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Addressing AmericaAddressing America

George Washington's Farewell and the Making of National Culture, Politics, and Diplomacy, 1796-1852

Jeffrey J. Malanson

Narrated by Charles Hield

Available from Audible

Book published by The Kent State University Press

In his presidential Farewell Address of 1796, George Washington presented a series of maxims to guide the construction of a wise foreign policy. He believed, as did generations of his adherents, that if the United States stayed true to the principles he discussed, the country would eventually attain national greatness and international respectability. These principles quickly became engrained in the DNA of what it meant to be an American in the first half of the nineteenth century, shaping the formation of U.S. foreign policy, politics, and political culture. The Declaration of Independence affirmed American ideals, the Constitution established American government, and the Farewell Address enabled Americans to understand their country and its place in the world. While the Declaration and Constitution have persisted as foundational documents, our appreciation for the Farewell Address has faded with time.

By focusing on the enduring influence of the Farewell Address on nineteenth-century Americans, and on their abiding devotion to Washington, author Jeffrey Malanson brings the Address back into the spotlight for twenty-first-century readers. When citizens gathered in town halls, city commons, and local churches to commemorate Washington, engagement with the Farewell Address was a cornerstone of their celebrations. This annual rededication to Washington’s principles made the Farewell Address both a framework for the attainment of national happiness and prosperity and a blueprint for national security, and it resulted in its position as the central text through which citizens of the early republic came to understand the connections between the nation’s domestic and foreign ambitions.

Through its focus on the diplomatic, political, and cultural impacts of Washington’s Farewell Address, Addressing America reasserts the fundamental importance of this critical document to the development of the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century.

Jeffrey J. Malanson is an assistant professor of history at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Malanson’s work has appeared in Diplomatic History and the Journal of the Early Republic.


Addressing America probes the centrality and versatility of Washington's Farewell Address in the politics of the early republic. In following the contested meanings Americans attributed to Washington's Farewell, Malanson illuminates both the continuities and adaptations that defined nineteenth-century statecraft. This superb book redefines our understanding of how nineteenth-century Americans understood the international role of their new republic. All readers interested in this period should take note of this important new study.”

—Jay Sexton, University of Oxford, author of The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth-Century America

“More than a cliché, Washington's Farewell Address became a battleground for antebellum politicians and diplomats who embraced vastly differing world views. Addressing America takes the issue of the country's role in global affairs beyond the halls of Congress and into the sphere of public debate. This well-written and thoroughly researched work changes the way we think about the Farewell Address and is a must-read for scholars interested in the early republic and the contest for the hearts and minds of the nation.”

—John M. Belohlavek, University of South Florida, author of Broken Glass: Caleb Cushing and the Shattering of the Union

“An original and significant contribution, Addressing America breaks new ground both empirically and conceptually. Jeffrey Malanson does much more than provide the most thorough account we now have of the vital presence of Washington's Farewell Address in American politics and culture during the first half of the nineteenth century. By skillfully operating on the two discrete but overlapping levels of federal policy-making and the must broader cultural domain of popular or public opinion, Malanson draws cogent thematic linkages and intergenerational connections that shed fresh light on the sprawling, turbulent era from Washington's presidency to the eve of the Civil War.”

—Drew R. McCoy, Jacob and Frances Hiatt Professor of History, Clark University, author of The Last of the Fathers: James Madison & The Republican Legacy

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