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Today in history: September 19
In 1796, George Washington delivered his famous farewell address
 
George Washington left on a high note.
George Washington left on a high note. CORBIS

Sept. 19, 1796: President Washington announced he would not seek a third term and would retire instead. In his farewell address — one of the most important declarations in American history — Washington urged Americans to avoid permanent alliances with other nations, and to remain unified despite their sharp differences on the issues.

Washington actually never delivered his farewell address before any audience; it was sent to newspapers around the country.

Washington's decision was extraordinary: In the history of western civilization there were few, if any instances of a leader voluntarily stepping down. Washington's farewell address was never actually spoken — but given to newspapers.

Sept. 19, 1881: Ten weeks after being shot, James Garfield died. He was the 20th president, and served just six months in office. Vice President Chester Arthur was sworn in the next day. Garfield was the second of four presidents who were assassinated in office. Lincoln (1865), McKinley (1901), and Kennedy (1963) were the others.

Quote of the Day

"Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty." — George Washington

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