tv The Presidency George Washingtons Farewell Address CSPAN February 21, 2022 10:59pm-12:25am EST
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history tv and find a full schedule cspan.org/history and culture program guide and hours here's a look at george washington's farewell address. >> good morning everybody, and on behalf of the organization in 1850s, continue to protect and preserve today and i want to welcome you to this conversation about george washington'san farewell address. .. washington announced to the world he would not seek reelection to the presidency. his letter to friends and citizens offer some of the much thorough, thoughtful and inspiring advice has ever been given to the american people. in more than a few genuine warnings were included there now 225-year-old dogma, much of what we debate and discuss
in 21st-century american politics is addressed here in one form or another together an incredible lineup of talented scholars for the relevance of the farewell address today. we are joined by author, columnist, commentator, senior political analyst, coanchor of cnn, appearing on new day every almorning, the author of books including the one we are discussing died, washington's farewell a new book on abraham lincoln coming out next february. his work is going to be important to the conversation tonight as well as chervinsky, u.s. government institution, senior fellow at the center for presidential history of southern methodist university and a lecturer at the school of public affairs george washingtontu university. also a fellow at the international center for international center for jefferson studies monticello. the author of the award-winning book the cabinet george washington and the creation of
an american institution. one of the nation's leading natg scholars and author of a dozen books the pulitzer prize for founding brothers the revolutionary generation, he won the national book award and the biography of thomas jefferson and the most recent book the becausethe american revolution d discontentca comes out tomorrow. all the guests are pleased to offer signed copies of their books so please use the links in the chat to help you find those and also feel free to visit us anytime. welcome. >> thanks for having us. we are here to discuss an important document in american history, and it is the farewell address. i gave a tiny preview of what it is. imagine someone is coming into the conversation right now. what is the farewell address?
>> it is america's civic scripture, the most widely printed document in american history including the declaration of independence for the first 100 years of the public and the sum total of wisdom george washington accumulated with war and peace as president that he put down working for james madison and then primarily with alexander hamilton as a warning to his friends and fellow citizens which is how we addressed it about the person he felt could derail the experiment going forward and it's one of the most pressing in and relevant documents you could imagine. so even though it fell out of favor for the time i think of when it's read today you see a stark warning about among other things the dangerous of the hyper partisanship, foreign wars and interference and also
suggests things we can draw upon to avoid those traps the importance off morality and virtue, the importance of fiscal discipline and political moderation. >> george washington created the d text and there are other authors. can you talku at the moment, te years leading up to this when he decides not to be president any longer. he set the stage of his last months as he's thinking about this address. >> assure the most important place to start is that washington didn't want to stay for a second term. he wanted to be in office a couple of years and then
hightail it as soon he could. he had to be away from home and he had so much stress and pressure on every single action that he took and he knew that every step establish those after him. he didn't like criticism and he was worried the reputation he spent decades building would be damaged by a poorge choice for action. he also had a commitment to the importance of being in office. the american people to choose a successor the process of transition and election and power had to be practiced in the learned and cultivated him he was determined to try to oversee that. he set his mind quite firmly
that by 1776 he was leaving and decided in february and march while alexander hamilton was in philadelphia in front of the supreme court they had a conversation about the address and got the process rolling and shared a series of drafts over t the next several months and then sat on it until september partly to sort of keep up the election season is short as possible and washington and finally covers it in the newspaper in september he reached the maximum number of people sticking to the people, not to congress. >> we will be spending our time talking about the text itself and the kind of themes. what can you tell me what would you add about the origins of the creation of the document you might want to share about washington before 1796? >> i would venture to guess no
president in american history didn't want to be president or e than george washington. [laughter] not only has said that he not 22nd term, he didn't want a first term and when he was going up to then new york he said he felt like a prisoner going to jail. and he really meant it. if you read the washington correspondence during the presidential years almost half of it had to do with mount vernon. all of the views of the presidency are shaped by a more 20th century conception of the significance. washington didn't regard the presidency is the capstone of his career. it was an epilogue, one he wished he didn't have to do.
the great thing he did is when the war. i think that is true of all four of the presidents. adams great thing is before the revolution to bring it into meaning. jeffersons was the declaration. madisons was the constitution, the federalist papers. so all of them didn't think about the presidency is the great moment in their lives. and washington was an aficionado of exits. refusing to become dictator and then months later in baltimore where the capital was annapolis ofexcuse me, the surrender of te commission. when he did that, george the third hean said it can't be. if he does that he would be the greatest man in the world, so he
did. what they were thinking and jefferson writes about this right afterwards i think jefferson wrote some of the speech in annapolis as a matter of fact. i can't prove that but jefferson says one man saved us from the fate that befalls most republics. they were thinking of cromwell, substantively we can think of napoleon, castro, a variety of leaders that never want to leave office. i can mention one that might still be alive in american politics. but it's often discussed as the two-term president that is ratified is the constitutional
amendment in 1951 the real precedent is all leaders no matter how indispensable or disposable you do not die in office like a monarch. that was the real precedent. c and i will conclude here the thing we need to remember this was not delivered as an address. it wasn't a speech. it was an open letter to the american people that appeared in the philadelphia paper and a new hampshire paper that gives it the title the farewell address. but the initial reaction to the
address was he can't leave us. the american effort hadn't existed. it was like a father saying to the children you are on your own now and it was the trauma. nobody ever thought he was going to retire. they presumed he would win until he died. and again, he couldn't wait to get back to the place where you're sitting. >> you write about this in your book thiss is not the first bit of advice that he shared with the nation. could you tell us a little bit about washington back in 1783 and the guidance to the nation.
>> that was originally called his farewell address. >> i didn't know that. [laughter] what's fascinating about that is the broader continuity but most importantly the power of the gesture itself the simple act of voluntarily relinquishing power itself was revolutionary and at thequote that joe is referring o that i think perfectly crystallizes washington throughout his career but particularly as it is culminated in farewell address he said the virtuous single character is most other than what it was intended to establish and certainly those were the stakes
as well. the normal course of events the military leader would become a tyrant himself so talk about the prevalence of roman and greek precedent on this young republic. this was a real step he took. he was relinquishing power to return to his farm and it was completely genuine and of the advice he gives in 1783 is very similar be a subsequently through the prism of the political fight that he saw as president and the fight over the ratification of the treaty and the policy but basically says first of all this isn't a time of celebration. it is a time of responsibility because the revolutionaries one but now we need to establish the republican show the world we can establish democratic republic on a scale never before seen.
among other things it couldn't exist but if it could it would work in a couple of swift cantons. it would never work in a country as big asco the 13 colonies. he'd been fighting all throughout the war because they couldn't find the collective resolve her focus on th common good. they said we need to have discipline and focus and a sense of unity to think as citizens.m independence and freedom can be sort of a state of nature but liberty requires responsibility and that is what lincoln -- sorry, i'm finishing a lincoln book right now. that is what he said in the 1783 addressing again in 1796.
>> one of the things i can do tonight and hopefully start this now is bring in a few of the short quotations people can pull out of the farewell address. this one i would like to bring up because as we were discussing if you read at the bottom he refers to is given this kind of advice before but there's a disinterested morning possibly know counsel about the circular letter and 73. this is the way that he begins right after i can't remember the phrase, perhaps i should stop, does thatha sound right? he says perhaps i should stop but then he goes on to give some serious advice to the american people. when you see phrases like this, how does this fit with him as a
leader as you come to study him? >> he wanted to see himself as the president for all of the american people and really wanted to represent them regardless what their party was. that might be a little bit of a rose colored glassing situation. he certainly had some partisan biases at the end of the presidency which he didn't necessarily want to admit because certain sides had been more critical of him but he really leaned on the partisan spirit. but he wanted to see himself as above those things and certainly the most apolitical president we've had to be sure so being in
office gave him more credence to do that. and he stilled in an office it would have been for a third term. by leaving office he sort of put himself in that elevated position even if some didn't necessarily agree with him. what is fascinating about the farewell address is people who were inclined to think well of him is all that as disinterested as he had intended. wha would you add? >> i agree with what she said. let me try to build on that a little bit. political parties the founders
as a group including washington regarded the political parties as evil vultures that were floating through the political atmosphere. jefferson even claimed if i must go to heaven and a party i prefer not to go at all. elwashington believed and i saii think john adams is the only other president that did this as well they regarded parties as a threat to the stability of the public and so in washington's second term, the political scientists think that the creation of the political parties is one of the major contributions the founders made but because it disciplines and creates the impossibility of the legitimate washington and adams
was in capable of thinking of the political party is anything other than an evil intrusion and he couldn't see himself as the head of a party so you might think, but he is a classical figure in that regard and i would build on something again in the second term you look up in textbooks and they will say the opposing party is called the democratic republican party it's not called the democratic republican party is called the republican party. the word democrat in the democracy as an epithet in the 18th century. it doesn't come into existence until 1860. it's tricky because that party
morphs into the democratic party but even worse than that they merge into the republicans, so it's tricky. but it's the 18th century version ofsi fox news and when they publish the documents claiming that washington throughout the war was a traitor trying to be to benedict arnold but was beat to the punch, this was off the top stuff and among the people commenting was thomas paine who hated him because he didn't think washington called him out fast enough and said we must all devoutly pray for his eminent death so the criticism he was getting --
>> by the way he was an atheist. >> that's true, he was. >> pain, not washington. >> the level of partisanship in the 1790s is terrible to what we are facing in washington now. the press, there were no rules for the press. all the news fit to print. now washington stands firmly against that whole thing it and thinks if you have problems you can just run me out of the next election but the level of partisanship in the newspapers in the 1790s washington really can't understand it. he just doesn't understand it
and i think he's hurt by it. i think that he survives the french and indian war and should have been killed when he was a young man. he should have been killed severalki times. they wounded him in his second term. he couldn't wait to get out of there. i know we want to move to the partisanship but the context is what i describe in the treaty and his defense of that. the word is republican it means things of the public. it's different from the people.
the people are usuallyom misinformed in their opinions. that's the reason democracy isn't a positive term. the function of a leader is to act in theer public interest evn when it is unpopular. adams carries this to an extreme. he defends the british troops into boston massacre but thought if what i do is unpopular it must be right. he refused to do it and said it was the proudest thing he ever did but the public is a big word here and washington internalized and it was the job one of the reasons the senate has a six-year term is to make them more likely to vote in the interest of the public. the most partisan.
the public, he represents them. one quick thing i wanted to sort of highlight talking about how personally wounded washington was, that was quite intentional on the part of the editors, so the editor would deliver three copies every day to the front steps of the presidents house pe even though washington wasn't a subscriber and he did so intentionally to get under washington's skin and we know that it worked. this sort of political warfare and partisan movee that they we trying to inflict was quite intentional. >> washington on parties here we can further explore. this is some of his language and much more of it in the address
to distract the public councils and the administration it agitates the community with false alarms and kindled the animosity of one against another. it opens the door to the foreign influence and corruption which finds access to the government itself is the channel of the party passions. first some of this language here. >> leave that up for a second because i think if you had to pick what is ripped from the headlines today this would be particular, with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles animosity of one against another and riot and insurrection and open the door to foreign influence. we just had a riot and insurrection, the most partisan in its nature this calendar year the result of the worst attack on the capital since the war of
1812 fueled by misinformation and disinformation channeled through the media andti exacerbated by the figures who put party over country. rekindled one against another based on a lie. perpetrated by the then president but amplified through partisan media and also via social media by some foreign actors who saw an interest in dividing america against itself. washington warned us and predicted us. when anyone tries to act like a patriot, like they are more patriotic thantr anybody else which washington would say is a sin against unity if they fed into that stuff washington warned against it they are part of the problem.
washington made a warning we just went through evidence of so we couldn't be more relevant and that is precisely why you need to be listening to the farewell address now, today because we are falling into the traps that he warned us about almost 250 years ago. >> when did they stop making it mandatory to read the farewell address is at the full congress of both houses. >> 's the senate still reads it every year. i would argue the house is more partisan than the senate but in the wake of the civil war, teaching the farewell address, memorizing it is part of the curriculum and it is for most
people's minds even though easier to memorize 272 words and didn't even think of world war i for a lot of interesting reasons it sort of begins to say then the original america first movement and the run-up to world war ii by adopting the farewell address i think fundamentally creates an misimpression of the isolationist document but we will get to that later. >> can you take us back to the 18th century on some of this language? the way this speaks to the century how could this have been read in september of 1796 with an election just around the corner? >> as he alluded to at the beginning this was an intensely partisan act when we think of
the challenges wee are seeing today in terms of misinformation and disinformation, party structures, nativism about the foreign interference and everything that we hear except they hadn't done it before and they were students of history and let's not forget the second chance so this was the second chance at getting it right so there was that intense fear at this time that one misstep would lead and washington shared that during the debate and adams wrote in his letter back to abigail he thought the civil war was coming or maybe it would last another ten years so that is the vibe of this moment andan
one of the things i think that he highlights in the farewell address is that the party animosity and intensity of the parties. can lead us to forget the similarities that yes we might have differences but we have much more in common as federalists or republicans and that is a lesson we need. >> we need to recover the context because as she is doing the right now and i'm building on her book i will bet you can't
tell me what the president can do. the definition of the presidency isn't shaped by the constitution but it's shaped by washington's own administration. the average lived out his or her life and that the mentality was not continental or national and this was underway of the perception that was re-created with a national government before we were a nation so as one called it without walls and
re-create a monarchy and spent 50 years writing about jefferson. i don't really understand what he's's doing. what he's doing is lying. he's stabbing washington in the back. and i might be wrong. jefferson wrote to martha and he never answered i don't think but washington said i never want that man on my property.
>> right after, martha has a powerful statement about her distaste for jefferson. let me bring up a little language here. it'shr unity and union that constitutes the main pillar of the independence and of the liberty this statement of union is powerful. how do you take this? >> a little bit of what joe is describing washington is willing the creation of the nation and
is conscious ofea the fact thate is creating a character. it is a hard sell because everybody thinks of themselves as a virginian first were new yorker first were south orcarolinian first so washington is trying toy say this works because of the federal government. it is the guarantorr of your liberty. you are not safe, you do not have property rights unless we have a strong central government. it doesn't matter political parties. but people show up to new york
and they are representing their constituencies, not political parties. that is the invention as it has been discussed and i'm sure it will come up again but washington is constantly tryingr to say the differences are nothing if we can't focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. it's a debate about folks saying we need a stronger governmentr o unite the nation and that is a continuity on the side of the central o government and there'a
freedom of safety. but the concept is true you have to accept certain limitations and this is relevant less than two years prior to this address in which there is a mandated way to seek redress for the measures butke unless the constitutions changed its the true way to be an american. >> in the discussion of union and unity could you help when he
that's the future out there. when you get to the louisiana purchase it's funny there's mammoths and all that kind of thing. i might be pushing this but with the largest trust fund any nation has ever enjoyed and we've got this geographic advantage as well on both sides of the atlantic and pacific. maybe we can play this out as an
argument. the definition of american exceptionalism is exactly the opposite of what most contemporary people think exceptionalism is. the view that we saw now the russians are gone and we can make it safer because we have the model. washington said our model is unique and exceptional and for thatat reason don't expect it to work in france. the french revolution the war was going on and everybody wants to know what washington would say about iraq. you wouldn't know where iraq was but he would say how did we
become britain. maybe you don't want to do that yet. the west is what drives him there because he believes that is certainly the future for the next hundred years. let's go to foreign policy. another small segment in the address. it's extending our commercial connection so far as to let them be fulfilled and let us stop. this is washington at the end of the presidency. the did he exercise this vision
therefore the united states wasn't obligated so this concept is trying to balance the superpower is a main goal for the majority having an intensive relationship with either. >> for having the steadfastness to maintain that neutrality and insist that nobody else could have done it. the statement washington has here, can you tell us about the
we are not going to get dragged into a foreign war. that would be a huge mistake for who we are now as a young nation that needs to build up strength and would squander the advantage. this plays out through the center he is basically sacred but it's easily enforced by the distance by the fact you can't attack america very easily. they said at the foreign policy can be summed up in two words. it basically says we are going to stay out of your business,
don't come out of -- the founding fathers wisdom. the debate involved in world war i is by the two washington biographers. cabinet lodge is doing it with more authenticity and wilson is saying the ideas of washington areea at stake and a lot of the iconography as we do get involved in the first world war
and involves calling on washington's legacy and then something really interesting happens. the world doesn't end. maybe it looks like washington wasn't this perfect profit. we can get involved and do good and make the world safe for democracy so in a significant way there's a backlash to involvement and when the second world war comes about it's the america first committee. but they use the farewell address to argue against the united states getting involved in the second world war. this is to an extent when they host a rally at madison square garden in new york city that
opinion if you could bring them out like what do we do about iraq if there's one place you don't wantt to get involved it's the middlele east. and if it's one place in the middle east that is like graveyard for all western values, it's afghanistan and so i think that he would be very supportive and stated that what we need to do is not look for scapegoats but figured out how we made this mistake in the first place. the understanding of why britain makes the biggest mistake in 1775, 76, we understand that now in a way that we couldn't
corresponding and that is the primary collaboration. hamilton would be delivering it and washington would turn it into poetry some of the words are hamiltons but the words are washington's in the public delivery but that's the process. the daily advertiser importantly because a whole string of partisan papers isn't a partisa,
paper, it is anti-federalist paper but he chose a nonpartisaa paper to publish. i always wonder why hamilton in the sense that so many people he could work h closely with was at the very top of that list. heru didn't trust of their writg abilities and sought out advice on major moments during the presidency and asked hamilton
one really important element that washington insisted upon when they first talked about it and washington sent him the draft and insisted the final included several paragraphs washington was anticipating to garner p more power. he was basically saying you already knew about a farewell address, to keep your mouth shut and it was a very intentional and savvy move and sure enough madison wasn't critical of the
adwe had one from jim about some specifics here. how much of the foreign policy advice was driven by the fact the spanish maintained control of the territories i will take a quick stab. i am pushing this hard. why is it called the continental army? why is it called a continental congress? it's the coast and in some sense they are thinking continental he from the beginning. the united states under
washington and swift the mississippi. washington understood the spanish were a declining european power. it's great it's the perfect nation to have power over there because we know as soonest the demographic wave hits them, they are gone and i don't think anybody could easily foresee the louisiana purchase but there is a sense of manifest destiny when it becomes a term. canada remember at the time the
war of 1812 we are supposed to win canada and it didn't work out that way. i think the presumption is that florida and most of the west was eventually coming our way. washington was a realist and understood they gave access to the mississippi river which isca critical element and didn't have the ability to send their goods over the mountain region that desperately needed access to the
water before there were trains and cars and that kind of thing. washington was realistic about the fact they were regularly complaints about those that self emancipated towards florida and while there were goals and be friendly to the individuals or if you get too close to france he's going to cut off access and try to hold all these pieces together before the united states and recognizing at this
point we were very much the subject to thete international superpowers and washington really understood that. >> remember most of the european powers thought democracy would fail in it if they would get a chance to carve out the continent at the time and the episode in the second term related to the treaty jefferson and madison say it means you are really sliding with the english, so they played that too great affect and then the french revolutionary deal to
it should be considered a coda to the farewell address.es it's silent on the issue of slavery. in the last testament that could be the ultimate farewell address takes the moment so there's a million different reasons why this is insufficient by the contemporary perspectives all of which are so obvious they don't need to be discussed.
it is aon contradiction to the promise. that said it is a revolutionary act washington knows is going to be public. it is intended and written to be a public statement and notably the others who are virginian don't do this. washington was making a very clear statementhe to the countr, so i believe and argue in my book it should be considered the codada. i wish we had a paragraph that
history. i think slavery is america's original sin and racism is its wetoxic residue we are still living with it. was there a chance to end it or put it on the road to extinction. was it a shakespearean tragedy,o yes it could have most effectively looked in that direction, washington failed as a leader on this issue. that is a heck of a standard to apply and the present perspective gives us in enormous advantage but they knew, washington new slavery was a contradiction to the values of
the revolution. he said that. he knew and what he kept saying is we've got to wait until 1808. at the core principles of this republic cannot allow or permit and the house divided cannot stand which by the way a methodist minister used that phrase in 1778 the historian annette gordon reed thinks that
if he spoke out about slavery during his lifetime it would cause harm. whether that's true i don't know but that's what she thought and that is why he didn't say anythinge during this lifetime. it was more than a some people did and less than others did. it certainly wasn't taking the easy road out but it was taking a super principled stance because he enjoyed with the labor and time while still alive. it's a commitment to the union and if youse raise the questionf slavery at all, you risk that
and that is what he was most terrified of, keeping off the national agenda until the republic is sufficiently stable. >> asking each of you to go to questions. why would you want people to continue reading the farewell address now 225 years later? the document contains all of the wisdom of his life and it's a prophetic document. and in particular, there's warnings against hyper partisanship, foreign wars, interference in the domestic politics ripped from the
headlines of today and i would argue washington was most concerned about its hyper partisanship. that's the forces we are playing with today and the success of the republic. >> why should we continue to turn to this document now? >> to cover the ability to see them as the united nation at the point that whether it be partisan identity or foreign-policy identity to forget what we have in common
looking for the division and the thingsoe we have that bind us together. >> many students these days don't think anything happened before they were born. it would be so alien to them and i want them to understand going to a foreign country and learning to think and speak a different language and the language washington speaks is absent from the center of the
.olitics it's something that nobody understands now and to suggest the highest priority would mean you are not qualified to serve. they would never run for public office. they would regard it as prostitution. >> comparing where we were to where we are and where we need to be in the future. >> it's an important document and why it remains relevant today. tthank you for joining ust. tonight. we hope to see you again soon. thank you and good night.