« ZurückWeiter »
WASHINGTON .had entered upon the presidency with the utmost reluctance, and at the sacrifice of all he considered pleasantest and best in life. He took it and held it for eight years from a sense of duty, and with no desire to retain it beyond that which every man feels who wishes to finish a great work that he has undertaken. He looked forward to the approaching end of his second term with a feeling of intense relief, and compared himself to the. wearied traveler who sees the resting-place where he is at length to have repose. On March 3 he gave a farewell dinner to the President and Vice-President elect, the foreign ministers and their wives, and other distinguished persons, from one of whom we learn that it was a very pleasant and lively gathering. When the cloth was removed Washington filled his glass and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is the last time I shall drink your health as a public man. I do it with sincerity, wishing you all possible happiness.” The company did not take the same cheerful view as their host of this leave-taking. There was a pause in the gayety, some of the ladies shed tears, and
the little incident only served to show the warm affection felt for Washington by every one who came in close contact with him.
The next day the last official ceremonies were performed. After Jefferson had taken the oath as Vice-President and had proceeded with the Senate to the House of Representatives, which was densely crowded, Washington entered and was received with cheers and shouts, the waving of handkerchiefs, and an enthusiasm which seemed to know no bounds. Mr. Adams followed him almost immediately and delivered his inaugural address, in which he paid a stately compliment to the great virtues of his predecessor. It was the setting and not the rising sun, however, that drew the attention of the multitude, and as Washington left the hall there was a wild rush from the gal. leries to the corridors and then into the streets to see him pass. He took off his hat and bowed to the people, but they followed him even to his own door, where he turned once more and, unable to speak, waved to them a silent farewell.
In the evening of the same day a great banquet was given to him by the merchants of Philadel. phia, and when he entered the band played “Washington's March,” and a series of emblematic paintings were disclosed, the chief of which represented the ex-President at Mount Vernon surrounded by the allegorical figures then so fashionable. After the festivities Washington lingered for a few days in Philadelphia to settle various private matters
and then started for home.
Whether he was go: ing or coming, whether he was about to take the great office of President or retire to the privacy of Mount Vernon, the same popular enthusiasm greeted him. When he was really brought in contact with the people, the clamors of the opposition press and the attacks of the Jeffersonian edi. tors all faded away and were forgotten. On March 12 he reached Baltimore, and the local newspaper of the next day said :
“Last evening arrived in this city, on his way to Mount Vernon, the illustrious object of veneration and gratitude, GEORGE WASHINGTON. His excellency was accompanied by his lady and Miss Custis, and by the son of the unfortunate Lafayette and his preceptor. At a distance from the city, he was met by a crowd of citizens, on horse and foot, who thronged the road to greet him, and by a detachment from Captain Hollingsworth's troop, who, escorted him in through as great a concourse of people as Baltimore ever witnessed. On alighting at the Fountain Inn, the general was saluted with reiterated and thundering huzzas from the spectators. His excellency, with the companions of his journey, leaves town, we understand, this morning.”
Thus with the cheers and the acclamations still ringing in his ears he came home again to Mount Vernon, where he found at once plenty of occupation, which in some form was always a necessity to him. An absence of eight years had not improved
the property. On April 3 he wrote to McHenry: “I find myself in the situation nearly of a new beginner; for, although I have not houses to build (except one, which I must erect for the accommodation and security of my military, civil, and private papers, which are voluminous and may be interesting), yet I have scarcely anything else about me that does not require considerable repairs. In a word, I am already surrounded by joiners, masons, and painters; and such is my anxiety to get out of their hands, that I have scarcely a room to put a friend into or to sit in myself without the music of hammers or the odoriferous scent of paint." He easily dropped back into the round of country duties and pleasures, and the care of farms and plantations, which had always had for him so much attraction. “To make and sell a little flour annually,” he wrote to Wolcott, "to repair houses going fast to ruin, to build one for the security of my papers of a public nature, will constitute employment for the few years I have to remain on this terrestrial globe.” Again he said to McHenry: “You are at the source of information, and can find many things to relate, while I have nothing to say that would either inform or amuse a secretary of war at Philadelphia. I might tell him that I begin my diurnal course with the sun; that if my hirelings are not in their places by that time I send them' messages of sorrow for their indisposition; that having put these wheels in motion I examine the state of
things further; that the more they are probed the deeper I find the wounds which my buildings have sustained by an absence and neglect of eight years; that by the time I have accomplished these matters breakfast (a little after seven o'clock, about the time I presume that you are taking leave of Mrs. McHenry) is ready; that this being over I mount my horse and ride round my farms, which employs me until it is time to dress for dinner, at which I rarely miss seeing strange faces, come, as they say, out of respect for me. Pray, would not the word curiosity answer as well? And how different this from having a few social friends at a cheerful board. The usual time of sitting at table, a walk, and tea bring me within the dawn of candle-light; previous to which, if not prevented by company, I resolve that as soon as the glimmering taper supplies the place of the great luminary I will retire to my writing-table and acknowledge the letters I have received; that when the lights are brought I feel tired and disinclined to engage in this work, conceiving that the next night will do as well. The next night comes and with it the same causes for postponement, and so on. Having given you the history of a day, it will serve for a year, and I am persuaded you will not require a second edition of it. But it may strike you that in this detail no mention is made of any portion of time allotted for reading. The remark would be just; for I have not looked into a book since I came home; nor shall I be able to do it until