George Washington Warns of Political Parties (Farewell Address 1796) with Reading Questions

Washingtons Farewell Address

A solicitude for your welfare [prompts me]… to offer… the disinterested warnings of a parting friend, who can possibly have no personal motive to bias his counsels….

The Unity of Government which constitutes you one people…is a main Pillar in the Edifice of your real independence…your tranquility at home; your peace abroad….But it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes, and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth….

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to founding them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you, in the most solemn manner, against the baneful effects of the Spirit of Party, generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes, in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled or repressed; but in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternative dominion of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge…, is itself a frightful despotism; but this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.

Source: James D. Richardson, ed., A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1896 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1896), 1:213-215.

George Washington Farewell Address

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