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

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a Government, with powers properly distributed and adjusted, its surest Guardian. It is indeed little else than a name, where the Government is too feeble to withstand the enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the Society within the limits prescribed by the laws and to maintain all in the secure and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.36

I have already intimated to you the danger of Parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on Geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseperable from37 our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human Mind. It exists under different shapes in all Governments, more or less stifled, controuled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.38

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissention, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an Individual: and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction more able or more fortunate than his competitors,

36. The words “Owing to you as I do a frank and free disclosure of my heart, I shall not conceal from you the belief I entertain, that your Government as at present constituted is far more likely to prove too feeble than too powerful.” are crossed out.

37. The word “human” is crossed out.

38. The words “In Republics of narrow extent, it is not difficult for those who at any time hold the reins of Power, and command the ordinary public favor, to overturn the established order [Constitution,] in favor of their own aggrandizement. The same thing may likewise be too often accomplished in such Republics, by partial combinations of men, who though not in office, from birth, riches or other sources of distinction, have extraordinary influence and numerous retainers [adherents.] By debauching the military force, by surprising some commanding citadel, or by some other sudden and unforeseen movement, the fate of file Republic is decided. But in Republics of large extent, usurpation can scarcely make its way through these avenues. The powers and opportunities of resistance of a wide extended and numerous nation, defy the successful efforts of the ordinary military force, or of any collections which wealth and patronage may call to their aid. In such Republics, it is safe to assert, that the conflicts of popular factions are the chief, if not the only inlets, of usurpation and Tyranny.” are crossed out. The words in brackets were inserted as afterthoughts.

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

The following statement is made by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, the copyright owners of The Diaries of George Washington.

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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