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George Washington’s Farewell Address (1796)

In President Washington‘s Farewell Address he urged citizens to cherish the Constitution as the best means of preserving their liberty. He reminded them that the document contains within itself the means for amendment, but that the Constitution as it exists at any given time must be respected as the supreme law of the land.

He declared that religion and morality are the basis for justice and necessary for good government: “It is substantially true, that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.” He also advised moderation when considering foreign entanglements and addressed the domestic dangers of the developing political party system.

Washington’s Farewell Address was not delivered as a speech, but rather printed in newspapers. Washington wrote it over a period of several months, beginning with notes James Madison had prepared at the end of his first term. He also sought the advice of John Jay and Alexander Hamilton in formulating his message.