FLASHBACK: Washington’s Farewell Address: Constitution Should be ‘Sacredly Maintained’ and Preserved

By Penny Starr | September 19, 2016 | 1:15pm EDT

George Washington. 

(Public domain.) 

( – On Sept. 19, 1796, President George Washington gave his farewell address to the American people, telling them that the Constitution was responsible for their freedom and happiness, and that is should be preserved.

Thanking the American people for their support for him as president, Washington said that support helped him lead the country and secure its future.

“Profoundly penetrated with this idea, I shall carry it with me to my grave, as a strong incitement to unceasing vows that heaven may continue to you the choicest tokens of its beneficence -- that your union and brotherly affection may be perpetual -- that the free constitution, which is the work of your hands, may be sacredly maintained -- that its administration in every department may be stamped with wisdom and Virtue -- that, in fine, the happiness of the people of these States, under the auspices of liberty, may be made complete, by so careful a preservation and so prudent a use of this blessing as will acquire to them the glory of recommending it to the applause, the affection -- and adoption of every nation which is yet a stranger to it,” Washington said.

Washington also warned about allowing the federal government to have power outside of its constitutional constraint.

“It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its Administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the powers of one department to encroach upon another,” Washington said. “The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism.”

“A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position,” Washington said. “The necessity of reciprocal checks in the exercise of political power; by dividing and distributing it into different depositories, and constituting each the guardian of the public weal against invasions by the others, has been evinced by experiments ancient & modern; some of them in our country and under our own eyes.”

“To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them,” he said. “If in the opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates.”

MRC Store