Washington's Farewell: The Founding Father's Warning to Future Generations

S. & S. Jan. 2017. 368p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781476746463. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781476746487. HIST
OrangeReviewStarGeorge Washington (1732–99) worked on his farewell address to the American people for nearly five years before stepping down as America's first president in 1796. It was a historic moment, a peaceful transfer of power, that would long endure in history. Avlon, editor in chief of The Daily Beast and author of Independent Nation, brings to light Washington's goodbye by elucidating what it meant not only during the early days of the republic, but its lasting effect through the centuries. For much of the 19th century, this speech was the most remembered and admired in American history. Avlon's thesis is that there is much to gain from reexamining this 6,000-word adieu. Within this final address, which was never actually spoken but printed in a national newspaper, Washington implores posterity to value moderation, fiscal discipline, and private virtue. Avlon expertly explores the document by examining Washington's shortcomings; he accrued debt in his youth, was not as educated as his contemporaries, and owned slaves. In time, Washington overcame such flaws, some might argue too late. The full text of the speech can be found in the appendix along with further reading.
VERDICT A solid analysis of our first president and his farewell to the American people.
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