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  4. George Washington's Farewell Address: Did the U.S. Take His Advice?

George Washington's Farewell Address: Did the U.S. Take His Advice?

Lesson Author
Required Time Frame
2-3 days
Grade Level(s)
Lesson Abstract
This activity incorporates the study of primary sources and cooperative learning.

This activity incorporates the study of primary sources and cooperative learning.

    Rationale (why are you doing this?)
    • The primary goal of this lesson is to teach 8th grade students the ideas Washington presented in his Farewell Address and the Monroe Doctrine.  This is material from the 8th grade curriculum. 
    • A secondary goal is to expose students to the Roosevelt Corollary, the Truman Doctrine, the Eisenhower Doctrine, and the Bush Doctrine, which is material that is not a part of the 8th grade curriculum. 
    • In relation to skills, this activity exposes students to the process of analyzing primary source documents, teaches them to see the context in which those documents were written and the subtext of the person writing the document, and encourages them to use specific information from the primary sources to back up their opinion regarding the central question.
    Lesson Objectives - the student will
    • Students will analyze primary source documents, pulling out important information that relates to the central question
    • Students will analyze the context in which the primary source was written.  What was going on at the time? 
    • Students will analyze the subtext in which the primary source was written.  Who created this source?  For whom was it created?  Why was this source produced?
    District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met
    • Kansas State Standard #4 – Societies experience continuity and change over time.
    • 4.1 – The student will recognize and evaluate continuity and change over time and its impact on individuals, institutions, communities, states and nations.
    • 4.2 – The student will analyze the context of continuity and change and the vehicles of reform drawing conclusions about past change and potential future change.
    • 4.3 – The student will investigate an example of continuity and/or change and connect that continuity and/or change to a contemporary issue


    US History
    3aW:  Describe and evaluate the evolution of United States domestic and foreign policies including the Cold War.
    3aY:  Describe the changing character of American society and culture.
    6N:  Predict the consequences that can occur when institutions fail to meet the needs of individuals and groups.
    7A:  Distinguish between and analyze primary and secondary sources.

      Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed

      Video Clip explaining the “Bush Doctrine” -

      Primary sources needed (document, photograph, artifact, diary or letter, audio or visual recording, etc.) needed
      • Excerpts from Washington’s Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt Corollary, the Truman Doctrine and the Eisenhower Doctrine (provided)
      • Primary sources adapted from
      Fully describe the activity or assignment in detail. What will both the teacher and the students do?

      1)    Show students a picture of George Washington and ask the following question:  Do you think of Washington as a general, or as a President? 


      • Military – French and Indian War, crossed the Delaware and attacked at Trenton, Valley Forge, Battle of Yorktown
      • President – Established the National Bank, dealt with the Whisky Rebellion, willingly stepped down from power


      2)    Hand out copies of Washington’s Farewell Address to the class.  Before reading the excerpt out loud, tell students to underline the advice that Washington is giving his country in this speech, and be prepared to pick out what you believe is his “best advice.”  Have students share their ideas.  Create a list that students can refer back to as the activity progresses.  Possible ideas to discuss are: 


      • Treat all countries with respect
      • Attempt to get along with all countries
      • Avoid buddying up to countries
      • Avoid constant conflict with countries
      • Concentrate on trading with countries
      • Stay out of Europe’s business
      • Use our isolation to our advantage
      • Avoid permanent alliances


      Discuss the concepts of “context” and “subtext.”  What was the country like when Washington gave this speech?  What was the world like?  Is there something about Washington’s background that would lead him to giving this advice?


      3)    Jigsaw


      • Introduce the central question:  Did the United States follow George Washington’s advice?
      • Create four groups and give each group one of the following primary sources:  Monroe Doctrine, Roosevelt Corollary, Truman Doctrine, Eisenhower Doctrine
      • Have each group answer the central question from the perspective of their primary source document.  Encourage each group to answer the question by pulling specific material from the primary source that they are looking at.  You may want to have each group give a number from 1-10 as a way to quantify their answers (1 meaning they did not follow Washington’s advice at all, 10 meaning they followed Washington’s advice completely.)
      • As a class, refer to a timeline from 1796-1957.  Label 1823, 1904, 1947 and 1957 – the years of each of the four documents.  When groups are done, ask the following question:  What are some events we could fill in this timeline around 1823, 1904, 1947, and 1957?  (Civil War, WW I, WW II, etc.) 
      • Have each group share their answer to the central question.  Refer back to your list of ideas from Washington’s Farewell Address and the timeline, as needed.  You should address the context and subtext of each document.  You may have to provide this, since this is material that is typically not a part of 8th grade curriculum.
      • Finish with the following series of questions:  How long did the United States follow Washington’s advice?  Why do you think the U.S. stopped following his advice?  Was this a mistake?  Was this inevitable?


      4)    Ask students the following question:  Are we following Washington’s advice today?  After discussing this question, watch the YouTube video and discuss the “Bush Doctrine.”  Was the “Bush Doctrine” inevitable?


      5)    Assignment:  On butcher paper, have students complete a timeline from 1796-Present Day.  In groups of three, the three jobs could be 1) artist 2) writer 3) presenter.  Artists draw the pictures on the timeline, writers write the text on the timeline, and presenters are in charge of presenting material to the class.  Students must include the following two elements on their timeline: 


      • Students must draw a picture for each of the six ideas in the activity (Washington’s Farewell Address, the Monroe Doctrine, the Roosevelt Corollary, the Truman Doctrine, the Eisenhower Doctrine, and the Bush Doctrine.)
      • Students must use text to describe how the country’s views regarding Washington’s advice changed during this time.


      Have groups present their timelines upon completion.


      George Washington – Farewell Address (1796)



      “Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all….It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the…example of a people always guided by an exalted justice….


      In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent and inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated.  The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave.  It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection….


      The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible….Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation.  Hence, she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns….


      Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course….


      Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation?  Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground?  Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?


      It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world….”



      Cultivate – build


      Enlightened – educated


      Exalted – distinguished


      Inveterate – deep-rooted


      Antipathies – dislike


      Amicable – friendly


      Indulges – caters


      Habitual – constant


      Animosity – dislike


      James Monroe – Seventh Annual Message to Congress - Monroe Doctrine (1823)


      “…the occasion has been judged proper for asserting, as a principle in which the rights and interests of the United States are involved, that the American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintain, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers…


      In the wars of the European powers in matters relating to themselves we have never taken any part, nor does it comport with our policy to do so.  It is only when our rights are invaded or seriously menaced that we…make preparation for our defense….We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety.  With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere.  But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintain it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States.


      Our policy in regard to Europe, which was adopted at an early stage of the wars which have so long agitated that quarter of the globe, nevertheless remains the same, which is, not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers…


      …It is still the true policy of the United States to leave the parties to themselves, in hope that other powers will pursue the same course.”



      Henceforth – hereafter


      Comport – agree


      Menaced – bothered


      Candor – honesty


      Amicable – friendly


      Interposition – intrusion


      Manifestation – demonstration


      Disposition – attitude


      Agitated – bothered


      Theodore Roosevelt – Annual Message to Congress – Roosevelt Corollary (1904)



      “It is not true that the United States feels any land hunger or entertains any projects as regards the other nations of the Western Hemisphere save such as are for their welfare.  All that this country desires is to see the neighboring countries stable, orderly, and prosperous.  Any country whose people conduct themselves well can count upon our hearty friendship….Chronic wrongdoing, or an impotence which results in a general loosening of the ties of civilized society, may in Americ