Manuscript/Mixed Material George Washington, September 17, 1796, Farewell Address

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United States, September 19, 1796.

Friends, and Fellow-Citizens: The period for a new election of a Citizen, to Administer the Executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be cloathed with that important trust,85 it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those, out of whom a choice is to be made.

I beg you, at the same time, to do me the justice to be assured, that this resolution has not been taken, without a strict regard to all the considerations appertaining to the relation, which binds a dutiful citizen to his country, and that, in with drawing the tender of service which silence in my situation might imply, I am influenced by no diminution of zeal for your future interest, no deficiency of grateful respect for your past kindness; but86 am supported by a full conviction that the step is compatible with both.

The acceptance of, and continuance hitherto in, the office to which your Suffrages have twice called me, have been a uniform sacrifice of inclination to the opinion of duty, and to a deference for what appeared to be your desire. I constantly hoped, that it would have been much earlier in my power, consistently with motives, which I was not at liberty to disregard, to return

84. On September 15 Washington submitted the Farewell Address to the Cabinet. Pickering wrote to him that same day (September 15): “The paper you put into my hands to-day was attentively perused by us all. I am now going over it by myself, but it will not be possible to get thro' in time to return it Before bed-time. Before breakfast in the morning I will wait upon you with it.” Pickering's letter is in the Washington Papers.

David C. Claypoole's account of the publication of the Address is printed by Paltsits. An extract follows: “A few days before the appearance of this highly interesting document in print, I received a message from the President, by his private secretary, Col. Lear, signifying his desire to see me. I waited on him at the appointed time, and found him sitting alone in the drawing-room. He received me very kindly, and after I had paid my respects to him, desired me to take a seat near him; then addressing himself to me, said, that he had for some time contemplated retiring from public life, and had at length concluded to do so at the end of the (then) present term: that he had some thoughts and reflections on the occasion, which he deemed proper to communicate to the people of the United States, in the form of an address, and which he wished to appear in the Daily Advertiser, of which I was Proprietor and editor. He paused, and I took occasion to thank him for having selected that paper as the channel of communication to the Public, especially as I viewed this choice as an evidence of his approbation of the principles and manner in which the work was conducted. He silently assented, and asked me when I could make the publication. I answered that the time should be made perfectly convenient to himself, and the following Monday was fixed on: he then said that his secretary would deliver me the Copy on the next morning (Friday), and I withdrew. After the proof sheet had been carefully compared with the copy, and corrected by myself, I carried two different Revises, to be examined by the President; who made but few alterations from the original, except in the punctuation, in which he was very minute. The publication of the Address, dated ‘United States, September 17th, 1796’ being completed on the 19th [bearing the same date with the Paper, Sept. 19th, 1796, being completed], I waited on the President with the original; and, in presenting it to him, expressed my regret at parting with it, and how much I should be gratified by being permitted to retain it: upon which in the most obliging manner, he handed it back to me, saying, that if I wished for it, I might keep it;— and I then took my leave.”

Sparks, who prints the Farewell Address from the publication of it in Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser, of Sept. 19, 1796, states that he copies the following indorsement (which is in the writing of Washington) on Claypoole's paper, “designed as an instruction to the copyist, who recorded the Address in the letter-book: The letter contained in this gazette, addressed ‘To the People of the United States,’ is to be recorded, and in the order of its date. Let it have a blank page before and after it, so as to stand distinct. Let it be written with a letter larger and fuller than the common recording hand. And where words are printed with capital letters, it is to be done so in recording. And those other words, that are printed in italics, must be scored underneath and straight by a ruler.” This newspaper, with Washington's indorsement thereon, is not now found in the Washington Papers. Claypoole's paper printed the Address as dated September 17, which date is followed by Sparks.

85. At this point the words “for another term” are crossed out.

86. The words “act under” are crossed out.

About this Item

George Washington Papers, Series 2, Letterbooks 1754-1799: Letterbook 24, April 3, 1793 - March 3, 1797
Contributor Names
Washington, George, 1732-1799 (Author)
Created / Published
Subject Headings
-  United States
-  Manuscripts
Call Number/Physical Location
series: Series 2, Letterbooks 1754-1799
MSS 44693: Reel 024
Source Collection
George Washington papers
Manuscript Division
Online Format
online text

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The Diaries of George Washington

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Donald Jackson and Dorothy Twohig, eds. The Diaries of George Washington. 6 vols. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1976-79; a series of The Papers of George Washington. Copyright 1976-79 by the Rector and Visitors of University of Virginia. Used by permission of the publisher. The publisher is not responsible for the correctness and completeness of the images and texts as they appear in this online collection.

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Chicago citation style:

Washington, George. George Washington Papers, Series 2, Letterbooks -1799: Letterbook 24, April 3, 1793 - March 3, 1797. 1793. Manuscript/Mixed Material.

APA citation style:

Washington, G. (1793) George Washington Papers, Series 2, Letterbooks -1799: Letterbook 24, April 3, 1793 - March 3, 1797. [Manuscript/Mixed Material] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Washington, George. George Washington Papers, Series 2, Letterbooks -1799: Letterbook 24, April 3, 1793 - March 3, 1797. 1793. Manuscript/Mixed Material. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.

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