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On Sept. 19, 1796, Philadelphia's American Daily Advertiser published president George Washington’s farewell address. In the letter, Washington — who near the end of his second term announced his intention to decline a third term in public office — offered his thoughts, concerns, and hopes for the fledgling nation he helped create.

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Surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown by John Trumbull (1797)

It has been a standard trope for at least the last decade that the country has never been more divided against itself. A recent Pew poll showed Republicans and Democrats more ideologically divided than ever before. Government shutdowns and legislative gridlock seem to inspire the notion that we are splitting apart as a nation, and that our differences will ultimately put our best days behind us.

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When the final text of the Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776, it was the product of months of hotly contested debate among the delegates of the Continental Congress. It was also a very different document than what had been originally proposed by its drafter; a young lawyer and plantation owner named Thomas Jefferson.

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