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Ethos in Farewell Address

Ethos Examples in Farewell Address:

Text of Washington's Address

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"in the midst of my fellow-citizens,..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In a final appeal to ethos, Washington reconnects to the ideal of oneness and unity. He considers himself as one of many, one of the aforementioned “united mass.” He purposefully lowers his status in order to make it clear that he gives this advice as a fellow American, not as a superior.

"the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In the final few paragraphs of his address, Washington returns with an appeal to ethos by insisting on his so-called incompetence. He draws a parallel between how his “incompetent abilities” will be forgotten and how he too will be forgotten in death. By describing death as being laid to rest in a mansion—or “in my Father’s house” according to the biblical Book of John, 14:2—Washington envisions that death will be finite. This idea of stagnancy—of resting in a mausoleum—contrasts against the vision he has for an ever-progressing nation. On December 14, 1799, only about three years after this farewell address, Washington died in Mount Vernon.

"my countrymen, these counsels of an old and affectionate friend, ..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

For the first time in the address, Washington calls his readers his “countrymen.” This is one of the most personal portions of the address because he seems to be speaking directly to his readers as if he were their “old and affectionate friend.” This strategy connects Washington to them through a more personal bond, and in turn, it makes them more willing to listen and take heed of his advice.

"admonishes..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

The verb “admonish” means to warn someone. In his continuing appeal to ethos, Washington asserts his humility by claiming that his many years of service have warned him “more and more” that his retirement is impending. He believes now is the right time for him to return to his hometown.

"Not unconscious, in the outset, of the inferiority of my qualifications, experience in my own eyes..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Despite serving as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and President of the United States for two terms, Washington maintains that he may be underqualified for the task of offering advice to fellow Americans. This supposed meekness or shyness serves as a rhetorical strategy because it appeals to ethos, establishing the credibility of his character. By stating that “the inferiority of [his] qualifications” has caused him self-doubt or “diffidence,” Washington conveys that, like his audience, he is only a modest American. He understands that this appeal to ethos will cause his audience to more readily accept his advice.

"acquiescence in its measures..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this passage about taxes, Washington calls on the American people to summon up a “spirit of acquiescence” with regards to the dreaded practice. The noun “acquiescence” refers to the contented acceptance of something undesirable. By admitting that taxes are “more or less inconvenient and unpleasant,” Washington comes across as an honest, relatable, and credible figure whose ideas are realistic.

"There is an opinion, that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true;..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

In this paragraph, Washington weighs the counterargument to his critique of two-party politics. According to this opposing opinion, the presence of multiple parties provides checks and balances to the reigning administration. Washington concedes that such a party system is vital when placing checks on a monarch but states that this is not the case in democratic nations such as the United States. Washington’s tactic of considering and judging the counter claim is an example of an appeal to ethos, winning the audience’s favor by displaying his open-mindedness and breadth of knowledge.

"which are the result of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Washington prefaces his ideas by describing the care and attention he put into them. They supposedly arose “of much reflection, of no inconsiderable observation.” This is a clear appeal to ethos, for Washington seeks to make his ideas appear more legitimate by emphasizing their rigor.

"Here, perhaps I ought to stop. But a solicitude for your welfare which cannot end but with my life, and the apprehension of danger, natural to that solicitude, urge me..."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Washington begins the main body of the address with a distinct rhetorical move. He remarks that “Here, perhaps I ought to stop” before embarking on a series of prescriptions for the country, which he shares out of concern “for your welfare.” By framing his thoughts as motivated entirely by his sense of duty and his care for the audience, he gives his ideas more credibility.

"the constancy of your support was the essential prop of the efforts, and a guarantee of the plans by which they were effected...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Here Washington foregrounds the virtues of the American people, citing the central role their support played in the successes he oversaw. This is an example of an appeal to pathos, for Washington is playing to the emotions of the audience with his insistent praise.

"patriotism does not forbid it...."   (Text of Washington's Address)

Washington strives to make his exit from public office as dignified as possible. He offers numerous reasons for his decision to leave, remarking that “choice and prudence” invite him to do so. Perhaps most importantly of all, patriotism—his love for the United States—“does not forbid it.” By figuring patriotism as an external agent, Washington makes his position more credible. It is important to Washington that he maintain his reputation as a dedicated patriot, even after retirement.

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