Addressing America investigates the American attachment to George Washington and his presidential Farewell Address in the first half of the nineteenth century. In the Farewell Address Washington presented general principles to guide U.S. foreign policy. Washington believed that if the United States stayed true to these principles the country would eventually attain national greatness and international respectability. The enduring influence of the Farewell Address with nineteenth-century Americans stemmed directly from their enduring devotion to Washington himself. Washington’s Birthday and Independence Day were the only holidays celebrated by most communities throughout the young country each year. 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 the central text through which citizens of the early republic came to understand the connections between the nation’s domestic and foreign ambitions.
“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
“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
“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 much 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
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