Analysis of George Washington’s Farewell Speech
George Washington is well known as being one of America’s Founding Fathers. With much of his life spent in the public arena, President Washington characterized political knowledge, along with an understanding as to how it should be applied in order to become successful. As the end of his presidency neared, Washington decided to write his final speech with the “intent to speak directly to the American people” (Spalding, 1996, p. 66). Upon examination of George Washington’s farewell speech, one could perceive that the overall message that he conveyed was upholding the Union, preserving the Constitution, taking a position against political parties, citizen’s moral and religious characteristics, and finally, relations with other nations.
In order for Washington to argue his reasoning on why he felt the Union ought to be at the foremost importance to the people, he needed to present the benefits as to best persuade the citizens to stay unified. He was able to do so by stating in his speech, “for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very liberty which you so highly prize” (McClellan, 2000, p. 535). Washington’s thought process seemed to be that the citizens could maintain bliss through preserving a nation and thus, they would eventually come to depend upon the Union. Furthermore, the stability of the states depended upon a government that could sustain a set of fundamental laws.
Another fact the President was pointing out of significance was that of the Constitution needing to be preserved, in order to help establish the nation. Washington felt as if the Constitution, “actually encouraged moderation and good habits of government” (Spalding, 1996, p. 68). The framework of the Constitution made way for a government that would be more accountable. This would in turn make the citizens of the union become more responsible and self-governing. This being the case, the people would likely have had a positive outlook toward government.
The President took a strong stance against political parties. As Washington stated, “[I] warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party” (McClellan, 2000, p. 540). Political parties were a major cause of debate during his time in office. George Washington’s thought process was that parties created differences amongst politicians, and thus they were not a good influence on the government. Some of the views caused animosity among the opposing sides. Washington feared that one political party would dominate and exploit the American government. To avoid this from occurring, the President favored a checks and balances system. He states in his speech, “checks upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the spirit of liberty” (McClellan, 2000, p. 541). Washington is conveying the fact that he feels this system will help to keep the government that he assisted in establishing free from external aggressors. Furthermore, he is stating that the checks and balances system is important and the political parties need to adhere to the rules set forth by the Constitution.
Washington also stated the significance of having honorable citizens and politicians within the Union. He relays this message by stating, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports” (McClellan, 2000, p. 542). The President concedes that having such people amongst the citizens would make governing easier, as there would be no need for the government to enforce harsher laws. He also states that some men maybe respectable because they have an advanced education, however, that does not mean that those men also embody a sense of morality. Therefore, Washington…