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Life And Times Of Washington, Volume 2 by John Frederick Schroeder and Benson John Lossing

Part 15 out of 16

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principles, however specious the pretexts. One method of assault may be
to effect in the forms of the constitution alterations which will
impair the energy of the system, and thus to undermine what cannot be
directly overthrown. In all the changes to which you may be invited
remember that time and habit are at least as necessary to fix the true
characters of governments as of other human institutions--that
experience is the surest standard by which to test the real tendency of
the existing constitution of a country--that facility in changes upon
the credit of mere hypothesis, and opinion exposes to perpetual change
from the endless variety of hypothesis and opinion--and remember,
especially, that for the efficient management of your common interests,
in a country so extensive as ours, a government of as much vigor as is
consistent with the perfect security of liberty is indispensable.
Liberty itself will find in such a government, with powers properly
distributed and adjusted, its surest guardian. It is, indeed, little
else than a name, where the government is too feeble to withstand the
enterprises of faction, to confine each member of the society within
the limits prescribed by the laws, and to maintain all in the secure
and tranquil enjoyment of the rights of person and property.

I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State,
with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical
discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view and warn you
in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of
party generally.

This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its
root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under
different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled,
or repressed but in those of the popular form it is seen in its
greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy.

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the
spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages
and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a
frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and
permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries which result gradually
incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute
power of an individual, and sooner or later the chief of some
prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors,
turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation on the
ruins of public liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind (which
nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight) the common and
continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it
the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the
public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded
jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against
another; foments occasional riot and insurrection. It opens the door to
foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to
the government itself, through the channel of party passions. Thus the
policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will
of another.

There is an opinion that parties in free countries are useful checks
upon the administration of the government and serve to keep alive the
spirit of liberty. This, within certain limits, is probably true, and
in governments of a monarchical cast patriotism may look with
indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those
of the popular character, in governments purely elective, it is a
spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency it is certain
there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose,
and, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by
force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be
quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a
flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.

It is important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free
country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its
administration to confine themselves within their respective
constitutional spheres, avoiding, in the exercise of the powers of one
department, to encroach upon another. The spirit of encroachment tends
to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to
create, whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just
estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which
predominate in the human heart, is sufficient to satisfy us of the
truth of this position. The necessity of reciprocal checks in the
exercise of political power, by dividing and distributing it into
different depositories and constituting each the guardian of the public
weal against invasions of the others, has been evinced by experiments
ancient and modern, some of them in our country and under our own eyes.
To preserve them must be as necessary as to institute them. If, in the
opinion of the people, the distribution or modification of the
constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected
by an amendment in the way which the constitution designates. But let
there be no change by usurpation, for though this, in one instance, may
be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free
governments are destroyed. The precedent must always greatly
overbalance, in permanent evil, any partial or transient benefit which
the use can at any time yield.

Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity,
religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that
man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these
great pillars of human happiness--these firmest props of the duties of
men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man,
ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all
their connections with private and public felicity. Let it simply be
asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if
the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the
instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with
caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without
religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined
education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both
forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of
religious principles. It is substantially true, that virtue or morality
is a necessary spring of popular government. This rule indeed extends
with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that
is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to
shake the foundation of the fabric?

Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the
general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a
government gives force to public opinion it is essential that public
opinion should be enlightened.

As a very important source of strength and security, cherish public
credit. One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as
possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but
remembering also, that timely disbursements to prepare for danger,
frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it; avoiding
likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of
expense, but by vigorous exertions in time of peace to discharge the
debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously
throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.
The execution of these maxims belongs to your representatives, but it
is necessary that public opinion should cooperate. To facilitate to
them the performance of their duty, it is essential that you should
practically bear in mind, that toward the payment of debts there must
be revenue; that to have revenue there must be taxes; that no taxes can
be devised which are not more or less inconvenient and unpleasant; that
the intrinsic embarrassment inseparable from the selection of the
proper objects (which is always a choice of difficulties), ought to be
a decisive motive for a candid construction of the conduct of the
government in making it, and for a spirit of acquiescence in the
measures for obtaining revenue, which the public exigencies may at any
time dictate.

Observe good faith and justice toward all nations, cultivate peace and
harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct, and can it
be that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a
free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great nation, to give
to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always
guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt, that, in
the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly
repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady
adherence to it? Can it be, that Providence has not connected the
permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at
least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature.
Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan nothing is more essential than that
permanent inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and
passionate attachments for others, should be excluded, and that, in
place of them, just and amicable feelings toward all should be
cultivated. The nation which indulges toward another an habitual
hatred, or an habitual fondness, is in some degree a slave. It is a
slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is
sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy
in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer
insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage and to be
haughty and intractable when accidental or trifling occasions of
dispute occur.

Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed and bloody contests.
The nation, prompted by ill will and resentment, sometimes impels to
war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The
government sometimes participates in the national propensity and adopts
through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the
animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated
by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The
peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty of nations has been the

So, likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another
produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation,
facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases
where no real common interest exists and infusing into one the enmities
of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels
and wars of the latter, without adequate inducements or justification.
It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges
denied to others, which are apt doubly to injure the nation making the
concessions by unnecessary parting with what ought to have been
retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will, and a disposition to
retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld, and
it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote
themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the
interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with
popularity, gilding with the appearances of a virtuous sense of
obligation to a commendable deference for public opinion or a laudable
zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition,
corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments
are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent
patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic
factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion,
to influence or awe the public councils! Such an attachment of a small
or weak, toward a great and powerful nation, dooms the former to be the
satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to
believe me, fellow-citizens), the jealousy of a free people ought to
be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign
influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But
that jealousy, to be useful, must be impartial, else it becomes the
instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense
against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive
dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on
one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on
the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite
are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes
usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their

The great rule of conduct for us, in regard to foreign nations, is, in
extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little
political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed
engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us

Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none, or a very
remote, relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies,
the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence,
therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves, by
artificial ties, in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics or the
ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a
different course. If we remain one people, under an efficient
government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury
from external annoyance, when we may take such an attitude as will
cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously
respected, when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making
acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us
provocation, when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided
by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own
to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with
that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the
toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor, or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any
portion of the foreign world, so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty
to do it, for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing
infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable
to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best
policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in
their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary, and would
be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves, by suitable establishments, on a
respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary
alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony and a liberal intercourse with all nations are recommended by
policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should
hold an equal and impartial hand, neither seeking nor granting
exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of
things; diffusing and diversifying, by gentle means, the streams of
commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing, with powers so disposed--
in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our
merchants, and to enable the government to support them--conventional
rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual
opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time
abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate,
constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for
disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of
its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that
by such acceptance it may place itself in the condition of having given
equivalents for nominal favors and yet of being reproached with
ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to
expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an
illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to

In offering to you, my countrymen, these counsels of an old and
affectionate friend, I dare not hope they will make the strong and
lasting impression I could wish; that they will control the usual
current of the passions or prevent our nation from running the course
which has hitherto marked the destiny of nations. But if I may even
flatter myself that they may be productive of some partial benefit,
some occasional good; that they may now and then recur to moderate the
fury of party spirit; to warn against the mischiefs of foreign
intrigue; to guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism, this
hope will be a full recompense for the solicitude for your welfare by
which they have been dictated.

How far, in the discharge of my official duties, I have been guided by
the principles which have been delineated, the public records and other
evidences of my conduct must witness to you and to the world. To myself
the assurance of my own conscience is that I have at least believed
myself to be guided by them.

In relation to the still subsisting war in Europe my proclamation of
the 22d of April, 1793, is the index to my plan. Sanctioned by your
approving voice and by that of your representatives in both Houses of
Congress, the spirit of that measure has continually governed me,
uninfluenced by any attempts to deter or divert me from it.

After deliberate examination, with the aid of the best lights I could
obtain, I was well satisfied that our country, under all the
circumstances of the case, had a right to take, and was bound in duty
and interest to take, a neutral position. Having taken it I determined,
as far as should depend upon me, to maintain it with moderation,
perseverance, and firmness.

The considerations which respect the right to hold this conduct it is
not necessary on this occasion to detail. I will only observe that,
according to my understanding of the matter, that right, so far from
being denied by any of the belligerent powers, has been virtually
admitted by all.

The duty of holding a neutral conduct may be inferred, without anything
more, from the obligation which justice and humanity impose on every
nation, in cases in which it is free to act, to maintain inviolate the
relations of peace and amity toward other nations.

The inducements of interest for observing that conduct will best be
referred to your own reflections and experience. With me a predominant
motive has been to endeavor to gain time to our country to settle and
mature its yet recent institutions and to progress, without
interruption, to that degree of strength and consistency which is
necessary to give it, humanely speaking, the command of its own

Though in reviewing the incidents of my administration I am unconscious
of intentional error, I am, nevertheless, too sensible of my defects
not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.
Whatever they may be, I fervently beseech the Almighty to avert or
mitigate the evils to which they may tend. I shall also carry with me
the hope that my country will never cease to view them with indulgence,
and, after forty-five years of my life dedicated to its service, with
an upright zeal, the faults of incompetent abilities will be consigned
to oblivion, as myself must soon be to the mansions of rest.

Relying on its kindness in this as in other things, and actuated by
that fervent love toward it, which is so natural to a man who views in
it the native soil of himself and his progenitors for several
generations, I anticipate with pleasing expectation that retreat, in
which I promise myself to realize, without alloy, the sweet enjoyment
of partaking, in the midst of my fellow-citizens, the benign influence
of good laws under a free government, the ever favorite object of my
heart and the happy reward, as I trust, of our mutual cares, labors,
and dangers.

UNITED STATES, _September_ 17, 1796.

The sentiments of veneration with which this farewell address was
generally received were manifested in almost every part of the Union.
Some of the State Legislatures directed it to be inserted at large in
their journals, and nearly all of them passed resolutions expressing
their respect for the person of the President, their high sense of his
exalted services, and the emotions with which they contemplated his
retirement from office. Although the leaders of party might rejoice at
this event it produced solemn and anxious reflections in the great
body, even of those who belonged to the opposition.

The person in whom alone the voice of the people could be united having
declined a re-election, the two great parties in America brought
forward their respective chiefs, and every possible effort was made by
each to obtain the victory. Mr. John Adams and Mr. Thomas Pinckney, the
late minister at London, were supported as President and
Vice-President by the Federalists; the whole force of the opposite
party was exerted in favor of Mr. Jefferson.

Motives of vast influence were added on this occasion to those which
usually impel men in a struggle to retain or acquire power. The
continuance or the change, not only of those principles on which the
internal affairs of the United States had been administered, but of the
conduct which had been observed toward foreign nations, was believed to
depend on the choice of a chief magistrate. By one party the system of
neutrality pursued by the existing administration with regard to the
belligerent European powers, had been uniformly approved; by the other
it had been as uniformly condemned. In the contests, therefore, which
preceded the choice of electors, the justice of the complaints which
were made on the part of the French republic were minutely discussed,
and the consequences which were to be apprehended from her resentment
or from yielding to her pretensions were reciprocally urged as
considerations entitled to great weight in the ensuing election.

In such a struggle it was not to be expected that foreign powers could
feel absolutely unconcerned. In November, while the parties were so
balanced that neither scale could be perceived to preponderate, Mr.
Adet addressed a letter to Colonel Pickering, the Secretary of State,
in which he recapitulated the numerous complaints which had been urged
by himself and his predecessors against the government of the United
States, and reproached that government in terms of great asperity with
violating those treaties which had secured its independence, with
ingratitude to France, and with partiality to England. These wrongs,
which commenced with the "insidious" proclamation of neutrality, were
said to be so aggravated by the treaty concluded with Great Britain
that Mr. Adet announced the orders of the Directory to suspend his
ministerial functions with the Federal government. "But the cause," he
added, "which has so long restrained the just resentment of the
Executive Directory from bursting forth, now tempered its effects. The
name of America, notwithstanding the wrongs of its government, still
excited sweet sensations in the hearts of Frenchmen, and the Executive
Directory wished not to break with a people whom they loved to salute
with the appellation of friend." This suspension of his functions,
therefore, was not to be regarded "as a rupture between France and the
United States, but as a mark of just discontent, which was to last
until the government of the United States returned to sentiments and to
measures more conformable to the interests of the alliance, and to the
sworn friendship between the two nations." "Let your government return
to itself," concluded Mr. Adet, "and you will still find in Frenchmen
faithful friends and generous allies."

As if to remove any possible doubt respecting the purpose for which
this extraordinary letter was written, a copy was transmitted, on the
day of its date, to a printer for publication.

This open and direct appeal of a foreign minister to the American
people, in the critical moment of their election of a chief magistrate,
did not effect its object. Reflecting men, even among those who had
condemned the course of the administration, could not approve this
interference in the internal affairs of the United States, and the
opposite party resented it as an attempt to control the operations of
the American people in the exercise of one of the highest acts of
sovereignty, and to poison the fountain of their liberty and
independence by mingling foreign intrigue with their elections. The
reader of history, however, is familiar with the fact that the course
of Adet in this affair was in strict accordance with the uniform
practice of the new rulers of France at that time. Their agents
endeavored to prejudice the people of every country in Europe against
their respective governments, and never hesitated to interfere directly
between the people and the government, wherever there was any prospect
of introducing French ascendency by such proceedings. The people of the
United States, on the present occasion, resented the officious
interference of Adet in the pending election as a gross insult, and it
undoubtedly aided the party which it was intended to defeat. Congress
met on the 5th of December (1796). There was not a sufficient number of
senators present on that day to form a quorum. In the House of
Representatives, among the new members who presented themselves was
Andrew Jackson, from Tennessee, the future President of the United

On the 7th of December Washington, for the last time, met the national
Legislature in the hall of the House of Representatives. His address
was comprehensive, temperate, and dignified. No personal consideration
could restrain him from recommending those great national measures
which he believed would be useful to his country, although open and
extensive hostility had been avowed to them.

After presenting a full view of the situation of the United States and
the late transactions of the executive, he added: "To an active external
commerce the protection of a naval force is indispensable--this is
manifest with regard to wars in which a State is itself a party; but,
besides this, it is in our own experience that the most sincere
neutrality is not a sufficient guard against the depredations of nations
at war. To secure respect to a neutral flag requires a naval force,
organized and ready to vindicate it from insult or aggression; this may
even prevent the necessity of going to war by discouraging belligerent
powers from committing such violations of the rights of the neutral
party as may, first or last, leave no other option. From the best
information I have been able to obtain, it would seem as if our trade to
the Mediterranean, without a protecting force, will always be insecure,
and our citizens exposed to the calamities from which numbers of them
have but just been relieved."

The speech next proceeded earnestly to recommend the establishment of
national works for manufacturing such articles as were necessary for
the defense of the country, and also for an institution which should
grow up under the patronage of the public and be devoted to the
improvement of agriculture. The advantages of a military academy and of
a national university were also urged, and the necessity of augmenting
the compensation to the officers of the United States in various
instances was explicitly stated.

The President, in adverting to the dissatisfaction which had been
expressed by one of the great powers of Europe, said: "It is with much
pain and deep regret I mention that circumstances of a very unwelcome
nature have lately occurred. Our trade has suffered, and is suffering,
extensive injuries in the West Indies from the cruisers and agents of
the French republic, and communications have been received from, its
minister here which indicate the danger of a further disturbance of our
commerce by its authority."

After stating his constant and earnest endeavors to maintain cordial
harmony and a perfectly friendly understanding with that republic, and
that his wish to maintain them remained unabated, he added: "In
pursuing this course, however, I cannot forget what is due to the
character of our government and nation, or to a full and entire
confidence in the good sense, patriotism, self-respect, and fortitude
of my countrymen."

After some other communications, the speech was concluded in the
following terms:

"The situation in which I now stand, for the last time, in the midst of
the representatives of the people of the United States, naturally
recalls the period when the administration of the present form of
government commenced; and I cannot omit the occasion to congratulate
you and my country on the success of the experiment, nor to repeat my
fervent supplications to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe and
Sovereign Arbiter of Nations that His providential care may still be
extended to the United States; that the virtue and happiness of the
people may be preserved, and that the government which they have
instituted for their protection may be perpetual."

The answer of the Senate embraced the various topics of the speech and
approved all the sentiments it contained.

It expressed the ardent attachment of that body to their chief
magistrate, and its conviction that much of the public prosperity was
to be ascribed to the virtue, firmness, and talents of his
administration. After expressing the deep and sincere regret with which
the official ratification of his intention to retire from the public
employments of his country was received, the address proceeded to say:
"The most effectual consolation that can offer for the loss we are
about to sustain arises from the animating reflection that the
influence of your example will extend to your successors, and the
United States thus continue to enjoy an able, upright, and energetic

In the House of Representatives a committee of five had been appointed
to prepare a respectful answer to the speech, three of whom were
friends to the administration.

Hoping that the disposition would be general to avow in strong terms
their attachment to the person and character of the President, the
committee united in reporting an answer which promised, in general
terms, due attention to the various subjects recommended to their
consideration, but was full and explicit in the expression of
attachment to himself and of approbation of his administration.

The unanimity which prevailed in the committee did not extend to the

After amplifying and strengthening the expressions of the report, which
stated regret that any interruption should have taken place in the
harmony which had subsisted between the United States and France, and
modifying those which declared their hope for the restoration of that
harmony, so as to avoid any implication that its rupture was
exclusively ascribable to France, a motion was made by Mr. Giles to
expunge all those paragraphs which expressed attachment to the person
and character of the President, approbation of his administration, or
regret at his retiring from office.

After a very animated debate the motion to strike out was lost and the
answer was carried by a great majority.

Early in the session Washington communicated to Congress the copy of a
letter addressed by the Secretary of State to General Pinckney,
containing a minute and comprehensive detail of all the points of
controversy which had arisen between the United States and France, and
defending the measures which had been adopted by America with a
clearness and a strength of argument believed to be irresistible. The
letter was intended to enable General Pinckney to remove from the
government of France all impressions unfavorable to the fairness of
intention which had influenced the conduct of the United States, and to
efface from the bosoms of the great body of the American people all
those unjust and injurious suspicions which had been entertained
against their own administration. Should its immediate operation on the
executive of France disappoint his hopes, Washington persuaded himself
that he could not mistake its influence in America; and he felt the
most entire conviction that the accusations made by the French
Directory against the United States would cease, with the evidence that
these accusations were supported by a great portion of the American

The letter and its accompanying documents were communicated to the
public, but, unfortunately, their effect at home was not such as had
been expected, and they were, consequently, inoperative abroad.

The measures recommended by Washington, in his speech at the opening of
the session, were not adopted, and neither the debates in Congress nor
the party publications with which the nation continued to be agitated,
furnished reasonable ground for hope that the political intemperance
which had prevailed from the establishment of the republican form of
government in France, was about to be succeeded by a more conciliatory
spirit. It was impossible for Washington to be absolutely insensible to
the bitter invectives and malignant calumnies of which he had long been
the object. Yet in one instance only did he depart from the rule he had
prescribed for his conduct regarding them. Apprehending permanent
injury from the republication of certain spurious letters, which have
been already noticed, he, on the day which terminated his official
character, addressed a letter to the Secretary of State, declaring them
to be forgeries and stating the circumstances under which they were

On the 8th of February (1797) the votes for the President and Vice-
President were opened and counted in the presence of both Houses, and
John Adams announced the fact from the chair of the Vice-President that
he himself had received 71 votes, Thomas Jefferson 68, Thomas Pinckney
59, Aaron Burr 30, and that the balance of the votes were given in
varying small numbers to Samuel Adams, Oliver Ellsworth, John Jay, etc.
The total number of electors was 138. Thus John Adams became the second
President of the United States, and by some mismanagement on the part
of the Federalists Pinckney missed the Vice-Presidency, and the man of
all others most dreaded by the Federal party was placed in the very
front rank of the Republicans, and with the clear presage of success in
the future.

Washington's feelings on the immediate prospect of retirement from
office are expressed in the following extract from a letter to General
Knox, dated March 2, 1797: "To the wearied traveler who sees a resting-
place and is bending his body to lean thereon, I now compare myself,
but to be suffered to do this in peace is too much to be endured by
some. To misrepresent my motives, to reprobate my politics, and to
weaken the confidence which has been reposed in my administration are
objects which cannot be relinquished by those who will be satisfied
with nothing short of a change in our political system. The
consolation, however, which results from conscious rectitude and the
approving voice of my country, unequivocally expressed by its
representatives, deprive their sting of its poison and place in the
same point of view both the weakness and malignity of their efforts.

"Although the prospect of retirement is most grateful to my soul, and I
have not a wish to mix again in the great world or to partake in its
politics, yet I am not without my regrets at parting with (perhaps
never more to meet) the few intimates whom I love. Among these, be
assured, you are one."

Bishop White has given the following anecdote, illustrating the strong
feelings of regret awakened among Washington's friends by his
approaching retirement from public life:

"On the day before President Washington retired from office a large
company dined with him. Among them were the foreign ministers and their
ladies, Mr. and Mrs. Adams, Mr. Jefferson, and other conspicuous
persons of both sexes. During the dinner much hilarity prevailed, but
on the removal of the cloth it was put an end to by the President,
certainly without design. Having filled his glass, he addressed the
company, with a smile, as nearly as can be recollected, in the
following words: '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.' There was an end of all pleasantry. He who
gives this relation accidentally directed his eye to the lady of the
British minister, Mrs. Liston, and tears were running down her cheeks."

Mr. Gibbs, in his "Administrations of Washington and Adams," refers to
the parting levee in the following terms:

"Just before his final retirement, Washington held his last formal
levee. An occasion more respectable in simplicity, more imposing in
dignity, more affecting in the sensations which it awakened, the
ceremonials of rulers never exhibited. There were the great chiefs of
the republic of all parties and opinions; veterans of the War of
Independence, weather-stained and scarred; white-haired statesmen, who,
in retirement, were enjoying the fruits of former toil; there were his
executive counselors and private friends; ministers of foreign
governments, whose veneration approached that of his countrymen;
citizens who came to offer the tribute of a respect, sincere and
disinterested. Little was there of the pageantry of courts, little of
the glitter which attends the receptions of royalty, yet in the grave
assemblage that stood in that unadorned chamber there was a majesty
which these knew not. The dignitaries of a nation had come together to
bid farewell to one who, at their own free call, by their own willing
trust--not as an honor to be coveted, but as a duty to be
discharged--had, in turn, led their armies and executed their laws; one
who now, his last task worthily fulfilled, was to take his place again
among them, readier to relinquish than he had been to undertake power;
a soldier without stain upon his arms; a ruler without personal
ambition; a wise and upright statesman; a citizen of self-sacrificing
patriotism; a man pure, unblemished, and true in every relation he had
filled; one to whom all ages should point as the testimony that virtue
and greatness had been and could be united.

"And he who was the object of this gathering--what thoughts crowded
upon his mind; what recollections filled the vista of the sixty odd
years which had passed over him; what changes of men, opinions,
society, had he seen! Great changes, indeed, in the world and its old
notions; the growing dissatisfaction of certain English emigrants at
customary tyrannies and new intended ones had taken form and shape,
embodied itself into principles, and vindicated them; blazed up an
alarming beacon in the world's eyes as the Sacred Right of Rebellion;
fought battles; asserted independence and maintained it at much cost of
bloodshed; made governments after its own new-fangled fashion;
impressed a most unwilling idea on history--the doctrine of popular
sovereignty--one which had proved contagious and had been adopted
elsewhere, running riot indeed in its novelty. And out of all this
confusion there had arisen the nation which he had presided over,
already become great, and factious in its greatness, with a noble
birthright, noble virtues, energies, and intellect; with great faults
and passions that, unchecked, would, as in lusty individual manhood,
lead to its ruin.

"What was to be the future of that nation? Dark clouds hung over it,
dangers threatened it, enemies frowned upon it--the worst enemy was
within. License might blast, in a few hours, the growth of years;
faction destroy the careful work of the founders. On this he had left
his great solemn charge, like the last warning of a father to his

The relation in which the secretaries had stood with the President had
been one of respectful but affectionate intimacy. The most cordial and
unreserved friendship was extended to all whom he trusted and esteemed.
The Secretaries of State and War (Pickering and McHenry) had been his
fellow-soldiers; the Secretary of the Treasury (Wolcott) had, as it
were, grown up under his eye. The simplicity and military frankness of
Pickering, the kindly nature and refinement of McHenry, the
warm-heartedness and _bonhommie_ of Wolcott, all won upon his regard.
On their part there was a no less sincere love for their chief. There
are those devotion to whom is no degradation. Washington was such a
one, and to him it was rendered in the spirit of men who respected
themselves. Among all connected with him, either in military or civil
life, this sentiment was retained. His death hallowed his memory in
their hearts to a degree and with a sanctity which none can know who
have not heard from their own lips--none can feel Who were not of them.
And in likewise the wife and family of Washington were cherished. They
had been universally beloved on their own account, and the hand of
fate, in depriving them of a husband and father, as it were, bequeathed
them to the tender care of a nation. There was something beautiful in
these sentiments, in a land where the ties that bind men depend so
little upon association.

Wolcott, among others, had enjoyed much of the domestic society of the
President's house. His gentle and graceful wife had been regarded with
maternal tenderness by Mrs. Washington and was the friend and
correspondent of her eldest daughter. His child had been used to climb,
confident of welcome, the knees of the chief, and though so many years
his junior, while Wolcott's character and judgment had been held in
respect by the President, his personal and social qualities had drawn
toward him a warm degree of interest.

On leaving the seat of government, Washington presented, it is
believed, to all his chief officers some token of regard. To Wolcott he
gave a piece of plate. Mrs. Washington gave to his wife, when visiting
her for the last time, a relic still more interesting. Asking her if
she did not wish for a memorial of the general, Mrs. Wolcott replied,
"Yes," she "should like a lock of his hair." Mrs. Washington, smiling,
took Her scissors and cut off for her a lock of her husband's and one
of her own. These, with the originals of Washington's letters, Wolcott
preserved with careful veneration and divided between his surviving

"On the retirement of General Washington," says Wolcott, "being
desirous that my personal interests should not embarrass his successor,
and supposing that some other person might be preferred to myself, I
tendered my resignation to Mr. Adams before his inauguration. The
tender was declined and I retained office under my former commission."

On the 1st of March (1797) Washington had addressed a note to the
Senate, desiring them to attend in their chamber on Saturday, the 4th,
at 10 o'clock, "to receive any communication which the President of the
United States might lay before them touching their interests." In
conformity with this summons the Senate assembled on that day and
commenced their thirteenth session. The oath of office was administered
by Mr. Bingham to Mr. Jefferson, who thereupon took the chair. The new
Senators were then sworn and the Vice-President delivered a brief
address. The Senate then repaired to the chamber of the House of
Representatives to attend the administration of the oath of office to
the new President. Mr. Adams entered, accompanied by the heads of
departments, [1] the marshal of the district and his officers, and took
his seat in the speaker's chair. The Vice-President and secretary of
the Senate were seated in advance on his right, and the late speaker
and clerk on the left; the justices of the Supreme Court sat before the
President, the foreign ministers and members of the House in their
usual seats. Washington, once more a private citizen, sat in front of
the judges. Mr. Adams then rose and delivered his inaugural speech.
This address was brief and well suited to the occasion. After adverting
to the circumstances which led to the formation of the new
constitution, he expressed the unqualified approbation with which, in a
foreign land and apart from the scene of controversy, he had first
perused it, and the undiminished confidence which, after eight years of
experience, he entertained of its fitness. He remarked briefly on the
abuses to which it was subject, and against which it became the duty of
the people to guard, and having disclosed his opinions of general
policy, pledged himself anew to the support of the government. The oath
of office was then administered by Chief Justice Ellsworth, the other
justices attending, after which he retired. [2]

The citizens of Philadelphia celebrated the day of Adams' inauguration
by a testimony of their respect and affection for Washington. They
prepared a magnificent entertainment, designed for him as the principal
guest, to which were invited the foreign ministers, the members of the
Cabinet, officers of the army and navy, and other distinguished

In the rotunda in which it was given, an elegant compliment was
prepared for the principal guest, which is thus described in the papers
of the day:

"Upon entering the area, the general was conducted to his seat. On a
signal given music played Washington's march, and a scene which
represented simple objects in the rear of the principal seat was drawn
up and discovered emblematical painting.

"The principal was a female figure, large as life, representing
America, seated on an elevation composed of sixteen marble steps. At
her left side stood the Federal shield and eagle, and at her feet lay
the cornucopias, in her right hand she held the Indian calumet of peace
supporting the cap of liberty; in the perspective appeared the temple
of fame, and on her left hand an altar dedicated to public gratitude,
upon which incense was burning. In her left hand she held a scroll
inscribed Valedictory, and at the foot of the altar lay a plumed helmet
and sword, from which a figure of General Washington, large as life,
appeared, retiring down the steps, pointing with his right hand to the
emblems of power which he had resigned, and with his left to a
beautiful landscape representing Mount Vernon, in front of which oxen
were seen harnessed to the plough. Over the general appeared a Genius,
placing a wreath of laurels on his head."

After Washington had paid to his successor those respectful compliments
which he believed to be equally due to the man and to the office, he
hastened to that real felicity which awaited him at Mount Vernon, the
enjoyment of which he had long impatiently anticipated.

The same marks of respect and affection for his person which had on all
great occasions been manifested by his fellow-citizens, still attended
him. His endeavors to render his journey private were unavailing, and
the gentlemen of the country through which he passed, were still
ambitious of testifying their sentiments for the man who had, from the
birth of the Republic been deemed the first of American citizens. Long
after his retirement he continued to receive addresses from legislative
bodies and various classes of citizens, expressive of the high sense
entertained of his services.

"Notwithstanding the extraordinary popularity of the first President of
the United States," says Marshall, "scarcely has any important act of
his administration escaped the most bitter invective.

"On the real wisdom of the system which he pursued, every reader will
decide for himself. Time will, in some measure, dissipate the
prejudices and passions of the moment, and enable us to view objects
through a medium which represents them truly.

"Without taking a full review of measures which were reprobated by one
party and applauded by the other, the reader may be requested to glance
his eye at the situation of the United States in 1797, and to contrast
it with their condition in 1788.

"At home a sound credit had been created; an immense floating debt had
been funded in a manner perfectly satisfactory to the creditors; an
ample revenue had been provided; those difficulties which a system of
internal taxation, on its first introduction, is doomed to encounter,
were completely removed, and the authority of the government was firmly
established. Funds for the gradual payment of the debt had been
provided; a considerable part of it had been actually discharged, and
that system which is now operating its entire extinction had been
matured and adopted. The agricultural and commercial wealth of the
nation had increased beyond all former example. The numerous tribes of
warlike Indians, inhabiting those immense tracts which lie between the
then cultivated country of the Mississippi, had been taught, by arms
and by justice, to respect the United States and to continue in peace.
This desirable object having been accomplished, that humane system was
established for civilizing and furnishing them with the conveniences of
life, which improves their condition, while it secures their

"Abroad, the differences with Spain had been accommodated, and the free
navigation of the Mississippi had been acquired, with the use of New
Orleans as a place of deposit for three years, and afterward, until
some other equivalent place should be designated. Those causes of
mutual exasperation which had threatened to involve the United States
in a war with the greatest maritime and commercial power in the world,
had been removed, and the military posts which had been occupied within
their territory, from their existence as a nation, had been evacuated.
Treaties had been formed with Algiers and with Tripoli, and no captures
appear to have been made by Tunis, so that the Mediterranean was opened
to American vessels.

"This bright prospect was indeed, in part, shaded by the discontents of
France. Those who have attended to the particular points of difference
between the two nations will assign the causes to which these
discontents are to be ascribed, and will judge whether it was in the
power of the President to have avoided them without surrendering the
real independence of the nation and the most invaluable of all rights--
the right of self-government."

Such was the situation of the United States at the close of
Washington's administration. Their circumstances at its commencement
will be recollected, and the contrast is too striking not to be
observed. That this beneficial change in the affairs of America is to
be ascribed exclusively to the wisdom which guided the national
councils will not be pretended. That many of the causes which produced
it originated with the government, and that their successful operation
was facilitated, if not secured, by the system which was adopted, will
scarcely be denied. To estimate that system correctly, their real
influence must be allowed to those strong prejudices and turbulent
passions with which it was assailed.

Accustomed, in the early part of his life, to agricultural pursuits,
and possessing a real taste for them, Washington was particularly well
qualified to enjoy, in retirement, that tranquil felicity which he had
anticipated. Resuming former habits, and returning to ancient and well-
known employments, he was familiar with his new situation, and
therefore exempt from the danger of that disappointment which is the
common lot of those who, in old age, retire from the toils of business,
or the cares of office, to the untried pleasures of the country. A
large estate, which exhibited many proofs of having been long deprived
of the attentions of its proprietor in the management and improvement
of which he engaged with ardor, an extensive correspondence, and the
society of men and books, gave employment to every hour which was
equally innocent and interesting, and furnished ground for the hope
that the evening of a life which had been devoted to the public
service, would be as serene as its midday had been brilliant.

In his journey from Philadelphia to Mount Vernon Washington was
accompanied by Mrs. Washington, Miss Custis, George Washington
Lafayette, eldest son of the general, and M. Frestel, young Lafayette's

Writing to Mr. McHenry, Secretary of War, from Mount Vernon, April 3,
1797, he thus describes His return home and his situation there:

"We got home without accident and found the roads dryer and better than
I ever found them at that season of the year. The attentions we met
with on our journey were very flattering, and, to some, whose minds are
differently formed from mine, would have been highly relished; but I
avoided, in every instance, where I had any previous knowledge of the
intention, and could by earnest entreaties prevail, all parade and
escorts. Mrs. Washington took a violent cold in Philadelphia, which
hangs upon her still, but it is not as bad as it has been. [3]

"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."

To Mr. Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury, he writes:

"For myself, having turned aside from the broad walks of political into
the narrow paths of private life, I shall leave it with those whose
duty it is to consider subjects of this sort, and, as every good
citizen ought to do, conform to whatsoever the ruling powers shall
decide. To make and sell a little flour annually, to repair houses
(going fast to ruin), to build one for the security of my papers of a
public nature, and to amuse myself in agricultural and rural pursuits,
will constitute employment for the few years I have to remain on this
terrestrial globe. If, also, I could now and then meet the friends I
esteem, it would fill the measure and add zest to my enjoyments; but,
if ever this happens, it must be under my own vine and fig-tree, as I
do not think it probable that I shall go beyond twenty miles from

To another correspondent he repeats the same interesting sentiments, in
reference to his retirement and the happiness he found in it:

"Retired from noise myself, and the responsibility attached to public
employment, my hours will glide smoothly on. My best wishes, however,
for the prosperity of our country will always have the first place in
my thoughts; while to repair buildings and to cultivate my farms, which
require close attention, will occupy the few years, perhaps days, I may
be a sojourner here, as I am now in the sixty-sixth year of my
peregrination through life."

In a letter to Mr. McHenry, May 29th, he says: "I begin my diurnal
course with the sun; if my hirelings are not in their places at that
time, I send them messages of sorrow for their indisposition; having
put these wheels in motion, I examine the state of things further. The
more they are probed the deeper I find the wounds which my buildings
have sustained by an absence and neglect of eight years; by the time I
have accomplished these matters, breakfast (a little after 7 o'clock)
is ready; 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 setting 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; but, 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.

"This will account for your letter remaining so long unacknowledged;
and, 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 I have discharged my workmen, probably not before the nights grow
longer, when, possibly, I may be looking in Doomsday Book. At present I
shall only add, that I am always and affectionately yours."

The celebrated Mr. (afterward Lord) Erskine, having sent Washington a
copy of his "View of the Causes and Consequences of the Present War
with France," he acknowledged it in a letter, of which the following is
a part:

"To have so conducted my steps in the intricate walks of public life,
and through a long course, as to meet the approbation of my country and
the esteem of good men, is, next to the consciousness of having acted
in all things from my best judgment, the highest gratification of which
my mind is susceptible, and will, during the remainder of a life which
is hastening to an end, and in moments of retirement better adapted to
calm reflection than I have hitherto experienced, alleviate the pain
and soften any cares, which are yet to be encountered, though hid from
me at the present.

"For me to express my sentiments with respect to the administration of
the concerns of another government might incur a charge of stepping
beyond the line of prudence; but the principles of humanity will
justify an avowal of my regret, and I do regret exceedingly, that any
causes whatever should have produced and continued until this time, a
war, more bloody, more expensive, more calamitous, and more pregnant
with events than modern, or perhaps any other times can furnish an
example of. And I most sincerely and devoutly wish that your exertions,
and those of others having the same object in view, may effect what
human nature cries aloud for, a general peace." [4]

His correspondence with the Earl of Radnor shows the estimation in
which he was held abroad, and also illustrates his situation and
feelings at the time.

"_To General Washington._

"SIR.--Though of necessity a stranger to you, I cannot deny myself the
satisfaction, among the many who will, probably, even from this
country, intrude upon your retirement, of offering to you my
congratulations on your withdrawing yourself from the scene of public
affairs, with a character which appears to be perfectly unrivalled in
history. The voluntary resignation of authority, wielded, as it was,
while you thought fit to yield it, for the advantage of your country,
in the universal opinion of mankind, confirms the judgment I had
presumed to form of your moderation, and completes the glory of your

"Permit me, sir, who, enlisted in no political party, have, as a public
man, looked up to you with veneration; who have seen the beginning of
your career against England with approbation, because I felt England
was unjust; who have seen you discontinue your hostility toward
England, when, in good faith, she was no longer acting as an enemy to
America, by honest counsels endeavoring to be as closely connected with
amity, as she is by natural and mutual interests; who have seen you the
instrument, in the hand of Providence, of wresting from the British
Parliament an influence destructive of the just rights of both
countries and of establishing the independence of America, which, I am
persuaded, will continually, if your principles and your wisdom shall
actuate your successors, be the means of securing them respectively to
us both; who have seen you, in adversity and prosperity alike, the
good, the firm, the moderate, the disinterested patriot; permit me, I
say, as an Englishman and as a man, to rejoice at the completion of
such a character, and to offer my unfeigned wishes for a peaceful
evening of your life and the realization (as is my sincere belief) of
your posthumous fame and your eternal happiness.

"I have the honor to subscribe myself, etc.,


"LONGFORD CASTLE, _January_ 19, 1797."

The following is Washington's reply:

"MY LORD.--The sentiments which your lordship has been pleased to
express, in your favor of the 19th of January last, relative to my
public conduct, do me great honor, and I pray you to accept my grateful
acknowledgment of the unequivocal evidence, conveyed in your letter, of
the favorable opinion you entertain of the principles by which it was

"For having performed duties which I conceive every country has a right
to require of its citizens, I claim no merit; but no man can feel more
sensibly the reward of approbation for such services than I do. Next to
the consciousness of having acted faithfully in discharging the several
trusts to which I have been called, the thanks of one's country and the
esteem of good men are the highest gratification my mind is susceptible

"At the age of sixty-five, I am now recommencing my agricultural and
rural pursuits, which were always more congenial to my temper and
disposition than the noise and bustle of public employments,
notwithstanding so small a portion of my life has been engaged in the

"I reciprocate, with great cordiality, the good wishes you have been
pleased to bestow on me, and pray devoutly that we may both witness,
and that shortly, the return of peace; for a more bloody, expensive,
and eventful war is not recorded in modern, if to be found in ancient

Before leaving the subject of Washington's European reputation it is
proper to quote the remarks made by the celebrated orator and
statesman, Charles James Fox, in the British Parliament, January 31,
1794. It was in reference to Washington's communications to Congress at
the opening of the session, December 3, 1793:

"And here, sir, I cannot help alluding to the President of the United
States, General Washington, a character whose conduct has been so
different from that which has been pursued by the ministers of this
country. How infinitely wiser must appear the spirit and principles
manifested in his late address to Congress than the policy of modern
European courts! Illustrious man, deriving honor less from the splendor
of his situation than from the dignity of his mind; before whom all
borrowed greatness sinks into insignificance, and all the potentates of
Europe (excepting the members of our own royal family) become little
and contemptible. He has had no occasion to have recourse to any tricks
of policy or arts of alarm; his authority has been sufficiently
supported by the same means by which it was acquired, and his conduct
has uniformly been characterized by wisdom, moderation, and firmness.
Feeling gratitude to France for the assistance received from her in
that great contest which secured the independence of America, he did
not choose to give up the system of neutrality. Having once laid down
that line of conduct which both gratitude and policy pointed out as
most proper to be pursued, not all the insults and provocation of the
French minister, Genet, could turn him from his purpose. Entrusted with
the welfare of a great people, he did not allow the misconduct of
another, with respect to himself, for one moment to withdraw his
attention from their interest. He had no fear of the Jacobins; he felt
no alarm from their principles, and considered no precaution necessary
in order to stop their progress.

"The people over whom he presided he knew to be acquainted with their
rights and their duties. He trusted to their own good sense to defeat
the effect of those arts which might be employed to inflame or mislead
their minds, and was sensible that a government could be in no danger
while it retained the attachment and confidence of its subjects--
attachment, in this instance, not blindly adopted; confidence not
implicitly given, but arising from the conviction of its excellence
and the experience of its blessings. I cannot, indeed, help admiring
the wisdom and fortune of this great man. By the phrase 'fortune,'
I mean not in the smallest degree to derogate from his merit. But
notwithstanding his extraordinary talents and exalted integrity, it
must be considered as singularly fortunate that he should have
experienced a lot which so seldom falls to the portion of humanity,
and have passed through such a variety of scenes without stain and
without reproach. It must, indeed, create astonishment, that, placed
in circumstances so critical, and filling for a series of years, a
station so conspicuous, his character should never once have been
called in question; that he should in no one instance have been accused
either of improper insolence or mean submission in his transactions
with foreign nations. For him it has been reserved to run the race of
glory, without experiencing the smallest interruption to the brilliancy
of his career."

1. Footnote: All the Cabinet officers of Washington were retained by
Mr. Adams, viz.: Timothy Pickering, Secretary of State; James McHenry,
Secretary of War; Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury, and
Charles Lee, Attorney-General. The navy department was not organized
till 1798. 2. Footnote: Gibbs, "Administrations of Washington and John

3. Footnote: The following extract is from a Baltimore paper, dated
March 13th: "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."

4. Footnote: Erskine's opinion of Washington is thus expressed in his
letter, dated London, March 15, 1795: "I have taken the liberty," he
writes, "to introduce your august and immortal name in a short
sentence, which will be found in the book I send you. I have a large
acquaintance among the most valuable and exalted classes of men; but
you are the only human being for whom I ever felt an awful reverence. I
sincerely pray God to grant a long and serene evening to a life so
gloriously devoted to the universal happiness of the world.




We have mentioned, incidentally, that George Washington Motier de
Lafayette, the son of the general, with his tutor, M. Frestel,
accompanied Washington on his journey from Philadelphia to Mount
Vernon. When the wife and daughters of Lafayette left France to join
him in the prison of Olmutz his son came to the United States. He
arrived at Boston in the summer of 1795, with his tutor, and had
immediately written to Washington to apprise him of his arrival. The
letter was received just as he was leaving Philadelphia for Mount
Vernon. Washington would have been delighted to receive him immediately
into his family, but this was forbidden by political considerations of
great weight. He therefore wrote to George Cabot, of Boston, desiring
him to assure the young man of his friendship and protection, and
recommending that he should be entered as a student at Harvard
University, Cambridge, and offering to defray the expenses of his
education there. This was declined, however, on account of the
different course of study which he was pursuing under the tuition of M.
Frestel, and George went to take up his residence with M. Lacolombe,
[1] in a country-house near New York. In November, 1795, Washington
wrote to young Lafayette and his tutor, assuring the former of his
paternal regard and support, and desiring him to repair to Colonel
Hamilton in New York. On the 18th of March, 1796, the following
resolution, and order were passed by the House of Representatives in

"Information having been given to this House that a son of General
Lafayette is now within the United States;

"_Resolved_, That a committee be appointed to inquire into the truth of
the said information and report thereon, and what measures it would be
proper to take, if the same be true, to evince the grateful sense
entertained by this country for the services of his father.

"_Ordered_, That Mr. Livingston, Mr. Sherburne, and Mr. Murray be
appointed a committee pursuant to the said resolution."

As chairman of this committee, Mr. Livingston wrote to young Lafayette
as follows:

"SIR.--Actuated by motives of gratitude to your father, and eager to
seize every opportunity of showing their sense of his important
services, the House of Representatives have passed the resolution which
I have the pleasure to communicate. The committee being directed to
inquire into the fact of your arrival within the United States, permit
me to advise your immediate appearance at this place, that the
Legislature of America may no longer be in doubt whether the son of
Lafayette is under their protection and within the reach of their

"I presume to give this advice as an individual personally attached to
your father, and very solicitous to be useful to any person in whose
happiness he is interested. If I should have that good fortune on this
occasion, it will afford me the greatest satisfaction.

"I am, &c.,


On receiving this letter, young Lafayette wrote to Washington,
enclosing the resolution and the letter of Mr. Livingston, and asking
his advice relative to the course which he should pursue. The following
is Washington's answer:

"Your letter of the 28th instant was received yesterday. The enclosures
which accompanied it evidence much discretion, and your conduct therein
meets my entire approbation.

"In the early part of this month I put a letter into the hands of
Colonel Hamilton, inviting you to this place, and expected, until your
letter of the above date was received, to have embraced you under my
own roof tomorrow or next day.

"As the period for this seems to be more distant, from the purport of
your inquiries, I again repeat my former request, and wish that,
without delay, you and M. Frestel would proceed immediately to this
city and to my house, where a room is prepared for you and him.

"Under expectation of your doing this, it is as unnecessary as it might
be improper to go more into detail until I have the pleasure of seeing
you and of rendering every service in my power to the son of my friend,
for whom I have always entertained the purest affection, which is too
strong not to extend itself to you. Therefore believe me to be, as I
really am, sincerely and affectionately yours, &c."

From this time (March, 1796) to April, 1797, when he journeyed with
Washington to Mount Vernon, young Lafayette resided with him in
Philadelphia. Writing to General Dumas (June 24, 1797) from Mount
Vernon, Washington, after expressing an ardent wish for the restoration
of General Lafayette to liberty, says: "His son and M. Frestel, who
appears to have been his mentor, are, and have been, residents in my
family since their arrival in this country, except in the first moments
of it; and a modest, sensible, well-disposed youth he is."

In October, 1797, intelligence of the liberation of General Lafayette
from his Austrian prison having been received, his son hastened to meet
him in France. He sailed with M. Frestel from New York, on the 26th of
October, bearing the following letter from Washington to his father:

"This letter, I hope and expect, will be presented to you by your son,
who is highly deserving of such parents as you and your amiable lady.

"He can relate much better than I can describe my participation in your
sufferings, my solicitude for your relief, the measures I adopted,
though ineffectual, to facilitate your liberation from an unjust and
cruel imprisonment, and the joy I experienced at the news of its
accomplishment. I shall hasten, therefore, to congratulate you, and be
assured that no one can do it with more cordiality, with more
sincerity, or with greater affection, on the restoration of that
liberty which every act of your life entitles you to the enjoyment of;
and I hope I may add, to the uninterrupted possession of your estates
and the confidence of your country. The repossession of these things,
though they cannot compensate for the hardships you have endured, may
nevertheless soften the painful remembrance of them.

"From the delicate and responsible situation in which I stood as a
public officer, but more especially from a misconception of the manner
in which your son had left France, till explained to me in a personal
interview with himself, he did not come immediately into my family on
his arrival in America, though he was assured in the first moments of
it of my protection and support. His conduct, since he first set his
feet on American ground, has been exemplary in every point of view,
such as has gained him the esteem, affection, and confidence of all who
have had the pleasure of his acquaintance. His filial affection and
duty and his ardent desire to embrace his parents and sisters, in the
first moments of their release, would not allow him to wait the
authentic account of this much-desired event; but, at the same time
that I suggested the propriety of this, I could not withhold my assent
to the gratification of his wishes to fly to the arms of those whom he
holds most dear, persuaded as he is, from the information he has
received, that he shall find you all in Paris.

"M. Frestel has been a true mentor to George. No parent could have been
more attentive to a favorite son, and he richly merits all that can be
said of his virtues, of his good sense, and of his prudence. Both your
son and he carry with them the vows and regrets of this family and all
who know them. And you may be assured that yourself never stood higher
in the affections of the people of this country than at the present

"Having bid a final adieu to the walks of public life, and meaning to
withdraw myself from politics, I shall refer you to M. Frestel and
George, who, at the same time that they have, from prudential
considerations, avoided all interference in the politics of the
country, cannot have been inattentive observers of what was passing
among us, to give you a general view of our situation, and of the party
which, in my opinion, has disturbed the peace and tranquility of it.
And with sentiments of the highest regard for you, your lady, and
daughters, and with assurances that, if inclination or events should
induce you or any of them to visit America, no person in it would
receive you with more cordiality and affection than Mrs. Washington and
myself, both of us being most sincerely and affectionately attached to
you, and admirers of them."

Devoted as Washington, in his retirement, was to his favorite pursuit
of agriculture, he nevertheless took a lively interest in the political
affairs of the country. In the events which were now passing he found
cause for considerable anxiety. The conduct of the French Directory
still indicated a persistence in their favorite policy of detaching the
people of the United States from the support of the executive, and
effecting a revolution in the government. Their treatment of General
Pinckney, the minister sent to France by Washington, fully disclosed
their views and intentions. After inspecting General Pinckney's letter
of credence, the Directory announced to him their determination "not to
receive another minister plenipotentiary from the United States until
after the redress of grievances demanded of the American government,
which the French republic had a right to expect from it." This message
was succeeded, first by indecorous verbal communications, calculated to
force the American minister out of France, and afterward, by a written
mandate to quit the territories of the republic.

This act of hostility was accompanied with another, which would explain
the motives for this conduct, if previous measures had not rendered all
further explanation unnecessary.

On giving to the recalled minister his audience of leave, the President
of the Directory addressed a speech to him, in which terms of outrage
to the government were mingled with expressions of affection for the
people of the United States, and the expectation of ruling the former,
by their influence over the latter, was too clearly manifested not to
be understood. To complete this system of hostility, American vessels
were captured wherever found, and, under the pretext of their wanting a
document, with which the treaty of commerce had been uniformly
understood to dispense, they were condemned as prize.

This serious state of things demanded a solemn consideration. On
receiving from General Pinckney the dispatches which communicated it,
President Adams issued his proclamation requiring Congress to meet on
the 15th day of May. The speech delivered by him at the commencement of
the session showed that the insults of the French Directory were deeply
resented. He said: "The speech of the President discloses sentiments
more alarming than the refusal of a minister, because more dangerous to
our independence and union, and, at the same time, studiously marked
with indignities toward the government of the United States. It evinces
a disposition to separate the people from their government; to persuade
them that they have different affections, principles, and interests
from those of their fellow-citizens whom they themselves have chosen to
manage their common concerns; and thus to produce divisions fatal to
our peace. Such attempts ought to be repelled with a decision which
shall convince France, and the world, that we are not a degraded
people, humiliated under a colonial spirit of fear and sense of
inferiority, fitted to be the miserable instruments of foreign
influence, and regardless of national honor, character, and interest.
Retaining still the desire which had uniformly been manifested by the
American government to preserve peace and friendship with all nations,
and believing that neither the honor nor the interest of the United
States absolutely forbade the repetition of advances for securing these
desirable objects with France, he should," he said, "institute a fresh
attempt at negotiation, and should not fail to promote and accelerate
an accommodation on terms compatible with the rights, duties,
interests, and honor of the nation." But while he should be making
these endeavors to adjust all differences with the French republic by
amicable negotiation, he earnestly recommended it to Congress to
provide effectual measures of defense.

The drawing up an answer to this speech of President Adams occasioned a
full fortnight's debate in the House of Representatives, but at length
a reply, correspondent to the President's tone and views, was carried
by 51 or 52 voices against 48. This showed the balance of parties,
proved that Adams still kept the ascendency, however small, that
Washington had done, and that the dread of democratic violence
prevailed over the suspicions endeavored to be awakened of monarchism
and an arbitrary executive. This feeling was, no doubt, strengthened
greatly by refugees from St. Domingo, who related the dire effects
which democratic acts had produced in that island. France, however, was
never more formidable. Tidings of her victories poured in, whilst those
of England told of bank payments suspended, a mutiny in the fleet, and
the abandonment of her best continental ally.

To carry into effect the pacific dispositions avowed by President Adams
in his speech, he appointed three envoys to the French Directory.
General Pinckney, who was still residing in Europe, was placed at the
head of the mission. Gen. John Marshall, afterward chief justice, a
sturdy Federalist, and Elbridge Gerry, an anti-Federalist, but a strong
personal friend and favorite of the President, were joined with
Pinckney in the mission. They were instructed to endeavor to procure
peace and reconciliation by all means compatible with the honor and
faith of the United States, but no national engagements were to be
impaired, no innovation to be permitted upon those internal regulations
for the preservation of peace which had been deliberately and uprightly
established, nor were the rights of the government to be surrendered.
On their arrival in France the envoys saw M. Talleyrand, the Minister
for Foreign Affairs, but were informed that they could not be received
by the Directory. They had permission to remain in Paris, however, and
the agents of M. de Talleyrand--a female amongst others were employed
to negotiate with them. The true difficulty in the way of
accommodation, in addition to the impertinent arrogance of the
Directory, seemed to be that Merlin and others received a great part of
the gains accruing from American prizes made by the French. In order to
counteract this gold in one hand by gold in the other, Talleyrand
demanded a douceur of L50,000 for himself and chiefs, besides a loan to
be afterward made from America to France. To extract these conditions,
every argument that meanness could suggest was employed by Talleyrand;
he demanded to be fed as a lawyer or bribed as a friend. But the
Americans were inexorable, and two of their number, Pinckney and
Marshall, returned to announce to their countrymen the terms on which
peace was offered. The cupidity of the French government completely
turned against it the tide of popular feeling in America. "Millions for
defense, not a cent for tribute," was instantly the general cry. The
President felt his hands strengthened by the demands of the French.
Certainly, never did minister show himself less sagacious than M. de
Talleyrand in this affair, or more ignorant of the spirit and manners
of a nation amongst whom he had resided.

In Congress (May, 1798), vigorous measures were adopted for placing the
country in a state of defense against impending hostilities from one of
the most powerful nations of the world. Among these was a regular army.
A regiment of artillerists and engineers was added to the permanent
establishment, and the President was authorized to raise twelve
additional regiments of infantry and one regiment of cavalry to serve
during the continuance of the existing differences with the French
republic, if not sooner discharged. He was also authorized to appoint
officers for a provisional army and to receive and organize volunteer
corps who should be exempt from ordinary militia duty, but neither the
volunteers nor the officers of the provisional army were to receive pay
unless called into actual service.

Addresses to the executive from every part of the United States
attested the high spirit of the nation, and the answers of President
Adams were well calculated to give it solidity and duration.

No sooner had a war become probable, to the perils of which no man
could be insensible, than the eyes of all were directed to Washington,
as the person who should command the American army. He alone could be
seen at the head of a great military force without exciting jealousy;
he alone could draw into public service and arrange properly the best
military talents of the nation, and he, more than any other, could
induce the utmost exertion of its physical strength. Indignant at the
unprovoked injuries which had been heaped upon his country, and
convinced that the conflict, should a war be really prosecuted by
France with a view to conquest, would be extremely severe and could be
supported, on the part of America, only by a persevering exertion of
all her force, he could not determine, should such a crisis arrive, to
withhold those aids which it might be in his power to afford, should
public opinion really attach to his services that importance which
would render them essential. His own reflections appear to have
resulted in a determination not to refuse once more to take the field,
provided he could be permitted to secure efficient aid by naming the
chief officers of the army, and to remain at home until his service in
the field should be required by actual invasion. [3]

A confidential and interesting letter from Colonel Hamilton of the 19th
of May, on political subjects, concludes with saying: "You ought also
to be aware, my dear sir, that in the event of an open rupture with
France the public voice will again call you to command the armies of
your country, and though all who are attached to you will, from
attachment as well as public consideration, deplore an occasion which
should once more tear you from that repose to which you have so good a
right, yet it is the opinion of all those with whom I converse that you
will be compelled to make the sacrifice. All your past labors may
demand, to give them efficacy, this further, this very great

"You may be assured," said Washington in reply, "that my mind is deeply
impressed with the present situation of public affairs and not a little
agitated by the outrageous conduct of France toward the United States,
and at the inimitable conduct of those partisans who aid and abet her
measures. You may believe further, from assurances equally sincere,
that if there was anything in my power to be done consistently to avert
or lessen the danger of the crisis, it should be rendered with hand and

"But, my dear sir, dark as matters appear at present, and expedient as
it is to be prepared for the worst that can happen (and no man is more
disposed to this measure than I am), I cannot make up my mind yet for
the expectation of open war; or, in other words, for a formidable
invasion by France. I cannot believe, although I think her capable of
anything, that she will attempt to do more than she has done. When she
perceives the spirit and policy of this country rising into resistance,
and that she has falsely calculated upon support from a large part of
the people to promote her views and influence in it, she will desist
ever from those practices, unless unexpected events in Europe or the
acquisition of Louisiana and the Floridas should induce her to continue
them. And I believe further, that, although the leaders of their party
in this country will not change their sentiments, they will be obliged
to change their plan or the mode of carrying it on. The effervescence
which is appearing in all quarters, and the desertion of their
followers, will frown them into silence--at least for a while.

"If I did not view things in this light my mind would be infinitely
more disquieted than it is, for, if a crisis should arrive when a sense
of duty or a call from my country should become so imperious as to
leave me no choice, I should prepare for relinquishment and go with as
much reluctance from my present peaceful abode as I should go to the
tombs of my ancestors."

The opinion that prudence required preparations for open war and that
Washington must once more be placed at the head of the American armies
strengthened every day, and on the 22d of June President Adams
addressed him a letter in which that subject was thus alluded to.

"In forming an army, whenever I must come to that extremity I am at an
immense loss whether to call out the old generals or to appoint a young
set. If the French come here we must learn to march with a quick step
and to attack, for in that way only they are said to be vulnerable. I
must tax you sometimes for advice. We must have your name, if you will
in any case permit us to use it. There will be more efficacy in it than
in many an army."

A letter from McHenry, the Secretary of War, written four days
afterward, concludes with asking: "May we flatter ourselves that, in a
crisis so awful and important you will accept the command of all our
armies? I hope you will, because you alone can unite all hearts and all
hands, if it is possible that they can be united."

These letters reached Washington on the same day. The following extract
from his reply to the President will exhibit the course of his
reflections relative to his appearance once more at the head of the
American armies:

"At the epoch of my retirement an invasion of these States by an
European power, or even the probability of such an event in my days,
was so far from being contemplated by me that I had no conception
either that or any other occurrence would arise in so short a period
which could turn my eyes from the shades of Mount Vernon. But this
seems to be the age of wonders. And it is reserved for intoxicated and
lawless France (for purposes of Providence far beyond the reach of
human ken) to slaughter her own citizens and to disturb the repose of
all the world besides. From a view of the past--from the prospect of
the present--and of that which seems to be expected, it is not easy for
me to decide satisfactorily on the part it might best become me to act.
In case of actual invasion by a formidable force I certainly should not
entrench myself under the cover of age and retirement, if my services
should be required by my country to assist in repelling it. And if
there be good cause to expect such an event, which certainly must be
better known to the government than to private citizens, delay in
preparing for it may be dangerous, improper, and not to be justified by
prudence. The uncertainty, however, of the latter, in my mind, creates
my embarrassment, for I cannot bring it to believe, regardless as the
French are of treaties and of the laws of nation, and capable as I
conceive them to be of any species of despotism and injustice, that
they will attempt to invade this country after such a uniform and
unequivocal expression of the determination of the people in all parts
to oppose them with their lives and fortunes. That they have been led
to believe by their agents and partisans among us that we are a divided
people, that the latter are opposed to their own government, and that
the show of a small force would occasion a revolt, I have no doubt; and
how far these men (grown desperate) will further attempt to deceive,
and may succeed in keeping up the deception, is problematical. Without
that, the folly of the Directory in such an attempt would, I conceive,
be more conspicuous, if possible, than their wickedness."

"Having with candor made this disclosure of the state of my mind, it
remains only for me to add that to those who know me best it is best
known that, should imperious circumstances induce me to exchange once
more the smooth paths of retirement for the thorny ways of public life,
at a period too when repose is more congenial to nature, it would be
productive of sensations which can be more easily conceived than

His letter to the Secretary of War was more detailed and more explicit.
"It cannot," he said, "be necessary for me to premise to you or to
others who know my sentiments; that to quit the tranquility of
retirement, and enter the boundless field of responsibility, would be
productive of sensations which a better pen than I possess would find
it difficult to describe. Nevertheless, the principle by which my
conduct has been actuated through life would not suffer me, in any
great emergency, to withhold any services I could render when required
by my country--especially in a case where its dearest rights are
assailed by lawless ambition and intoxicated power, in contempt of
every principle of justice, and in violation of a solemn compact and of
laws which govern all civilized nations--and this too with the obvious
intent to sow thick the seeds of disunion for the purpose of
subjugating our government and destroying our independence and

"Under circumstances like these, accompanied by an actual invasion of
our territory, it would be difficult for me, at any time, to remain an
idle spectator, under the plea of age or retirement. With sorrow, it is
true, I should quit the shades of my peaceful abode, and the ease and
happiness I now enjoy, to encounter anew the turmoils of war, to which,
possibly, my strength and powers might be found incompetent. These,
however, should not be stumbling-blocks in my own way. But there are
other things highly important for me to ascertain and settle before I
could give a definitive answer to your question:

"1st. The propriety in the opinion of the public, so far as that
opinion has been expressed in conversation, of my appearing again on
the public theater after declaring the sentiments I did in my
valedictory address of September, 1796.

"2dly. A conviction in my own breast, from the best information that
can be obtained, that it is the wish of my country that its military
force should be committed to my charge; and,

"3dly. That the army now to be formed should be so appointed as to
afford a well-grounded hope of its doing honor to the country and
credit to him who commands it in the field.

"On each of these heads you must allow me to make observations."
Washington then proceeded to detail his sentiments on those points on
which his consent to take command of the army must depend.

Some casual circumstances delayed the reception of the letters of the
President and Secretary of War for several days, in consequence of
which, before the answer of Washington reached the seat of government,
the President had nominated him to the chief command of all the armies
raised or to be raised in the United States, with the rank of
lieutenant-general; and the Senate had unanimously advised and
consented to his appointment.

By the Secretary of War, who was directed to wait upon him with his
commission, the President addressed to him the following letter:

"Mr. McHenry, the Secretary of War, will have the honor to wait on you
in my behalf, to impart to you a step I have ventured to take, which I
should have been happy to have communicated in person, had such a
journey at this time been in my power."

"My reasons for this measure will be too well known to need any
explanation to the public. Every friend and every enemy of America will
comprehend them at first blush. To you, sir, I owe all the apology I
can make. The urgent necessity I am in of your advice and assistance,
indeed of your conduct and direction of the war, is all I can urge; and
that is a sufficient justification to myself and to the world. I hope
it will be so considered by yourself. Mr. McHenry will have the honor
to consult you upon the organization of the army, and upon everything
relating to it."

Open instructions, signed by the President, were on the same day
delivered to the Secretary of War, of which the following is a copy:

"It is my desire that you embrace the first opportunity to set out on
your journey to Mount Vernon and wait on General Washington with the
commission of lieutenant-general and commander-in-chief of the armies
of the United States, which, by the advice and consent of the Senate,
has been signed by me.

"The reasons and motives which prevailed on me to venture on such a
step as the nomination of this great and illustrious character, whose
voluntary resignation alone occasioned my introduction to the office I
now hold, were too numerous to be detailed in this letter, and are too
obvious and important to escape the observation of any part of America
or Europe. But as it is a movement of great delicacy it will require
all your address to communicate the subject in a manner that shall be
inoffensive to his feelings and consistent with all the respect that is
due from me to him.

"If the general should decline the appointment all the world will be
silent and respectfully acquiesce. If he should accept it all the
world, except the enemies of his country, will rejoice. If he should
come to no decisive determination, but take the subject into
consideration, I shall not appoint any other lieutenant-general until
his conclusion is known.

"His advice in the formation of a list of officers would be extremely
desirable to me. The names of Lincoln, Morgan, Knox, Hamilton, Gates,
Pinckney, Lee, Carrington, Hand, Muhlenberg, Dayton, Burr, Brooks, Cobb,
Smith, as well as the present commander-in-chief, may be mentioned to
him, and any others that occur to you. Particularly, I wish to have his
opinion on the men most suitable for inspector-general, adjutant-general,
and quartermaster-general.

"His opinion on all subjects would have great weight, and I wish you to
obtain from him as much of his reflections upon the times and the
service as you can."

The communications between Washington and the Secretary of War appear
to have been full and unreserved. The impressions of the former
respecting the critical and perilous situation of his country had
previously determined him to yield to the general desire and accept the
commission offered him, provided he could be permitted to select for
the high departments of the army, and especially for the military
staff, those in whom he could place the greatest confidence. Being
assured that there was every reason to believe his wishes in this
respect would not be thwarted, he gave to the secretary the arrangement
which he would recommend for the principal stations in the army, and on
the 13th of July addressed the following letter to the President:

"I had the honor, on the evening of the 11th instant, to receive from
the hands of the Secretary at War your favor of the 7th, announcing
that you had, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appointed me
lieutenant-general and commander-in-chief of the armies raised or to be
raised for the service of the United States."

"I cannot express how greatly affected I am at this new proof of public
confidence, and at the highly flattering manner in which you have been
pleased to make the communication. At the same time I must not conceal
from you my earnest wish that the choice had fallen upon a man less
declined in years and better qualified to encounter the usual
vicissitudes of war."

"You know, sir, what calculations I had made relative to the probable
course of events on my retiring from office and the determination with
which I had consoled myself of closing the remnant of my days in my
present peaceful abode. You will, therefore, be at no loss to conceive
and appreciate the sensations I must have experienced to bring my mind
to any conclusion that would pledge me at so late a period of life to
leave scenes I sincerely love to enter upon the boundless field of
public action, incessant trouble, and high responsibility.

"It was not possible for me to remain ignorant of or indifferent to
recent transactions. The conduct of the Directory of France toward our
country; their insidious hostility to its government; their various
practices to withdraw the affections of the people from it; the evident
tendency of their arts, and those of their agents to countenance and
invigorate opposition; their disregard of solemn treaties and the laws
of nations; their war upon our defenseless commerce; their treatment of
our ministers of peace, and their demands, amounting to tribute, could
not fail to excite in me sentiments corresponding with those my
countrymen have so generally expressed in their affectionate addresses
to you.

"Believe me, sir, no man can more cordially approve the wise and
prudent measures of your administration. They ought to inspire
universal confidence, and will no doubt, combined with the state of
things, call from Congress such laws and means as will enable you to
meet the full force and extent of the crisis. Satisfied, therefore,
that you have sincerely wished and endeavored to avert war, and
exhausted to the last drop the cup of reconciliation, we can, with pure
hearts, appeal to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and may
confidently trust the final result to that kind Providence who has
heretofore and then so often signally favored the people of the United

"Thinking in this manner and feeling how incumbent it is upon every
person of every description to contribute at all times to his country's
welfare, and especially in a moment like the present, when everything
we hold dear and sacred is so seriously threatened, I have finally
determined to accept the commission of commander-in-chief of the armies
of the United States, with the reserve only that I shall not be called
into the field until the army is in a situation to require my presence
or it becomes indispensable by the urgency of circumstances.

"In making this reservation, I beg it to be understood that I do not
mean to withhold any assistance to arrange and organize the army, which
you may think I can afford. I take the liberty also to mention that I
must decline having my acceptance considered as drawing after it any
immediate charge upon the public, or that I can receive any emoluments
annexed to the appointment before I am in a situation to incur

From this period Washington intermingled the cares and attentions of
office with his agricultural pursuits. His solicitude respecting the
organization of an army which he might possibly be required to lead
against an enemy the most formidable in the world, was too strong to
admit of his being inattentive to its arrangements.

Having stipulated, in accepting office, that he should have a
concurrent voice in the appointment of the general officers and general
staff of the army, he named Alexander Hamilton as inspector-general and
second in command, with Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Henry Knox as
major-generals. Adams, who particularly disliked Hamilton, and was very
suspicious of his designs and purposes, especially if placed in any
position of power and influence, was not at all pleased with this
arrangement; but he unwillingly acquiesced. General Knox was
dissatisfied with the rank assigned him, and refused to serve; General
Pinckney, on the other hand, accepted the post offered him.

During the months of November and December (1798), Washington was at
Philadelphia, where he was busily occupied, with Hamilton and Pinckney,
in concerting arrangements for raising and organizing the army. From
this time to the end of his life a great part of his time was bestowed
upon military affairs.

"His correspondence with the Secretary of War, the major-generals, and
other officers," as Mr. Sparks states, "was unremitted and very full,
entering into details and communicating instructions which derived
value from his long experience and perfect knowledge of the subject.
His letters during this period, if not the most interesting to many
readers, will be regarded as models of their kind, and as affording
evidence that the vigor and fertility of his mind had not decreased
with declining years.

"He never seriously believed that the French would go to the extremity
of invading the United States. But it had always been a maxim with him,
that a timely preparation for war afforded the surest means for
preserving peace, and on this occasion he acted with as much
promptitude and energy as if the invaders had been actually on the
coast. His opinion proved to be correct, and his prediction was
verified." For the French government, when it was found that the people
would support the executive in resisting aggressions, soon manifested a
disposition to draw back from their war-like attitude, since war with
the United States was the last thing which was really desired.

While Washington was engaged in organizing the army actual hostilities
between the United States and France were going on at sea. A _navy_
department was formed by act of Congress in April (1798), and on May
21st Benjamin Stoddert, of Maryland, became the first Secretary of the
Navy. The frigates United States, 44, and Constellation, 38, were
launched and fitted for sea in the summer and autumn succeeding; and
the whole force authorized by a law passed on the 16th of July,
consisted of twelve frigates, twelve ships of a force between twenty
and twenty-four guns inclusive, and six sloops, besides galleys and
revenue cutters, making a total of thirty active cruisers. Numerous
privateers were also fitted out. The chief theater of naval operations
was the archipelago of the West Indies, where the aggressions on our
commerce by French cruisers and privateers had originally commenced. Of
the numerous encounters which took place, two remarkable ones afforded
a promise of the future glories of the American navy. One of these was
a very severe action (February, 1799) between the American frigate
Constellation, of thirty-eight guns, commanded by Commodore Truxton,
and the French frigate l'Insurgente, of forty guns, which terminated in
the capture of the latter. Truxton, in a subsequent engagement,
compelled another French frigate, the Vengeance, mounting no less than
fifty-two guns, to strike her colors, but she afterward made her escape
in the night.

The determined attitude of the United States soon convinced the French
Directory that the people were united in support of the administration
in its hostile operations, and Talleyrand sent certain intimations to
our government, through William Vans Murray, American minister at the
Hague, as well as by more private channels, that the Directory were
willing and desirous to treat for peace. President Adams determined to
avail himself of these friendly dispositions, and, without consulting
his Cabinet or the leading members of Congress, on the 18th of February
(1799) nominated to the Senate Mr. Murray as minister plenipotentiary
to the French republic. Patrick Henry and Chief Justice Oliver
Ellsworth were subsequently appointed joint ambassadors, but the latter
declining on account of ill health, Gen. William Richardson Davie,
Governor of North Carolina, was appointed in his place. Ellsworth and
Davie did not leave the country, however, till November. The peace
which terminated the quasi war with France was negotiated by these
envoys, but it did not take place till the 3d of September, 1800, when
Napoleon was at the head of affairs in France, as First Consul, and
after the death of Washington.

We have seen that when Washington retired from the office of President,
he had promised himself a season of leisure and repose before closing
his useful and honorable life. But this the course of events did not
permit. His last days were destined to be fully occupied with public

During the years 1798 and 1799 he was engaged in a most voluminous
correspondence with the President, the heads of departments, and the
officers of the provisional army, in relation to military affairs, and
in addition to this his published letters show that he had to keep up a
correspondence with many public men, both in Europe and America, as
well as with his own connections and dependants.

This correspondence and the arrangement of his papers added to the
writing occasioned by his accounts and the army affairs, made it
necessary for him to have assistance, and he accordingly wrote to his
old secretary, Mr. Tobias Lear, with a view to engaging him in the same
office again (August 2, 1798). An extract from his letter to Mr. Lear
shows how his writing labors had increased.

"The little leisure I had," he writes, "before my late appointment (from
visits, my necessary rides, and other occurrences), to overhaul,
arrange, and separate papers of real from those of little or no value,
is now, by that event, so much encroached upon by personal and written
applications for offices, and other matters incidental to the
commander-in-chief, that, without assistance, I must abandon all idea
of accomplishing this necessary work before I embark in new scenes,
which will render them more voluminous, and, of course, more difficult;
a measure which would be extremely irksome to me to submit to,
especially as it respects my accounts, which are yet in confusion; my
earnest wish and desire being, when I quit the stage of human action,
to leave all matters in such a situation as to give as little trouble
as possible to those who will have the management of them hereafter.

"Under this view of my situation, which is far from being an agreeable
one, and at times fills me with deep concern when I see so little
prospect of complete extrication, I have written to the Secretary of
War to be informed whether--as my taking the field is contingent, and
no pay or emolument will accrue to myself until then--I am at liberty
to appoint my secretary immediately, who shall be allowed his pay and
forage from the moment he joins me. If he answers in the affirmative,
can you do this on these terms?"

Mr. Lear accepted the appointment of secretary, proceeded immediately
to Mount Vernon, and remained with Washington till his decease.

With the aid of Mr. Lear, who was thoroughly conversant with his papers
and accustomed to his methods of transacting business, he was enabled
to keep up his old habit of riding over the estate, and superintending
its culture, during the early hours of the day. "When he returned from
his morning ride," which, he remarks in a letter to Mr. McHenry,
"usually occupied him till it was time to dress for dinner," he
generally found some newly arrived guests, perfect strangers to him,
come, as they said, out of respect to him. They were always received
courteously, but their number and their constant succession must have
made serious inroads on the domestic quiet in which he so much
delighted. "How different this," he says in the same letter, "from
having a few social friends at a cheerful board."

During the last two years of his life his domestic circle was small.
Mrs. Washington, Miss Custis, and some others of his adopted children,
and his old friend, Mr. Lear, were at Mount Vernon; and some of his
visitors were such as he himself would have chosen. But the greater
part of them were comparative strangers.

Distinguished persons sometimes came from Europe to visit him, and
these were received with his usual hospitality. When they sought to
draw him into conversation about his own actions, he changed the
subject and made inquiries about Europe and its affairs. In his own
house, although maintaining toward strangers great courtesy and
amenity, he always avoided discussing on matters in which he himself
had played the most conspicuous part. At home he was the plain, modest
country gentleman he had been before the destinies of an army and an
empire had been placed in his hands.

1. Footnote: M. de Lacolombe had been adjutant-general under Lafayette,
when the latter commanded the National Guard.

2. Footnote: Sparks, "Writings of Washington."

3. Footnote: Marshall.



On Thursday, December 12, 1799, Washington rode out to superintend as
usual the affairs of his estate. He left the house at 10 o'clock in the
morning and did not return till 3 o'clock in the afternoon. Soon after
he went out the weather became very inclement, rain, hail, and snow
falling alternately, with a cold wind. When he came in his secretary
and superintendent, Mr. Lear, handed him some letters to frank, but he
declined sending them to the post-office that evening, remarking that
the weather was too bad to send a servant with them. On Mr. Lear's
observing that he was afraid he had got wet, he said, No, his great
coat had kept him dry. Still his neck was wet and snow was hanging on
his hair. But he made light of it, and sat down to dinner without
changing his dress. In the evening he appeared as well as usual. [1]

A heavy snowstorm on Friday prevented his riding out on the estate as
usual. He had taken cold the day before by his long exposure, and he
complained of a sore throat. This, however, did not prevent his going
out in the afternoon to mark some trees not far from the house, which
were to be cut down. He had now a hoarseness, which increased toward
the close of the day. He spent the evening in the parlor with Mrs.
Washington and Mr. Lear, perusing the newspapers, occasionally reading
an interesting article aloud as well as his hoarseness would permit,
and cheerful as usual. On his retiring, Mr. Lear proposed that he
should take some remedy for his cold, but he answered "No, you know I
never take anything for a cold. Let it go as it came."

Between 2 and 3 o'clock on Saturday morning he had an ague fit, but
would not permit the family to be disturbed in their rest till
daylight. He breathed with great difficulty and was hardly able to
utter a word intelligibly. At his desire he was bled by Mr. Rawlins,
one of the overseers. An attempt to take a simple remedy for a cold
showed that he could not swallow a drop, but seemed convulsed and
almost suffocated in his efforts. Dr. Craik, the family physician, was
sent for and arrived about 9 o'clock, who put a blister on his throat,
took some more blood from him and ordered a gargle of vinegar and sage
tea, and inhalation of the fumes of vinegar and hot water. Two
consulting physicians, Dr. Brown and Dr. Dick, were called in, who
arrived about 3 o'clock, and after a consultation he was bled a third
time. The patient could now swallow a little, and calomel and tartar
emetic were administered without any effect.

About half past 4 o'clock he desired Mr. Lear to call Mrs. Washington
to his bedside; when he requested her to bring from his desk two wills,
and on receiving them, he gave her one, which he observed was useless
as being superseded by the other, and desired her to burn it, which she
did, and put the other into her closet.

"After this was done," says Mr. Lear, in concluding his touching
narrative, "I returned to his bedside and took his hand. He said to me:
'I find I am going. My breath cannot last long. I believed from the
first that the disorder would prove fatal. Do you arrange and record
all my late military letters and papers. Arrange my accounts and settle
my books, as you know more about them than anyone else, and let Mr.
Rawlins finish recording my other letters, which he has begun.' I told
him this should be done. He then asked if I recollected anything which
it was essential for him to do, as he had but a very short time to
continue with us. I told him that I could recollect nothing which it
was essential for him to do, but that I hoped he was not so near his
end. He observed, smiling, that he certainly was, and that, as it was
the debt we must all pay, he looked to the event with perfect

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