this imper-
fect state of his knowledge or information, — perfect enough
for the performance of the office Mr. Jay was asked to per-
form in Washington's behalf, — but wholly insufficient to
enhghten 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. '?.
That it was not likely that Hamilton, or any other person
but Wasliington, 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-


"tr(Mii('(l, rapablc of ofFcrinn^ him such a present'' as an
;i(l(lrc>s, wliifli contained what the Farewell Address does
roiitaiii. — tlio broadest avowals of his very faUihle jmljment,
and tlic iiijtrioriii/ of his qualifications, — "it was impossible
" to b(>h(ne that President Washington was the man to
'' whom such a present would be acceptable."

'rii(> j)resumptive internal evidence from the Farewell Ad-
dress, combined with that of Washington's ability, which
Mr. .lav argues at large in his letter, and very well, and the
direct evidence arising from that inter\T[ew with Hamilton,
therefore resulted to impress Mr. Jay's mind with the con-
viction, most necessarily implied by his whole letter, though
not, 1 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
liad read in that interview, and some of little importance,
whicli liad 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 inter\dew, in 1T96, 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
pubhslied 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 Plamilton had read to him,
and to strengthen Mr. Jay's belief that the Farewell Ad-

MR. jay's wisdom AND PURITY. 159

dress was identically Washington's draiiglit corrected by
Hamilton. But in volume as well as plan, tli(> oriL^rinal
draught of Hamilton, and the corrected drau-^^ht of Wasli-
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 i)arty abuse,
which squared better with parts of Washington's i)lan 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 painfid to represent him as having erred so capitally
in his conclusions, from the partial evidence before liim ;
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 ]ia\-e
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 pubHcation of ^Ir. Jay's Life

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Online LibraryHorace BinneyAn inquiry into the formation of Washington's Farewell address .. → online text (page 12 of 20)