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said, “ seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by a reasonable compact in civil society. It was to be, in the first instance, in a considerable degree, a government of accommodation as well as a government of laws. Much was to be done by prudence, much by conciliation, much by firmness. Few who are not philosophical spectators can realize the difficult and delicate part which a man in my situation had to act. All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external happiness of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity. In our progress towards political happiness my station is new, and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely an action the motive of which may not be subject to a double interpretation. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent. If, after all my humble but faithful endeavors to advance the felicity of my country and mankind, I may indulge a hope that my labors have not been altogether without success, it will be the only real compensation I can receive in the closing scenes of life.”
There is nothing very stimulating to the imagination in this soberness of mind and calmness of utterance. The military conquerors and the saviors of society, with epigrammatic sayings, dramatic effects and rhythmic proclamations, are much more exciting and dazzle the fancy much better. But it is this seriousness of mind, coupled with intensity of purpose and grim persistence, which has made the English-speaking race spread over the world and carry successful government in its train. The personal empire of Napoleon had crumbled before he died an exile in St. Helena, but the work of Washington still endures. Just what that work was, and how it was achieved, is all that still remains to be considered.
The policies set on foot and carried through under the first federal administration were so brilliant and so successful that we are apt to forget that months elapsed before the first of them was even announced. When Washington, on May 1, 1789, began his duties, there was absolutely nothing of the government of the United States in existence but a president and a congress. The imperfect and broken machinery of the confederation still moved feebly, and performed some of the absolutely necessary functions of government. But the new organization had nothing to work with except these outworn remnants of a discarded system. There were no departments, and no arrangements for the collection of revenue or the management of the postal service. A few scattered soldiers formed the army, and no navy existed. There were no funds and no financial resources. There were not even traditions and forms of government, and, slight as these things may seem, settled methods of doing public business are essential to its prompt and proper transaction. These forms had to be devised and adopted first, and although they seem matters of course now, after a century of use, they were the subject of much thought and of some sharp controversy in 1789. The manner in which the President was to be addressed caused some heated discussion even before the inauguration. America had but just emerged from the colonial condition, and the colonial habits were still unbroken. In private letters we find Washington referred to as “ His Highness," and in some newspapers as “ His Highness the PresidentGeneral,” while the Senate committee reported in favor of addressing him as “ His Highness the President of the United States and Protector of their Liberties.” In the House, however, the democratic spirit was strong, there was a fierce attack upon the proposed titles, and that body ended by addressing Washington simply as the “President of the United States,” which, as it happened, settled the question finally. Washington personally cared little for titles, although, as John Adams wrote to Mrs. Warren, he thought them appropriate to high office. But in this case he saw that there was a real danger lurking in the empty name, and so he was pleased by the decision of the House. Another matter was the relation between the President and the Senate. Should he communicate with them in writing or orally, being present during their deliberations as if they formed an executive council? It was promptly decided might be misunderstood, he had the same diffidence in his own abilities which weighed upon him when he took command of the armies. His passion for success, which determined him to accept the Presidency, if it was deemed indispensable that he should do so, made him dread failure with an almost morbid keenness, although his courage was too high and his will too strong ever to draw back. Responsibility weighed upon his spirits, but it could not daunt him. He wrote to Trumbull in December, 1788, that he saw "nothing but clouds and darkness before him," but when the hour came he was ready. The elections were favorable to the Federalists. The electoral colleges gave Washington their unanimous vote, and on April 16th, having been duly notified by Congress of his election, he left Mount Vernon for New York, to assume the conduct of the government, and stand at the head of the new Union in its first battle for life.
From the early day when he went out to seek Shirley and win redress against the assumptions of British officers, Washington's journeys to the north had been memorable in their purposes. He had travelled northward to sit in the first continental congress, to take command of the army, and to preside over the constitutional convention. Now he went, in the fulness of his fame, to enter upon a task, less dangerous, perhaps, than leading armies, but more beset with difficulties, and more perilous to his fame, reputation, and peace of mind than any he had yet undertaken. He felt all this keenly, and noted in his diary: “ About ten o'clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity ; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York, with the best disposition to render service to my country, in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations.”
The first stage of his journey took him only to Alexandria, a few miles from his home, where a public dinner was given to him by his friends and neighbors. He was deeply moved when he rose to reply to the words of affection addressed to him by the mayor, as spokesman of the people. “ All that now remains for me,” he said, " is to commit myself and you to the care of that beneficent Being who, on a former occasion, happily brought us together after a long and distressing separation. Perhaps the same gracious Providence will again indulge me. But words fail me. Unutterable sensations must then be left to more expressive silence, while from an aching heart I bid all my affectionate friends and kind neighbors farewell.”
So he left his home, sad at the parting, looking steadily, but not joyfully, to the future, and silent as was his wont. The simple dinner with his friends and neighbors at Alexandria was but the beginning of the chorus of praise and God-speed, which rose higher and stronger as he advanced. The road, as he travelled, was lined with people, to