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

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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,
" manners, habits, and political 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 applied
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 nations, and exemption from
broils and wars between the parts, if disunited, which their
rivalships, fomented by foreign intrigue and opposite alhance
with foreign nations, would produce. The germinal thought
is Washington's, the germination is Hamilton's.


The ;i(hiintnij;rs of union hc'uv^ rogaTdcd as so conclusive
in tliis aspect, he proceeds to show that the spirit of 'parfy^
tlie infri(/nt; o//oreif/n nations, and the corruption and ambi-
tion of indie id IK (Is, are Hkely to prove more formidable adver-
snvic^'^ to tlie unity of our empire, than any inherent difficidties
in tlie sclieme ; and that it was against these that the guards
of mdional opinion, national sympatliij, national prudence, and
virtue, were to be erected.

Then begins the reference to party differences of opinion,
to menaces of dissolution from one part to another, on account
of tliis or that measure, tending to make men consider the
Union as precarious, and to weaken the sentiment in its
faxoY ; with an emphatic rebuke of parties characterized by
geographical 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 nefrotiatinjr
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 bv them in case of need, but, until chana-ed,
sacredly binding upon all, and the government under it, the
offspring of like choice, entitled to respect for its autliority,
compliance with its laws, and acquiescence in its measures,
as well by tlie fundamental maxims of true liberty, as by
the principle that the right to estabUsh government presup-
poses the duty of every individual to obey the established



-government. All obstructions to laws, all combinations and
^ associations to counteract the regular action of the established
authorities, are therefore contrary to the fundamental prin-
ciple, and of the most flital 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 feeling, its shapes, its growth, the domination of one
faction 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


moiiarcliical ^ovomments, patriotism may look upon it with
favor; ill tliosc of a popular kind and purely elective, it is
not to lie fostered.

The (haufiflit tlicn proceeds to the fjuards 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 morality, industry and frugality ; to the
nurture of public credit, as a means of security and strength;
to good faitli 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, facility in betraying or sacri-
ficing their own country.

Perhaps the finest lessons in the draught of the Address
arc taught in this part of it, Avhich unfolds the topic of
foreign influence, its mischiefs and impoHcy, and the dissua-
sives from it which are supplied 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 ])recipice, from which we might have fliUen to dis-
memberment and ruin, by coahtion 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


magnitude than the blessing of Independence, wliich 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 neutrality, and the
then existing war, the only occasional topics of the Address ;
and it concludes wdth 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 faithfully in
the abstract as in the draught ; where he had the guidance
of Washington's thoughts or suggestions 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


nirta|)li()r or li^Mirc ol' spcccli, wliicli is not a perfectly fami-
liar onr, that it niiixlit not hv accused of artifice or insince-
rity. It is jx'ifcctly accurate, in tlie best style of an elevated
Htatc ])apcr, its jreuerul i)n)positions everywhere so qualified,
in a natural and easy manner, as to make them irrefutable,
nnd without a sentence tliat is (lo<i;matical, or is averred upon
p<M-sonal autliority, — every proposition being sustained by
iMitii reason and ])ersuasion, the conscience of the writer
goinj; on step by step to the end, in union w^ith his intellect.
If Hamilton had not deeply loved and respected Wash-
in<'ton. he conid not have so clothed his abstract with his
dnui^lit. But this is not all the merit or the claim.

If this is not autliorsliip. in some sense, I know not what
authorship is, and it covers the entire paper, Washington's
thoughts, and ^ladison's thoughts, and all. It seems, indeed,
to he rather a case of complex and skilful authorship in
llaniilton. as we tliink 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 ciTcmony and valediction. It may not have been so
difhcidt for Hamilton to do this, as it mi^ht have been for
others ; for ^^'asllington'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 exl libit their order, rather than to form it. But
it is his great praise that he did it with simphcity, fidelity,
and affection ; and it will be no deduction from the praise of


Washington, if the memory of Hamilton sliall li\e furfvur in
the work.

But we have had in view another object. In tli(> pro«,'ross
of this question about the authorship of tlic l-'urewell Ad-
dress, it has been thought useful by Mv. Sparks to su«^«^ost,
that as a mere literary performance, tliough able ;uid excel-
lent, it is neither extraordinary, nor such as if disconucelcd
from the name of Washington, would have cxcit(Ml inurh
curiosity about the author, nor in any degree superior to
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, T hope it is not presumption
to express my dissent. If state papers, or great public
papers like this, are to be classed among works of literature
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 rntlun*
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 luen lias, in
this dissent, probably concurred. Its simplicity, its purity, its
grouping, its light and shade, the elevation of its tone, and
its perfect transparency of meaning, make it a work ot (>x-
traordinary literary merit in the order or class to which it
belongs. We are not to compare it with papers, where the
fields of imamnation and of illustrative fact have been wide
open to the writer, and embellishments from ev(ny cpmrter,

11,; i.rri:uAuv ciiaracteu of farewell address.

moral and classical liav(^ been within his reach. The path
of the Farewell Address was almost severely straight, and
the deviations by Hamilton to give it flexnre, without too
wide a departure, have been managed with great skill. Per-
liaps tlii^ impression of the paper is partly the effect of early
associationjiaving read it as a college senior with infinite
delii,dit. wifliin a week probably after its first publication;
and ])erhaps 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 ])rimarily. 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 reasonal)le 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
r(^garded 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
iKDtli a ])lattbrm 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
AN ashmgton. Its large and pointed references to the spirit of
imrty, and especially in the sectional or State relation, seem


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

There is one point of great political concernment wliich,
at least in appearance, is passed over by both 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 wlio
favor 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 Woeld.


other Statrs. mid by -wliifli the true Federal strength of all
tho Statrs is, ;md cwr must be, seriously impaired.

'I'lu' l-'.irrwcll Address docs not notice the point explicitly;
but it is tlicrc ncvcrtlicless. It must be recollected that this
kind of intcrj)rotation was the occasion of sharp controversy
in ^^'asbinc:ton's tirst cabinet, and that the views of Hamil-
ton in rep^ard to it, in opposition to Jefferson and the At-
tonioy-General, Randolph, obtained Washington's sanction,
after long and deliberate consideration ; and as Washington
was aware that Hamilton had been represented as being
dc^sirous in the Convention to bring on a consolidation of
the States, tliough with no justice whatever, and most cer-
tainly witli 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
inteqiretation as one of the principal promoters. Yet there

is one clause in tlie Address which we mav infer from strono-


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 orio^inal draudit, a
little altered in Hamilton's revision. The three clauses will
be cited presently.

Having now exhibited the direct proofs which bear upon
the fonnation of the Farewell Address, I proceed to notice a
prreat 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
pa|>or into tlie world, was the travail of Washington alone,
Avho has proved his own composition of it bv manifold marks


in the autograph copy, which was handed to the printer, by
w^liom 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. I^cnox,
the proprietor, for private distribution, and recently pub-
lished in the Appendix to the fifth volume of Mr. lr\iiig's
Life of Washmgton, which enables me to bring togetlier in
this place a notice of the alterations on the face of the auto-
graph copy, and of some of the opinions wliicli 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 inchide all
that was known with certainty upon the subject, ]\Ir. Sparks
proceeds to say : " It proves that an original drauglit was
" sent by Washington to Hamilton ; that the latter bestowed
" great pains in correcting and improving it ; tliat thiring
" this process several communications passed between them ;
" and that the final draught was printed from a copy," by
Avhich I understand him to mean a copy of Washington's
draught so corrected, " containing numerous alterations in
"matter and style, which were unquestionably mndv by
" Washington." Washington's Writings, vol. xii. p. :);)(;.

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 Addri>ss. I


sliould infer, also, that at that time he had not seen the
wliole corrrsiiondcnco l)et\vccn Washington and Hamilton
on tliat .Mihjcct ; though he certainly had access to General
Tlamilton's letters, which were among Washington's papers.
lie ai)i)ears to have had no knowledge of any draught by
Ilaniiltidi, or of anything from Hamilton, but his corrections
and inn)rovemcnts of Washington's draught, the specific
character of which draught he had previously remarked,
there weri> no means of ascertaining. It is due to him to
state these (nrrumstances ; because independently of them, it
will be fomid impossible to comprehend the process by which
lie arrived at the conclusion, that the numerous alterations
in matter and style of that copy from which the Address
was printed, *• were unquestionably made by Washington ;"
unless he used this language with a meaning which few
readers would apprehend from it.

It has been made perfectly clear already, that the auto-
graph copy of the Farewell Address was not made from a
co])y of A^'ashington's draught corrected and improved.
The letter of 25th August, 1796, from Washington to
Hamilton, proves that Washington selected Hamilton's
draught in preference to his own, whether in the original
or in the corrected form ; and it will be made equally clear,
that the alterations made by the autograph copy, of the an-
terior draught from which it was taken, are not " numerous
"alterations in matter or style" by Washington, in the
ordinary sense of these words, but are, to nearly the wdiole
extent of the change, a mere abridgment, by cancellation of
certain paragraphs of Hamilton's exemplar, from which the
autograph copy was made. The judgment of Mr. Sparks
was founded, no doubt, upon a state of the facts as tliev Avere


then apparent to him, but most materially difFereut from
the real state of them, as they now appear.

Other persons, as well as Mr. Sparks, liave made their
suggestions in regard to the inferences whicli sliould be
made from these alterations in the autograph copy, now that
the cancelled passages have been restored and printed at tlie
foot of the page ; and I shall advert to one of those sugges-
tions presently, in connection with an important reference to
Mr. Jay's opinion expressed to Judge Peters.

It cannot admit of doubt, that when AVashington pro-
ceeded to make that autograph copy, which was published
in the gazette, and recorded in the Department of State, he
had before him a draught of the Address, already prepared
by somehodij. The autograph paper was not a fird draught
— such a suggestion would not have a shadow of support. It
has been shown that there was a previous paper, with wliich
it corresponds marvellously in almost infinite points. But
what would be decisive, if nothing of the kind had been
shown, there are marks of finish, and some elaboration, in
the whole order and arrangement, and in entire pages of the
autograph copy, — in one place four in number, full and
closely printed pages, — where there does not appear to liave
been the second touch of a pen, nor an erasure or cancella-
tion of any kind, by AVashington or by anybody. Besides,
there are many long clauses, now appearing at the foot of
the pages, which, after being introduced by AVashington into
the body of the copy, have been cancelled by him, with-
out having been changed, in the course of writing, by tlic
obliteration or interhneation of a word. The autograpli lias
several verbal alterations in other parts, such as a writer
might make in revising his own work, or the work of another



an ; but in tlu>sc important parts there is nothing of this
kind; imd this is ])rac-tically an infalUble proof that the
iint..i,Maph is so lar tlic copy of a previous draught. That
it was so fhrongliont, before Washington began to revise
and ahcr it, will be made extremely probable, if not per-
fectly <-lcar. The first inquiry is, whose and what was that
pr(\ ions dranglit ^

It niav be recollected that Hamilton sent his revision
of tiu^ amended original draught in a rough state to Wash-

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