Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

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

Part 8 out of 16

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 1.9 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

national faith and future tranquility of this extensive continent, is
my decided opinion.

"By the preceding remarks it will readily be imagined that instead of
retracting and reprehending (from further experience and reflection)
the mode of compensation so strenuously urged in the enclosures, I am
more and more confirmed in the sentiment, and if in the wrong, suffer
me to please myself with the grateful delusion.

"For if, besides the simple payment of their wages, a further
compensation is not due to the sufferings and sacrifices of the
officers, then have I been mistaken indeed. If the whole army have not
merited whatever a grateful people can bestow, then have I been
beguiled by prejudice and built opinion on the basis of error. If this
country should not in the event perform everything which has been
requested in the late memorial to Congress, then will my belief become
vain, and the hope that has been excited void of foundation. And if (as
has been suggested for the purpose of inflaming their passions) the
officers of the army are to be the only sufferers by this revolution;
'if, retiring from the field, they are to grow old in poverty,
wretchedness, and contempt; if they are to wade through the vile mire
of dependency and owe the miserable remnant of that life to charity
which has hitherto been spent in honor,' then shall I have learned what
ingratitude is--then shall I have realized a tale which will embitter
every moment of my future life.

"But I am under no such apprehensions; a country rescued by their arms
from impending ruin will never leave unpaid the debt of gratitude.

"Should any intemperate or improper warmth have mingled itself amongst
the foregoing observations, I must entreat your Excellency and Congress
it may be attributed to the effusion of an honest zeal in the best of
causes, and that my peculiar situation may be my apology, and I hope I
need not on this momentous occasion make any new protestations of
personal disinterestedness, having ever renounced for myself the idea
of pecuniary reward. The consciousness of having attempted faithfully
to discharge my duty and the approbation of my country will be a
sufficient recompense for my services."

This energetic letter, connected with recent events, induced Congress
to decide on the claims of the army. These were liquidated, and the
amount acknowledged to be due from the United States. Thus the country
was once more indebted to the wisdom and moderation of Washington for
its preservation from imminent danger.

Soon after these events intelligence of a general peace was received.
The news came by a French vessel from Cadiz, with a letter from
Lafayette, who was then at that place preparing for an expedition to
the West Indies, under Count d'Estaing. Shortly after, Sir Guy Carleton
gave official information to the same effect and announced a cessation
of hostilities. The joyful intelligence was notified by proclamation of
Washington to the army, in the camp at Newburg, on the 19th of April
(1783), exactly eight years after the commencement of hostilities at
Lexington. In general orders a public religious service and
thanksgiving was directed by him to take place on the evening of the
same day, when the proclamation was read at the head of every regiment
and corps of the army. The immediate reduction of the army was resolved
upon, but the mode of effecting it required deliberation. To avoid the
inconveniences of dismissing a great number of soldiers in a body,
furloughs were freely granted on the application of individuals, and
after their dispersion they were not enjoined to return. By this
arrangement a critical moment was got over. A great part of an unpaid
army was dispersed over the States without tumult or disorder.

At the instance of Washington the soldiers were permitted to carry home
their arms, to be preserved and transmitted to their posterity as
memorials of the glorious war of independence.

While the veterans serving under the immediate eye of their beloved
Commander-in-Chief manifested the utmost good temper and conduct, a
mutinous disposition broke out among some new levies stationed at
Lancaster, in Pennsylvania. About eighty of this description marched in
a body to Philadelphia, where they were joined by some other troops, so
as to amount in the whole to 300. They marched with fixed bayonets to
the statehouse, in which Congress and the State Executive Council held
their sessions. They placed guards at every door and threatened the
President and Council of the State with letting loose an enraged
soldiery upon them, unless they granted their demands in twenty
minutes. As soon as this outrage was known to Washington, he detached
General Howe with a competent force to suppress the mutiny. This was
effected without bloodshed before his arrival. The mutineers were too
inconsiderable to commit extensive mischief, but their disgraceful
conduct excited the greatest indignation in the breast of the
Commander-in-Chief, which was expressed in a letter to the President of
Congress in the following words:

"While I suffer the most poignant distress in observing that a handful
of men, contemptible in numbers, and equally so in point of service (if
the veteran troops from the southward have not been seduced by their
example), and who are not worthy to be called soldiers, should disgrace
themselves and their country, as the Pennsylvania mutineers have done,
by insulting the sovereign authority of the United States, and that of
their own, I feel an inexpressible satisfaction that even this behavior
cannot stain the name of the American soldiery.

"It cannot be imputable to or reflect dishonor on the army at large,
but, on the contrary, it will, by the striking contrast it exhibits,
hold up to public view the other troops in the most advantageous point
of light. Upon taking all the circumstances into consideration, I
cannot sufficiently express my surprise and indignation at the
arrogance, the folly, and the wickedness of the mutineers; nor can I
sufficiently admire the fidelity, the bravery, and patriotism which
must forever signalize the unsullied character of the other corps of
our army. For when we consider that these Pennsylvania levies who have
now mutinied are recruits and soldiers of a day, who have not borne the
heat and burden of war, and who can have in reality very few hardships
to complain of, and when we at the same time recollect that those
soldiers who have lately been furloughed from this army, are the
veterans who have patiently endured hunger, nakedness, and cold; who
have suffered and bled without a murmur, and who, with perfect good
order have retired to their homes without a settlement of their
accounts or a farthing of money in their pockets, we shall be as much
astonished at the virtues of the latter as we are struck with
detestation at the proceedings of the former."

On the occasion of disbanding the army, Washington addressed a circular
letter to the governors of all the States, in which he gave his views
of the existing state of the country and the principles upon which the
future fabric of united government should be founded. It is one of the
most remarkable state papers ever produced in this country.

Meantime Sir Guy Carleton was preparing to evacuate the city of New
York. On the 27th of April (1783) a fleet had sailed for Nova Scotia
with 7,000 persons and their effects. These were partly soldiers and
partly Tories exiled by the laws of the States.

On the 6th of May Washington had a personal interview with Carleton at
Orangetown respecting the delivery of the British ports in the United
States, and of property directed to be surrendered by an article of the

The independence of his country being established, Washington looked
forward with anxiety to its future destinies. These might greatly
depend on the systems to be adopted on the return of peace, and to
those systems much of his attention was directed. The future peace
establishment of the United States was one of the many interesting
subjects which claimed the consideration of Congress. As the experience
of Washington would certainly enable him to suggest many useful ideas
on this important point, his opinions respecting it were requested by
the committee of Congress to whom it was referred. His letter on this
occasion will long deserve the attention of those to whom the interests
of the United States may be confided. His strongest hopes of securing
the future tranquility, dignity, and respectability of his country were
placed on a well-regulated and well-disciplined militia; and his
sentiments on this subject are entitled to the more regard as a long
course of severe experience had enabled him to mark the total
incompetence of the existing system to the great purposes of national

At length the British troops evacuated New York, and on the 25th of
November (1783) a detachment from the American army took possession of
that city.

Guards being posted for the security of the citizens, Washington,
accompanied by Governor George Clinton, and attended by many civil and
military officers and a large number of respectable inhabitants on
horseback, made his public entry into the city, where he was received
with every mark of respect and attention. His military course was now
on the point of terminating, and he was about to bid adieu to his
comrades in arms. This affecting interview took place on the 4th of
December. At noon the principal officers of the army assembled at
Frances' tavern, soon after which their belove'd Commander entered the
room. His emotions were too strong to be concealed. Filling a glass, he
turned to them and said, "With a heart full of love and gratitude, I
now take leave of you; I most devoutly wish that your latter days may
be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and
honorable." Having drunk, he added, "I cannot come to each of you to
take my leave, but shall be obliged if each of you will come and take
me by the hand." General Knox, being nearest, turned to him.
Washington, incapable of utterance, grasped his hand and embraced him.
In the same affectionate manner he took leave of each succeeding
officer. The tear of manly sensibility was in every eye, and not a word
was articulated to interrupt the dignified silence and the tenderness
of the scene. Leaving the room, he passed through the corps of light
infantry and walked to Whitehall, where a barge waited to convey him to
Paulus Hook. The whole company followed in mute and solemn procession,
with dejected countenances, testifying feelings of delicious melancholy
which no language can describe. Having entered the barge he turned to
the company and, waving his hat, bid them a silent adieu. They paid him
the same affectionate compliment, and, after the barge had left them,
returned in the same solemn manner to the place where they had

Congress was then in session at Annapolis, in Maryland, to which place
Washington repaired for the purpose of resigning into their hands the
authority with which they had invested him. He arrived on the 19th of
December (1783). The next day he informed that body of his intention to
ask leave to resign the commission he had the honor of holding in their
service, and requested to know whether it would be their pleasure that
he should offer his resignation in writing or at an audience.

To give the more dignity to the act, they determined that it should be
offered at a public audience on the following Tuesday, 23d of December,
at 12.

When the hour arrived for performing a ceremony so well calculated to
recall the various interesting scenes which had passed since the
commission now to be returned was granted, the gallery was crowded with
spectators and several persons of distinction were admitted on the
floor of Congress. The members remained seated and covered. The
spectators were standing and uncovered. Washington was introduced by
the secretary and conducted to a chair. After a short pause the
President, General Mifflin, informed him that "the United States in
Congress assembled were prepared to receive his communications." With
native dignity, improved by the solemnity of the occasion, Washington
rose and delivered the following address:

"MR. PRESIDENT.--The great events on which my resignation depended
having at length taken place, I have now the honor of offering my
sincere congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself before
them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to
claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.

"Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and
pleased with an opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a
respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the appointment I
accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so
arduous a task, which, however, was superseded by a confidence in
rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the Union,
and the patronage of Heaven.

"The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine
expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and
the assistance I have received from my countrymen increases with every
review of the momentous contest. While I repeat my obligations to the
army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to
acknowledge in this place the peculiar services and distinguished
merits of the gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the
war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose
my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me, sir, to recommend
in particular, those who have continued in the service to the present
moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.

"I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last act of my
official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to
the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence
of them to His holy keeping.

"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great
theater of action, and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this august
body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my
commission and take my leave of all the employments of public life."

After advancing to the chair and delivering his commission to the
President, he returned to his place and received, standing, the
following answer of Congress, which was delivered by the President:

"SIR.--The United States, in Congress assembled, receive with emotions
too affecting for utterance, the solemn resignation of the authorities
under which you have led their troops with success through a perilous
and a doubtful war. Called upon by your country to defend its invaded
rights, you accepted the sacred charge before it had formed alliances
and whilst it was without funds or a government to support you. You
have conducted the great military contest with wisdom and fortitude,
invariably regarding the rights of the civil power through all
disasters and changes. You have, by the love and confidence of your
fellow citizens, enabled them to display their martial genius and
transmit their fame to posterity. You have persevered until these
United States, aided by a magnanimous King and nation, have been
enabled, under a just Providence, to close the war in freedom, safety,
and independence, on which happy event we sincerely join you in

"Having defended the standard of liberty in this new world, having
taught a lesson useful to those who inflict and to those who feel
oppression, you retire from the great theater of action with the
blessings of your fellow-citizens. But the glory of your virtues will
not terminate with your military command; it will continue to animate
remotest ages.

"We feel with you our obligations to the army in general and will
particularly charge ourselves with the interests of those confidential
officers who have attended your person to this affecting moment.

"We join you in commending the interests of our dearest country to the
protection of Almighty God, beseeching Him to dispose the hearts and
minds of its citizens to improve the opportunity afforded them of
becoming a happy and respectable nation. And for you we address to Him
our earnest prayers that a life so beloved may be fostered with all his
care; that your days may be as happy as they have been illustrious, and
that he will finally give you that reward which this world cannot

This scene being closed, a scene rendered peculiarly interesting by the
personages who appeared in it, by the great events it recalled to the
memory, and by the singularity of the circumstances under which it was
displayed, the American chief withdrew from the hall of Congress,
leaving the silent and admiring spectators deeply impressed with those
sentiments which its solemnity and dignity were calculated to inspire.

Divested of his military character, Washington, on the following day,
set out for Mount Vernon to which favorite residence he now retired,
followed by the enthusiastic love, esteem, and admiration of his
countrymen. Relieved from the agitations of a doubtful contest and from
the toils of an exalted station he returned with increased delight to
the duties and the enjoyments of a private citizen. He indulged the
hope that in the shade of retirement, under the protection of a free
government and the benignant influence of mild and equal laws, he might
taste that felicity which is the reward of a mind at peace with itself
and conscious of its own purity. [2]

"Though General Washington was not stayed in his progress to
Philadelphia, by the Congress, who, on the 1st of November, had elected
the Honorable Thomas Mifflin President, and three days after had
adjourned to meet at Annapolis in Maryland on the 26th; yet it was the
8th of December, at noon, before General Washington arrived at the
Capital of Pennsylvania. When his intention of quitting the army was
known he was complimented and received with the utmost respect and
affection, by all orders of men, both civil and military. He remained
some days in Philadelphia. While in the city he delivered in his
accounts to the comptroller, down to December the 13th, all in his own
handwriting, and every entry made in the most particular manner,
stating the occasion of each charge, so as to give the least trouble in
examining and comparing them with the vouchers with which they were

"The heads are as follows, copied from the folio manuscript paper book,
in the file of the treasury office, No. 3700, being a black box of tin
containing, under lock and key, both that and the vouchers:

"Total of expenditures from 1775 to 1783, exclusive L. s. d.
of provisions from commissaries and contractors,
and of liquors, &c., from them and others............ 3387 14 4
Secret intelligence and service...................... 1982 10 0
Spent in reconnoitering and traveling................ 874 8 8
Miscellaneous charges ............................... 2952 10 1
Expended besides, dollars according to the scale of
depreciation ........................................ 6114 14 0

L16,311 17 1

[3] "(General Washington's account) from June, 1775, L. s. d.
to the end of June, 1783............................ 16,311 17 1
Expenditure from July 1, 1783, to Dec. 13........... 1717 5 4
(Added afterwards) from thence to Dec. 28........... 213 8 4
Mrs. Washington's traveling expenses in coming
to the General and returning........................ 1064 1 0

L19,306 11 9

"Lawful money of Virginia,
the same as the Massachusetts, or L14,479 18 9 3/4 sterling.

"The General entered in his book--'I find upon the final adjustment of
these accounts, that I am a considerable loser--my disbursements
falling a good deal short of my receipts, and the money I had upon hand
of my own; for besides the sums I carried with me to Cambridge in 1775,
I received moneys afterward on private account in 1777 and since, which
(except small sums that I had occasion now and then to apply to private
uses) were all expended in the public service: through hurry, I
suppose, and the perplexity of business (for I know not how else to
account for the deficiency) I have omitted to charge the same, whilst
every debit against me is here credited. July 1, 1783.'" [4]

"Happy would it have been for the United States had each person who has
handled public money been equally exact and punctual!

"General Washington, after delivering in his accounts, hastened to
Annapolis, where he arrived on the evening of the 19th December."

A facsimile of the original account, filling many foolscap pages, has
been published; and copies were eagerly ordered by collectors in Europe
as well as the United States.

The document through which Washington, at the close of the Revolution,
left to the States whose trust he had held, and whose work he had done,
does not yield in interest and importance to even the more famous
Farewell Address. It was sent to each of the Governors of the several
States, and was as follows:


"Headquarters, Newburg, June 18, 1783. Sir:--The object for which I
had the honor to hold an appointment in the service of my country being
accomplished, I am now preparing to resign it into the hands of
Congress, and return to that domestic retirement, which, it is well
known, I left with the greatest reluctance; a retirement for which I
have never ceased to sigh through a long and painful absence, in which
(remote from the noise and trouble of the world) I meditate to pass the
remainder of life, in a state of undisturbed repose: but, before I
carry this resolution into effect, I think it a duty incumbent on me to
make this my last official communication, to congratulate you on the
glorious events which Heaven has been pleased to produce in our favor;
to offer my sentiments respecting some important subjects, which appear
to me to be intimately connected with the tranquility of the United
States; to take my leave of your Excellency as a public character; and
to give my final blessing to that country in whose service I have spent
the prime of my life, for whose sake I have consumed so many anxious
days and watchful nights, and whose happiness, being extremely dear to
me, will always constitute no inconsiderable part of my own.

"Impressed with the liveliest sensibility on this pleasing occasion, I
will claim the indulgence of dilating the more copiously on the subject
of our mutual felicitation. When we consider the magnitude of the prize
we contended for, the doubtful nature of the contest, and the favorable
manner in which it has terminated, we shall find the greatest possible
reason for gratitude and rejoicing. This is a theme that will afford
infinite delight to every benevolent and liberal mind, whether the
event in contemplation be considered as a source of present enjoyment,
or the parent of future happiness; and we shall have equal occasion to
felicitate ourselves on the lot which Providence has assigned us,
whether we view it in a natural, a political, or moral point of light.

"The citizens of America, placed in the most enviable condition, as the
sole lords and proprietors of a vast tract of continent, comprehending
all the various soils and climates of the world, and abounding with all
the necessaries and conveniences of life, are now, by the late
satisfactory pacification, acknowledged to be possessed of absolute
freedom and independency: they are from this period to be considered as
the actors on a most conspicuous theatre, which seems to be peculiarly
designed by Providence for the display of human greatness and felicity.
Here they are not only surrounded with every thing that can contribute
to the completion of private and domestic enjoyment; but Heaven has
crowned all its other blessings, by giving a surer opportunity for
political happiness, than any other nation has ever been favored with.
Nothing can illustrate these observations more forcibly than a
recollection of the happy conjuncture of times and circumstances under
which our republic assumed its rank among the nations. The foundation
of our empire was not laid in a gloomy age of ignorance and
superstition, but at an epoch when the rights of mankind were better
understood and more clearly defined, than at any former period.
Researches of the human mind after social happiness have been carried
to a great extent; the treasures of knowledge acquired by the labors of
philosophers, sages, and legislators, through a long succession of
years, are laid open for us, and their collected wisdom may be happily
applied in the establishment of our forms of government. The free
cultivation of letters, the unbounded extension of commerce, the
progressive refinement of manners, the growing liberality of sentiment;
and, above all, the pure and benign light of revelation, have had a
meliorating influence on mankind, and increased the blessings of
society. At this auspicious period, the United States came into
existence as a nation; and if their citizens should not be completely
free and happy, the fault will be entirely their own.

"Such is our situation, and such are our prospects. But notwithstanding
the cup of blessing is thus reached out to us; notwithstanding
happiness is ours, if we have a disposition to seize the occasion, and
make it our own; yet it appears to me there is an option still left to
the United States of America, whether they will be respectable and
prosperous, or contemptible and miserable as a nation. This is the time
of their political probation; this is the moment when the eyes of the
whole world are turned upon them; this is the time to establish or ruin
their national character forever; this is the favorable moment to give
such a tone to the federal government, as will enable it to answer the
ends of its institution; or, this may be the ill-fated moment for
relaxing the powers of the union, annihilating the cement of the
confederation, and exposing us to become the sport of European
politics, which may play one State against another, to prevent their
growing importance, and to serve their own interested purposes. For,
according to the system of policy the States shall adopt at this
moment, they will stand or fall; and, by their confirmation or lapse,
it is yet to be decided, whether the Revolution must ultimately be
considered as a blessing or a curse:--a blessing or a curse, not to the
present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn
millions be involved.

"With this conviction of the importance of the present crisis, silence
in me would be a crime; I will therefore speak to your Excellency the
language of freedom and sincerity, without disguise. I am aware,
however, those who differ from me in political sentiments may, perhaps,
remark, I am stepping out of the proper line of my duty; and they may
possibly ascribe to arrogance or ostentation, what I know alone is the
result of the purest intention. But the rectitude of my own heart,
which disdains such unworthy motives; the part I have hitherto acted in
life; the determination I have formed of not taking any share in public
business hereafter; the ardent desire I feel, and shall continue to
manifest, of quietly enjoying in private life, after all the toils of
war, the benefits of a wise and liberal government, will, I flatter
myself, sooner or later, convince my countrymen, that I could have no
sinister views in delivering with so little reserve the opinions
contained in this address.

"There are four things which I humbly conceive are essential to the
well-being, I may even venture to say to the existence, of the United
States as an independent power.

"1st. An indissoluble union of the States under one federal head.

"2dly. A sacred regard to public justice.

"3dly. The adoption of a proper peace establishment. And,

"4thly. The prevalence of that pacific and friendly disposition among
the people of the United States, which will induce them to forget their
local prejudices and policies; to make those mutual concessions which
are requisite to the general prosperity; and, in some instances, to
sacrifice their individual advantages to the interest of the community.

"These are the pillars on which the glorious fabric of our independency
and national character must be supported. Liberty is the basis; and
whoever would dare to sap the foundation, or overturn the structure,
under whatever specious pretext he may attempt it, will merit the
bitterest execration, and the severest punishment, which can be
inflicted by his injured country.

"On the three first articles I will make a few observations; leaving
the last to the good sense and serious consideration of those
immediately concerned.

"Under the first head, although it may not be necessary or proper for
me in this place to enter into a particular disquisition of the
principles of the union, and to take up the great question which has
been frequently agitated, whether it be expedient and requisite for the
States to delegate a larger portion of power to Congress, or not; yet
it will be a part of my duty, and that of every true patriot, to
assert, without reserve, and to insist upon the following
positions:--That unless the States will suffer Congress to exercise
those prerogatives they are undoubtedly invested with by the
Constitution, every thing must very rapidly tend to anarchy and
confusion: That it is indispensable to the happiness of the individual
States, that there should be lodged, somewhere, a supreme power to
regulate and govern the general concerns of the confederated Republic,
without which the union cannot be of long duration: That there must be
a faithful and pointed compliance on the part of every State with the
late proposals and demands of Congress, or the most fatal consequences
will ensue: That whatever measures have a tendency to dissolve the
union, or contribute to violate or lessen the sovereign authority,
ought to be considered as hostile to the liberty and independence of
America, and the authors of them treated accordingly. And, lastly, that
unless we can be enabled by the concurrence of the States to
participate of the fruits of the Revolution, and enjoy the essential
benefits of civil society, under a form of government so free and
uncorrupted, so happily guarded against the danger of oppression, as
has been devised and adopted by the articles of confederation, it will
be a subject of regret that so much blood and treasure have been
lavished for no purpose; that so many sufferings have been encountered
without a compensation; and that so many sacrifices have been made in
vain. Many other considerations might here be adduced to prove, that
without an entire conformity to the spirit of the union, we cannot
exist as an independent power. It will be sufficient for my purpose to
mention but one or two, which seem to me of the greatest importance. It
is only in our united character, as an empire, that our independence is
acknowledged that our power can be regarded, or our credit supported
among foreign nations. The treaties of the European powers with the
United States of America, will have no validity on a dissolution of the
union. We shall be left nearly in a state of nature; or we may find, by
our own unhappy experience, that there is a natural and necessary
progression from the extreme of anarchy to the extreme of tyranny; and
that arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of liberty
abused to licentiousness.

"As to the second article, which respects the performance of public
justice, Congress have, in their late address to the United States,
almost exhausted the subject; they have explained their ideas so fully,
and have enforced the obligations the States are under to render
complete justice to all the public creditors, with so much dignity and
energy, that, in my opinion, no real friend to the honor and
independency of America can hesitate a single moment respecting the
propriety of complying with the just and honorable measures proposed.
If their arguments do not produce conviction, I know of nothing that
will have greater influence, especially when we reflect that the system
referred to, being the result of the collected wisdom of the continent,
must be esteemed, if not perfect, certainly the least objectionable of
any that could be devised; and that, if it should not be carried into
immediate execution, a national bankruptcy, with all its deplorable
consequences, will take place before any different plan can possibly be
proposed or adopted; so pressing are the present circumstances, and
such is the alternative now offered to the States.

"The ability of the country to discharge the debts which have been
incurred in its defense, is not to be doubted; and inclination, I
flatter myself, will not be wanting. The path of our duty is plain
before us; honesty will be found, on every experiment to be the best
and only true policy. Let us then, as a nation, be just; let us fulfill
the public contracts which Congress had undoubtedly a right to make for
the purpose of carrying on the war, with the same good faith we suppose
ourselves bound to perform our private engagements. In the mean time,
let an attention to the cheerful performance of their proper business,
as individuals, and as members of society, be earnestly inculcated on
the citizens of America; then will they strengthen the bands of
government, and be happy under its protection. Every one will reap the
fruit of his labors: every one will enjoy his own acquisitions, without
molestation and without danger.

"In this state of absolute freedom and perfect security, who will
grudge to yield a very little of his property to support the common
interests of society, and insure the protection of government? Who does
not remember the frequent declarations at the commencement of the war,
that we should be completely satisfied, if, at the expense of one half,
we could defend the remainder of our possessions? Where is the man to
be found, who wishes to remain in debt for the defense of his own
person and property, to the exertions, the bravery, and the blood of
others, without making one generous effort to pay the debt of honor and
of gratitude? In what part of the continent shall we find any man, or
body of men, who would not blush to stand up and propose measures
purposely calculated to rob the soldier of his stipend, and the public
creditor of his due? And were it possible that such a flagrant instance
of injustice could ever happen, would it not excite the general
indignation, and tend to bring down upon the authors of such measures
the aggravated vengeance of Heaven? If, after all, a spirit of
disunion, or a temper of obstinacy and perverseness should manifest
itself in any of the States; if such an ungracious disposition should
attempt to frustrate all the happy effects that might be expected to
flow from the union; if there should be a refusal to comply with
requisitions for funds to discharge the annual interest of the public
debts; and if that refusal should revive all those jealousies, and
produce all those evils, which are now happily removed, Congress, who
have in all their transactions shown a great degree of magnanimity and
justice, will stand justified in the sight of God and man! and that
State alone, which puts itself in opposition to the aggregate wisdom of
the continent, and follows such mistaken and pernicious councils, will
be responsible for all the consequences.

"For my own part, conscious of having acted, while a servant of the
public, in the manner I conceived best suited to promote the real
interests of my country; having, in consequence of my fixed belief, in
some measure pledged myself to the army that their country would
finally do them complete and ample justice; and not wishing to conceal
any instance of my official conduct from the eyes of the world, I have
thought proper to transmit to your Excellency the enclosed collection
of papers, relative to the half-pay and commutation granted by
Congress to the officers of the army. From these communications my
decided sentiment will be clearly comprehended, together with the
conclusive reasons which induced me, at an early period, to recommend
the adoption of this measure in the most earnest and serious manner. As
the proceedings of Congress, the army, and myself, are open to all, and
contain, in my opinion, sufficient information to remove the prejudices
and errors which may have been entertained by any, I think it
unnecessary to say any thing more than just to observe, that the
resolutions of Congress now alluded to, are as undoubtedly and
absolutely binding upon the United States, as the most solemn acts of
confederation or legislation.

"As to the idea which, I am informed, has in some instances prevailed,
that the half-pay and commutation are to be regarded merely in the
odious light of a pension, it ought to be exploded forever: that
provision should be viewed, as it really was, a reasonable compensation
offered by Congress, at a time when they had nothing else to give to
officers of the army, for services then to be performed. It was the
only means to prevent a total dereliction of the service. It was a part
of their hire; I may be allowed to say, it was the price of their
blood, and of your independency. It is therefore more than a common
debt; it is a debt of honor: it can never be considered as a pension,
or gratuity, nor cancelled until it is fairly discharged.

"With regard to the distinction between officers and soldiers, it is
sufficient that the uniform experience of every nation of the world,
combined with our own, proves the utility and propriety of the
discrimination. Rewards in proportion to the aid the public draws from
them, are unquestionably due to all its servants. In some lines, the
soldiers have perhaps, generally, had as ample compensation for their
services, by the large bounties which have been paid them, as their
officers will receive in the proposed commutation; in others, if,
besides the donation of land, the payment of arrearages of clothing and
wages (in which articles all the component parts of the army must be
put upon the same footing), we take into the estimate the bounties many
of the soldiers have received, and the gratuity of one year's full pay,
which is promised to all, possibly their situation (every circumstance
being duly considered) will not be deemed less eligible than that of
the officers. Should a further reward, however, be judged equitable, I
will venture to assert, no man will enjoy greater satisfaction than
myself,--in an exemption from taxes for a limited time (which has been
petitioned for in some instances), or any other adequate immunity or
compensation granted to the brave defenders of their country's cause.
But neither the adoption or rejection of this proposition will, in any
manner, affect, much less militate against, the act of Congress by
which they have offered five years' full pay in lieu of the half-pay
for life, which had been before promised to the officers of the army.

"Before I conclude the subject on public justice, I cannot omit to
mention the obligations this country is under to the meritorious class
of veterans, the non-commissioned officers and privates, who have been
discharged for inability, in consequence of the resolution of Congress
of the 23d of April, 1782, on an annual pension for life. Their
peculiar sufferings, their singular merits and claims to that
provision, need only to be known to interest the feelings of humanity
in their behalf. Nothing but a punctual payment of their annual
allowance can rescue them from the most complicated misery; and nothing
could be a more melancholy and distressing sight than to behold those
who have shed their blood, or lost their limbs in the service of their
country, without a shelter, without a friend, and without the means of
obtaining any of the comforts or necessaries of life, compelled to beg
their bread daily from door to door. Suffer me to recommend those of
this description, belonging to your State, to the warmest patronage of
your Excellency and your legislature.

"It is necessary to say but a few words on the third topic which was
proposed, and which regards particularly the defense of the
republic--as there can be little doubt but Congress will recommend a
proper peace establishment for the United States, in which a due
attention will be paid to the importance of placing the militia of the
Union upon a regular and respectable footing. If this should be the
case, I should beg leave to urge the great advantage of it in the
strongest terms.

"The militia of this country must be considered as the palladium of our
security, and the first effectual resort in case of hostility. It is
essential, therefore, that the same system should pervade the whole;
that the formation and discipline of the militia of the continent
should be absolutely uniform; and that the same species of arms,
accoutrements, and military apparatus should be introduced in every
part of the United States. No one, who has not learned it from
experience, can conceive the difficulty, expense, and confusion which
result from a contrary system, or the vague arrangements which have
hitherto prevailed.

"If, in treating of political points, a greater latitude than usual has
been taken in the course of the address, the importance of the crisis,
and the magnitude of the objects in discussion, must be my apology. It
is, however, neither my wish nor expectation that the preceding
observations should claim any regard, except so far as they shall
appear to be dictated by a good intention, consonant to the immutable
rules of justice, calculated to produce a liberal system of policy, and
founded on whatever experience may have been acquired by a long and
close attention to public business. Here I might speak with more
confidence, from my actual observations; and if it would not swell this
letter (already too prolix) beyond the bounds I had prescribed myself,
I could demonstrate to every mind, open to conviction, that in less
time, and with much less expense than has been incurred, the war might
have been brought to the same happy conclusion, if the resources of the
continent could have been properly called forth; that the distresses
and disappointments which have very often occurred have, in too many
instances, resulted more from a want of energy in the continental
government, than a deficiency of means in the particular States; that
the inefficiency of the measures, arising from the want of an adequate
authority in the supreme power, from a partial compliance with the
requisitions of Congress in some of the States, and from a failure of
punctuality in others, while they tended to damp the zeal of those who
were more willing to exert themselves, served also to accumulate the
expenses of the war, and to frustrate the best concerted plans; and
that the discouragement occasioned by the complicated difficulties and
embarrassments in which our affairs were by this means involved, would
have long ago produced the dissolution of any army, less patient, less
virtuous, and less persevering than that which I have had the honor to
command. But while I mention those things which are notorious facts, as
the defects of our federal constitution, particularly in the
prosecution of a war, I beg it may be understood, that as I have ever
taken a pleasure in gratefully acknowledging the assistance and support
I have derived from every class of citizens, so shall I always be happy
to do justice to the unparalleled exertions of the individual States,
on many interesting occasions.

"I have thus freely disclosed what I wished to make known, before I
surrendered up my public trust to those who committed it to me. The
task is now accomplished. I now bid adieu to your Excellency, as the
chief magistrate of your State; at the same time, I bid a last farewell
to the cares of office, and all the employments of public life.

"It remains, then, to be my final and only request, that your
Excellency will communicate these sentiments to your legislature at
their next meeting; and that they may be considered as the legacy of
one who has ardently wished, on all occasions, to be useful to his
country, and who, even in the shade of retirement, will not fail to
implore the divine benediction upon it.

"I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the
State over which you preside, in his holy protection; that he would
incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of
subordination and obedience to government; to entertain a brotherly
affection and love for one another; for their fellow-citizens of the
United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have
served in the field; and, finally, that he would most graciously be
pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean
ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind,
which were the characteristics of the divine Author of our blessed
religion; without an humble imitation of whose example, in these
things, we can never hope to be a happy nation.

"I have the honor to be, with much esteem and respect, sir, your
Excellency's most obedient and most humble servant,


NOTE.--On the 3d of September, 1783, the Definitive Treaty of Peace,
between Great Britain and the United States of America, was signed at
Paris, by David Hartley, Esq., on the part of his Britannic Majesty,
and by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay, Esqs., on the part
of the United States. The treaty was ratified by Congress early in
January, 1784.


It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the
most serene and most potent prince, George the Third, by the grace of
God King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith,
Duke of Brunswick and Lunenburg, Arch-Treasurer and Prince Elector of
the holy Roman empire, etc., and of the United States of America, to
forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily
interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually
wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory
intercourse between the two countries, upon the ground of reciprocal
advantages and mutual convenience, as may promote and secure to both
perpetual peace and harmony; and having for this desirable end already
laid the foundation of peace and reconciliation, by the provisional
articles signed at Paris, on the 30th of November, 1782, by the
commissioners empowered on each part; which articles were agreed to be
inserted in, and to constitute the treaty of peace proposed to be
concluded between the crown of Great Britain and the said United
States, but which treaty was not to be concluded until the terms of
peace should be agreed upon between Great Britain and France, and his
Britannic majesty should be ready to conclude such treaty accordingly;
and the treaty between Great Britain and France having since been
concluded, his Britannic majesty and the United States of America, in
order to carry into full effect the provisional articles above
mentioned, according to the tenor thereof, have constituted and
appointed, that is to say, his Britannic majesty on his part, David
Hartley, Esq., member of the Parliament of Great Britain; and the said
United States on their part, John Adams, Esq., late a commissioner of
the United States of America at the court of Versailles, late delegate
in Congress from the State of Massachusetts, and chief-justice of the
said State, and minister plenipotentiary of the said United States to
their high mightinesses the States General of the United Netherlands;
Benjamin Franklin, Esq., late delegate in Congress from the State of
Pennsylvania, president of the Convention of the said State, and
minister plenipotentiary from the United States of America at the court
of Versailles; and John Jay, Esq., late president of Congress, and
chief-justice of the State of New York, and minister plenipotentiary
from the said United States at the court of Madrid; to be the
plenipotentiaries for the concluding and signing the present definitive
treaty; who, after having reciprocally communicated their respective
full powers, have agreed upon and confirmed the following articles.

ART. I.--His Britannic majesty acknowledges the said United States,
viz., New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence
Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, to be
free, sovereign, and independent States; that he treats them as such,
and for himself, his heirs, and successors, relinquishes all claim to
the government, proprietary, and territorial right of the same, and
every part thereof.

ART. II.-And that all disputes which might arise in future on the
subject of the boundaries of the said United States may be prevented,
it is hereby agreed and declared that the following are and shall be
their boundaries, viz.: from the northwest angle of Nova Scotia, viz.,
that angle which is formed by a line drawn due north from the source of
St. Croix River to the high lands which divide those rivers that empty
themselves into the river St. Lawrence from those which fall into the
Atlantic Ocean, to the northwestern most head of Connecticut River;
thence drawn along the middle of that river to the forty-fifth degree
of north latitude; from thence by a line due west on said latitude,
until it strikes the river Iroquois or Cataraquy; thence along the
middle of said river into Lake Ontario; through the middle of said lake
until it strikes the communication by water between that lake and Lake
Erie; thence along the middle of the said communication into Lake Erie,
through the middle of said lake, until it arrives at the water
communication between that lake and Lake Huron; thence through the
middle of said lake to the water communication between that lake and
Lake Superior; thence through Lake Superior northward to the isles
Royal and Philipeaux, to the Long Lake; thence through the middle of
said Long Lake, and the water communication between it and the Lake of
the Woods, to the said Lake of the Woods; thence through the said lake
to the most northwestern most point thereof, and from thence a due west
course to the river Mississippi; thence by a line to be drawn along the
middle of the said river Mississippi, until it shall intersect the
northernmost part of the thirty-first degree of north latitude; south,
by a line to be drawn due east from the determination of the line last
mentioned, in the latitude of thirty-one degrees north of the equator,
to the middle of the river Apalachicola or Catahouche; thence along the
middle thereof, to its junction with the Flint River; thence straight
to the head of St. Mary's River, and thence down the middle of St.
Mary's River to the Atlantic Ocean; east, by a line to be drawn along
the middle of the River St. Croix, from its mouth in the Bay of Fundy
to its source, and from its source directly north to the aforesaid high
lands, which divide the rivers that fall into the Atlantic Ocean from
those which fall into the river St. Lawrence, comprehending all islands
within twenty leagues of any part of the shores of the United States,
and lying between lines to be drawn due east from the points where the
aforesaid boundaries between Nova Scotia on the one part, and east
Florida on the other, shall respectively touch the Bay of Fundy and the
Atlantic Ocean, excepting such islands as now are or heretofore have
been within the limits of the said province of Nova Scotia.

ART. III.--It is agreed, that the people of the United States shall
continue to enjoy, unmolested, the right to take fish of every kind on
the Great Bank, and on all the other banks of Newfoundland; also in the
Gulf of St. Lawrence, and at all other places in the sea where the
inhabitants of both countries used at any time heretofore to fish; and
also that the inhabitants of the United States shall have liberty to
take fish of every kind on such part of the coast of Newfoundland as
British fishermen shall use (but not to dry or cure the same on that
island), and also on the coasts, bays, and creeks of all other of his
Britannic majesty's dominions in America; and that the American
fishermen shall have liberty to dry and cure fish in any of the
unsettled bays, harbors, and creeks of Nova Scotia, Magdalen Islands,
and Labrador, so long as the same shall remain unsettled; but as soon
as the same shall be settled, it shall not be lawful for the said
fishermen to dry or cure fish at such settlement, without a previous
agreement for that purpose with the inhabitants, proprietors, or
possessors of the ground.

ART. IV.--It is agreed, that the creditors, on either side, shall meet
with no lawful impediment to the recovery of the full value in sterling
money of all _bona fide_ debts heretofore contracted.

ART. V.--It is agreed, that Congress shall earnestly recommend it to
the legislatures of the respective States, to provide for the
restitution of all estates, rights, and properties, which have been
confiscated, belonging to real British subjects; and also of the
estates, rights, and properties of persons resident in districts in the
possession of his majesty's arms, and who have not borne arms against
the United States; and that persons of any other description shall have
free liberty to go to any part or parts of any of the thirteen United
States, and therein to remain twelve months unmolested in their
endeavors to obtain the restitution of such of their estates, rights,
and properties as may have been confiscated; and that Congress shall
also earnestly recommend to the several States a reconsideration and
revision of all acts or laws regarding the premises, so as to render
the said laws or acts perfectly consistent, not only with justice and
equity, but with that spirit of conciliation which, on the return of
the blessings of peace, should invariably prevail; and that Congress
shall also earnestly recommend to the several States, that the estates,
rights, and properties of such last-mentioned persons shall be restored
to them, they refunding to any persons who may be now in possession,
the _bona fide_ price (where any has been given) which such persons may
have paid on purchasing any of the said lands, rights, or properties,
since the confiscation. And it is agreed, that all persons who have any
interest in confiscated lands, either by debts, marriage settlements,
or otherwise, shall meet with no lawful impediment in the prosecution
of their just rights.

ART. VI.--That there shall be no future confiscations made, nor any
prosecutions commenced against any person or persons, for or by reason
of the part which he or they may have taken in the present war; and
that no person shall on that account suffer any future loss or damage,
either in his person, liberty, or property; and that those who may be
in confinement on such charges, at the time of the ratification of the
treaty in America, shall be immediately set at liberty, and the
prosecutions so commenced be discontinued.

ART. VII.--There shall be a firm and perpetual peace between his
Britannic majesty and the said United States, and between the subjects
of the one and the citizens of the other; wherefore all hostilities,
both by sea and land, shall from henceforth cease; all prisoners, on
both sides, shall be set at liberty; and his Britannic majesty shall,
with all convenient speed, and without causing any destruction, or
carrying away any negroes or other property of the American
inhabitants, withdraw all his armies, garrisons, and fleets from the
said United States, and from every post, place, and harbor within the
same, leaving in all fortifications the American artillery that may be
therein; and shall also order and cause all archives, records, deeds,
and papers belonging to any of the said States, or their citizens,
which in the course of the war may have fallen into the hands of his
officers, to be forthwith restored, and delivered to the proper States
and persons to whom they belong.

ART. VIII.--The navigation of the river Mississippi, from its source to
the ocean, shall forever remain free and open to the subjects of Great
Britain and the citizens of the United States.

Art. IX.--In case it should so happen that any place or territory,
belonging to Great Britain or to the United States, should have been
conquered by the arms of either from the other, before the arrival of
the said provisional articles in America, it is agreed that the same
shall be restored without difficulty and without requiring any

Art. X.--The solemn ratifications of the present treaty, expedited in
good and due form, shall be exchanged between the contracting parties
in the space of six months, or sooner, if possible, to be computed from
the day of the signature of the present treaty.

1. Footnote: C. J. Peterson, "History of the Navy of the United

2. Footnote: Gordon thus notices the settlement of Washington's
accounts with the government.

3. Footnote: Two hundred guineas advanced to General M'Dougat are not
included in the L1982 10, not being yet settled, but included in some
of the other charges, and so reckoned in the general sum.

4. Footnote: 104,364, of the dollars were received after March, 1780,
and although credited forty for one, many did not fetch at the rate of
a hundred for one, while 27,775 of them are returned without deducting
anything from the above account (and therefore actually made a present
to the public).

* * * * *




When Washington retired from the command of the army it was undoubtedly
his intention to devote the remainder of his life to his favorite
pursuit of agriculture. His estate had suffered considerably from his
devotion to public duties, and his private affairs now demanded all his
attention. The Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania instructed the
delegates of that State in Congress to propose a public remuneration
for his services, but when the proposition was submitted for his
approbation he promptly declined it. This was in strict consistency
with his uniform character of disinterestedness. A liberal grant would
have been voted by Congress and sanctioned by the nation, but
Washington would not consent to receive it.

His feelings on finding himself a private citizen are expressed in his
correspondence. In a letter to Governor Clinton, written only three
days after his arrival at Mount Vernon, he says: "The scene is at
length closed. I feel myself eased of a load of public care and hope to
spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good
men, and in the practice of the domestic virtues."

"At length, my dear marquis," said he to his noble and highly-valued
friend, Lafayette, "I have become a private citizen on the banks of the
Potomac, and under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree, free
from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am
solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments of which the soldier,
who is ever in pursuit of fame--the statesman, whose watchful days and
sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare
of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was
insufficient for us all--and the courtier, who is always watching the
countenance of his prince in the hope of catching a gracious smile--can
have very little conception. I have not only retired from all public
employments, but am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view
the solitary walk and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt
satisfaction. Envious of none I am determined to be pleased with all,
and this, my dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move
gently down the stream of life until I sleep with my fathers."

But a mind accustomed to labor for a nation's welfare does not
immediately divest itself of ancient habits. That custom of thinking on
public affairs, and that solicitude respecting them, which belong to
the patriot in office, follow him into his retreat. In a letter to
General Knox, written soon after his resignation, Washington thus
expressed the feelings attendant upon this sudden transition from
public to private pursuits. "I am just beginning to experience the ease
and freedom from public cares, which however desirable, takes some time
to realize, for, strange as it may seem, it is nevertheless true that
it was not until lately I could get the better of my usual custom of
ruminating, as soon as I awoke in the morning, on the business of the
ensuing day, and of my surprise at finding, after revolving many things
in my mind, that I was no longer a public man or had anything to do
with public transactions. I feel now, however, as I conceive a wearied
traveler must do who, after treading many a painful step with a heavy
burden on his shoulders, is eased of the latter, having reached the
haven to which all the former were directed, and from his house-top is
looking back and tracing with an eager eye the meanders by which he
escaped the quicksands and mires which lay in his way, and into which
none but the all-powerful Guide and Dispenser of human events could
have prevented his falling."

For several months after arriving at Mount Vernon, almost every day
brought him the addresses of an affectionate and grateful people. The
glow of expression in which the high sense universally entertained of
his services was conveyed, manifested the warmth of feeling which
animated the American bosom. This unexampled tribute of voluntary
applause, paid by a whole people to an individual no longer in power,
made no impression on the unassuming modesty of his character and
deportment. The same firmness of mind, the same steady and
well-tempered judgment, which had guided him through the most perilous
seasons of the war, still regulated his conduct, and the enthusiastic
applauses of an admiring nation served only to cherish sentiments of
gratitude and to give greater activity to the desire still further to
contribute to the general prosperity.

Soon after peace was proclaimed Congress unanimously passed a
resolution for the erection of an equestrian statue of Washington, at
the place which should be established for the residence of the

The Legislature of Virginia, too, at its first session after his
resignation, passed the following resolution:

"Resolved, That the Executive be requested to take measures for
procuring a statue of General Washington, to be of the finest marble
and best workmanship, with the following inscription on its pedestal:

"The General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia have caused this
statue to be erected as a monument of affection and gratitude to George
Washington, who, uniting to the endowments of the hero, the virtues of
the patriot, and exerting both in establishing the liberties of his
country, has rendered his name dear to his fellow-citizens, and given
the world an immortal example of true glory." [5]

In addition to the attention which he bestowed on his own estate
Washington endeavored to ameliorate the condition of agriculture
generally. Nothing could be more wretched than the general state of
this useful art in America. To its amelioration by examples which might
be followed, and by the introduction of systems adapted to the soil,
the climate, and to the wants of the people, the energies of his active
and intelligent mind were now in a great degree directed. No
improvement of the implements to be used on a farm, no valuable
experiments in husbandry, escaped his attention. His inquiries, which
were equally minute and comprehensive, extended beyond the limits of
his own country, and he entered into a correspondence on this
interesting subject with Arthur Young, the celebrated English writer,
and with other foreigners who had been most distinguished for their
additions to the stock of agricultural science.

Mingled with this favorite pursuit were the multiplied avocations
resulting from the high office he had lately filled. He was engaged in
an extensive correspondence with the friends most dear to his
heart--the foreign and American officers who had served under him
during the late war--and with almost every conspicuous political
personage of his own, and with many of other countries. Literary men
also were desirous of obtaining his approbation of their works, and his
attention was solicited to every production of American genius. His
countrymen who were about to travel were anxious to receive from the
first citizen of the rising Republic, some testimonial bearing his
signature, and all those strangers of distinction, who visited this
newly-created empire, were ambitious of being presented to its founder.
In addition to visitors of distinction, and those who had claims of
ancient friendship, he was subjected to the annoyance of visitors, who,
without any just pretension to such an honor, made visits to Mount
Vernon merely to gratify their curiosity, and to the scarcely less
wearisome annoyance of tedious and unnecessary letters. Of these
unwelcome intrusions upon his time Washington thus complained to an
intimate military friend. "It is not, my dear sir, the letters of my
friends which give me trouble or add aught to my perplexity. I receive
them with pleasure, and pay as much attention to them as my avocations
will permit. It is references to old matters with which I have nothing
to do--applications which oftentimes cannot be complied
with--inquiries, to satisfy which would employ the pen of an
historian--letters of compliment, as unmeaning perhaps as they are
troublesome, but which must be attended to--and the common-place
business--which employ my pen and my time often disagreeably. Indeed
these, with company, deprive me of exercise, and, unless I can obtain
relief, must be productive of disagreeable consequences. Already I
begin to feel their effects. Heavy and painful oppressions of the head
and other disagreeable sensations often trouble me. I am determined
therefore to employ some person who shall ease me of the drudgery of
this business. At any rate, if the whole of it is thereby suspended, I
am determined to use exercise. My private affairs also require
infinitely more attention than I have given or can give them under
present circumstances. They can no longer be neglected without
involving my ruin."

It was some time after the date of this letter before he introduced
into his family a young gentleman, qualified by education and manners
to fill the station of private secretary and friend. This was Mr.
Tobias Lear of New Hampshire, who had graduated at Harvard college.

The numerous visits which Washington received made Mount Vernon
anything but a place of seclusion and repose, and "during these
stirring times Mrs. Washington performed the duties of a Virginia
housewife and presided at her well-spread board with that ease and
elegance of manners which always distinguished her." [2]

This multiplicity of private avocations could not entirely withdraw the
mind of Washington from objects tending to promote and secure the
public happiness. His resolution never again to appear in the busy
scenes of political life, though believed by himself and by his bosom
friends to be unalterable, could not render him indifferent to those
measures on which the prosperity of his country essentially depended.

It is a very interesting fact that Washington was among the first, if
not the very first of our public men, who were impressed with the
importance of connecting the western with the eastern territory, by
facilitating the means of intercourse between them. To this subject his
attention had been directed in the early part of his life. While the
American States were yet British colonies he had obtained the passage
of a bill for opening the Potomac so as to render it navigable from
tide-water to Wills creek, a distance of about 150 miles. The river
James had also been comprehended in this plan, and he had triumphed so
far over the opposition produced by local interests and prejudices,
that the business was in a train which promised success, when the
Revolutionary War diverted the attention of its patrons, and of all
America, from internal improvements to the still greater objects of
liberty and independence. As that war approached its termination,
subjects which for a time had yielded their pretensions to
consideration, reclaimed that place to which their real magnitude
entitled them, and internal navigation again attracted the attention of
the wise and thinking part of society. Accustomed to contemplate
America as his country and to consider with solicitude the interests of
the whole, Washington now took a more enlarged view of the advantages
to be derived from opening both the eastern and the western waters; and
for this, as well as for other purposes, after peace had been
proclaimed, he traversed the western parts of New England and New York.
"I have lately," said he, in a letter to the Marquis of Chastellux,
"made a tour through the lakes George and Champlain as far as Crown
Point; then returning to Schenectady I proceeded up the Mohawk river to
Fort Schuyler, crossed over to Wood creek, which empties into the
Oneida lake and affords the water communication with Ontario. I then
traversed the country to the head of the eastern branch of the
Susquehanna and viewed the lake Otsego and the portage between that
lake and the Mohawk river at Canajoharie. Prompted by these actual
observations, I could not help taking a more contemplative and
extensive view of the vast inland navigation of these United States,
and could not but be struck with the immense diffusion and importance
of it, and with the goodness of that Providence which has dealt His
favors to us with so profuse a hand. Would to God we may have wisdom
enough to improve them. I shall not rest contented until I have
explored the western country and traversed those lines (or great part
of them) which have given bounds to a new empire." The journey here
referred to was performed in company with Governor Clinton while the
army was encamped at Newburg.

Scarcely had he answered those spontaneous offerings of the heart which
flowed in upon him from every part of a grateful nation, when his views
were once more seriously turned to this truly interesting subject. Its
magnitude was also impressed on others, and the value of obtaining the
aid which his influence and active interference would afford to any
exertions for giving this direction to the public mind, and for
securing the happy execution of the plan which might be devised, was
perceived by all those who attached to the great work its real
importance. Jefferson, who had taken an expanded view of it concluded a
letter to Washington containing a detailed statement of his ideas on
the subject in these terms:

"But a most powerful objection always arises to propositions of this
kind. It is, that public undertakings are carelessly managed and much
money spent to little purpose. To obviate this objection is the purpose
of my giving you the trouble of this discussion. You have retired from
public life. You have weighed this determination, and it would be
impertinence in me to touch it. But would the superintendence of this
work break in too much on the sweets of retirement and repose? If they
would I stop here. Your future time and wishes are sacred in my eye. If
it would be only a dignified amusement to you, what a monument of your
retirement would it be! It is one which would follow that of your
public life and bespeak it the work of the same great hand. I am
confident that would you, either alone or jointly with any persons you
think proper, be willing to direct this business, it would remove the
only objection, the weight of which I apprehend."

In September, 1784, Washington fulfilled the intention expressed in his
letter to the Marquis of Chastellux, by making a tour to the western
country. He went on horseback, using pack-horses for his tent and
baggage. He crossed the Alleghenies by Braddock's road, examined his
lands on the Monongahela river, and returned through the wilderness by
a circuitous route, examining the country in order to determine the
practicability of connecting the Potomac and James rivers with the
western waters by means of canals. The whole journey extended some 680
miles. [3]

After returning from this tour Washington's first moments of leisure
were devoted to the task of engaging his countrymen in a work which
appeared to him to merit still more attention from its political than
from its commercial influence on the Union. In a long and interesting
letter to Mr. Harrison then Governor of Virginia, he detailed the
advantages which might be derived from opening the great rivers, the
Potomac and the James, as high as should be practicable. After stating,
with his accustomed exactness, the distances and the difficulties to be
surmounted in bringing the trade of the west to different points on the
Atlantic, he expressed unequivocally the opinion that the rivers of
Virginia afforded a more convenient and a more direct course than could
be found elsewhere for that rich and increasing commerce. This was
strongly urged as a motive for immediately commencing the work. But the
rivers of the Atlantic constituted only a part of the great plan he
contemplated. He suggested the appointment of commissioners who should,
after an accurate examination of the James and the Potomac, search out
the nearest and best portages between those waters and the streams
which run into the Ohio. Those streams were to be accurately surveyed,
the impediments to their navigation ascertained, and their relative
advantages examined. The navigable waters west of the Ohio toward the
great lakes were also to be traced to their sources and those which
emptied into the lakes to be followed to their mouths. "These things
being done, and an accurate map of the whole presented to the public,
he was persuaded that reason would dictate what was right and proper."
For the execution of this latter part of his plan he had also much
reliance on Congress, and, in addition to the general advantages to be
drawn from the measure, he labored in his letters to the members of
that body to establish the opinion that the surveys he recommended
would add to the revenue by enhancing the value of the lands offered
for sale. "Nature," he said, "had made such an ample display of her
bounties in those regions that the more the country was explored the
more it would rise in estimation."

The assent and cooperation of Maryland being indispensable to the
improvement of the Potomac, he was equally earnest in his endeavors to
impress a conviction of its superior advantages on those individuals
who possessed most influence in that State. In doing so he detailed the
measures which would unquestionably be adopted by New York and
Pennsylvania for acquiring the monopoly of the western commerce, and
the difficulty which would be found in diverting it from the channel it
had once taken. "I am not," he added, "for discouraging the exertions
of any State to draw the commerce of the western country to its
seaports. The more communications we open to it the closer we bind that
rising world (for indeed it may be so called) to our interests, and the
greater strength shall we acquire by it. Those to whom nature affords
the best communication will, if they are wise, enjoy the greatest share
of the trade. All I would be understood to mean, therefore, is, that
the gifts of Providence may not be neglected."

But the light in which this subject would be viewed with most interest
and which gave to it most importance, was its political influence on
the Union. "I need not remark to you, sir," said he, in his letter to
Governor Harrison of Virginia, "that the flanks and rear of the United
States are possessed by other powers--and formidable ones, too: nor
need I press the necessity of applying the cement of interest to bind
all parts of the Union together by indissoluble bonds--especially of
binding that part of it which lies immediately west of us to the middle
States. For what ties, let me ask, should we have upon those people?
How entirely unconnected with them shall we be, and what troubles may
we not apprehend if the Spaniards on their right and Great Britain on
their left, instead of throwing impediments in their way as they now
do, should hold out lures for their trade and alliance? When they get
strength, which will be sooner than most people conceive, what will be
the consequence of their having formed close commercial connections
with both or either of those powers, it needs not, in my opinion, the
gift of prophecy to foretell."

This idea was enlarged and pressed with much earnestness in his letters
to several members of Congress.

The letter to Governor Harrison was communicated to the Assembly of
Virginia, and the internal improvements it recommended were zealously
supported by the wisest members of that body. While the subject
remained undecided, Washington, accompanied by Lafayette, who had
crossed the Atlantic and had arrived at Mount Vernon on the 17th of
August, paid a visit to the capital of the State. Never was reception
more cordial or more demonstrative of respect and affection than was
given to these beloved personages. But amidst the display of addresses
and of entertainments which were produced by the occasion, the great
business of internal improvements was not forgotten, and the ardor of
the moment was seized to conquer those objections to the plan which yet
lingered in the bosoms of members who could perceive in it no future
advantage to compensate for the present expense.

An exact conformity between the acts of Virginia and of Maryland being
indispensable to the improvement of the Potomac, a resolution was
passed soon after the return of Washington to Mount Vernon, requesting
him to attend the Legislature of Maryland, in order to agree on a bill
which might receive the sanction of both States. This agreement being
happily completed, the bills were passed, and thus began that grand
system of internal improvement by which the eastern portion of the
Union is bound to the west. Canals and portages were the forerunners of
the railroads by which every part of the country is now traversed, and
the whole Republic is firmly united in bonds of mutual intercourse,
which, it is fondly hoped will prove perpetual.

The Legislature of Virginia seized the occasion afforded by the passage
of these acts to signalize the affection and gratitude of the State
towards her favorite son. A bill was drafted by Mr. Madison, the
preamble of which was in the following words:

"Whereas, it is the desire of the representatives of this commonwealth
to embrace every suitable occasion of testifying their sense of the
unexampled merits of George Washington, Esquire, toward his country,
and it is their wish in particular that those great works for its
improvement, which, both as springing from the liberty which he has
been so instrumental in establishing and as encouraged by his patronage
will be durable monuments of his glory, may be made monuments also of
the gratitude of his country. Be it enacted, &c."

By this bill the treasurer was instructed to subscribe, in behalf of
the State, for a specified number of shares in each company. Just at
the close of the session, when no refusal of their offer could be
communicated to them, a bill was suddenly brought in which received the
unanimous assent of both houses, authorizing the treasurer to subscribe
for the benefit of Washington the same number of shares in each company
as were to be taken for the State. The actual value of the shares was

Washington was greatly embarrassed by this mark of gratitude. It
afforded him pleasure to see that his character and services were
appreciated by his fellow-citizens. But he would not depart from his
determination to receive no pecuniary reward for his public services.

To Madison, who conveyed to him the first intelligence of this bill,
his difficulties were thus expressed:

"It is not easy for me to decide by which my mind was most affected
upon the receipt of your letter of the sixth instant--surprise or
gratitude. Both were greater than I had words to express. The attention
and good wishes which the Assembly has evinced by their act for vesting
in me 150 shares in the navigation of the rivers Potomac and James, is
more than mere compliment--there is an unequivocal and substantial
meaning annexed. But, believe me, sir, no circumstance has happened
since I left the walks of public life which has so much embarrassed me.
On the one hand, I consider this act, as I have already observed, as a
noble and unequivocal proof of the good opinion, the affection, and
disposition of my country to serve me, and I should be hurt, if, by
declining the acceptance of it my refusal should be construed into
disrespect or the smallest slight upon the generous intention of the
legislature, or that an ostentatious display of disinterestedness of
public virtue was the source of refusal.

"On the other hand, it is really my wish to have my mind and my
actions, which are the result of reflection as free and independent as
the air, that I may be more at liberty (in things which my
opportunities and experience have brought me to the knowledge of) to
express my sentiments, and, if necessary, to suggest what may occur to
me under the fullest conviction that, although my judgment may be
arraigned, there will be no suspicion that sinister motives had the
smallest influence in the suggestion. Not content then with the bare
consciousness of my having in all this navigation business, acted upon
the clearest conviction of the political importance of the measure, I
would wish that every individual who may hear that it was a favorite
plan of mine, may know also, that I had no other motive for promoting
it than the advantage of which I conceived it would be productive to
the Union at large and to this State in particular, by cementing the
eastern and western territory together, at the same time that it will
give vigor and increase to our commerce and be a convenience to our

At length he determined, in the same letter which should convey his
resolution not to retain the shares for his private emolument, to
signify his willingness to hold them in trust for such public
institution as the Legislature should approve. The following letter
conveyed this resolution to the General Assembly through the governor
of the State:

OCTOBER, 1785.

"SIR:--Your Excellency having been pleased to transmit me a copy of the
act appropriating to my benefit certain shares in the companies for
opening the navigation of James and Potomac rivers, I take the liberty
of returning to the General Assembly, through your hands, the profound
and grateful acknowledgments inspired by so signal a mark of their
beneficent intentions towards me. I beg you, sir, to assure them that I
am filled on this occasion with every sentiment which can flow from a
heart warm with love for my country, sensible to every token of its
approbation and affection, and solicitous to testify in every instance
a respectful submission to its wishes.

"With these sentiments in my bosom, I need not dwell on the anxiety I
feel in being obliged, in this instance, to decline a favor which is
rendered no less flattering by the manner in which it is conveyed, than
it is affectionate in itself. In explaining this I pass over a
comparison of my endeavors in the public service, with the many
honorable testimonies of approbation which have already so far
overrated, and overpaid them--reciting one consideration only, which
supersedes the necessity of recurring to every other.

"When I was first called to the station with which I was honored during
the late conflict for our liberties, to the diffidence which I had so
many reasons to feel in accepting it, I thought it my duty to join a
firm resolution to shut my hand against every pecuniary recompense. To
this resolution I have invariably adhered, and from it (if I had the
inclination) I do not consider myself at liberty now to depart.

"Whilst I repeat therefore my fervent acknowledgments to the
Legislature for their very kind sentiments and intentions in my favor,
and at the same time beg them to be persuaded that a remembrance of
this singular proof of their goodness towards me will never cease to
cherish returns of the warmest affection and gratitude, I must pray
that their act, so far as it has for its object my personal emolument,
may not have its effect; but if it should please the General Assembly
to permit me to turn the destination of the fund vested in me, from my
private emolument to objects of a public nature, it will be my study,
in selecting these, to prove the sincerity of my gratitude for the
honor conferred upon me, by preferring such as may appear most
subservient to the enlightened and patriotic views of the Legislature."

The wish suggested in this letter immediately received the sanction of
the Legislature, and at a subsequent time the trust was executed by
conveying the shares respectively to the use of a seminary of
learning--which is now called Washington college, and to a university
to be established in the District of Columbia, under the auspices of
the government.

Washington felt too strong an interest in the success of these works to
refuse the presidency of the companies instituted for their completion.
In conducting the affairs of the Potomac company, he took an active
part; to that formed for opening the navigation of the James, he could
only give his counsel.

While Washington was at Richmond attending to the interests of internal
navigation he had been joined by Lafayette, who, since his recent visit
to Mount Vernon, had accompanied the commissioners to Fort Schuyler to
make a treaty with the Indians, and had assisted on that occasion. He
had subsequently made a tour in the eastern States, where he was
received with much distinction and he was now on his return to pay a
farewell visit to Washington at Mount Vernon.

He remained only a week at Mount Vernon. Washington accompanied him to
Annapolis, where Lafayette was honored with a public reception and
address by the Legislature of Maryland, and there, on the 30th of
November, 1784, these distinguished men took leave of each other. From
Annapolis Lafayette proceeded to Trenton, where Congress was then in
session, and on Christmas day he embarked at New York for France in the
frigate Nymphe. The following is an extract from a letter written by
Washington to Lafayette on his return to Mount Vernon:

"The peregrination of the day in which I parted from you ended at
Maryborough. The next day, bad as it was, I got home before dinner.

"In the moment of separation, upon the road as I traveled, and every
hour since, I have felt all that love, respect, and attachment for you,
with which length of years, close connection, and your merits have
inspired me. I often asked myself, as our carriages separated, whether
that was the last sight I ever should have of you? And though I wished
to say No, my fears answered Yes. I called to mind the days of my
youth, and found they had long since fled to return no more; that I was
now descending the hill I had been fifty-two years climbing, and that,
though I was blest with a good constitution, I was of a short-lived
family, and might soon expect to be entombed in the mansion of my
fathers. These thoughts darkened the shades, and gave a gloom to the
picture, and consequently to my prospect of seeing you again. But I
will not repine; I have had my day.

"Nothing of importance has occurred since I parted with you. I found my
family well, and am now immersed in company; notwithstanding which, I
have in haste produced a few more letters to give you the trouble of,
rather inclining to commit them to your care, than to pass them through
many and unknown hands."

Among the letters referred to in the above extract was one to the
Marchioness de Lafayette and another to her little daughter. In the
former he writes: "The Marquis returns to you with all the warmth and
ardor of a newly-inspired lover. We restore him to you in good health,
crowned with wreaths of love and respect from every part of the Union."

1. Footnote: This statue was executed by Houdon, and stands in the
capitol at Richmond. It is in the costume of commander-in-chief of the
army, and is considered an excellent likeness. Another statue of
Washington, by Canova, was in the Roman costume, and in a sitting
posture. It was made for the State of North Carolina, and was
unfortunately destroyed when the capitol was burnt. Another statue
stands in the statehouse at Boston. It was the result of a private
subscription. A fourth, by Greenough, adorns the grounds of the capitol
at Washington.

2. Footnote: Custis, "Memoir of Martha Washington."

3. Footnote: Sparks.



On first retiring to Mount Vernon (1785), Washington had devoted his
attention to the restoration of his estate to that high condition of
order and productiveness which had been maintained under his own
personal superintendence previous to the war. During his absence of
nine years he had constantly corresponded with his manager and given
particular directions respecting its cultivation. But it had suffered
much in his absence, and he was determined to renovate it by assiduous
care. He gave up the cultivation of tobacco because it had a tendency
to exhaust the soil, and planted wheat in its stead, giving attention
at the same time to the production of grass, maize, potatoes, and oats,
and pursuing the system of rotation in crops now considered so
indispensable by intelligent farmers.

When this system was well established he commenced planting and
adorning with trees the grounds surrounding the mansion-house. His
diary shows that he paid great attention to this object, directing the
setting out of a great number and variety of ornamental trees, some of
them being obtained in the neighboring woods and others brought from a
great distance. He also replenished his gardens, orchards, and green-
houses with choice fruits and flowers which were confided to the care
of skilful gardeners.

Meantime the number of guests entertained at Mount Vernon was ever on
the increase. Many were known to have crossed the Atlantic for the sole
purpose of visiting the founder of the Republic. Among these was Mrs.
Catharine Macauley Graham. By the principles contained in her "History
of the Stuarts," this lady had acquired much reputation in republican
America and by all was received with marked attention. She was
cordially received at Mount Vernon, and, if her letters may be
credited, the exalted opinion she had formed of its proprietor was "not
diminished by a personal acquaintance with him."

The French military and naval officers, Lafayette, Rochambeau,
D'Estaing, and others, gave letters of introduction to be presented to
Washington by their friends whenever any of them came to America, and
those letters were always duly honored by hospitable attentions to
those who bore them. His own compatriots were still more numerous and
more assiduous in attention to the retired commander. Officers who had
served with him in the old French war and in the Revolution, members of
Congress, politicians, and magistrates from distant States, were among
the guests at Mount Vernon; so that Washington's time would thus have
been completely taken up but for the efficient aid which he received in
discharging the duties of hospitality from the ease, urbanity, and
excellent management of his accomplished lady.

"His habits," says Mr. Sparks, "were uniform and nearly the same as
they had been previously to the war. He arose before the sun and
employed himself in his study writing letters or reading till the hour
of breakfast. When breakfast was over his horse was ready at the door,
and he rode to his farms and gave directions for the day to the
managers and laborers. Horses were likewise prepared for his guests
whenever they chose to accompany him, or to amuse themselves by
excursions into the country. Returning from his fields and dispatching
such business as happened to be on hand, he went again to his study,
and continued there till 3 o'clock, when he was summoned to dinner. The
remainder of the day and the evening were devoted to company or to
recreation in the family circle. At 10 he retired to rest. From these
habits he seldom deviated unless compelled to do so by particular
circumstances." [1]

In a delightful memoir [2] of his own life and times by Mr. Elkanah
Watson, we find the following interesting notice of Washington at home,
and we also learn what subject chiefly occupied his thoughts at the
time of which we are writing:

"I had feasted my imagination for several days," says Mr. Watson, "on
the near prospect of a visit to Mount Vernon--the seat of Washington.
No pilgrim ever approached Mecca with deeper enthusiasm. I arrived
there on the afternoon of January 23d, 1785. I was the bearer of a
letter from General Greene, with another from Colonel Fitzgerald, one
of the former aides of Washington, and also the books from Granville
Sharpe. Although assured that these credentials would secure me a
respectful reception, I felt an unaccountable diffidence as I came into
the presence of the great man. I found him at table with Mrs.
Washington and his private family, and was received with the native
dignity and urbanity so peculiarly combined in the character of a
soldier and eminent private gentleman. He soon put me at ease, by
unbending in a free and affable conversation.

"The cautious reserve which wisdom and policy dictated whilst engaged
in rearing the glorious fabric of our independence was evidently the
result of consummate prudence and not characteristic of his nature.
Although I had frequently seen him in the progress of the Revolution
and had corresponded with him from France in 1781 and 1782, this was
the first occasion on which I had contemplated him in his private
relations. I observed a peculiarity in his smile which seemed to
illuminate his eye; his whole countenance beamed with intelligence,
while it commanded confidence and respect. The gentleman who had
accompanied me from Alexandria left in the evening, and I remained
alone in the enjoyment of the society of Washington for two of the
richest days of my life. I saw him reaping the reward of his
illustrious deeds in the quiet shade of his beloved retirement. He was
at the matured age of fifty-three. Alexander died before he reached
that period of life and he had immortalized his name. How much stronger
and nobler the claims of Washington to immortality! In the impulses of
mad, selfish ambition, Alexander acquired fame by wading to the
conquest of the world through seas of blood. Washington, on the
contrary, was parsimonious of the blood of his countrymen, stood forth
the pure and virtuous champion of their rights, and formed for them,
not himself, a mighty empire.

"To have communed with such a man in the bosom of his family I shall
always regard as one of the highest privileges and most cherished
incidents of my life. I found him kind and benignant in the domestic
circle, revered and beloved by all around him, agreeably social,
without ostentation; delighting in anecdote and adventures, without
assumption; his domestic arrangements harmonious and systematic. His
servants seemed to watch his eye, and to anticipate his every wish;
hence a look was equivalent to a command. His servant Billy, the
faithful companion of his military career, was always at his side.
Smiling content animated and beamed on every countenance in his

"The first evening I spent under the wing of his hospitality we sat a
full hour at table, by ourselves, without the least interruption, after
the family had retired. I was extremely oppressed with a severe cold
and excessive coughing, contracted from the exposure of a harsh winter
journey. He pressed me to use some remedies, but I declined doing so.
As usual after retiring my cough increased. When some time had elapsed
the door of my room was gently opened, and on drawing my bed-curtains,
to my utter astonishment, I beheld Washington himself standing at my
bedside with a bowl of hot tea in his hand. I was mortified and
distressed beyond expression. This little incident, occurring in common
life with an ordinary man would not have been noticed, but as a trait
of the benevolence and the private virtue of Washington it deserves to
be recorded.

"He modestly waived all allusions to the events in which he had acted
so glorious and conspicuous a part. Much of his conversation had
reference to the interior country and to the opening of the navigation
of the Potomac, by canals and locks at the Seneca, the Great, and the
Little Falls. His mind appeared to be deeply absorbed in that object,
then in earnest contemplation. He allowed me to take minutes from his
former journal on this subject, of which the following is a partial

"'The stock of the company is divided into 500 shares at L50 sterling
each. The canal company has been incorporated by both Maryland and
Virginia.' Washington had accepted the presidency of it. 'The
preliminary preparations are in full train, to commence operations in
the ensuing spring, not only to remove the obstacles in the Potomac to
a boat navigation from Georgetown to Fort Cumberland, a distance of 190
miles, but to the ultimate construction of a canal to Lake Erie, which
is intended not only to give a direction to the fur trade from Detroit
to Alexandria, but to attract the eventual trade of the country north
of the Ohio which now slumbers in a state of nature.' This scheme was
worthy of the comprehensive mind of Washington.

"To demonstrate the practicability and the policy of diverting the
trade of the immense interior world yet unexplored to the Atlantic
cities, especially in view of the idea that the Mississippi would be
opened by Spain, was his constant and favorite theme. To elucidate the
probability, also, that the Detroit fur trade would take this
direction, he produced the following estimates, which I copied in his
presence and with his aid from the original manuscript:

"From Detroit, at the head of Lake Erie, via Fort Pitt (now Pittsburgh)
and Fort Cumberland, to the head of the Potomac, is 607 Miles.

"To Richmond 840

"To Philadelphia 741

"To Albany 943

"To Montreal 955

"Thus it appeared that Alexandria is 348 miles nearer Detroit than
Montreal, with only two carrying places of about forty miles."

"Since my travels in 1779 I had been deeply and constantly impressed
with the importance of constructing canals to connect the various
waters of America. This conviction was confirmed under the examination
of numerous canals of Europe, and traveling extensively on several of
them. Hearing little else for two days from the persuasive tongue of
this great man I was, I confess, completely under the influence of the
canal mania, and it en kindled all my enthusiasm."

Among the objects which claimed the attention of Washington in his
retirement was a change in the constitution of the Cincinnati. This
society had been formed in May, 1783, when the army was encamped at
Newburg. The prospect of speedily separating from each other had
suggested the plan of forming an association among the officers to
serve as a tie of brotherhood for the future.

This idea was suggested by General Knox and was matured in a meeting
composed of the generals, and of deputies from the regiments, at which
Major-General Steuben presided. An agreement was then entered into by
which the officers were to constitute themselves into one society of
friends, to endure as long as they should endure, or any of their
eldest male posterity, and, in failure thereof, any collateral branches
who might be judged worthy of becoming its supporters and members, were
to be admitted into it. To mark their veneration for that celebrated
Roman between whose situation and their own they found some similitude,
they were to be denominated "The Society of the Cincinnati."
Individuals of the respective States, distinguished for their
patriotism and abilities, might be admitted as honorary members for
life, provided their numbers should at no time exceed a ratio of one to

The society was to be designated by a medal of gold representing the
American eagle bearing on its breast the devices of the order, which
was to be suspended by a ribbon of deep blue edged with white,
descriptive of the union of America and France. To the ministers who
had represented the King of France at Philadelphia, to the admirals who
had commanded in the American seas, to the Count de Rochambeau and the
generals and colonels of the French troops who had served in the United
States, the insignia of the order were to be presented and they were to
be invited to consider themselves as members of the society, at the
head of which the Commander-in-Chief was respectfully solicited to
place his name. An incessant attention, on the part of the members, to
the preservation of the exalted rights and liberties of human nature
for which they had fought and bled, and an unalterable determination to
promote and cherish between the respective States union and national
honor, were declared to be the immutable principles of the society. Its
objects were to perpetuate the remembrance of the American revolution,
as well as cordial affection and the spirit of brotherly kindness among
the officers, and to extend acts of beneficence to those officers and
their families whose situation might require assistance. To give effect
to the charitable object of the institution a common fund was to be
created by the deposit of one month's pay on the part of every officer
becoming a member, the product of which fund, after defraying certain
necessary charges, was to be sacredly appropriated to this humane

The military gentlemen of each State were to constitute a distinct
society, deputies from which were to assemble triennially in order to
form a general meeting for the regulation of general concerns.

Without encountering any open opposition this institution was carried
into complete effect, and its honors were sought, especially by the
foreign officers, with great avidity. But soon after it was organized
those jealousies, which in its first moments had been concealed, burst
forth into open view. In October, 1783, a pamphlet was published by Mr.
Burk of South Carolina, for the purpose of rousing the apprehensions of
the public, and of directing its resentments against the society. In
this work its was denounced as an attempt to form an order of nobility.
The hereditary feature of the constitution and the power of conferring
its honors on distinguished personages, not descended from the officers
of the army, were considered particularly inconsistent with the genius
of our republican institutions. In Massachusetts the subject was even
taken up by the Legislature, and it was well understood that, in
Congress, the society was viewed with secret disapprobation.

It was impossible for Washington to view with indifference this state
of the public feeling. Bound to the officers of his army by the
strictest ties of esteem and affection, conscious of their merits and
assured of their attachment to his person, he was alive to everything
which might affect their reputation or their interests. However
innocent the institution might be in itself or however laudable its
real objects, if the impression it made on the public mind was such as
to draw a line of distinction between the military men of America and
their fellow-citizens, he was earnest in his wishes to adopt such
measures as would efface that impression. However ill founded the
public prejudices might be he thought this a case in which they ought
to be respected, and, if it should be found impracticable to convince
the people that their fears were misplaced, he was disposed "to yield
to them in a degree, and not to suffer that which was intended for the
best of purposes to produce a bad one."

A general meeting was to be held in Philadelphia in May, 1784, and, in
the meantime, he had been appointed the temporary president. Washington
was too much in the habit of considering subjects of difficulty in
various points of view, and of deciding on them with coolness and
deliberation, to permit his affections to influence his judgment. The
most exact inquiries, assiduously made into the true state of the
public mind, resulted in a conviction that opinions unfriendly to the
institution, in its actual form, were extensively entertained, and that
those opinions were founded, not in hostility to the late army, but in
real apprehensions for equal liberty.

A wise and necessary policy required, he thought, the removal of these
apprehensions, and, at the general meeting in May, the hereditary
principle, and the power of adopting honorary members, were
relinquished. The result demonstrated the propriety of this alteration.
Although a few, who always perceive most danger where none exists, and
the visionaries then abounding in Europe, continued their prophetic
denunciations against the order, America dismissed her fears, and,
notwithstanding the refusal of several of the State societies to adopt
the measures recommended by the general meeting, the members of the
Cincinnati were received as brethren into the bosom of their country.

While Washington was engaged in the cultivation of his extensive estate
his thoughts were by no means withdrawn from the political concerns of
the country, which at this time were assuming rather an ominous aspect.
His correspondence evinces that his advice was much sought for by the
leading men in the country, and that his opinions on the aspect of the
public affairs were freely given. The want of power in the central
government, arising from the defects of the old confederation, was
becoming more and more apparent, and the evils arising from this want
of power were pressing severely on every side. While the war lasted the
external pressure held the government together, but on the return of
peace its dissolution had become imminent. Large debts had been
contracted to pay the expenses of the war, and, although an attempt had
been made to establish a general system of revenue from duties on
imports, individual States had obstructed the prosecution of this plan,
and the government had found itself unable to raise the funds necessary
to pay the interest on the public debt. It had, in fact, no power to
regulate commerce or collect a revenue. This made it incapable of
executing treaties, fulfilling its foreign engagements, or causing
itself to be respected by foreign nations. While at home its weakness
was disgusting the public creditors and raising a clamor of discontent
and disaffection on every side. An alarming crisis was rapidly

By the enlightened friends of republican government, this gloomy state
of things was viewed with deep chagrin. Many became apprehensive that
those plans from which so much happiness to the human race had been
anticipated would produce only real misery, and would maintain but a
short and a turbulent existence. Meanwhile, the wise and thinking part
of the community, who could trace evils to their source, labored
unceasingly to inculcate opinions favorable to the incorporation of
some principles into the political system which might correct the
obvious vices, without endangering the free spirit of the existing

While the advocates for union were exerting themselves to impress its
necessity on the public mind, measures were taken in Virginia, which,
though originating in different views, terminated in a proposition for
a general convention to revise the state of the Union.

To form a compact relative to the navigation of the rivers Potomac and
Pocomoke, and of part of Chesapeake Bay, commissioners were appointed
by the Legislatures of Virginia and Maryland, who assembled in
Alexandria in March, 1785. While at Mount Vernon on a visit [4] they
agreed to propose to their respective governments the appointment of
other commissioners, with power to make conjoint arrangements, to which
the assent of Congress was to be solicited, for maintaining a naval
force in the Chesapeake, and to establish a tariff of duties on imports
to which the laws of both States should conform. When these
propositions received the assent of the Legislature of Virginia an
additional resolution was passed, directing that which respected the
duties on imports to be communicated to all the States in the Union,
who were invited to send deputies to the meeting.

On the 21st of January, 1786, a few days after the passage of these
resolutions, another was adopted appointing Edmund Randolph, James
Madison, Walter Jones, St. George Tucker, and Meriwether Smith,
commissioners, "who were to meet such as might be appointed by the
other States in the Union, at a time and place to be agreed on, to take
into consideration the trade of the United States; to examine the
relative situation and trade of the said States; to consider how far a
uniform system in their commercial relations may be necessary to their
common interest and their permanent harmony, and to report to the
several States such an act relative to this great object, as, when
unanimously ratified by them, will enable the United States in Congress
assembled effectually to provide for the same."

In the circular letter transmitting these resolutions to the respective
States, Annapolis, in Maryland, was proposed as the place, and the
ensuing September (1786) as the time of meeting.

Before the arrival of the period at which these commissioners were to
assemble the idea was carried by those who saw and deplored the
complicated calamities which flowed from the inefficacy of the general
government, much further than was avowed by the resolution of Virginia.
"Although," said Mr. Jay, one of the most conspicuous patriots of the
Revolution, in a letter to Washington, dated the 16th of March, 1786,
"you have wisely retired from public employments, and calmly view, from
the temple of fame, the various exertions of that sovereignty and
independence which Providence has enabled you to be so greatly and
gloriously instrumental in securing to your country, yet I am persuaded
you cannot view them with the eye of an unconcerned spectator.

"Experience has pointed out errors in our national government which
call for correction, and which threaten to blast the fruit we expected
from our tree of liberty. The convention proposed by Virginia may do
some good, and would perhaps do more, if it comprehended more objects.
An opinion begins to prevail that a general convention for revising the
articles of confederation would be expedient. Whether the people are
yet ripe for such a measure, or whether the system proposed to be
attained by it is only to be expected from calamity and commotion, is
difficult to ascertain.

"I think we are in a delicate situation, and a variety of
considerations and circumstances give me uneasiness. It is in
contemplation to take measures for forming a general convention. The
plan is not matured. If it should be well connected and take effect, I
am fervent in my wishes that it may comport with the line of life you
have marked out for yourself to favor your country with your counsels
on such an important and single occasion. I suggest this merely as a
hint for consideration."

To the patriots who accomplished the great revolution which gave to the
American people a national government capable of maintaining the union
of the States and of preserving republican liberty, we must ever feel
grateful and admire and honor them for their services during that
arduous and doubtful struggle which terminated in the triumph of human
reason and the establishment of a free government. To us who were not
actors in those busy scenes, but who enjoy the fruits of the labor
without having participated in the toils or the fears of the patriots
who achieved such glorious results, the sentiments entertained by the
most enlightened and virtuous of America at that eventful period cannot
be uninteresting.

"Our affairs," said Mr. Jay, in a letter of the 27th of June (1786),
"seem to lead to some crisis, some revolution--something that I cannot
foresee or conjecture. I am uneasy and apprehensive, more so than
during the war. Then, we had a fixed object and, though the means and
time of obtaining it were often problematical, yet I did firmly believe
that we should ultimately succeed, because I did firmly believe that
justice was with us. The case is now altered, we are going and doing
wrong and therefore I look forward to evils and calamities, but without
being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them.

"That we shall again recover and things again go well, I have no doubt.
Such a variety of circumstances would not, almost miraculously, have
combined to liberate and make us a nation for transient and unimportant
purposes. I therefore believe we are yet to become a great and
respectable people, but when or how, only the spirit of prophecy can

"There doubtless is much reason to think and to say that we are
woefully, and, in many instances, wickedly misled. Private rage for
property suppresses public considerations, and personal rather than
national interests have become the great objects of attention. New
governments have not the aid of habit and hereditary respect, and,
being generally the result of preceding tumult and confusion, do not
immediately acquire stability or strength. Besides, in times of
commotion, some men will gain confidence and importance who merit
neither, and who, like political mountebanks, are less solicitous about
the health of the credulous crowd than about making the most of their
nostrums and prescriptions.

"What I most fear is that the better kind of people (by which I mean
the people who are orderly and industrious, who are content with their
situations, and not uneasy in their circumstances) will be led by the
insecurity of property, the loss of confidence in their rulers, and the
want of public faith and rectitude, to consider the charms of liberty
as imaginary and delusive. A state of uncertainty and fluctuation must
disgust and alarm such men and prepare their minds for almost any
change that may promise them quiet and security."

To this interesting letter Washington made the following reply:

"Your sentiments, that our affairs are drawing rapidly to a crisis,
accord with my own. What the event will be, is also beyond the reach of
my foresight. We have errors to correct; we have probably had too good
an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation. Experience has
taught us that men will not adopt and carry into execution measures the
best calculated for their own good without the intervention of coercive
power. I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation, without lodging
somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union in as energetic a
manner as the authority of the State governments extends over the
several States. To be fearful of investing Congress, constituted as
that body is with ample authorities for national purposes, appears to
me the very climax of popular absurdity and madness. Could Congress
exert them for the detriment of the people, without injuring themselves
in an equal or greater proportion? Are not their interests inseparably
connected with those of their constituents? By the rotation of
appointment, must they not mingle frequently with the mass of citizens?
Is it not rather to be apprehended, if they were possessed of the
powers before described, that the individual members would be induced
to use them, on many occasions, very timidly and inefficaciously, for
fear of losing their popularity and future election? We must take human
nature as we find it; perfection falls not to the share of mortals.
Many are of opinion that Congress have too frequently made use of the
suppliant humble tone of requisition, in applications to the States,
when they had a right to assert their imperial dignity, and command
obedience. Be that as it may, requisitions are a perfect nullity, where
thirteen sovereign, independent, disunited States are in the habit of
discussing, and refusing or complying with them at their option.
Requisitions are actually little better than a jest and a by-word
throughout the land. If you tell the Legislatures they have violated
the treaty of peace, and invaded the prerogatives of the confederacy,
they will laugh in your face. What then is to be done? Things cannot go
on in the same train forever. It is much to be feared, as you observe,
that the better kind of people, being disgusted with these
circumstances, will have their minds prepared for any revolution
whatever. We are apt to run from one extreme into another. To
anticipate and prevent disastrous contingencies would be the part of
wisdom and patriotism.

"What astonishing changes a few years are capable of producing! I am
told that even respectable characters speak of a monarchical form of
government without horror. From thinking proceeds speaking; thence to
acting is often but a single step. But how irrevocable and tremendous!
what a triumph for our enemies to verify their predictions! what a
triumph for the advocates of despotism, to find that we are incapable
of governing ourselves, and that systems founded on the basis of equal

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest