« ZurückWeiter »
safety, and independence ; on which happy event, we sincerely join you in congratulations.
“ Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world ; having taught a lesson useful to those who inflict, and to those who feel oppression, you retire from the great theatre of action, with the blessings of your fellow citizens; but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command; it will continue to animate remotest ages.
“ We feel, with you, our obligations to the army in general, and will particulary charge ourselves with the interests of those confidential officers, who have at. tended your person to this affecting moment.
“We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, beseeching him to dispose the hearts and minds of its citizens, to improve the opportunity afforded them of becoming a happy and respectable nation. And for you, we address to him our earnest prayers, that a life so beloved, may be fostered with all his care ; that your days may be as happy as they have been illustrious; and that he will finally give you that reward which this world cannot give."
The General immediately retired from the hall of Congress. The minds of the spectators were deeply impressed by the scene. The recollection of the circumstances of the country at the time the commission was accepted, the events that had since taken place, and the glorious issue of the conflict conspired to give the scene the most lively interest.
His country being exalted to the dignity of a sovereign and independent nation, General WASHINGTON with great satisfaction resigned the arduous duties and high responsibility of his military command. He repaired to Mount Vernon, in the delightful prospect of spending the residue of his days in the bosom of domestick life.
With an immaculate character he had passed
through all the complicated transactions of a revolutionary war ; and had established an immortal reputation as a soldier and a patriot, throughout the civilized world. To his retirement he carried the profound veneration and most lively affection of his grateful countrymen. In the estimation of his friends, the measure of his honour was full. The extent of their wishes was, that no unpropitious event might take place to tarnish the lustre of his reputation ; but that in peace he might descend to the grave, with his laurel crown unfaded on his head.
General Washington in Retirement His Pursuits--Votes of Con
gress and of the Legislature of Virginia respecting him— His Visitors and Correspondents-His Plans to improve the Navigation of the Potomack and James' Rivers,
Declines the grant of Virginia-His Advice to the Cincinnati-State of Publick Affairs -National Convention General Washington its PresidentFederal Constitution recommended and adopted-General Washington requested to consent to administer the Government-He is chosen President of the United States-Sets out for the Seat of Government-Attention shown him on his Journey-His Reception at New-York.
1784. PEACE being restored to his country upon the broad basis of Independence, General WASHINGTON with supreme delight retired to the pursuits of private life. In a letter to Governour Clinton, written three days after his arrival at Mount Vernon, he thus ex. pressed the grateful feelings of his heart on being relieved from the weight of his publick station. scene is at length closed. I feel myself eased of a load of publick care, and hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good men, and in the practice of the domestick virtues.”
This sentiment was more fully expressed to the Marquis La Fayette. “I have become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomack, and under the sha
dow of my own vine and own fig tree, free from the bustle of a camp, and the busy scenes of publick life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the soldier who is ever in pursuit of fame, the statesman whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries (as if the globe was insufficient for us all) and the courtier who is always watching the countenance of his Prince in the hope of catching a gracious smile, can have very little conception. I have not only retired from all publick employments, but am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view the solitary walk and trèad the paths of private life with heart-felt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this, my dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move down the stream of life, until I sleep with my fathers.”
But delighted as he was with his domestick enjoyments, he found it to be the work of time to divest him. self of the feelings and habits formed in his publick station. “I am just beginning,” said he in a letter to a friend,“ to experience the ease and freedom from publick cares, which, however desirable, takes some time to realize ; for strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that it was not until lately I could get the better of my usual custom of ruminating as soon as I awoke in the morning, on the business of the ensuing day; and of my surprise at finding, after revolving many things in my mind, that I was no longer a publick man, or had any thing to do with publick transactions. I feel, now however, as I conceive a wearied traveller must do, who, after treading many a painful step with a heavy burden on his shoulders, is eased of the latter, having reached the haven to which all the former were directed, and from his house-top is looking back and tracing with an eager eye, the meanders by which he escaped the quicksands and mires which lay
in his way, and into which none but the all-powerful Guide and Dispenser of human events could have prevented his falling."
Soon after the proclamation of peace, Congress unanimously resolved to erect at the place which should be established as the permanent seat of government, an equestrian statue of General WASHINGTON. This resolution, however, has not yet been carried into effect.
Virginia also bore an honourable testimony of the sense entertained of the services of her distinguished citizen. In a spacious area in the centre of the capital of that state, she erected a marble statue of him, with the following inscription on its pedestal.
“ The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia have caused this statue to be erected as a monument of affection and gratitude to GEORGE WASHINGTON, who, uniting in the endowments of the HERO the virtues of the PATRIOT, and exerting both in the establishment of the liberties of his country, has rendered his name dear to his fellow citizens, and given the world an immortal example of true glory.”
In addition to these expressions of publick veneration, innumerable addresses from literary and other incorporations were presented to him, which, in ardent language, expressed the veneration universally felt for his character, and the admiration entertained for his services. His well-balanced mind bore these publick and private honours without a symptom of vanity or pride.
The pursuits of General WASHINGTON at this period were a renewal of habits, formed at an earlier part of life, and a recurrence to employments in which he ever took delight; and he experienced nothing of that dissatisfaction and listlessness of which gentlemen often complain, who leave the cares of a publick station for the tranquil scenes of retirement. The improvement of American husbandry engaged his close
attention, and in the prosecution of plans adapted to this purpose, he entered into a correspondence with Mr. Arthur Young, and other distinguished European agriculturists. The result of their information, and of his own experience, he applied, to amend his farming implements, to improve his breed of cattle, and in various experiments, suited to the soil be cultivated. The plans which succeeded with him, he recommended to the farmers around him.
But even in the shade of Mount Vernon, the time of General WASHINGTON was not wholly at his own disposal. Every foreigner of distinction who visited the United States was urgent for an introduction to the late Commander in Chief; and every American of any consequence, who was about to cross the Atlantick, was ambitious to obtain letters from him to celebrated characters in Europe. With numbers of the officers of the late army, with many of the political characters of his own country, and with several eminent individuals of Europe, he held a correspondence. Ceremonious visitors and officious correspondents became oppressive to him, and in a letter to a friend, he thus complained of the burden of them. “It is not, my dear Sir, the letters of my friends which give me trouble, or add ought to my perplexity. I receive them with pleasure, and pay as much attention to them as my avocations will permit. It is references to old matters with which I have nothing to do ; applications which often times cannot be complied with ; inquiries to satisfy which would employ the pen of an historian ; letters of compliment, as unmeaning, perhaps, as they are troublesome, but which must be attended to; and the common place business, which employ my pen and my time, often disagreeably. Indeed these, with company, deprive me of exercise ; and unless I can obtain relief, must be productive of disagreeable consequences. Already, I begin to feel their effects. Heavy and painful oppressions of the head, and other disa