George Washington's Farewell Address - Critical Summary

Published: 2021-07-29
755 words
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Carnegie Mellon University
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Critical thinking
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After serving for two terms as a president, George Washington wanted to talk to his people to convince them on his observations of making America a great nation. Many people loved him and wanted him to run for a third term. However, he craved for a more straightforward life after retirement. Before retiring, he wrote his last letter titled Farewell Address for Americans to read. This paper will critically analyze his ideas, the historical importance in defining the United States of America.

The specific topic of the address is the persuasion of Washington to the American people to embrace patriotism and not to allow anything, including his then-upcoming retirement, distract them from remaining united as one nation. He insisted much on the benefits of staying united behind liberty and independence. Washington did his best to persuade the citizens not to split on the basis of location and political affiliation, and not get involved in matters outside the USA. The thesis of the Farewell Address was drawn from the fact that George wanted to communicate to the citizens about his retirement, thank them for giving him an excellent chance to serve them and admonish the citizens to preserve their longtime unity. He discusses these points explicitly in his address to the point that he could convince every American who could read it about his observations.

The address contributes significantly to the topic of the general course in that it has a historical basis. It is a crucial piece in the learning of history and the effects that it had on the America that emerged after that. Although it is not that common in his speech, Washington employs the use of figurative language in which all the citizens could understand, for example, Interwoven as is the love of liberty with every ligament of your hearts. He defines problems that a country would face with so many political upheavals as miseries and disorders. He as well states that the nation's political system should not be bringing interference to the constitution.

Evidently, the material present Washingtons personal observations based on the experiences he made as a national leader. As the first president of the United States, he used the address to send a strong message to all Americans by expressing his views, inspirations, and hopes. In doing so, he hoped to share his ideas with the rest of the Americans so that they can work towards a common goal of nation-building. Therefore, the address has a subjective tone, where the author focused more on his personal experiences rather than an unbiased viewpoint. For instance, Washington passionately describes his feelings and debt of gratitude, which he owes to his beloved country after the love and overwhelming support he received from Americans.

Since the address represents personal views, it is possible to argue it differently, especially when one shares a contrary opinion. He provided a summation for his arguments when he says, I could wish -- that they will control the usual current of the passions, or prevent our Nation from running the course which has hitherto marked as the Destiny of Nations. To stress the need for a unilateral America, he employs allusions, descriptive adjectives, and personal pronouns. The combination of these devices works together in the creation of a sense of patriotism that persuades the reader to support his idea. However, Washington seems aware of a possible alternative way of arguing the issues in his address. For instance, he said, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes, perhaps still more in the eyes of others. Tellingly, he acknowledges that others might share contrary views depending on their perspectives.

In my view, the work was relevant in creating a historical setup for the Americans, and particularly the future leaders. The piece has succeeded in that America has emerged as a great nation in the 20th and 21st centuries. To make his argument more persuasive and more relevant, George did a right timing, shortly before he retired. During this time, people would pay more attention to the address more than they would if he gave the same message later after retiring. Again, he did not want to create a lot of tension by addressing the nation before he retired.


Divine, Robert A., T. H. Breen, R. Hal Williams, Ariela J. Gross, and H. W. Brands. The American Story: Penguin, Combined Volume (5th Edition). 2012.

Washington, George. "Farewell Address." The US Constitution: A Reader, September 19, 1976, 139-52.

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