Literature Study GuidesWashingtons Farewell Address

Washington's Farewell Address | Study Guide

George Washington

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Course Hero. "Washington's Farewell Address Study Guide." September 20, 2018. Accessed July 6, 2020.


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George Washington

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Argument, History, Speech

At a Glance

  • As his second term as president was drawing to a close in 1796, George Washington (1732–99) made the decision to retire. His refusal to seek a third term set a precedent. With a few exceptions, subsequent presidents served only two terms until Congress officially set the eight-year limit in 1951.
  • Washington both disclosed and explained his decision to retire and set down his reflections on American foreign and domestic policy in a long open letter. The letter was published in a Philadelphia newspaper, the American Daily Advertiser, on September 19, 1796. It was known as the Farewell Address, although he never presented the text as a speech.
  • In the letter Washington counseled new leaders and citizens to preserve their unity and to avoid the harmful divisions of political partisanship. He also advocated fiscal responsibility, education, and moral virtue supported by religion.
  • In foreign affairs Washington argued for neutrality and the avoidance of foreign alliances that could develop into entanglements.
  • The letter received an outpouring of support from groups and individuals in the United States and abroad.
  • From the time it was published until Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address (1863), Washington's Farewell Address was the most popular document used for political guidance.


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