By 1796, President George Washington had served two consecutive four-year terms in office. The ongoing battle between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans contributed to his decision to retire following his second term.
Washington delivered his Farewell Address via newspapers. In this communication, he conveyed his concerns regarding alliances—both international and domestic. Washington felt that no alliance should be permanent, but rather limited to “extraordinary emergencies” and then only temporary.
He encouraged citizens to examine their loyalty to the United States, rather than to individual political parties, believing that the divisive nature of political parties would bring more harm than good to the union. He even warned against a general spirit of innovation which he felt could weaken the foundation set forth in the Constitution.
Washington’s text was met in much the same way as many of his proclamations while in office: with partisan conflict. His supporters lauded his service and dedication to building a solid, strong government, while his detractors picked apart his shortcomings and inequities. However, both sides agreed that Washington had served the purpose of being a prominent figurehead for a union struggling to find its footing, and that his successor could be chosen with more focus on political prowess than prestige.
Copyright 2006 The Regents of the University of California and Monterey Institute for Technology and Education