« ZurückWeiter »
again, and the time necessary for its performance and because they have no other means of coming to us, but by a long land transportation through unim. proved roads."
These recommendations were not lost. Under the patronage of the governments of Virginia and Maryland, two companies were formed for opening the navigation of the Potomack and the James. Of both which General WASHINGTON consented to be the president. The Legislature of Virginia by a resolution which passed unanimously, directed the treasurer of the state to subscribe for one hundred and fifty shares in each company for the benefit of General WASHINGTON. The appropriation was made in a manner the most affecting to a noble mind. The assembly expressed a wish, that while the improvements of their inland navigation were inonuments of his glory, they might also be monuments of his country's gratitude. The donation placed him in a very delicate and embarrassed situation. The feelings excited by this generous and honourable act of his state, he fully expressed to the friend, who informed him of the passage of the bill. “ It is not easy for me to decide by which my mind was most affected upon the receipt of your letter of the sixth instant-surprise or gratitude. Both were greater than I had words to express. The attention and good wishes which the assembly has evidenced by their act for vesting in me one hundred and fifty shares in the navigation of the rivers Potomack and James, is more than mere compliment--there is an unequivocal and substantial meaning annexed. But, believe me, Sir, no circumstance has happened sincel left the walks of publick life which has so much embarrassed me. On the one hand, I consider this act, as I have already observed, as a noble and unequivocal proof of the good opinion, the affection, and disposition of my country to serve me ; and I should be hurt, if by declining the acceptance of it, my refusal should be
construed into disrespect, or the smallest slight upon the general intention of the Legislature; or that an ostentatious display of disinterestedness, or publick virtue, was the source of refusal.
“On the other hand, it is really my wish to have my mind and my actions, which are the result of reflection, as free and independent as the air, that I may be more at liberty (in things which my opportunities and experience have brought me to the knowledge of) to express my sentiments, and if necessary, to suggest what may occur to me, under the fullest. conviction that although my judgment may be arraigned, there will be no suspicion that sinister motives had the small- : est influence in the suggestion. Not content then with the bare consciousness of my having in all this navigation business, acted upon the clearest conviction of the political importance of the measure. I would wish that every individual who may hear that it was a favourite plan of mine, may know also, that I had no other motive for promoting it, than the ad.. vantage of which I conceived it would be productive to the union at large, and to this state in particular, by cementing the eastern and western territory together, at the same time that it will give vigour and increase to our commerce, and be a convenience to our citi
" How would this matter be viewed then by the eye of the world, and what opinion would be formed when it comes to be related that G***** W********n exerted himself to effect this work, and that G***** W********n has received twenty thousand dollars and five thousand pounds sterling of the publick money as an interest therein? Would not this (if I am entitled to any merit for the part I have performed, and without it there is no foundation for the act) deprive me of the principal thing which is laudable in my conduct ? Would it not in some respects be considered in the same light as a pension ? And would not the
apprehension of this induce me to offer my sentiments in future with the more reluctance ? In a word under whatever pretence, and however customary these gratuities may be in other countries, should I not thence forward be considered as a dependant ? One moment's thought of which would give me more pain than I should receive pleasure from the product of all the tolls, was every farthing of them vested in me.”
After great deliberation, he determined to appropriate the shares to such publick uses as the Legislature should approve. In communicating this determination through the Governour, to the General As sembly, he begged him to assure them that he was "filled on the occasion with every sentiment which can flow from a heart, warm with love to his country sensible to every token of its approbation and affection, und solicitous to testify in every instance a respectful attention to its wishes." According to his desire, the shares were appropriated to the support of a college in the vicinity of each of those rivers.
The Cincinnati had in their original constitution secured perpetuity of existence to their society. The eldest male posterity of the officers were to succeed to the places of their fathers, and in the failure of them, a collateral branch might be introduced. Individuals also of the respective states, distinguished for their talents and patriotism, might be admitted as honorary members for life. In this part of the institution, some American patriots thought they perceived the seeds of an order of nobility, and publick jealousy was excited against the society. General WASHINGTON, their President, conceived that if popular prejudices could not be removed, the society ought “ to yield to them in a degree, and not suffer that which was intended for the best of purposes to produce a bad one." On full inquiry, he found that objections to the insti. tution were general throughout the United States, under the apprehension that it would prove dangerous
to publick liberty, he therefore exerted his influence , among the officers to induce them to drop the offensive part of the institution, and at the annual meeting in May 1787, the hereditary principle, and the power to adopt honorary members, were expunged from the constitution. This modification fully removed the publick apprehension.
Experience proved the articles under which the United States originally confederated to be inadequate to the purposes of national government; and wise and good men in every part of the union anxiously looked forward to a crisis in publick affairs. Many of Goneral WASHINGTON's friends intimated to him that tho occasion would call for his personal influence. Mr. Jay, in letters written in the spring and summer of 1786, with feeling described the state of the country, “ You have wisely retired from publick employments, and calmly view from the temple of fame, the various exertions of that sovereignty and independence, which Providence has enabled you to be so greatly and gloriously instrumental in securing to your country, yet I am persuaded that you cannot view them with the eye of an unconcerned spectator.
“Experience has pointed out errours in our national government which call for correction, and which threaten to blast the fruit we expected from the tree of liberty. An opinion begins to prevail that a general convention for revising the articles of confederation would be expedient. Whether the people are yet ripe for such a measure, or whether the system pro-, posed to be obtained by it is only to be expected from calamity and commotion is difficult to ascertain
5 I think we are in a delicate situation, and a vario ty of considerations and circumstances give me un. easiness. It is in contomplation to take measures for forming a general convention. The plan is not ma- . tured. If it should be well connected and take effect, I am fervent in my wishes that it may comport with
the line of life you have marked out for yourself, to favour your country with your counsels on such an important and single occasion.
« Our affairs seem to lead to some crisis, something that I cannot foreses or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive, more so than during the war. Then we had a fixed object, and though the means and time of obtaining it were problematical, yet I did firmly believe that we should ultimately succeed, because I did firmly believe that justice was with us. The case is now altered. We are going and doing wrong, and therefore I look forward to evils and calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them.
" That we shall again recover, and things again go well, I have no doubt. Such a variety of circumstances would not, almost miraculously, have combined to liberate and make us a nation, for transient and un. important purposes. I therefore believe that we are yet to become a great and respectable people; but when or how, only the spirit of prophecy can discern.
“ What I most fear is, that the better kind of people (by which I mean the people who are orderly and in. dustrious, who are content with their situations, and not uneasy in their circumstances) will be led by tho insecurity of property, the loss of confidence in their rulers, and the want of publick faith and rectitude, to consider the charms of liberty as imaginary and delusive. A state of uncertainty and fuctuation must disgust and alarm such men, and prepare their minds for almost any change that may promise them quiet and security."
To these weighty communications General WASHINGTON replied.
“ Your sentiments that our affairs are drawing ra. pidly to a crisis, accord with my own. What the event will be, is also beyond the reach of my foresight. We have errours to correct; we have probably had