George Washington, “Farewell Address,” 1796

I use the “Farewell Address” chiefly to remind students about important changes and continuities in U.S. foreign policy since the days of the early republic, using Washington’s ideas as well as many of the words supplied by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.[1] As a short assignment, characteristic of how I try to engage students with primary sources, I ask them to identify the several passages they consider most important and to explain why.  I also ask them what they infer about the American political scene in the 1790s, or at least about Washington’s view of that scene.

The version of Washington’s remarks that I employ for this purpose is the much-abridged version appearing in Thomas P. Brockway’s Basic Documents in United States Foreign Policy, rev. ed. (New York:  D. Van Nostrand, 1968), 16-18, which appears immediately below.  In the subsequent Bibliography is a link to the full address, published as a Senate Document in 2000. — R. H. Werking, U.S. Naval Academy

George Washington, “Farewell Address,” 1796


Ellis, Joseph J.  Founding Brothers:  The Revolutionary Generation.  New York:  2001.

Gilbert, Felix.   The Beginnings of American Foreign Policy:  To the Farewell Address.  New York: 1965.  (Originally published in 1961 under the title:  To the Farewell Address:  Ideas of American Foreign Policy)

U.S. Senate, Historical Office, “February 22, 1862:  Washington’s Farewell Address.” (Discusses the annual tradition (since 1896) of a U.S. senator reading aloud the Farewell Address on Washington’s birthday.)

Washington’s Farewell Address to the People of the United States (Washington, D.C., 2000),Senate Document 106-21.

[1] On this point, see Joseph Ellis, Founding Brothers, 148.