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

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by his son, — that has arisen the uncomfortable feeling I
have adverted to, in regard to the authorship of the Fare-
well Address, and with it the opinion or sentiment of Mr.
Sparks, that in some way it concerned the honor of Ham-
ilton, to destroy all traces of his connection with it.

IGO Hamilton's course in regard to nis rough originals.

'I'Ik re is not tli(> least ovideiicc in the world that the obli-
teration of such traces ever entered into the heart or mind
of ^^';lslliIlirtoll; and no man of understanding who shall
rarr\ m- trace back such a thought to its root or principle,
can fail to perceive that it will infer a weakness in Wash-
ington, that is out of keeping with his whole life, and with
the (>\plicit language of the Farewell Address itself

Hamilton appears to have preserved the abstract and
original rough draught, because there was no motive to
destroy them. He could not have destroyed them with the
supposed iiioti\e, without feeling his own respect for Wash-
ington in some degree impaired by the motive. He kept
them, as ]\v kei)t the original draughts of some of the clauses
he had prepared for Washington's speeches, as a record of
his own sentiments, and as a part of the transactions of his
political life. He kept no copy of his corrections of Wash-
ington's draught, nor of the amended copy of his own
draught, nor of the revision of that draught, nor of any of
his letters to Washington on this subject, nor indeed of any-
thing in regard to it, for the two papers he left beliind him were
not cople-9, but the rough originals. This was all that Ham-
ilton did. He did not destro?/ them ; that is all. Privacy at
the time was material, as the correspondence shows, because
tlie purpose of Washington to retire, was intended to be held
in reserve, for pubhc reasons, until the last moment. Ham-
ilton expressly advised him to this effect. It is from this
cause, perhaps, that no more copies were taken. Hamilton's
own engagements and want of health prevented his making
them, and the c^nployment of a clerk would have endangered
a <lisclosuiv of Washington's purpose. The originals of
M'ashington's letters he preserved, as he probably did or


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

Such reserve and delicacy as Hamilton observed in regard
to the assistance, Washington may have expected, and it is
commonly expected in like cases. He may have expected,
that, for the time then present, and perhaps while he was
living, publication w^ould not aftbrd occasion of gossip or
invidious party criticism, and become an instrument in the
hands of party to weaken the influence of his counsels, by
attributing them to the management of others ; which, tliose
who lived in that day may remember, there were men enough,
high and low, well disposed to insinuate, without any proof
or shadow of proof. A reserve of this kind may ha^'e been
patriotically desirable, without the least infusion of ^•anity ;
and something of this nature may constitute the true limita-
tion of reserve in all cases of like assistance by a minister or
friend to a pubhc chief, expressing his sentiments in liis own
name, whether officially or unofficially, to any part of the
country, or to the people at large. I cannot, 1 think, be
mistaken in the sentiment, that if Washington had desired
more than this, it would have been a weakness ; and that if
Hamilton had practised more than this, it would have been
a derogatory suspicion. To annex the pains of dislionor to
the preservation of a paper by the assisting party, would not



onh in tliis case misconceive the views of the party assisted,
as thcv uill iininediatoly appear, but would in all cases
cncircl(> the office of a friend with thorns, which might fatally
wound liis cliaracter. whether a paper was accidentally or
iiit(Mitionally preserved by him ; and would end in depriving
all public chiefs of such aid, by surrounding it with insuffer-
able penalties. Whatever may be thought of the general
vu\r or principle, however, Washington's o^\^l course demon-
strates infallibly the existence of an exception in this case,
which he was competent to establish, and did establish, com-
preluMiding and justifying the course of Hamilton, whether
it was accidental or intentional. And this is shown by a
sppci(^s of evidence quite irresistible.

^^'asllington preserved copies and originals of all the
papers and correspondence, on the subject of the Farewell
Address, from his first application to Mr, Madison, in 1792,
do^^^l to the publication of that Address, in 1796.

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



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


r(^pul)lican «;ovornmont, and to the principles of the Consti-
tution. Sucli a motive wonld have perfectly corresponded
with ■\\'asliini^^t()n"s known affection and regard. Let us not
I)c ()\('r-jcalous for such a man, who was as true as steel to
liis principles and friends, and was infinitely above the petty
jealousies w^hich embitter the small traffickers for the praise
of th(^ world !

Some of his letters to Hamilton are marked private;
others are not so marked. The very first and fullest of all,
tlie letter of the 15th May, is not so marked. It is this by
wliich lie commits his Valedictory Address to Hamilton,
mentioning it by name, commenting upon it extensively,
and requesting him to correct it, with authority to write it
anew, if he saw fit — stipidating only for the guidance of his
own sentiments. These were the Man, and these were all
that he cared to have followed as his ow^n. The letters
of the 26th June and 10th August are not marked 2>J'ivate,
nor that of the 6th September. Those of the 25th August
and 1st September are so marked. Can any person, upon
the inspection of these letters, raise the proposition, that
those marked private were to be regarded as specially
private or confidential, and the others not so ? or that there
was anything in that mark where it was used, except a par-
tial observance of routine, sometimes follow^ed by accident,
and sometimes omitted in the like way, to distinguish a
public letter, or a familiar one, from a letter that was to be
treated with some reserve ? There is nothinsf in this mark.
or in any part of the case, that shows a purpose in Wash-
ington to have tlie intervention of Hamilton treated with
special secrecy. There was an intimation to the contrary,
in tlie plaiimess with which he referred to Madison's


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

The whole of this insidious objection, Avhich has been


noticed, is foniulfMl on a mistake. It is a mistake, Avhether
we ivi,Mnl the siil)j('ct in tlic liglit of general usage or of
])riiiri|)l(', to a])]>ly to sucli a paper as the Farewell Address,
the ride wliicli may bo tlioiiglit to prevail in cases of confi-
dential hterary assistance, supplied to a friend who is com-
jx'ting for Hterary lionor as an author. That rule cannot
liavc, and, in the practice of the world, has never received,
an ajiplication to the case of a political or military chief,
connnunicating his instructions or thoughts to the people,
or to anv branch of the public authorities. Such communi-
cations arc essentially a public act, and not a personal one,
except that, in such a leave-taking as Washington's, we
may suppose that he searched the depths of his heart for the
thoughts wliicli lie meant to utter to the people ; and very
many of the great thoughts of that paper are' from his own
heart. In the first intention, the paper would have been
more a personal one, than it afterwards became, to Wash-
ington's entire satisfaction, through a just consideration of
liis great public relation to the wJioIe country and people.
Tlic official character in such a case, and the direction to the
whole people, could not be thrown off, without impairing the
weight and influence of the writing, and almost its perti-
nency. The difference between a speech or message to the
two Houses of Congress, and such an address to the people,
may be a constitutional one in this sense, that there is an
affinnative provision in the Constitution which includes the
one expressly, without expressing the other ; but, in the
sense of public concern, and of executive supervision, there
is no difference between them. Washins^ton did not ree-ard
the paper as a personal one only. He read it to his Cabi-


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

* I state this fact upon the authority of a letter from Colonel Pickerinj;, tl.en Sccre-
tary of State, which is in the possession of John C Hamilton, Esq.


tlw Ix^st forms of composition, as to enable him to select
with facility, in the fiicc of such critics, the plan and words
wliicli would ,i.dvo the most certain and effective expression
to liis thoughts, and the best protection against their per-

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

Having now concluded this Inquiry, after placing in the
body of it, or pointing out in the documents it refers to,
ample and authentic materials from wdiich every reader may


form an opinion for himself, there is little occasion for ex-
pressing my own, upon the wdiole matter. I must avoid,
however, the appearance of affectation, by suppressing it
altogether at the conclusion, after having, no doubt, inti-
mated portions of it incidentally, and sometimes perhaps
unintcntionallv, in the course of the essaA^

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


ington, and Hamilton as the indictcr of liis Will, the eom-
parison must have different results, as it shall he made upon
either pohtical, or moral, or hterary grounds ; for vahies of
these descriptions are not comparable altogether in their na-
ture, one or more of them passing by weiglit, adjnsti-d upon
exact principles, and one at least by a variable and rather
arbitrary scale of taste or convention. Even the more pon-
derable parts are by no means on one side only. My dispo-
sition is to describe, and not to compare.

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

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


it is SO. r.\ (l(>iivatioii from liimself, the Farewell Address
8iM\iks tlic yrvy mind of Wasliington. The fundamental
thnnirlits and principles were his ; but he was not the com-
|K)scr or writer of the paper.

Hamilton was, in tlie prevalent literary sense, the com-
poser and writer of tlie paper. The occasional adoption of
AVasliington's language does not materially take from the
justice of tliis attribution. The new plan, the different
form, proceeded from Hamilton. He was the author of it.
He put together the thoughts of Washington in a new
order, and witli a new bearnig ; and while, as often as he
could, he used the words of Washington, his own language
was the general vehicle, both of his own thoughts, and for
the (^xpnnsion and combination of AVashington's thoughts.
Hamilton developed the thoughts of Washington, and cor-
roborated them — included several cognate subjects, and
addod many effective thoughts from his own mind, and
united all into one chain by the luiks of his masculine logic.

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

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

It is quite impossible, I think, to divide the work by any-
thing like a sharp line between Washington and Hamilton ;
but there is less difhcidty in representing the character of


their contributions, by language in some degree fignrativo,
such as, in one instance, I have used ah-cady.

We have explicit authority for regarding tlie whole Man
as compounded of body, soul, and sriurr. The rarcwrll
Address, in a lower and figurative sense, is likewi>e so com-
pounded. If these WTre divisible and distributable, we
might, though not with full and exact propriety, allot the
SOUL to Washington, and the spirit to Hamilton. Tlic
elementary body is Washington's, also; but Hamilton has
developed and fashioned it, and he has symmetrically formed
and arranged the members, to give combined and appro-
priate action to the whole. This woidd point to an allot-
ment of the soul and the elementary body to Washington,
and of the arranging, developing, and informing spirit to
Hamilton, — the same characteristic which is found in the
great w^orks he devised for the country, and are still tlic
chart by which his department of the government is ruled.

The Farewell Address itself, while in one respect — the
question of its authorship— it has had the fate of the Eilon
BasiUke, in another it has been more fortunate; for no
Iconoclastes has appeared, or ever can appear, to break or
mar the image and superscription of Washington, wliich it
bears, or to sully the principles of moral and political action
in the government of a Nation, which are reflected from it
with his entire approval, and were, in fundamental points,
dictated by himself


No. I.



[A copy of this document accompanied Washington's letter of
15th May, 1796, to A. Hamilton. The asterisks indicate the altera-
tions by Washington, referred to in that letter.]

Friends and Fellow-Citizens : —

The quotation in this Address was composed, and in-
[BEGiNNiNG.] ^^^^^^ ^^ ^^^.^ ^^^^ published, in the year 1702, in time

to have announced to the Electors of the President and Vice-
President of the United States, the determination of tlie former,
2?revious to the said election to that office could have been made; but
the solicitude of my confidential friends *** *** ********* **

** ***=!=***** *** ** **=!=** ******** * *** **** **** *♦**
/************ ** *** *** *** ***** ** *** *******-j-) **** *

***** ******* ** ************* added to the peculiar situation
of our foreign afi"airs at that epoch, induced me to suspend the pro-
mulgation, lest, among other reasons, my retirement might be
ascribed to political cowardice. In place thereof, I resolved, if it

** *******


shouM !)(• tlio pleasure of my fellow-citizens to honor me again with siifrra;,n's, to devote such services as I could render, a year or
two lon-.-r, trusting that within that period all impediments to an
lionorahlo retreat would he removed.

In this hope, as fondly entertained as it was conceived, I entered
upon the execution of the duties of my second administration.
Hut if the causes which produced this postponement had any
wciHit in tlirni at that period, it will readily be acknowledged that
there has been no diminution in them since, until very lately, and
it will serve to account for the delay which has taken place in com-
municating the sentiments which were then committed to writing,
and are now found in the following words: —

" The period Avhich will close the appointment with

(MADISON'S ^ ' ^

DKAcoiiT] -which my fellow-citizens have honored me, being not very
distant, and the time actually arrived at which their thoughts must
be designating the citizen who is to administer the executive govern-
ment of the United States during the ensuing term, it may be
requisite to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I
should apprise such of my fellow-citizens as may retain their par-
tiality towards me, that I am not to be numbered among those out
of whom a choice is to be made.

" I bog them to be assured that the resolution, which dictates this

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