This special edition of George Washington's Farewell Address is imaged from the session of 1796 Laws of Maryland in the State Law Library. We are grateful to Michael S. Miller, Director, and his staff for their assistance with this and the whole Archives of Maryland On Line initiative. It is provided by the State Archives at the request of Governor Glendening to accompany his Washington's Birthday Address before the Maryland Senate in Special Session in the Old Senate Chamber, on February 21, 2000.
A web-based, indexed version of the Farewell Address, and, funding permitting, the whole of the proceedings of the Maryland Legislature from its beginning in 1635 will be found at http://archivesofmaryland.net.
The dating of the Farewell Address, September 17, 1796, is of particular interest. The original proof from the first printing, which was inexplicably sold into private hands by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, is now publicly accessible thanks to the generosity of the Gilder Lehrman Collection of the Pierpont Morgan Library. The proof makes it clear that, although Washington originally dated his completed manuscript the 19th of September, he realized the symbolic importance of changing the date to September 17. On September 17, 1787, nine years before in Philadelphia, the draft of the proposed Constitution of the United States was adopted by the convention he chaired. Leslie Fields, Assistant Curator of the Gilder Lehrman Collection, and Debbie Coutavas, of the Pierpont Morgan Library, have kindly provided the following image, caption, and transcription from a recent exhibit at the Pierpont Morgan Library entitled The Great Experiment: George Washington and the American Republic:
FAREWELL ADDRESS ... Washington's own copy of Claypoole's American Daily Advertiser. His handwritten note, written upside down to the newspaper's text, directed his secretary to transcribe the address into his letterbook [now at the Library of Congress]. The letter contained in this Gazette addressed to the People of the United States is to be Recorded and in the Order of its date. Let it have a blank page before & after it as to stand distinct. Let it be wrote with a letter larger & fuller than the common Recording hand and where words are printed with capital letters it is to be done so in Recording this letter and those other words that are printed in Italic, must be scored underneath and straight by a Ruler.With Washington's permission, his original manuscript was retained by the printer. After his death it was sold at auction to a collector and ultimately became the property of the New York Public Library where it can be found today. Ironically, when Henry Clay attempted to persuade Congress to bid on the manuscript, Senator Jefferson Davis and others belittled its historical significance, in part because the theory of Union set forth on its pages did not meet with Davis's approval. (See Victor Hugo Paltsits, Washington's Farewell Address, 1935.) Perhaps there is also significance in the fact that the single bloodiest day of the Civil War, the battle of Antietam or Sharpsburg, Maryland, took place on September 17, fulfilling Washington's forebodings about the consequences of the excesses of faction, party and sectionalism. But whatever may be the symbolic meaning of Washington's dating of his Farewell Address, the Maryland Legislature received it most favorably, authorizing the printing at public expense of the edition which follows in facsimile.
According to Paltsits, the portrait of George Washington on the cover is a "colored collotype reproduction by Jaffé, after the painting by Gilbert Stuart in 1796-1797 for William Constable. Soon afterward, it came into the possession of Alexander Hamilton. It remained in the Hamilton family until bequeathed to the Astor Library by General Hamiltonís grandson, also named Alexander. The transfer of the portrait was made in 1896, after the death of his widow, to the New York Public Library (Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations). This picture is the Athenaeum head, type A, from the original painted from life in the late summer or autumn of 1796 in the studio of Stuart at Germantown, Pa. It therefore shows President Washington as he appeared at the very time the Farewell Address was finally formed and published, and is doubly interesting because of its ownership by Alexander Hamilton, and its acquisition by the [New York Public] Library in the year of the first centenary of the Farewell Address."
We invite you to explore the growing collection of important public documents such as this one available on the web at the Archives of Maryland On Line, http://archivesofmaryland.net
Edward C. Papenfuse
February 21, 2000
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