George Washington’s “Farewell Address” Analysis


George Washington’s Farewell Address is one of the most important governmental documents issued by the Founding Fathers of the United States. It was written by George Washington with participation of Alexander Hamilton (1796) and James Madison (1792). The original title of this document was The Address of General Washington To The People of The United States on his declining of the Presidency of the United States. The document was published in 1796 in order to be presented to the US citizens as a letter of the US President to the new nation, which warned Americans of the possible risks and dangers. George Washington, as a true Republicanist, published his Farewell Address ten weeks before the next presidential election, giving an opportunity to all Americans to reassess their values and make a right decision. The analysis of George Washington’s Farewell Address is aimed at discussing different points of views and considering contemporary government. Thesis statement:  George Washington Farewell Address warns the nation of the political risks and dangers that may lead to despotism in the United States if the proper checks and balances are not maintained to limit the power of government.

Overview of the document

The document consists of several sections, each of which delivers an important message to the audience. The speaker places emphasis on several aspects of his work. First of all, George Washington makes it clear that he does not plan to run for a third term of office. Secondly, he thanks all Americans  people for the opportunity to serve the nation for a period of two terms. Thirdly, George Washington provide valuable advice to the new nation regarding political parties and foreign alliances. He writes,  “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it” (George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796).The first US president warns that the United States needs to “steer clear of permanent Alliances with any portion of the foreign world” (George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796). Although George Washington does not insist on the nation’s isolation from other countries, he assumes that the United States should “observe good faith and justice towards all nations” (George Washington’s Farewell Address, 1796). He states that Checks and Balances can help to effcetively control the power of the three branches.

Discussion of different points of views

George Washington’s Farewell Address was published in David C. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser. Later on, it was republished in a number of newspapers, magazines, documents and pamphlets. It was highly acclaimed by the public (Pessen, 1987). However, this governmental document “set off a frantic race to replace Washington that featured John Adams and Thomas Jefferson that helped to permanently create the political party system that Washington despised” (Bomboy, 2016). In later years, George Washington’s Farewell Address letter received wider acclaim. According to researchers, “in 1825, both Jefferson and Madison recommended the Farewell Address to the University of Virginia, as one of the best guides possible to the ideals of American government” (Bomboy, 2016).  During the years of the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln considered the significance of George Washington’s Farewell Address for the nation in achieving democratic goals and even recommended the public to use this letter as a reminder to maintain checks and balances. Currently, George Washington’s Farewell Address is used by the US Senate to draw relevant conclusions on existing political issues. According to experts, “every year, a member of the US Senate is asked to read the Farewell Address in public” (Bomboy, 2016). However, some critics consider that “Republican commitment filled a party divide which difference in ideology would find difficult to widen” (Roper, 2013, p. 48). George Washington is not focused on the expression of the sentiment of liberty, but he highlights liberty is the basis of the party. According to Michael J. Hostetler (2002), “Washington’s “Farewell” inscribes distance on the American psyche as a cultural symbol that can be either a bane or a blessing—a bane when seen as an obstacle to union and commerce, a blessing when viewed as a bulwark against Europe” (p. 393). This fact means that some critics view the Farewell Address as a document that provokes the distance of the United States from Europe and the rest of the world.

Relevance of contemporary government

George Washington’s Farewell Address is relevant to the contemporary government of the United States. There are several elements in George Washington’s letter that promote the ideas of republicanism, including “liberty, equality, popular sovereignty and majority rule” (Loss, 1989, p. 471).

In fact, the key meaning of George Washington’s political thought is to mix classical ideas of republicanism with modern elements of political philosophy, placing emphasis on the concept of national university. This fact means that the letter reflects “on the statesman’s level a provocative criticism of the mainstream solution to the political problem in Federalist” (Loss, 1989, p. 471). Contemporary government is based on the ideas of George Washington because the key political decisions are made in the interests of the nation, namely maintaining unity at home and ensuring independence abroad. President Trump and his Administration speak for the national unity, although there are some disagreements between political parties. In addition, President Trump pays due attention to the foreign policy, which is based on neutrality and diplomatic independence in resolving global issues. As Donald Trump is a Republican Party President, his political views support the key message presented in Washington’s Farewell Address, including maintenance of checks and balances.


Thus, it is necessary to conclude that in his letter Farewell Address , George Washington, as a true Republican, warns the nation of the political risks and dangers that may lead to despotism unless checks and balances are considered to limit the power of government.

Works Cited

Bomboy, S. (2016). “Five lessons we can learn from George Washington’s Farewell Address,” Constitution Daily. Retrieved from:<>

George Washington’s Farewell Address 1796. Retrieved from:<>

Hostetler, M. J. (2002). “Washington’s Farewell Address: Distance as Bane and Blessing,” Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 5(3): 393-407.

Loss, R. (1989). “The Political Thought of President George Washington,” Presidential Studies Quarterly, 19(3): 471-490.

Pessen, E. (1987). “George Washington’s Farewell Address, the Cold War, and the Timeless National Interest,” Journal of the Early Republic, 7(1): 1-25.

Roper, J. (2013). Democracy and Its Critics (Routledge Revivals): Anglo-American Democratic Thought in the Nineteenth Century. Routledge.

The terms offer and acceptance. (2016, May 17). Retrieved from

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