GW: Life & Times

Slide 9 — Eight is Enough: The Farewell Address

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Postcard depicting George Washington and Mt. Vernon, Virginia

Native American attacks were not the only source of unrest for President Washington. In his second term, he also had to deal with threats from his own countrymen. In July 1794, discontented settlers in western Pennsylvania who opposed the tax on distilled liquor staged the "Whiskey Rebellion." Determined not to give in to "anarchy," Washington called on the militia to make clear his intention to enforce federal law.

There was also disagreement closer to home, as the differences between his cabinet secretaries, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, became more pronounced and public. Washington, for his part, looked optimistically to the future. He was keenly interested in the construction of a new "federal city" along the banks of the Potomac River.

Washington decided to leave public office after two terms as president. His action set a precedent to step down after eight years, followed by successive presidents until Franklin D. Roosevelt. In his last address to the American people, GW incorporated suggestions from James Madison and Hamilton. Published in newspapers and pamphlets around the country in September 1796, the address communicated Washington's vision for the continued prosperity of the young country.

The former president left Philadelphia for Mount Vernon in March of 1797, happy to resume his retirement.

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