On this day in history, Sept. 19, 1796, President George Washington issues Farewell Address
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A prophetic father of his country, President George Washington On this day in history, September 19, 1796, he issued his farewell address as he neared the end of his second term of office.
He triumphantly celebrated the rising young nation and its role in its creation, while gravely warning of the danger posed by regional and sectarian divisions.
“While awaiting the moment which is intended to end my career of public life, my feelings do not permit me to suspend the deep acknowledgment of the debt of gratitude which I owe to my beloved country for so many honors. Indebted to. I,” Washington wrote in a letter first published in the American Daily Advertiser, a Philadelphia newspaper.
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Washington was the hero of the American Revolution – and his Abrahamic faith in the cause of freedom rallied and united the nation in the darkest hours of the rebellion.
But it was during his time in office that the party split in the United States.
He warned in 1796 of their potential to tear apart the hard-fought coalition of the previous 20 years.
“One of the party’s methods of gaining influence within particular districts is to misrepresent the opinions and motives of other districts,” Washington said in his address.
“They regard each other as strangers who should be bound together by brotherly affection.”
‘The American name… should always exalt the just pride of patriotism’ – George Washington
He added, “The alternate dominion of one faction over another, quickened by the spirit of vengeance, naturally partisan, which has committed the most terrible riots in different ages and countries, is itself a terrible despotism.”
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Washington issued his farewell statement after not running for a third term as president.
He proved to be one of the rare leaders in history who voluntarily lost power and could have stayed for many more years.
His decision broke the tradition of a two-term president.
The two-term tradition was codified by the 22nd Amendment, which was ratified in 1951, six years after Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office during his fourth term as president.
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Washington was so popular in his day that in late 1788-early 1789 the Electoral College unanimously elected the nation’s first president.
John Adams was elected first vice president.
Both Washington and Adams easily won reelection in 1792.
But this second national election’s vice presidential race began to split along party lines, setting the stage for Washington’s farewell warning.
Adams of the Federalist Party defeated Thomas Jefferson of the Democratic-Republican Party in November 1796, two months after Washington’s farewell.
The father of his country did his new nation proud, unique in the history of mankind, when he left public life.
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“The name of American,” he said, “which belongs to you in your national status, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism above any name derived from local distinctions.”
“Washington’s Farewell Address spoke to contemporary concerns that the Union was weak and vulnerable to attacks from internal and external enemies,” writes George Washington’s Mount Vernon Library.
“But even after the uncertainty of the early national period had passed, his message of unity remained powerful.”
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Washington’s words, Mount Vernon added, “are still read annually in the United States Senate, a tradition dating back to the Civil War.