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1851-1877

February 22, 1862
Washington's Farewell Address

George Washington

No Senate tradition has been more steadfastly maintained than the annual reading of President George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address.  In this letter to “Friends and Citizens,” Washington warned that the forces of geographical sectionalism, political factionalism, and interference by foreign powers in the nation's domestic affairs threatened the stability of the Republic.  He urged Americans to subordinate sectional jealousies to common national interests.

The Senate tradition began on February 22, 1862, as a morale-boosting gesture during the darkest days of the Civil War.  Citizens of Philadelphia had petitioned Congress to commemorate the forthcoming 130th anniversary of Washington's birth by reading the Address at a joint meeting of both houses.  

Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson introduced the petition in the Senate.  "In view of the perilous condition of the country," he said, "I think the time has arrived when we should recur back to the days, the times, and the doings of Washington and the patriots of the Revolution, who founded the government under which we live."

Two by two, members of the Senate proceeded to the House Chamber for a joint session.  As they moved through Statuary Hall, they passed a display of recently captured Confederate battle flags.   President Abraham Lincoln, whose son Willie had died two days earlier, did not attend.  But members of his cabinet, the Supreme Court, and high-ranking military officers in full uniform packed the chamber to hear Secretary of the Senate John W. Forney read the Address.

Early in 1888—the centennial year of the Constitution’s ratification—the Senate recalled the ceremony of 1862 and had its presiding officer read the Address on February 22.  Within a few years, the Senate made the practice an annual event.

Every year since 1896, the Senate has observed Washington's Birthday by selecting one of its members, alternating parties, to read the 7,641-word statement in legislative session.  Delivery generally takes about 45 minutes.  In 1985, Florida Senator Paula Hawkins tore through the text in a record-setting 39 minutes, while in 1962, West Virginia Senator Jennings Randolph, savoring each word, consumed 68 minutes.  

At the conclusion of each reading, the appointed senator inscribes his or her name and brief remarks in a black, leather-bound book maintained by the Secretary of the Senate. Early entries in the notebook were typically brief explanations of the practice, accompanied by signature and date. Often, several entries appeared on a single page. In more recent years, entries have grown more elaborate and have included personal stories or comments on contemporary politics and policy. In 1956, Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey wrote that every American should study this memorable message. “It gives one a renewed sense of pride in our republic,” he wrote. “It arouses the wholesome and creative emotions of patriotism and love of country.” The book's first entry bears the signature of Ohio Republican Joseph Foraker and is dated February 22, 1900. Links to selected entries are included below.

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Senators who have delivered Washington's Farewell Address:

NameStateDate
Ingalls, John J.KSFebruary 22, 1888
Manderson, CharlesNEFebruary 22, 1893
Martin, JohnKSFebruary 22, 1894
Frye, WilliamMEFebruary 22, 1896
Daniel, JohnVAFebruary 22, 1897
Lodge, Henry CabotMAFebruary 22, 1898
Wolcott, EdwardCOFebruary 22, 1899
Foraker, Joseph B.OHFebruary 22, 1900
Bacon, Augustus O.GAFebruary 22, 1901
Burrows, Julius C.MIFebruary 22, 1902
Dubois, Fred T.IDFebruary 23, 1903
Heyburn, Weldon B.IDFebruary 22, 1904
Perkins, George C. CAFebruary 22, 1905
McCreary, James B.KYFebruary 22, 1906
Burkett, Elmer J.KYFebruary 22, 1907
McCumber, Porter J.NDFebruary 22, 1908
McLaurin, Anselm J.MSFebruary 22, 1909
Depew, Chauncey M.NYFebruary 22, 1910
Young, LafayetteIAFebruary 22, 1911
Kern, John W.INFebruary 22, 1912
Brandegee, Frank B.CTFebruary 22, 1913
Swanson, Claude A.VAFebruary 23, 1914
Root, ElihuNYFebruary 22, 1915
Johnson, Charles F.MEFebruary 22, 1916
Works, John D.CAFebruary 22, 1917
Gerry, Peter G.RIFebruary 22, 1918
Frelinghuysen, Joseph S.NJFebruary 22, 1919
Pomerene, AtleeOHFebruary 23, 1920
Wadsworth, James W. Jr.NYFebruary 22, 1921
Poindexter, MilesWAFebruary 22, 1922
Glass, CarterVAFebruary 22, 1923
Willis, Frank B.OHFebruary 22, 1924
Ashurst, Henry F.AZFebruary 23, 1925
Bingham, HiramCTFebruary 22, 1926
George, Walter F.GAFebruary 22, 1927
Shipstead, HenrikMNFebruary 22, 1928
Reed, JamesMOFebruary 22, 1929
Vandenberg, Arthur H.MIFebruary 22, 1930
Bratton, Sam G.NMFebruary 22, 1931
Walsh, Thomas J.MTFebruary 23, 1932
Glenn, Otis F.ILFebruary 22, 1933
O'Mahoney, Joseph C.WYFebruary 22, 1934
Austin, Warren R.VTFebruary 22, 1935
Bachman, Nathan L.TNFebruary 22, 1936
Lodge, Henry Cabot Jr.MAFebruary 22, 1937
Ellender, Allen J.LAFebruary 22, 1938
Taft, RobertOHFebruary 22, 1939
Burke, Edward R.NEFebruary 22, 1940
White, Wallace H. Jr.MEFebruary 22, 1941
Green, Theodore F.RIFebruary 23, 1942
Millikin, Eugene D.COFebruary 22, 1943
Thomas, Elbert D.UTFebruary 22, 1944
Smith, H. AlexanderNJFebruary 22, 1945
Chavez, DennisNMFebruary 22, 1946
Revercomb, W. ChapmanWVFebruary 21, 1947
McMahon, BrienCTFebruary 22, 1948
Smith, Margaret ChaseMEFebruary 22, 1949
O'Conor, Herbert R.MDFebruary 22, 1950
Flanders, Ralph E.VTFebruary 22, 1951
Pastore, John O.RIFebruary 22, 1952
Cooper, John ShermanKYFebruary 23, 1953
Hunt, Lester C.WYFebruary 22, 1954
Bush, PrescottCTFebruary 22, 1955
Humphrey, Hubert H.MNFebruary 22, 1956
Goldwater, BarryAZFebruary 22, 1957
Church, FrankIDFebruary 21, 1958
Allott, GordonCOFebruary 23, 1959
Moss, Frank E.UTFebruary 22, 1960
Butler, John M.MDFebruary 22, 1961
Randolph, JenningsWVFebruary 22, 1962
Prouty, Winston L.VTFebruary 22, 1963
Muskie, Edmund S.MEFebruary 21, 1964
Pearson, James B.KSFebruary 22, 1965
Metcalf, LeeMTFebruary 22, 1966
Cotton, NorrisNHFebruary 22, 1967
Brewster, Daniel B.MDFebruary 22, 1968
Fannin, Paul J.AZFebruary 21, 1969
Burdick, Quentin N.NDFebruary 23, 1970
Beall, J. Glenn Jr.MDFebruary 22, 1971
Bentsen, LloydTXFebruary 21, 1972
Mathias, Charles McC. Jr.MDFebruary 19, 1973
Hughes, HaroldIAFebruary 18, 1974
Garn, JakeUTFebruary 17, 1975
Hartke, VanceINFebruary 16, 1976
Hayakawa, S. I.CAFebruary 21, 1977
Huddleston, WalterKYFebruary 20, 1978
Warner, John W.VAFebruary 19, 1979
Stewart, DonaldALFebruary 18, 1980
Kassebaum, NancyKSFebruary 16, 1981
Inouye, Daniel K.HIFebruary 22, 1982
Trible, Paul S. Jr.VAFebruary 21, 1983
Lautenberg, Frank R.NJFebruary 20, 1984
Hawkins, PaulaFLFebruary 18, 1985
Rockefeller, JayWVFebruary 17, 1986
McCain, JohnAZFebruary 16, 1987
Sanford, TerryNCFebruary 15, 1988
Warner, John W.VAFebruary 22, 1989
Robb, Charles S.VAFebruary 22, 1990
Burns, ConradMTFebruary 22, 1991
Wofford, HarrisPAFebruary 19, 1992
Kempthorne, DirkIDFebruary 24, 1993
Moseley Braun, CarolILFebruary 22, 1994
Thomas, CraigWYFebruary 20, 1995
Akaka, DanielHIFebruary 26, 1996
Frist, BillTNFebruary 24, 1997
Landrieu, MaryLAFebruary 23, 1998
Voinovich, GeorgeOHFebruary 22, 1999
Moynihan, Daniel PatrickNYFebruary 22, 2000
Allen, GeorgeVAFebruary 26, 2001
Corzine, JonNJFebruary 25, 2002
Chambliss, SaxbyGAFebruary 24, 2003
Breaux, JohnLAFebruary 23, 2004
Burr, RichardNCFebruary 18, 2005
Salazar, KenCOFebruary 17, 2006
Corker, BobTNFebruary 26, 2007
Pryor, Mark L.ARFebruary 25, 2008
Johanns, MikeNEFebruary 23, 2009
Burris, Roland W.ILFebruary 22, 2010
Isakson, JohnnyGAFebruary 28, 2011
Shaheen, JeanneNHFebruary 27, 2012
Ayotte, KellyNHFebruary 25, 2013
King, Angus S. Jr.MEFebruary 24, 2014

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Reference Items:

U.S. Congress. Senate. Washington's Farewell Address. 105th Congress, 2d sess., 1998. S. Doc.105-22.


 
  

Washington's Farewell Address Book



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