On Sept 19, 1976, a newspaper in Philadelphia published what is now regarded as the first president’s legacy to the people of America, known as George Washington’s Farewell. As his second term came to an end, President George Washington decided not to seek re-election but instead retire to his Mount Vernon home.
President George Washington feared that if he died in office, future presidential aspirants and the American people would perceive the position of president as a lifetime appointment. His stepping down set the two-term limit put forth on the Twenty-Second constitutional amendment.
The “Farewell Address” was first drafted by James Madison in 1792 when President George Washington had first contemplated retiring after his first term. Later, Alexander Hamilton, who was the Treasury Secretary, rewrote it. The president provided the final edits, and the address was published in the American Daily Advertiser.
The 32-page address began with the president explaining his decision not to view. He revealed that he opted not to step down after his first term due to the “critical posture of our affairs with foreign nations.” By this statement, he referred to the tension between the USA and Great Britain over the latter’s war with France. With the crisis over, he thought that the country would be safe under new leadership. He also stressed the importance of unity through avoiding partisanship, regionalism, and extended entanglements with the affairs of foreign nations.
The president closed the address stating that he was excited about being a private citizen and supporting the free government he had helped establish over his 45 years of public service. Each year, a chosen member of the U.S. Senate read the “Farewell Address” in public.