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Washington's Farewell Address


February 22, 1862

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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SenatorDate
IngallsJohn J. Ingalls (KS) 18880222February 22, 1888
MandersonCharles F. Manderson (NE) 18930232February 22, 1893
MartinJohn Martin (KS) 18940222February 22, 1894
FryeWilliam P. Frye (ME) 18960222February 22, 1896
DanielJohn W. Daniel (VA) 18970222February 22, 1897
LodgeHenry C. Lodge (MA) 18980222February 22, 1898
WolcottEdward O. Wolcott (CO) 18990222February 22, 1899
ForakerJoseph B. Foraker (OH) 19000222February 22, 1900
BaconAugustus O. Bacon (GA) 19010222February 22, 1901
BurrowsJulius C. Burrows (MI) 19020222February 22, 1902
DuboisFred T. Dubois (ID) 19030223February 23, 1903
HeyburnWeldon B. Heyburn (ID) 19040222February 22, 1904
PerkinsGeorge C. Perkins (CA) 19050222February 22, 1905
McCrearyJames B. McCreary (KY) 19060222February 22, 1906
BurkettElmer J. Burkett (NE) 19070222February 22, 1907
McCumberPorter J. McCumber (ND) 19080222February 22, 1908
McLaurinAnselm J. McLaurin (MS) 19090222February 22, 1909
DepewChauncey M. Depew (NY) 19100222February 22, 1910
YoungLafayette Young (IA) 19110222February 22, 1911
KernJohn W. Kern (IN) 19120222February 22, 1912
BrandegeeFrank Bosworth Brandegee (CT) 19130222February 22, 1913
SwansonClaude A. Swanson (VA) 19140222February 23, 1914
RootElihu Root (NY) 19150222February 22, 1915
JohnsonCharles F. Johnson (ME) 19160222February 22, 1916
WorksJohn D. Works (CA) 19170222February 22, 1917
GerryPeter G. Gerry (RI) 19180222February 22, 1918
FrelinghuysenJoseph S. Frelinghuysen (NJ) 19190222February 22, 1919
PomereneAtlee Pomerene (OH) 19200223February 23, 1920
WadsworthJames W. Wadsworth, Jr. (NY) 19210222February 22, 1921
PoindexterMiles Poindexter (WA) 19220222February 22, 1922
GlassCarter Glass (VA) 19230222February 22, 1923
WillisFrank B. Willis (OH) 19240222February 22, 1924
AshurstHenry F. Ashurst (AZ) 19250223February 23, 1925
BinghamHiram Bingham (CT) 19260222February 22, 1926
GeorgeWalter F. George (GA) 19270222February 22, 1927
ShipsteadHenrik Shipstead (MN) 19280222February 22, 1928
ReedJames A. Reed (MO) 19290222February 22, 1929
VandenbergArthur H. Vandenberg (MI) 19300222February 22, 1930
BrattonSam G. Bratton (NM) 19310222February 22, 1931
WalshThomas J. Walsh (MT) 19320223February 23, 1932
GlennOtis F. Glenn (IL) 19330222February 22, 1933
O'MahoneyJoseph C. O'Mahoney (WY) 19340222February 22, 1934
AustinWarren R. Austin (VT) 19350222February 22, 1935
BachmanNathan L. Bachman (TN) 19360222February 22, 1936
LodgeHenry C. Lodge, Jr. (MA) 19370222February 22, 1937
EllenderAllen J. Ellender (LA) 19380222February 22, 1938
TaftRobert Taft, Jr. (OH) 19390222February 22, 1939
BurkeEdward R. Burke (NE) 19400222February 22, 1940
WallaceWallace H. White, Jr. (ME) 19410222February 22, 1941
GreenTheodore F. Green (RI) 19420223February 23, 1942
MillikinEugene D. Millikin (CO) 19430222February 22, 1943
ThomasElbert D. Thomas (UT) 19440222February 22, 1944
SmithHoward A. Smith (NJ) 19450222February 22, 1945
ChavezDennis Chavez (NM) 19460222February 22, 1946
RevercombWilliam C. Revercomb (WV) 19470222February 21, 1947
McMahonBrien McMahon (CT) 19480222February 22, 1948
SmithMargaret Chase Smith (ME) 19490222February 22, 1949
O'ConorHerbert R. O'Conor (MD) 19500222February 22, 1950
FlandersRalph E. Flanders (VT) 19510222February 22, 1951
PastoreJohn O. Pastore (RI) 19520222February 22, 1952
CooperJohn S. Cooper (KY) 19530223February 23, 1953
HuntLester C. Hunt (WY) 19540222February 22, 1954
BushPrescott S. Bush (CT) 19550222February 22, 1955
HumphreyHubert H. Humphrey, Jr. (MN) 19560222February 22, 1956
GoldwaterBarry M. Goldwater (AZ) 19570222February 22, 1957
ChurchFrank F. Church (ID) 19580221February 21, 1958
AllottGordon L. Allott (CO) 19590223February 23, 1959
MossFrank E. Moss (Ted) (UT) 19600222February 22, 1960
ButlerJohn M. Butler (MD) 19610222February 22, 1961
RandolphJennings Randolph (WV) 19620222February 22, 1962
ProutyWinston L. Prouty (VT) 19630222February 22, 1963
MuskieEdmund S. Muskie (ME) 19640221February 21, 1964
PearsonJames B. Pearson (KS) 19650222February 22, 1965
MetcalfLee W. Metcalf (MT) 19660222February 22, 1966
CottonNorris H. Cotton (NH) 19670222February 22, 1967
BrewsterDaniel B. Brewster (MD) 19680222February 22, 1968
FanninPaul J. Fannin (AZ) 19690221February 21, 1969
BurdickQuentin N. Burdick (ND) 19700223February 23, 1970
BeallJohn G. Beall, Jr. (MD) 19710222February 22, 1971
BenstenLloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. (TX) 19720221February 21, 1972
MathiasCharles M. Mathias, Jr. (MD) 19730219February 19, 1973
HughesHarold E. Hughes (IA) 19740218February 18, 1974
GarnJake Garn (UT) 19750217February 17, 1975
HartkeRupert V. Hartke (IN) 19760216February 16, 1976
HayakawaSamuel I. Hayakawa (CA) 19770221February 21, 1977
HuddlestonWalter D. Huddleston (KY) 19780220February 20, 1978
WarnerJohn W. Warner (VA) 19790219February 19, 1979
StewartDonald W. Stewart (AL) 19800218February 18, 1980
KassebaumNancy L. Kassebaum (KS) 19810216February 16, 1981
InouyeDaniel K. Inouye (HI) 19820222February 22, 1982
TriblePaul S. Trible, Jr. (VA) 19830221February 21, 1983
LautenbergFrank R. Lautenberg (NJ) 19840220February 20, 1984
RockefellerJay Rockefeller (WV) 19850218February 18, 1985
HawkinsPaula Hawkins (FL) 19860217February 17, 1986
McCainJohn S. McCain III (AZ) 19870216February 16, 1987
Sanford(James) Terry Sanford (NC) 19880215February 15, 1988
WarnerJohn W. Warner (VA) 19890222February 22, 1989
RobbCharles S. Robb (VA) 19900222February 22, 1990
BurnsConrad Burns (MT) 19910222February 22, 1991
WoffordHarris Wofford (PA) 19920219February 19, 1992
KempthorneDirk Kempthorne (ID) 19930224February 24, 1993
Moseley BraunCarol Moseley Braun (IL) 19940222February 22, 1994
ThomasCraig L. Thomas (WY) 19950220February 20, 1995
AkakaDaniel K. Akaka (HI) 19960226February 26, 1996
FristWilliam H. Frist (TN) 19970224February 24, 1997
LandrieuMary L. Landrieu (LA) 19980223February 23, 1998
VoinovichGeorge V. Voinovich (OH) 19990222February 22, 1999
MoynihanDaniel P. Moynihan (NY) 20000222February 22, 2000
AllenGeorge Allen (VA) 20010226February 26, 2001
CorzineJon S. Corzine (NJ) 20020225February 25, 2002
ChamblissSaxby Chambliss (GA) 20030224February 24, 2003
BreauxJohn B. Breaux (LA) 20040223February 23, 2004
BurrRichard Burr (NC) 20050218February 18, 2005
SalazarKenneth L. Salazar (CO) 20060217February 17, 2006
CorkerBob Corker (TN) 20070226February 26, 2007
PryorMark Pryor (AR) 20080225February 25, 2008
JohannsMike Johanns (NE) 20090223February 23, 2009
BurrisRoland Burris (IL) 20100223February 23, 2010
IsaksonJohnny Isakson (GA) 20110228February 28, 2011
ShaheenJeanne Shaheen (NH) 20120227February 27, 2012
AyotteKelly Ayotte (NH) 20130225February 25, 2013
KingAngus S. King, Jr. (ME) 20140224February 24, 2014
HoevenJohn Hoeven (ND) 20150223February 23, 2015
CoonsChristopher A. Coons (DE) 20160222February 22, 2016
SasseBen Sasse (NE) 20170228February 28, 2017
PetersGary C. Peters (MI) 20180226February 26, 2018
Fischer, Deb (NE)Deb Fischer (NE) 20190225February 25, 2019
Baldwin, Tammy (WI)Tammy Baldwin (WI) 20200224February 24, 2020