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

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" others disapproved and rejected. The draughts were
" sent back and forth from one to the other." All this may
be true literally^ but it is not substantially correct, to the
effect of confounding the work of Hamilton with the work
of Washington in the Farewell Address. Washington, at


tlir outset, ])r()p()S(Ml clauses in regard to party invectives,
and ])ersonal sensil)ility to them, which Hamilton did not
;il)])r()\c; and Wasliinu^ton acquiesced in the rejection of
tliciM. llaniihou made the work " more copious on material
" ])oints, more dignified on the whole, and with less egotism ;"
and Washington approved. Washington did not reject
a single sentence that Hamilton had written or suggested,
lie said. •• I sliall expunge certain clauses, as unimpor-
" tant,'' «S:c. *S: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 "NA'ashington acquiesced in its rejection ; the other
Hamilton said would fitlv come into the revision, and it
is found in tlu> place which Washington had pointed out
as appropriate. The draughts did not go hach and forth
from tli(^ one to the other, in the true sense of that idiom.
In sucli 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 manifest satisfaction at the prospect of its impression
upon discerning readers, foreigners especially. I honor and
revere Wasliington 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


Washington's adoption op the revision. 71

be forever concealed, to the abounding of his own praise.
The thought was impossible to him. His own sentiments,
in their full presentment, must have been the source of
his satisfaction, 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 further 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 interlined, erased, or referred to in the
margin, as that no mistake might be made in copying ii for
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 feehng, 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 effu-
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 publish 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,

( -


would 1)0 copied for the press, signed, and published by him
as his larcwell Address, that even if Hamilton's original
drau<,dit and abstract, as well as the amended and revised
draught, liad Ix'cn 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 Ihunilton, and not from Washington's draught,
nor from that draught corrected by Hamilton. I shall post-
pone for the present, a further accumulation of proofs 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 ineserved
paper, is so well identified as the draught which Washing-
ton sent to Plamilton on the 15th May, 1796, that it must
be unnecessary to say more on that point. A draught was
sent bv Wasliinn^ton to Hamilton at that time, bevond all
doubt. This preserved paper corresponds with it in aU 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, arc 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, tlu^ draiight of Washington, wliich 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



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 there 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) "is dated more than four months before
"the Farewell Address was published; and it appears that
" a draught of some sort, had akeady been ' prepared' by
" Washington." " AVhat were the contents of the draught
" here alluded to, there are now no means of ascertaining.''^ And
again : refemng 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 w^hat extent they
" were previously enlarged and arranged, cannot now he
" tolcir

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
Wasliington'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

71 Mil. .jay's LKTTEU to Jl'DOE PETERS,

A<l<ln'ss was, and ronld only be Avith propriety, Washington's
(Irau'dit corrected by Hamilton, was, however, a very much
•'renter error tlian tliat of Mr. S])arks, who erred only in
point of expectation, that Washington's draught could not
l)e identified.

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

It was aftin- 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 AVasliington, of the 30th July, Hamilton sent the
coiTected copy of it to Washington, and said : " I have
" begun the second part of the task, the digesting the supple-
" mentary remarks to the first address, Avhich, in a fortnight, /
" hope also to send you." This w^as Washington's draught
corrected -' upon the general plan of it." On the 10th of
August, Hamilton sent that corrected draught to Washing-
ton. 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,
l-Sll, from the "Life and Writings of John Jay," vol. ii,
p. 336:—

MR. jay's letter to judge peters. 75

" Your letter conveyed to me the first and only information I
" have received, that a copy of President Washington's A^aledictory
" 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 same 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 ?i personal act, — of choice, not of
" official duty, — and it Avas so connected 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 necessary to settle the point in question, for the sequel Avill
" 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 review at great length the
character and acts of Washington, and his abiUties as a

7U MR. jay's lkttkr to .irnr.E peters.

writer ospocially, orrnpyiiif^ nearly six pages of the volume
witli this siihject ; and, (listinguishing, at their close, between
the lull composition of sufh an address, and the correction
of it, whicli might be a friendly office, he proceeds to say : —

" Among those to ^vll0sc judgment and candor President Wash-
" ington would commit such an interesting and delicate task, where
" is the man to he found Avho 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
" nothinjz. 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 bo discovered, for a'ou 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,
" ' tliat I have with good intentions contributed towards the organi-
" ' zation and administration of the government, the best exertions
" ' of which a very fallible judgment 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 otlters, has
" ' strengthened the motives to diffidence of myself.' "

" If it be possible to find a man among those whom he esteemed
" capable of ofiering 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 tout ensemble
" whicli 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-

MK. 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-

78 MK. jay's letter to judge peters.

" ill}: that he was pressed for time, and was anxious to return the
'• dratiHit to the President without delay. It afterward occurred to
•• me. that a certain proposition was expressed in terms too general
•• and iiii(|ualified, and I hinted it in a letter to the President."

" As the husiness took the course above mentioned, a recurrence
" to the (lrann;lit 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^c. By comparing it witli 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
" if 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 some time, was less than so77W
iceeks, 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, whicdi !Mr. Jay supposed that no man living, who
had \\ ashington's esteem, would have presented to him,
and which ho therefore regarded as presumptive e\idence
that the writing which contained them could have been

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 Plam-
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.

After copying, in his Appendix to the twelfth volume of


Washiiif^toirs Writings, this portion of Jay's letter, Mr,
Sparks says: —

" It may be ()])Sfrve(l, that Mr. Jay does not profess to have seen
'' "Washin futon's first draught ; and, of course, he codd not knew
'' 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
intervitnv, is very clearly stated in Mr. Jay's letter ; though
there is nothing m the letter which professes that Mr. Jay
had not seen the draught, nor which implies that the
draught was ahsent. The contrary would be impHed, 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 tliis is of no importance. The material conclusion of
Mr. Sparks is, that Mr. Jay could not know what alterations
and amendments had been made bv Hamilton. This in-
fercnce is not quite just to Mr. Jay, nor is it quite logical,
from the premises which ^Ir. Jay states ; for the alterations
and amendments which had been made by Hamilton in


transcribing it, might have been known by marks on the
transcript, or by Hamilton's manner of reading it or com-
menting upon it ; and in one of these ways it must have
been known, or Mr. Jay would have omitted to perform the
office which Hamilton, in Washington's behalf, had re-
quested of him, — that of giving an opinion upon the draught
which " the President had prepared." Without some such
knowledge of the draught, indeed without marks of some
kind on the transcript or on the draught, it is difficult to
understand how Mr. Jay could write as he does, that " by
" comparing it (the President's draught) with the paper
" sent with it, he (the President) would immediately observe
" the particular emendations and corrections that were pro-
" posed, and would find them standing in their intended
^'places. Hence he was enabled to review and to decide on
" the whole matter with much greater clearness and facility,
" than if 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." What clear-
ness and facility, and immediate observation, could Mr. Jay
have been able to predicate of alterations and amendments
to a draught of which he knew nothing, directly or indi-
rectly, Avrought moreover into the body of the transcript,
without anything in original or transcript to guide to them %
Or how^ could he know that they would be discovered, except
by a laborious collation of every part of Washington's
draught with every part of the transcript % It seems to be a
great injustice to Mr. Jay, to suppose that he could not know
what alterations and amendments Hamilton had made ; for
this is saying that he had only heard the transcript read,
and did not know what part was Washington's, and what



Ilainilton's, tlion<;li tlio very point of reference to him, for
tlie joint opinion of Hamilton and himself, was Washington's
(Iraui^'lit, which was submitted to them for their opinion.

These remarks may s(>em to be superfluous ; for, whether
accurate^ or inaccurate, they have little bearing on the main
point. 15iit in reading this portion of Mr. Sparks's note on
the Farewell xVddress. I have been at some loss to know,
\vliv the omission to read " the President's draught," at that
interview, and this inability of Mr. Jay to know what the
alterations and amendments of Hamilton were, are empha-
sized by Mr. Sparks ; and whether it imphes a doubt on the
part of Mr. Sparks, that the draught sent by Washington to
Hamilton on the 15th May was before Mr. Jay at that in-
terview, or was the same paper which contained the quo-
tation of Madison's draught and the " Hints, or Heads of
" Topics," or was something else, unkno'svn to Mr. Sparks,
lea^in£: the character of that drauo^ht by Washington a
matter of still impenetrable obscurity.

AMiatever may have been the state of Mr. Sparks's
opinion, when he wrote his remarks upon the Farewell
Address in the twelfth volume of Washington's Writings,
I have little doubt that, with the fuller information that has
since appeared, he cannot but be at present of the opinion that

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