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

Part 9 out of 16

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liberty are merely ideal and fallacious! Would to God that wise
measures may be taken in time to avert the consequences we have but too
much reason to apprehend.

"Retired as I am from the world, I frankly acknowledge I cannot feel
myself an unconcerned spectator. Yet, having happily assisted in
bringing the ship into port, and having been fairly discharged, it is
not my business to embark again on a sea of troubles.

"Nor could it be expected that my sentiments and opinions would have
much weight on the minds of my countrymen. They have been neglected,
though given as a last legacy in the most solemn manner. I had then
perhaps some claims to public attention. I consider myself as having
none at present."

The convention at Annapolis was attended by commissioners from only six
States--New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and
Virginia. These, after appointing Mr. Dickinson their chairman,
proceeded to discuss the objects for which they had convened.
Perceiving that more ample powers would be required to effect the
beneficial purposes which they contemplated, and hoping to procure a
representation from a greater number of States, the convention
determined to rise without coming to any specific resolutions on the
particular subject which had been referred to them.

Previous to their adjournment, however, they agreed on a report to be
made to their respective States, in which they represented the
necessity of extending the revision of the Federal system to all its
defects, and recommended that deputies for that purpose be appointed by
the several Legislatures, to meet in convention in the city of
Philadelphia on the second day of the ensuing May (1787).

The reasons for preferring a convention to a discussion of this subject
in Congress, were stated to be, "that in the latter body it might be
too much interrupted by the ordinary business before them and would,
besides, be deprived of the valuable counsels of sundry individuals who
were disqualified by the constitution or laws of particular States or
by peculiar circumstances from a seat in that assembly."

A copy of this report was transmitted to Congress in a letter from the
chairman, stating the inefficacy of the Federal government and the
necessity of devising such further provisions as would render it
adequate to the exigencies of the Union. On receiving this report, the
Legislature of Virginia (1786) passed an act for the appointment of
deputies to meet such as might be appointed by other States, to
assemble in convention at Philadelphia at the time and for the purposes
specified in the recommendation from the convention which had met at

When the plan of a convention was thus ripened and its meeting
appointed to be at Philadelphia in May, 1787, Mr. Madison communicated
to Washington the intention of that State to elect him one of her
representatives on this important occasion. He explicitly declined
being a candidate, yet the Legislature placed him at the head of her
delegation, in the hope that mature reflection would induce him to
attend upon the service. The governor of the State, Mr. Randolph,
informed him of his appointment by the following letter:

"By the enclosed act you will readily discover that the assembly are
alarmed at the storms which threaten the United States. What our
enemies have foretold seems to be hastening to its accomplishment, and
cannot be frustrated but by an instantaneous, zealous, and steady union
among the friends of the Federal government. To you I need not press
our present dangers. The inefficacy of Congress you have often felt in
your official character, the increasing languor of our associated
republics you hourly see; and a dissolution would be, I know, to you a
source of the deepest mortification. I freely then entreat you to
accept the unanimous appointment of the General Assembly to the
convention at Philadelphia. For the gloomy prospect still admits one
ray of hope--that those who began, carried on, and consummated the
Revolution, can yet restore America from the impending ruin."

"Sensible as I am," said Washington in his answer, "of the honor
conferred on me by the General Assembly of this commonwealth, in
appointing me one of the deputies to a convention proposed to be held
in the city of Philadelphia in May next, for the purpose of revising
the Federal constitution, and desirous as I am on all occasions of
testifying a ready obedience to the calls of my country, yet, sir,
there exist at this moment circumstances which I am persuaded will
render this fresh instance of confidence incompatible with other
measures which I had previously adopted and from which, seeing little
prospect of disengaging myself, it would be disingenuous not to express
a wish that some other character, on whom greater reliance can be had,
may be substituted in my place, the probability of my nonattendance
being too great to continue my appointment.

"As no mind can be more deeply impressed than mine is with the critical
situation of our affairs, resulting in a great measure from the want of
efficient powers in the Federal head and due respect to its ordinances,
so consequently those who do engage in the important business of
removing these defects will carry with them every good wish of mine,
which the best dispositions toward their obtainment can bestow."

The governor declined the acceptance of his resignation of the
appointment and begged him to suspend his determination until the
approach of the period of the meeting of the convention, that his final
judgment might be the result of a full acquaintance with all

Thus situated, Washington reviewed the subject that he might, upon
thorough deliberation, make the decision which duty and patriotism
enjoined. He had, by a circular letter to the State societies, declined
being re-elected the president of the Cincinnati, and had announced
that he should not attend their general meeting at Philadelphia in the
next May, and he apprehended that if he attended the convention at the
time and place of their meeting he should give offense to all the
officers of the late army who composed this body. He was under
apprehension that the States would not be generally represented on this
occasion, and that a failure in the plan would diminish the personal
influence of those who engaged in it. Some of his confidential friends
were of opinion that the occasion did not require his interposition and
that he ought to reserve himself for a state of things which would
unequivocally demand his agency and influence. Even on the supposition
that the plan should succeed they thought that he ought not to engage
in it, because his having been in convention would oblige him to make
exertions to carry the measures that body might recommend into effect,
and would necessarily "sweep him into the tide of public affairs." His
own experience since the close of the Revolutionary War created in his
mind serious doubts whether the respective States would quietly adopt
any system calculated to give stability and vigor to the national
government. "As we could not," to use his own language, "remain quiet
more than three or four years in times of peace under the constitutions
of our own choosing, which were believed in many States to have been
formed with deliberation and wisdom, I see little prospect either of
our agreeing on any other, or that we should remain long satisfied
under it, if we could. Yet I would wish anything and everything essayed
to prevent the effusion of blood and to divert the humiliating and
contemptible figure we are about to make in the annals of mankind."

These considerations operated powerfully to confirm him in the
determination first formed, not to attend the convention. On the other
hand he realized the greatness of the emergency. The confederation was
universally considered as a nullity. The advice of a convention,
composed of respectable characters from every part of the Union, would
probably have great influence with the community, whether it should be
to amend the articles of the old government or to form a new

Amidst the various sentiments which at this time prevailed respecting
the state of public affairs, many entertained the supposition that the
"times must be worse before they could be better," and that the
American people could be induced to establish an efficient and liberal
national government only by the scourge of anarchy. Some seemed to
think that the experiment of a republican government in America had
already failed and that one more energetic would soon by violence be
introduced. Washington entertained some apprehension that his declining
to attend the convention would be considered as a dereliction of
republican principles.

While he was balancing these opposite circumstances in his mind the
insurrection of Massachusetts occurred, [5] which turned the scale of
opinion in favor of his joining the convention. He viewed this event as
awfully alarming. "For God's sake, tell me," said he, in a letter to
Colonel Humphreys, "what is the cause of all these commotions? Do they
proceed from licentiousness, British influence disseminated by the
Tories, or real grievances which admit of redress? If the latter, why
was redress delayed until the public mind had become so much agitated?
If the former, why are not the powers of the government tried at once?
It is as well to be without as not to exercise them."

To General Knox and other friends similar apprehensions were expressed.
"I feel infinitely more than I can express to you for the disorders
which have arisen in these States. Good God! who besides a Tory could
have foreseen, or a Briton have predicted them? I do assure you that
even at this moment, when I reflect upon the present aspect of our
affairs, it seems to me like the visions of a dream. My mind can
scarcely realize it as a thing in actual existence, so strange, so
wonderful, does it appear to me. In this, as in most other matters, we
are too slow. When this spirit first dawned it might probably have been
easily checked, but it is scarcely within the reach of human ken, at
this moment, to say when, where, or how it will terminate. There are
combustibles in every State to which a spark might set fire. In
bewailing, which I have often done with the keenest sorrow, the death
of our much-lamented friend, General Greene, I have accompanied my
regrets of late with a query, whether he would not have preferred such
an exit to the scenes which it is more than probable many of his
compatriots may live to bemoan.

"You talk, my good sir, of employing influence to appease the present
tumults in Massachusetts. I know not where that influence is to be
found, nor if attainable, that it would be a proper remedy for these
disorders. Influence is not government. Let us have a government by
which our lives, liberties, and properties will be secured, or let us
know the worst at once. Under these impressions my humble opinion is
that there is a call for decision. Know then precisely what the
insurgents aim at. If they have real grievances redress them if
possible, or acknowledge the justice of them and your inability to do
it in the present moment. If they have not, employ the force of the
government against them at once. If this is inadequate all will be
convinced that the superstructure is bad or wants support. To be more
exposed in the eyes of the world, and more contemptible than we already
are, is hardly possible. To delay one or the other of these expedients
is to exasperate on the one hand or to give confidence on the other,
and will add to their numbers, for, like snowballs, such bodies
increase by every movement, unless there is something in the way to
obstruct and crumble them before their weight is too great and

"These are my sentiments. Precedents are dangerous things. Let the
reins of government then be braced and held with a steady hand, and
every violation of the constitution be reprehended. If defective, let
it be amended, but not suffered to be trampled upon while it has an

Colonel Humphreys having intimated by letter his apprehension that
civil discord was near, in which event he would be obliged to act a
public part, or to leave the continent--"It is," said Washington in
reply, "with the deepest and most heartfelt concern I perceive, by some
late paragraphs extracted from the Boston papers, that the insurgents
of Massachusetts, far from being satisfied with the redress offered by
their General Court, are still acting in open violation of law and
government, and have obliged the chief magistrate, in a decided tone,
to call upon the militia of the State to support the constitution.

"What, gracious God, is man, that there should be such inconsistency
and perfidiousness in his conduct! It is but the other day that we were
shedding our blood to obtain the constitutions under which we
live--constitutions of our own choice and making--and now we are
unsheathing the sword to overturn them. The thing is so unaccountable
that I hardly know how to realize it, or to persuade myself that I am
not under the illusion of a dream. My mind, previous to the receipt of
your letter of the first ultimo, had often been agitated by a thought
similar to the one you expressed respecting a friend of yours, but
heaven forbid that a crisis should come when he shall be driven to the
necessity of making a choice of either of the alternatives there

Having learned that the States had generally elected their
representatives to the convention, and Congress having given its
sanction to it, he on the 28th of March communicated to the governor of
Virginia his consent to act as one of the delegates of his State on
this important occasion.

When this determination was formed Washington at once commenced his
preparations to leave Mount Vernon at an early day, so that he might be
able to be present at the meeting of the Cincinnati; but on the 26th of
April (1787) he received intelligence by an express that his mother and
sister were dangerously ill at Fredericksburg. He immediately set off
for that place, and the detention thus occasioned prevented his meeting
the Cincinnati. After remaining three days at Fredericksburg, his
mother and sister being partially recovered, he returned to Mount
Vernon, and was enabled to complete his preparations for leaving home
in season to arrive in Philadelphia on the 13th of May, the day before
the opening of the convention. [6]

Public honors had awaited him everywhere on his route. At Chester he
was met by General Mifflin, then speaker of the Assembly of
Pennsylvania, and several officers of the army and other public
characters who accompanied him to Gray's Ferry, where his former
escort, the "First Troop" of Philadelphia, were waiting to conduct him
to the city. On his arrival he paid his first visit to Dr. Franklin,
president of the State of Pennsylvania, who had also been elected a
member of the convention.

On the next day (May 14, 1787), the convention assembled which was to
accomplish one of the most splendid works that ever was achieved by
human wisdom. Several days, however, elapsed before a quorum of members
could be formed. When the moment for commencing the organization of the
convention arrived, Robert Morris, on behalf of the Pennsylvania
delegation, nominated Washington as its president. John Rutledge of
South Carolina, future chief justice of the United States, seconded the
nomination, remarking at the same time that the presence of General
Washington forbade any observations on the occasion which might not be
proper. He was elected by a unanimous vote. By this act the convention
did but fulfill the wishes of the whole nation. A crisis had arrived in
which all eyes were turned to the Great Founder for deliverance. To use
his own language in a letter written to Mr. Jefferson a few days later
(May 30, 1787), "That something is necessary none will deny, for the
general government, if it can be called a government, is shaken to its
foundation and liable to be overturned by every blast. In a word, it is
at an end, and unless a remedy is soon applied anarchy and confusion
will inevitably ensue."

Among the members of the convention were many men of exalted character
and signal abilities. New York sent Alexander Hamilton, himself a host.
No member was better fitted for the work or exerted a more important
influence in perfecting it. Madison was one of the delegates from
Virginia, whose pen was subsequently exerted, in connection with those
of Hamilton and Jay in defending and expounding the constitution to the
people in the memorable papers of the "Federalist." Massachusetts sent
Nathaniel Gorham and Rufus King; New Hampshire, John Langdon and
Nicholas Gilman; Pennsylvania counted in her numerous delegates
Franklin, Mifflin, James Wilson, Robert Morris, and Gouverneur Morris,
with others whose historical names are less distinguished for ability
and eloquence, though not less for integrity and patriotism. South
Carolina sent John Rutledge, her former governor, one of the ablest and
purest men then living, and destined to preside over the supreme
judiciary of the Union. Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, one of the bravest
of the revolutionary generals, and the future ambassador to France, was
also among the delegates of South Carolina. Among the other names on
the roll of the convention, we recognize those of another Pinckney,
famed for eloquence; Roger Sherman, a veteran statesman and signer of
the Declaration of Independence; William Livingston, afterwards
Governor of New Jersey, friend and correspondent of Washington, and
Doctor Hugh Williamson of North Carolina, an early patriot, who had
assisted Franklin in detecting the intrigues of Hutchinson and Oliver.

It would fill far too much space to enumerate all the members of the
convention, or even to glance at their respective titles, already
earned by public service, to the confidence of their countrymen.

"It was a most fortunate thing for America," says a recent writer, [7]
"that the Revolutionary age, with its hardships, its trials, and its
mistakes, had formed a body of Statesmen capable of framing for it a
durable constitution. The leading persons in the convention which
formed the constitution had been actors either in civil or military
life in the scenes of the Revolution. In those scenes their characters
as American statesmen had been formed. When the condition of the
country had fully revealed the incapacity of the government to provide
for its wants, these men were naturally looked to to construct a system
which would save it from anarchy. And their great capacities, their
high disinterested purposes, their freedom from all fanaticism and
illiberality, and their earnest, unconquerable faith in the destiny of
the country, enabled them to found that government which now upholds
and protects the whole fabric of liberty in the States of this Union."

The convention remained in session four months, and their industry and
devotion to their important work is amply testified by the fact that
they sat from five to seven hours a day. It was a most imposing
assemblage. "The severe, unchanging presence of Washington," says the
writer last quoted, "presided over all. The chivalrous sincerity and
disinterestedness of Hamilton pervaded the assembly with all the power
of his fascinating manners. The flashing eloquence of Gouverneur Morris
recalled the dangers of anarchy, which must be accepted as the
alternative of an abortive experiment. The calm, clear, statesmanlike
views of Madison, the searching and profound expositions of King, the
prudent influence of Franklin, at length ruled the hour."

On the 17th of September, 1787, the constitution was signed by all the
members present, except Edmund Randolph, the governor of Virginia;
George Mason and Elbridge Gerry; and it was then forwarded with a
letter to Congress. By that assembly it was sent to the State
Legislatures to be submitted in each State to a convention of
delegates, to be chosen by the people, for approval or rejection. As
the State Legislatures assembled at different times, nearly a year
would elapse before the result could be known.

Immediately after the convention had ended its labors, Washington
returned to Mount Vernon to resume his agricultural pursuits and to
watch with intense interest the slow process of ratifying the
constitution by the several States. His correspondence with Hamilton,
Madison, Jay, Wilson, Governor Langdon of New Hampshire, Generals Knox
and Lincoln, and Governor Randolph, at this time, shows that the
subject occupied a great share of his attention, and that he was
extremely anxious that the constitution should be adopted by all the

In a letter to Lafayette (7th of February, 1788), he says: "As to my
sentiments with respect to the merits of the new constitution, I will
disclose them without reserve, although, by passing through the post-
offices they should become known to all the world; for, in truth, I
have nothing to conceal on that subject. It appears to me, then, little
short of a miracle that the delegates from so many States, different
from each other, as you know, in their manners, circumstances, and
prejudices, should unite in forming a system of national government so
little liable to well-founded objections. Nor am I yet such an
enthusiastic, partial, or undiscriminating admirer of it as not to
perceive it is tinctured with some real though not radical defects. The
limits of a letter would not suffer me to go fully into an examination
of them; nor would the discussion be entertaining or profitable. I
therefore forbear to touch upon it. With regard to the two great
points, the pivots upon which the whole machine must move, my creed is

"First, That the general government is not invested with more powers
than are indispensably necessary to perform the functions of a good
government, and, consequently, that no objection ought to be made
against the quantity of power delegated to it.

"Secondly, That these powers, as the appointment of all rulers will
forever arise from, and at short stated intervals recur to the free
suffrage of the people, are so distributed among the legislative,
executive, and judicial branches in to which the general government is
arranged that it can never be in danger of degenerating into a
monarchy, an oligarchy, an aristocracy, or any other despotic or
oppressive form so long as there shall remain any virtue in the body of
the people.

"I would not be understood, my dear Marquis, to speak of consequences
which may be produced in the revolution of ages, by corruption of
morals, profligacy of manners, and listlessness in the preservation of
the natural and unalienable rights of mankind, nor of the successful
usurpations that may be established at such an unpropitious juncture
upon the ruins of liberty, however providentially guarded and secured,
as these are contingencies against which no human prudence can
effectually provide. It will at least be a recommendation to the
proposed constitution that it is provided with more checks and barriers
against the introduction of tyranny and those of a nature less liable
to be surmounted than any government hitherto instituted among mortals.
We are not to expect perfection in this world: but mankind, in modern
times, have apparently made some progress in the science of government.
Should that which is now offered to the people of America be found an
experiment less perfect than it can be made, a constitutional door is
left open for its amelioration."

A letter of Mr. Jefferson, written to one of his friends while the
constitution was under consideration, gives some interesting
particulars respecting its reception and the opinions of some of the
States and leaders in regard to it:

"The constitution," he says, "has been received with very general
enthusiasm; the bulk of the people are eager to adopt it. In the
eastern States the printers will print nothing against it unless the
writer subscribes his name. Massachusetts and Connecticut have called
conventions in January to consider it. In New York there is a division;
the governor, Clinton, is known to be hostile. Jersey, it is thought,
will accept; Pennsylvania is divided, and all the bitterness of her
factions has been kindled anew. But the party in favor of it is the
strongest, both in and out of the Legislature. This is the party
anciently of Morris, Wilson, etc. Delaware will do what Pennsylvania
shall do. Maryland is thought favorable to it, yet it is supposed that
Chase and Paca will oppose it. As to Virginia, two of her delegates, in
the first place, refused to sign it; these were Randolph, the governor,
and George Mason. Besides these, Henry, Harrison, Nelson, and the Lees
are against it. General Washington will be for it, but it is not in his
character to exert himself much in the case. Madison will be its main
pillar," etc.

With respect to Washington, Jefferson was mistaken. His letters show
that he did exert himself very zealously to remove the objections of
recusant States and statesmen, especially the Virginia leaders who were
all numbered among his personal friends.

The following letter to Jonathan Trumbull, of Connecticut, written at
Mount Vernon on the 20th of July, 1788, when the final event was pretty
certain, evinces the lively interest he took in the progress of affairs
and the deep religious feeling of thankfulness with which, as usual, he
recognized the hand of Providence in the result:

"You will have perceived from the public papers," he writes, "that I
was not erroneous in my calculation, that the constitution would be
accepted by the convention of this State. The majority, it is true, was
small and the minority respectable in many points of view. But the
great part of the minority here, as in most other States, have
conducted themselves with great prudence and political moderation,
insomuch that we may anticipate a pretty general and harmonious
acquiescence. We shall impatiently wait the result from New York and
North Carolina. The other State, which has not yet acted, is nearly out
of the question.

"I am happy to hear from General Lincoln and others that affairs are
taking a good turn in Massachusetts, but the triumph of salutary and
liberal measures over those of an opposite tendency seems to be as
complete in Connecticut as in any other State, and affords a particular
subject of congratulation. Your friend, Colonel Humphreys, informs me
from the wonderful revolution of sentiment in favor of Federal measures
and the marvelous change for the better in the elections of your State,
that he shall begin to suspect that miracles have not ceased. Indeed,
for myself, since so much liberality has been displayed in the
construction and adoption of the proposed general government, I am
almost disposed to be of the same opinion. Or at least we may, with a
kind of pious and grateful exultation, trace the finger of Providence
through those dark and mysterious events which first induced the States
to appoint a general convention and then led them one after another, by
such steps as were best calculated to effect the object into an
adoption of the system recommended by that general convention, thereby,
in all human probability, laying a lasting foundation for tranquility
and happiness, when we had but too much reason to fear that confusion
and misery were coming rapidly upon us."

North Carolina and Rhode Island did not at first accept the
constitution and New York was apparently dragged into it by a
repugnance to being excluded from the confederacy. At length the
conventions of eleven States assented to and ratified the constitution.
When officially informed of this fact, Congress passed an act
appointing a day for the people throughout the Union to choose electors
of a president of the United States in compliance with the provision in
the constitution and another day for the electors to meet and vote for
the person of their choice. The choice of electors was to take place in
February, 1789, and the electors were to meet and choose a president on
the first Wednesday in March following.

A few days before the close of the convention, Washington prepared and
submitted a draft of a letter to Congress, which was adopted. The
constitution having been duly signed, it was transmitted to Congress,
with the letter from the president of the convention.

"IN CONVENTION, September 17, 1787.

"SIR:--We have now the honor to submit to the consideration of the
United States, in Congress assembled, that constitution which has
appeared to us the most advisable.

"The friends of our country have long seen and desired, that the power
of making war, peace, and treaties; that of levying money, and
regulating commerce, and the correspondent executive and judicial
authorities, should be fully and effectually vested in the general
government of the Union: but the impropriety of delegating such
extensive trust to one body of men is evident. Hence results the
necessity for a different organization.

"It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these
States to secure all the rights of independent sovereignty to each, and
yet provide for the interest and safety of all. Individuals entering
into society, must give up a share of liberty, to preserve the rest.
The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend, as well on situation and
circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times
difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which
must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved; and on the
present occasion, this difficulty was increased by a difference among
the several States, as to their situation, extent, habits, and
particular interests.

"In all our deliberations on this subject, we kept steadily in our view
that which appears to us the greatest interest of every true American,
the consolidation of our Union, in which is involved our prosperity,
felicity, safety, perhaps our national existence. This important
consideration, seriously and deeply impressed on our minds, led each
State in the Convention to be less rigid on points of inferior
magnitude than might have been otherwise expected; and thus the
constitution, which we now present, is the result of a spirit of amity,
and of that mutual deference and concession, which the peculiarity of
our political situation rendered indispensable.

"That it will meet the full and entire approbation of every State, is
not perhaps to be expected; but each State will doubtless consider,
that had her interests alone been consulted, the consequences might
have been particularly disagreeable or injurious to others; that it is
liable to as few exceptions as could reasonably have been expected, we
hope and believe; that it may promote the lasting welfare of that
country so dear to us all, and secure her freedom and happiness, is our
most ardent wish.

"With great respect, we Have the honor to be, sir, your Excellency's
most obedient and humble servants.



"By unanimous Order of the Convention.


We give this important document in full, as contained in the Supplement
to the Journal of the Federal Convention.


We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect
union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the
common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings
of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this
Constitution for the United States of America.


Sect. 1. All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in a
Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and
House of Representatives.

Sect. 2. The House of Representatives shall be composed of members
chosen every second year by the people of the several States; and the
electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for
electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature.

No person shall be a representative who shall not have attained to the
age of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United
States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State
in which he shall be chosen.

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several
States which may be included within this union, according to their
respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole
number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of
years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other
persons. The actual enumeration shall be made within three years after
the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within
every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law
direct. The number of representatives shall not exceed one for every
thirty thousand, but each State shall have, at least, one
representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of
New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight,
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York
six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six,
Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia

When vacancies happen in the representation from any State, the
executive authority thereof shall issue writs of election to fill such

The House of Representatives shall choose their speaker and other
officers; and shall have the sole power of impeachment.

SECT. 3. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two
senators from each State, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six
years; and each senator shall have one vote.

Immediately after they shall be assembled in consequence of the first
election, they shall be divided, as equally as may be, into three
classes. The seats of the senators of the first class shall be vacated
at the expiration of the second year, of the second class at the
expiration of the fourth year, and of the third class at the expiration
of the sixth year, so that one-third may be chosen every second year;
and if vacancies happen by resignation or otherwise, during the recess
of the Legislature of any State, the executive thereof may make
temporary appointments until the next meeting of the legislature, which
shall then fill such vacancies.

No person shall be a senator who shall not have attained to the age of
thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and
who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State for which
he shall be chosen.

The vice-president of the United States shall be president of the
Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.

The Senate shall choose their other officers, also a president pro
tempore, in the absence of the vice-president, or when he shall
exercise the office of president of the United States.

The Senate shall have the sole power to try all impeachments. When
sitting for that purpose, they shall be on oath or affirmation. When
the president of the United States is tried, the chief-justice shall
preside; and no person shall be convicted without the concurrence of
two-thirds of the members present.

Judgment in cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to
removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office
of honor, trust, or profit, under the United States; but the party
convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to indictment,
trial, judgment, and punishment, according to law.

SECT. 4. The times, places, and manner of holding elections for
senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the
legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time, by law, make or
alter such regulations, except as to the places of choosing senators.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every year, and such
meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by
law appoint a different day.

SECT. 5. Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and
qualifications of its own members; and a majority of each shall
constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn
from day to day, and imposts, and excises shall be uniform throughout
the United States:

To borrow money on the credit of the United States:

To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several
States, and with the Indian tribes:

To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the
subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States:

To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix
the standard of weights and measures:

To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and
current coin of the United States:

To establish post-offices and post-roads:

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for
limited times, to authors and inventors, the exclusive right to their
respective writings and discoveries:

To constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme court:

To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas,
and offences against the law of nations:

To declare war, to grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules
concerning captures on land and water:

To raise and support armies; but no appropriation of money to that use
shall be for a longer term than two years:

To provide and maintain a navy:

To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval

To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the
Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions:

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia, and
for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of
the United States-reserving to the States respectively the appointment
of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to
the discipline prescribed by Congress:

To exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such
district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of
particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of
government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over
all places purchased, by the consent of the legislature of the State in
which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines,
arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings:--and,

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into
execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this
constitution in the government of the United States, or in any
department or officer thereof.

SECT. 9. The migration or importation of such persons as any of the
States, now existing, shall think proper to admit, shall not be
prohibited by the Congress prior to the year 1808, but a tax or duty
may be imposed on such importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each

The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended,
unless when, in cases of rebellion or invasion, the public safety may
require it.

No bill of attainder, or ex post facto law, shall be passed.

No capitation, or other direct tax shall be laid, unless in proportion
to the census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.

No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any State. No
preference shall be given, by any regulation of commerce or revenue, to
the ports of one State over those of another; nor shall vessels bound
to, or from one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in

No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of
appropriations made by law: and a regular statement and account of the
receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from
time to time.

No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no
person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without
the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office,
or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

SECT. 10. No State shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or
confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit
bills of credit; make any thing but gold and silver coin a tender in
payment of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law
impairing the obligation of contracts, or grant any title of nobility.

No State shall, without the consent of the Congress, lay any imposts or
duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary
for executing its inspection laws; and the net produce of all duties
and imposts, laid by any State on imports or exports, shall be for the
use of the treasury of the United States; and all such laws shall be
subject to the revision and control of the Congress. No State shall,
without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops
or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact
with another State, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless
actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of


SECT. I. The executive power shall be vested in a president of the
United States of America. He shall hold his office during the term of
four years, and, together with the vice-president, chosen for the same
term, be elected as follows:

Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may
direct, a number of electors equal to the whole number of senators and
representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress; but
no senator or representative, or person holding any office of trust or
profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

The electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by ballot
for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the
same State with themselves. And they shall make a list of all the
persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they
shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the
government of the United States, directed to the president of the
Senate. The president of the Senate shall, in the presence of the
Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates, and the
votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of
votes shall be the president, if such number be a majority of the whole
number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have
such majority, and have an equal number of votes, then the House of
Representatives shall immediately choose, by ballot, one of them for
president; and if no person have a majority, then from the five highest
on the list, the said house shall, in like manner, choose the
president. But in choosing the president, the votes shall be taken by
States, the representation from each State having one vote. A quorum
for this purpose shall consist of a member or members from two-thirds
of the States, and a majority of all the States shall be necessary to a
choice. In every case, after the choice of the president, the person
having the greatest number of votes of the electors shall be the vice-
president. But if there should remain two or more who have equal votes,
the Senate shall choose from them, by ballot, the vice-president.

The Congress may determine the time of choosing the electors, and the
day on which they shall give their votes; which day shall be the same
throughout the United States.

No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United
States at the time of the adoption of this constitution, shall be
eligible to the office of president; neither shall any person be
eligible to that office who shall not have attained to the age of
thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United

In case the removal of the president from office, or of his death,
resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the
said office, the same shall devolve on the vice-president; and the
Congress may by law provide for the case of removal, death,
resignation, or inability, both of the president and vice-president,
declaring what officer shall then act as president, and such officer
shall act accordingly until the disability be removed, or a president
shall be elected.

The president shall, at stated times, receive for his services a
compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during
the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not
receive within that period any other emolument from the United States,
or any of them.

Before he enters on the execution of his office, he shall take the
following oath or affirmation:

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the
office of president of the United States, and will, to the best of my
ability, preserve, protect, and defend the constitution of the United

SECT. 2. The president shall be commander-in-chief of the army and navy
of the United States, and of the militia of the several States, when
called into the actual service of the United States; he may require the
opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive
departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their
respective offices; and he shall have power to grant reprieves and
pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of

He shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate,
to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the senators present concur;
and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the
Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls,
judges of the supreme court, and all other officers of the United
States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and
which shall be established by law. But the Congress may by law vest the
appointment of such inferior officers as they think proper in the
president alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

The president shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen
during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions, which shall
expire at the end of their next session.

SECT. 3. He shall, from time to time, give to the Congress information
of the state of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such
measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on
extraordinary occasions, convene both houses, or either of them, and in
case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of
adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper;
he shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers; he shall take
care that the laws be faithfully executed; and shall commission all the
officers of the United States.

SECT. 4. The president, vice-president, and all civil officers of the
United States shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and
conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.


SECT. 1. The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one
supreme court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may, from
time to time, ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and
inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behavior; and
shall, at stated times, receive for their services a compensation,
which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

SECT. 2. The judicial power shall extend to all cases in law and
equity, arising under this constitution, the laws of the United States,
and treaties made, or which shall be made under their authority; to all
cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls; to
all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; to controversies to
which the United States shall be a party; to controversies between two
or more States, between a State and citizens of another State, between
citizens of different States, between citizens of the same State,
claiming lands under grants of different States, and between a State,
or the citizens thereof, and foreign States, citizens, or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers, and
consuls, and those in which a State shall be a party, the supreme court
shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before
mentioned, the supreme court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as
to law and fact, with such exceptions and under such regulations as the
Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by
jury; and such trial shall be held in the State where the said crimes
shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the
trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have

SECT. 3. Treason against the United States shall consist only in
levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them
aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the
testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in
open court. The Congress shall have power to declare the punishment of
treason; but no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or
forfeiture, except during the life of the person attainted.


SECT. 1. Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the
public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State.
And the Congress may, by general laws, prescribe the manner in which
such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect

SECT. 2. The citizens of each State shall be entitled to all privileges
and immunities of citizens in the several States.

A person charged in any State with treason, felony, or other crime, who
shall flee from justice, and be found in another State, shall, on
demand of the executive authority of the State from which he fled, be
delivered up, to be removed to the State having jurisdiction of the

No person held to service or labor in one State, under the laws
thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or
regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor; but shall
be delivered up, on claim of the party to whom such service or labor
may be due.

SECT. 3. New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union;
but no new State shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of
any other State, nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more
States, or parts of States, without the consent of the legislatures of
the States concerned, as well as of the Congress.

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules
and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to
the United States; and nothing in this constitution shall be so
construed as to prejudice any claims of the United States, or of any
particular State.

SECT. 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union
a republican form of government, and shall protect each of them against
invasion; and on application of the legislature, or of the executive
(when the legislature cannot be convened), against domestic violence.


The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both houses shall deem it
necessary, shall propose amendments to this constitution; or, on the
application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the several States,
shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either
case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this
constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the
several States, or by conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one
or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress:
Provided, that no amendment which may be made prior to the year 1808,
shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth
section of the first article; and that no State, without its consent,
shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.


All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption
of this constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under
this constitution as under the confederation.

This constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be
made in pursuance thereof, and all treaties made, or which shall be
made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme
law of the land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby,
any thing in the constitution or laws of any State to the contrary

The senators and representatives before mentioned, and the members of
the several State legislatures, and all executive and judicial
officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be
bound by oath or affirmation to support this constitution; but no
religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office
or public trust under the United States.


The ratification of the conventions of nine States shall be sufficient
for the establishment of this constitution between the States so
ratifying the same.

Done in convention, by the unanimous consent of the States present, the
17th day of September, in the year of our Lord 1787, and of the
independence of the United States of America, the twelfth. In witness
whereof, we have hereunto subscribed our names.


_President, and Deputy from Virginia._

_New Hampshire_.









_New York_.


_New Jersey_.



























_North Carolina_.




_South Carolina_.








Attest: WILLIAM JACKSON, Secretary.

1. Footnote: "Life of Washington," p. 389.

2. Footnote: "Men and Times of the Revolution, or Memoirs of Elkanah

3. Footnote: Marshall, "Life of Washington."

4. Footnote: It is a very interesting fact that the proposition in
which the Convention that formed the Constitution originated should
have been made at Mount Vernon, in Washington's presence, if not by
himself. As Faneuil Hall is called the Cradle of Liberty, Mount Vernon
may be regarded as the Cradle of the Constitution.

5. Footnote: The occasion and effect of this insurrection, commonly
called Shay's Rebellion, are thus described by a recent writer. The
jealousy felt toward the statesmen of the Republic, or toward the upper
by the middle class--if the terms may be allowed--was likely to operate
fatally in marring the project of a Constitution, and rendering any
innovation for the purpose impracticable; since the dissentient States
were resolved not to choose delegates, or accede to the desire of

These democratic opinions of the middle classes, however, and the
resolutions founded upon them, were eventually shaken and overturned by
the extreme to which they were carried by the lower orders. These were
no sooner inspired by the same political feelings, than, after their
fashion, they rose in insurrection; bade defiance not only to Congress,
but to the State authorities themselves; and, collecting in armed
bands, threatened to effect a serious revolution by taking law and
property into their own hands. The New England States, principally
Massachusetts, were the scenes of these disorders, which took place
toward the close of 1786.

A body of 2,000 men, assembled in the northwestern region of the State,
chose one of their number, Daniel Shay, for leader. They asked for
suspension of taxes, and the remission of paper money; but it was known
that their favorite scheme was that of an agrarian law--a general
division of property. Respectable classes were, of course, thrown into
alarm; Congress recovered a portion of that vigor which had marked it
during the war; troops were dispatched, under General Lincoln and other
officers, against the insurgents; and the citizens of the New England
towns forgot their late jealousy of the military so far as to join them
in the task of putting down their domestic foes. Funds were raised by
private subscription to supply the emptiness of the public treasury;
and an efficient force was enabled to march, in the midst of winter,
against the insurgents, who were soon dispersed and reduced.

The rebellion thus suppressed was productive of the most salutary
result. The middle classes, terrified at the exaggeration of their own
doctrines, and at the risk of exciting the mob as supporters, rallied
universally to the support of Congress.

Jealousy of those above was counterbalanced by fear of those below; and
the majority of the State Legislatures was brought to coincide with the
views of the Federal statesmen. Convinced by late experience of the
necessity of an established and general government, even for purposes
of domestic security, the hitherto refractory States named, without
hesitation, their delegates to the appointed convention for forming a
constitution. Rhode Island alone refused.

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

7. Footnote: George Ticknor Curtis, "History of the Constitution of the
United States."

* * * * *





As soon as it was ascertained that the new form of government had
received the sanction of the people and would go into immediate
operation, all eyes were at once turned to Washington as the first
President of the United States. During the war he had, in fact,
directed the course of public affairs. His suggestions had been almost
invariably followed by Congress. His recommendations had influenced the
action of the different States. His practical administrative abilities
were known to all. He alone possessed the confidence of the people to
that degree which was necessary to carry the constitution into vigorous
effect at the outset and to defend it against its secret as well as its
open enemies. But it was by no means certain that he would accept the
office. By all who knew him, fears were entertained that his preference
for private life would prevail over the wishes of the public, and soon
after the adoption of the constitution was ascertained, his
correspondents began to press him on a point which was believed
essential to the completion of the great work on which the grandeur and
happiness of America was supposed to depend. "We cannot," said Mr.
Johnson, a man of great political eminence in Maryland, "do without
you; and I, and thousands more, can explain to anybody but yourself why
we cannot do without you." "I have ever thought," said Gouverneur
Morris, "and have ever said, that you must be President; no other man
can fill that office. No other man can draw forth the abilities of our
country into the various departments of civil life. You alone can awe
the insolence of opposing factions and the greater insolence of
assuming adherents. I say nothing of foreign powers nor of their
ministers. With these last you will have some plague. As to your
feelings on this occasion they are, I know, both deep and affecting:
you embark property most precious on a most tempestuous ocean; for, as
you possess the highest reputation, so you expose it to the perilous
chance of popular opinion. On the other hand, you will, I firmly
expect, enjoy the inexpressible felicity of contributing to the
happiness of all your countrymen. You will become the father of more
than three millions of children; and while your bosom glows with
parental tenderness, in theirs or at least in a majority of them, you
will excite the duteous sentiments of filial affection. This, I repeat
it, is what I firmly expect; and my views are not directed by that
enthusiasm which your public character has impressed on the public
mind. Enthusiasm is generally short-sighted and too often blind. I
form my conclusions from those talents and virtues which the world
believes and which your friends know you possess."

In a letter detailing the arrangements which were making for the
introduction of the new government, Col. Henry Lee proceeded thus to
speak of the presidency of the United States. "The solemnity of the
moment and its application to yourself have fixed my mind in
contemplations of a public and a personal nature, and I feel an
involuntary impulse which I cannot resist, to communicate without
reserve to you some of the reflections which the hour has produced.
Solicitous for our common happiness as a people, and convicted as I
continue to be that our peace and prosperity depend on the proper
improvement of the present period, my anxiety is extreme that the new
government may have an auspicious beginning. To effect this and to
perpetuate a nation formed under your auspices it is certain that again
you will be called forth.

"The same principles of devotion to the good of mankind which have
invariably governed your conduct will no doubt continue to rule your
mind, however opposite their consequences may be to your repose and
happiness. It may be wrong, but I cannot suppress, in my wishes for
national felicity, a due regard for your personal fame and content.

"If the same success should attend your efforts on this important
occasion which has distinguished you hitherto, then, to be sure, you
will have spent a life which Providence rarely if ever before gave to
the lot of one man. It is my anxious hope, it is my belief, that this
will be the case; but all things are uncertain, and perhaps nothing
more so than political events." He then proceeded to state his
apprehensions that the government might sink under the activity
hostility of its foes, and in particular the fears which he entertained
from the circular letter of New York, around which the minorities in
the several States might be expected to rally. Before concluding his
letter, Colonel Lee said, "Without you the government can have but
little chance of success; and the people of that happiness which its
prosperity must yield."

In reply to this letter Washington said: "Your observations on the
solemnity of the crisis and its application to myself bring before me
subjects of the most momentous and interesting nature. In our endeavors
to establish a new general government the contest, nationally
considered, seems not to have been so much for glory as existence. It
was for a long time doubtful whether we were to survive as an
independent Republic or decline from our federal dignity into
insignificant and wretched fragments of empire. The adoption of the
constitution so extensively and with so liberal an acquiescence on the
part of the minorities in general, promised the former; but lately the
circular letter of New York has manifested, in my apprehension, an
unfavorable if not an insidious tendency to a contrary policy. I still
hope for the best, but before you mentioned it I could not help fearing
it would serve as a standard to which the disaffected might resort. It
is now evidently the part of all honest men who are friends to the new
constitution, to endeavor to give it a chance to disclose its merits
and defects, by carrying it fairly into effect in the first instance.

"The principal topic of your letter is to me a point of great delicacy
indeed--insomuch that I can scarcely without some impropriety touch
upon it. In the first place, the event to which you allude may never
happen; among other reasons, because, if the partiality of my fellow-
citizens conceive it to be a means by which the sinews of the new
government would be strengthened, it will of consequence be obnoxious
to those who are in opposition to it, many of whom unquestionably will
be placed among the electors.

"This consideration alone would supersede the expediency of announcing
any definite and irrevocable resolution. You are among the small number
of those who know my invincible attachment to domestic life, and that
my sincerest wish is to continue in the enjoyment of it solely, until
my final hour. But the world would be neither so well instructed, nor
so candidly disposed, as to believe me to be uninfluenced by sinister
motives, in case any circumstance should render a deviation from the
line of conduct I had prescribed for myself indispensable. Should the
contingency you suggest take place, and (for argument sake alone, let
me say) should my unfeigned reluctance to accept the office be overcome
by a deference for the reasons and opinions of my friends, might I not,
after the declarations I have made (and heaven knows they were made in
the sincerity of my heart), in the judgment of the impartial world, and
of posterity, be chargeable with levity and inconsistency, if not with
rashness and ambition? Nay, further, would there not even be some
apparent foundation for the two former charges? Now, justice to myself,
and tranquility of conscience, require that I should act a part, if not
above imputation, at least capable of vindication. Nor will you
conceive me to be too solicitous for reputation. Though I prize as I
ought the good opinion of my fellow-citizens, yet, if I know myself, I
would not seek or retain popularity at the expense of one social duty
or moral virtue. While doing what my conscience informed me was right,
as it respected _my God_, my country, and myself, I could despise all
the party clamor and unjust censure which must be expected from some,
whose personal enmity might be occasioned by their hostility to the
government. I am conscious that I fear alone to give any real occasion
for obloquy, and that I do not dread to meet with unmerited reproach.
And certain I am, when-so-ever I shall be convinced the good of my
country requires my reputation to be put in risk, regard for my own
fame will not come in competition with an object of so much magnitude.

"If I declined the task it would be upon quite another principle.
Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my increasing fondness for
agricultural amusements, and my growing love of retirement, augment and
confirm my decided predilection for the character of a private citizen,
yet it will be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to which my
former reputation might be exposed, or the terror of encountering new
fatigues and troubles, that would deter me from an acceptance, but a
belief that some other person, who had less pretense and less
inclination to be excused, could execute all the duties full as
satisfactorily as myself. To say more would be indiscreet, as a
disclosure of a refusal beforehand might incur the application of the
fable in which the fox is represented as undervaluing the grapes he
could not reach. You will perceive, my dear sir, by what is here
observed (and which you will be pleased to consider in the light of a
confidential communication), that my inclinations will dispose and
decide me to remain as I am, unless a clear and insurmountable
conviction should be impressed on my mind, that some very disagreeable
consequences must in all human probability result from the indulgence
of my wishes."

About the same time Colonel Hamilton concluded a letter on
miscellaneous subjects with the following observations. "I take it for
granted, sir, you have concluded to comply with what will, no doubt, be
the general call of your country in relation to the new government. You
will permit me to say that it is indispensable you should lend yourself
to its first operations. It is to little purpose to have introduced a
system, if the weightiest influence is not given to its firm
establishment in the outset."

"On the delicate subject," said Washington in reply, "with which you
conclude your letter, I can say nothing; because the event alluded to
may never happen; and because, in case it should occur, it would be a
point of prudence to defer forming one's ultimate and irrevocable
decision so long as new data might be afforded for one to act with the
greater wisdom and propriety. I would not wish to conceal my prevailing
sentiment from you. For you know me well enough, my good sir, to be
persuaded that I am not guilty of affectation, when I tell you it is my
great and sole desire to live and die in peace and retirement on my own
farm. Were it even indispensable a different line of conduct should be
adopted, while you and some others who are acquainted with my heart
would acquit, the world and posterity might probably accuse me of
inconsistency and ambition. Still, I hope I shall always possess
firmness and virtue enough to maintain (what I consider the most
enviable of all titles) the character of an honest man."

This answer drew from Hamilton the following reply: "I should be deeply
pained, my dear sir, if your scruples in regard to a certain station
should be matured into a resolution to decline it; though I am neither
surprised at their existence, nor can I but agree in opinion that the
caution you observe in deferring the ultimate determination is prudent.
I have, however, reflected maturely on the subject, and have come to
the conclusion (in which I feel no hesitation) that every public and
personal consideration will demand from you an acquiescence in what
will certainly be the unanimous wish of your country.

"The absolute retreat which you meditated at the close of the late war
was natural and proper. Had the government produced by the Revolution
gone on in a tolerable train, it would have been most advisable to have
persisted in that retreat. But I am clearly of opinion that the crisis
which brought you again into public view left you no alternative but to
comply; and I am equally clear in the opinion that you are by that act
pledged to take a part in the execution of the government. I am not
less convinced that the impression of the necessity of your filling the
station in question is so universal that you run no risk of any
uncandid imputation by submitting to it. But even if this were not the
case, a regard to your own reputation, as well as to the public good,
calls upon you in the strongest manner to run that risk.

"It cannot be considered as a compliment to say that, on your
acceptance of the office of President, the success of the new
government in its commencement may materially depend. Your agency and
influence will be not less important in preserving it from the future
attacks of its enemies than they have been in recommending it in the
first instance to the adoption of the people. Independent of all
considerations drawn from this source, the point of light in which you
stand at home and abroad will make an infinite difference in the
respectability with which the government will begin its operations, in
the alternative of your being or not being at the head of it. I forbear
to mention considerations which might have a more personal application.
What I have said will suffice for the inferences I mean to draw.

"First. In a matter so essential to the well-being of society as the
prosperity of a newly-instituted government, a citizen of so much
consequence as yourself to its success has no option but to lend his
services if called for. Permit me to say it would be inglorious, in
such a situation, not to hazard the glory, however great, which he
might have previously acquired.

"Secondly. Your signature to the proposed system pledges your judgment
for its being such a one as, upon the whole, was worthy of the public
approbation. If it should miscarry (as men commonly decide from success
or the want of it), the blame will, in all probability, be laid on the
system itself. And the framers of it will have to encounter the
disrepute of having brought about a revolution in government without
substituting anything that was worthy of the effort; they pulled down
one utopia, it will be said, to build up another. This view of the
subject, if I mistake not, my dear sir, will suggest to your mind
greater hazard to that fame which must be, and ought to be, dear to
you, in refusing your future aid to the system than in affording it. I
will only add that in my estimate of the matter that aid is

"I have taken the liberty to express these sentiments and to lay before
you my view of the subject. I doubt not the considerations mentioned
have fully occurred to you, and I trust they will finally produce in
your mind the same result which exists in mine. I flatter myself the
frankness with which I have delivered myself will not be displeasing to
you. It has been prompted by motives which you would not disapprove."

In answer to this letter, Washington expressed himself without reserve.
"In acknowledging," said he, "the receipt of your candid and kind
letter by the last post, little more is incumbent on me than to thank
you sincerely for the frankness with which you communicated your
sentiments, and to assure you that the same manly tone of intercourse
will always be more than barely welcome--indeed, it will be highly
acceptable to me.

"I am particularly glad, in the present instance, that you have dealt
thus freely and like a friend. Although I could not help observing,
from several publications and letters, that my name had been sometimes
spoken of, and that it was possible the contingency which is the
subject of your letter might happen, yet I thought it best to maintain
a guarded silence, and to lack the counsel of my best friends (which I
certainly hold in the highest estimation), rather than to hazard an
imputation unfriendly to the delicacy of my feelings. For, situated as
I am, I could hardly bring the question into the slightest discussion,
or ask an opinion even in the most confidential manner, without
betraying, in my judgment, some impropriety of conduct, or without
feeling an apprehension that a premature display of anxiety might be
construed into a vainglorious desire of pushing myself into notice as a
candidate. Now, if I am not grossly deceived in myself, I should
unfeignedly rejoice, in case the electors, by giving their votes in
favor of some other person, would save me from the dreadful dilemma of
being forced to accept or refuse. If that may not be, I am, in the next
place, earnestly desirous of searching out the truth, and of knowing
whether there does not exist a probability that the government would be
just as happily and effectually carried into execution without my aid
as with it. I am truly solicitous to obtain all the previous
information which the circumstances will afford, and to determine (when
the determination can with propriety be no longer postponed), according
to the principles of right reason and the dictates of a clear
conscience, without too great a reference to the unforeseen
consequences which may affect my person or reputation. Until that
period, I may fairly hold myself open to conviction, though I allow
your sentiments to have weight in them, and I shall not pass by your
arguments without giving them as dispassionate a consideration as I can
possibly bestow upon them.

"In taking a survey of the subject, in whatever point of light I have
been able to place it, I will not suppress the acknowledgment, my dear
sir, that I have always felt a kind of gloom upon my mind, as often as
I have been taught to expect I might, and perhaps must ere long, be
called to make a decision. You will, I am well assured, believe the
assertion (though I have little expectation it would gain credit from
those who are less acquainted with me), that if I should receive the
appointment, and should be prevailed upon to accept it, the acceptance
would be attended with more diffidence and reluctance than ever I
experienced before in my life. It would be, however, with a fixed and
sole determination of lending whatever assistance might be in my power
to promote the public weal, in hopes that at a convenient and an early
period, my services might be dispensed with, and that I might be
permitted once more to retire--to pass an unclouded evening, after the
stormy day of life, in the bosom of domestic tranquility."

This correspondence was thus closed by Hamilton: "I feel a conviction
that you will finally see your acceptance to be indispensable. It is no
compliment to say that no other man can sufficiently unite the public
opinion, or can give the requisite weight to the office, in the
commencement of the government. These considerations appear to me of
themselves decisive. I am not sure that your refusal would not throw
everything into confusion. I am sure that it would have the worst
effect imaginable.

"Indeed, as I hinted in a former letter, I think circumstances leave no

Although this correspondence does not appear to have absolutely decided
Washington on the part he should embrace, it could not have been
without its influence on his judgment, nor have failed to dispose him
to yield to the wish of his country. "I would willingly," said he, to
his estimable friend, General Lincoln, who had also pressed the subject
on him, "pass over in silence that part of your letter in which you
mention the persons who are candidates for the two first offices in the
executive, if I did not fear the omission might seem to betray a want
of confidence. Motives of delicacy have prevented me hitherto from
conversing or writing on this subject, whenever I could avoid it with
decency. I may, however, with great sincerity, and I believe without
offending against modesty or propriety, say to you that I most heartily
wish the choice to which you allude might not fall upon me; and that if
it should, I must reserve to myself the right of making up my final
decision at the last moment, when it can be brought into one view and
when the expediency or inexpediency of a refusal can be more
judiciously determined than at present. But be assured, my dear sir, if
from any inducement I shall be persuaded ultimately to accept, it will
not be (so far as I know my own heart) from any of a private or
personal nature. Every personal consideration conspires to rivet me (if
I may use the expression) to retirement. At my time of life, and under
my circumstances, nothing in this world can ever draw me from it,
unless it be a conviction that the partiality of my countrymen had made
my services absolutely necessary, joined to a fear that my refusal
might induce a belief that I preferred the conservation of my own
reputation and private ease to the good of my country. After all, if I
should conceive myself in a manner constrained to accept, I call Heaven
to witness that this very act would be the greatest sacrifice of my
personal feelings and wishes that ever I have been called upon to make.
It would be to forego repose and domestic enjoyment for
trouble--perhaps for public obloquy; for I should consider myself as
entering upon an unexplored field, enveloped on every side with clouds
and darkness.

"From this embarrassing situation I had naturally supposed that my
declarations at the close of the war would have saved me, and that my
sincere intentions, then publicly made known, would have effectually
precluded me forever afterward from being looked upon as a candidate
for any office. This hope, as a last anchor of worldly happiness in old
age, I had still carefully preserved, until the public papers and
private letters from my correspondents in almost every quarter taught
me to apprehend that I might soon be obliged to answer the question
whether I would go again into public life or not."

"I can say little or nothing new," said he in a letter to Lafayette,
"in consequence of the repetition of your opinion on the expediency
there will be for my accepting the office to which you refer. Your
sentiments, indeed, coincide much more nearly with those of my other
friends than with my own feelings. In truth, my difficulties increase
and magnify as I draw toward the period when, according to the common
belief, it will be necessary for me to give a definitive answer in one
way or other. Should circumstances render it, in a manner, inevitably
necessary to be in the affirmative, be assured, my dear sir, I shall
assume the task with the most unfeigned reluctance and with a real
diffidence, for which I shall probably receive no credit from the
world. If I know my own heart, nothing short of a conviction of duty
will induce me again to take an active part in public affairs. And in
that case, if I can form a plan for my own conduct, my endeavors shall
be unremittingly exerted (even at the hazard of former fame or present
popularity) to extricate my country from the embarrassments in which it
is entangled through want of credit, and to establish a general system
of policy which, if pursued, will insure permanent felicity to the
commonwealth. I think I see a path, as clear and as direct as a ray of
light, which leads to the attainment of that object. Nothing but
harmony, honesty, industry, and frugality are necessary to make us a
great and happy people. Happily, the present posture of affairs, and
the prevailing disposition of my countrymen, promise to cooperate in
establishing those four great and essential pillars of public

After the electors had been chosen, and before the electoral colleges
met, Washington was assailed with the usual importunities of office-

As marking the frame of mind with which he came into the government,
the following extract is given from one of the many letters written to
persons whose pretensions he was disposed to favor. "Should it become
absolutely necessary for me to occupy the station in which your letter
presupposes me, I have determined to go into it perfectly free from all
engagements of every nature whatsoever. A conduct in conformity to this
resolution would enable me, in balancing the various pretensions of
different candidates for appointments, to act with a sole reference to
justice and the public good. This is, in substance, the answer that I
have given to all applications (and they are not few) which have
already been made. Among the places sought after in these applications,
I must not conceal that the office to which you particularly allude is
comprehended. This fact I tell you merely as matter of information. My
general manner of thinking, as to the propriety of holding myself
totally disengaged, will apologize for my not enlarging further on the

"Though I am sensible that the public suffrage which places a man in
office should prevent him from being swayed, in the execution of it, by
his private inclinations, yet he may assuredly, without violating his
duty, be indulged in the continuance of his former attachments."

Although the time appointed for the new government to commence its
operations was the 4th of March, 1789, the members of Congress were so
dilatory in their attendance that a House of Representatives was not
formed till the 1st nor a Senate till the 6th of April.

When at length the votes for President and Vice-President were opened
and counted in the Senate, it was found that Washington was unanimously
elected President, and that the second number of votes was given to
John Adams. George Washington and John Adams were therefore declared to
be duly elected President and Vice-President of the United States, to
serve for four years from the 4th of March, 1789.

In a letter to General Knox, just before this announcement, Washington
thus adverts to the delay in forming a quorum of Congress: "I feel for
those members of the new Congress, who, hitherto, have given an
unavailing attendance at the theater of action. For myself, the delay
may be compared to a reprieve; for, in confidence, I tell you (with the
world it would obtain little credit) that my movements to the chair of
government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a
culprit who is going to the place of his execution; so unwilling am I,
in the evening of life, nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a
peaceful abode for an ocean of difficulties, without that competency of
political skill, abilities, and inclination which are necessary to
manage the helm. I am sensible that I am embarking the voice of the
people, and a good name of my own, on this voyage; but what returns
will be made for them heaven alone can foretell. Integrity and firmness
are all I can promise; these, be the voyage long or short, shall never
forsake me, although I may be deserted by all men; for of the
consolations which are to be derived from these, under any
circumstances, the world cannot deprive me." There is every reason to
believe that the diffidence expressed in the above was sincere. It is
perfectly consistent with the unaffected modesty of Washington's



Washington's election was announced to him by a special messenger from
Congress, on the 14th of April, 1789. His acceptance of it, and his
expressions of gratitude for this fresh proof of the esteem and
confidence of his country, were connected with declarations of
diffidence in himself. "I wish," he said, "that there may not be reason
for regretting the choice--for, indeed, all I can promise is to
accomplish that which can be done by an honest zeal."

As the public business required the immediate attendance of the
President at the seat of government, he hastened his departure, and, on
the second day after receiving notice of his appointment, took leave of
Mount Vernon.

In an entry made by himself in his diary, the feelings inspired by an
occasion so affecting to his mind are thus described: "About 10 o'clock
I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic
felicity, and, with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful
sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York in
company with Mr. Thomson and Colonel Humphreys, with the best
dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call,
but with less hope of answering its expectations."

"The President and his lady," says Mr. Custis, "bid adieu with extreme
regret to the tranquil and happy shades where a few years of repose
had, in a great measure, effaced the effects of the toils and anxieties
of war; where little Eden had bloomed and nourished under their
fostering hands and where a numerous circle of friends and relatives
would sensibly feel the privation of their departure. They departed and
hastened to where duty called the man of his country."

Soon after leaving Mount Vernon he was met by a cavalcade of gentlemen,
who escorted him to Alexandria, where a public dinner had been prepared
to which he was invited. Arrived at that place, he was greeted by a
public address, to which he made an appropriate reply. The address
differs from others, inasmuch as it came from his personal friends and
neighbors, and gives some interesting personal details. The tenor of
the following passage must have sensibly touched the feelings of

"Not to extol your glory as a soldier; not to pour forth our gratitude
for past services; not to acknowledge the justice of the unexampled
honor which has been conferred upon you by the spontaneous and
unanimous suffrages of 3,000,000 of freemen, in your election to the
supreme magistracy; nor to admire the patriotism which directs your
conduct, do your neighbors and friends now address you. Themes less
splendid, but more endearing, impress our minds. The first and best of
citizens must leave us; our aged must lose their ornament; our youth
their model; our agriculture its improver; our commerce its friend; our
infant academy its protector; our poor their benefactor; and the
interior navigation of the Potomac (an event replete with the most
extensive utility, already, by your unremitted exertions, brought into
partial use) its institutor and promoter."

Washington left Alexandria on the afternoon of the same day and
attended by his neighbors proceeded to Georgetown, where he was
received by a number of citizens of Maryland. His journey thenceforth
to the seat of government was a continual triumph. Military escorts,
cavalcades of citizens, and crowds of people of all ages and both sexes
awaited his arrival at each town. We may imagine the enthusiastic
shouts and welcomes with which he was received by the people.

On his approach to Philadelphia he was met by Governor Mifflin, Judge
Peters, and a military escort, headed by General St. Clair, and
followed by the usual cavalcade of gentlemen. Washington was mounted on
a splendid white horse. The procession passed into the city through
triumphal arches adorned with wreaths of flowers and laurel, attended
by an immense crowd of people. The day was a public festival, and in
the evening an illumination and a display of fireworks testified the
enthusiasm of the occasion. The next day, at Trenton, he was welcomed
in a manner as new as it was pleasing. In addition to the usual
demonstrations of respect and attachment which were given by the
discharge of cannon, by military corps, and by private persons of
distinction, the gentler sex prepared in their own taste a tribute of
applause indicative of the grateful recollection in which they held
their deliverance twelve years before from a formidable enemy. On the
bridge over the creek which passes through the town was erected a
triumphal arch highly ornamented with laurels and flowers and supported
by thirteen pillars, each entwined with wreaths of evergreen. On the
front arch was inscribed in large gilt letters, "The defender of the
mothers will be the protector of the daughters."

On the center of the arch, above the inscription, was a dome or cupola
of flowers and evergreens, encircling the dates of two memorable events
which were peculiarly interesting to New Jersey. The first was the
battle of Trenton, and the second the bold and judicious stand made by
the American troops at the same creek, by which the progress of the
British army was arrested on the evening preceding the battle of

At this place he was met by a party of matrons leading their daughters,
dressed in white, who carried baskets of flowers in their hands and
sang, with exquisite sweetness, an ode of two stanzas, composed for the

At New Brunswick he was joined by the Governor of New Jersey, who
accompanied him to Elizabethtown Point. A committee of Congress
received him on the road and conducted him with military parade to the
Point, where he took leave of the Governor and other gentlemen of New
Jersey and embarked for New York in an elegant barge of thirteen oars,
manned by thirteen branch pilots, prepared for the purpose by the
citizens of New York.

"The display of boats," says Washington, in his private journal, "which
attended and joined on this occasion, some with vocal and others with
instrumental music, on board, the decorations of the ships, the roar of
cannon, and the loud acclamations of the people, which rent the sky as
I passed along the wharves, filled my mind with sensations as painful
(contemplating the reverse of this scene, which may be the case after
all my labors to do good) as they were pleasing."

At the stairs on Murray's wharf, which had been prepared and ornamented
for the purpose, he was received by Governor Clinton, of New York, and
conducted with military honors, through an immense concourse of people,
to the apartments provided for him. These were attended by all who were
in office and by many private citizens of distinction, who pressed
around him to offer their congratulations and to express the joy which
glowed in their bosoms at seeing the man in whom all confided at the
head of the American empire. This day of extravagant joy was succeeded
by a splendid illumination.

Mr. Custis, writing of the journey from Mount Vernon to New York, and
of Washington's mode of living at the seat of government, says:

"The august spectacle at the bridge of Trenton brought tears to the
eyes of the chief, and forms one of the most brilliant recollections of
the age of Washington.

"Arrived at the seat of the Federal government, the President and Mrs.
Washington formed their establishment upon a scale that, while it
partook of all the attributes of our republican institutions, possessed
at the same time that degree of dignity and regard for appearances so
necessary to give our infant Republic respect in the eyes of the world.
The house was handsomely furnished; the equipages neat, with horses of
the first order; the servants wore the family liveries, and, with the
exception of a steward and housekeeper, the whole establishment
differed but little from that of a private gentleman. On Tuesdays, from
3 to 4 o'clock, the President received the foreign ambassadors and
strangers who wished to be introduced to him. On these occasions, and
when opening the sessions of Congress, the President wore a dress
sword. His personal apparel was always remarkable for its being
old-fashioned and exceedingly plain and neat. On Thursdays were the
congressional dinners and on Friday nights Mrs. Washington's
drawing-room. The company usually assembled about 7 and rarely stayed
exceeding 10 o'clock. The ladies were seated, and the President passed
around the circle, paying his compliments to each. At the drawing-rooms
Mrs. Morris always sat at the right of the lady president, and at all
the dinners, public or private, at which Robert Morris was a guest,
that venerable man was placed at the right of Mrs. Washington.

"On the great national festivals of the 4th of July and 22d of
February, the sages of the Revolutionary Congress and the officers of
the Revolutionary army renewed their acquaintance with Mrs. Washington;
many and kindly greetings took place with many a recollection of the
days of trial. The Cincinnati, after paying their respects to their
chief, were seen to file off toward the parlor, where Lady Washington
was in waiting to receive them, and where Wayne, and Mifflin, and
Dickinson, and Stewart, and Moylan, and Hartley, and a host of veterans
were cordially welcomed as old friends, and where many an interesting
reminiscence was called up, of the headquarters and the 'times of the

"On Sundays, unless the weather was uncommonly severe, the President
and Mrs. Washington attended divine service at Christ Church, and in
the evening the President read to Mrs. Washington, in her chamber, a
sermon or some portion from the sacred writings. No visitors, with the
exception of Mr. Speaker Trumbull, were admitted to the presidoliad on

"There was one description of visitors, however, to be found about the
first President's mansion on all days. The old soldiers repaired, as
they said, to headquarters just to inquire after the health of his
Excellency and Lady Washington. They knew his Excellency was, of
course, much engaged, but they would like to see the good lady, one had
been a soldier of the life guard, another had been on duty when the
British threatened to surprise the headquarters, a third had witnessed
that terrible fellow, Cornwallis, surrender his sword; each one had
some touching appeal with which to introduce himself to the peaceful
headquarters of the presidoliad. All were 'kindly bid to stay,' were
conducted to the steward's apartments, and refreshments set before
them, and, after receiving some little token from the lady, with her
best wishes for the health and happiness of an old soldier, they went
their ways, while blessings upon their revered commander and the good
Lady Washington were uttered by many a war worn veteran of the
Revolution." [1]

The simple mode of life above described did not save Washington from
public censure by those who are always ready to carp at the doings of
distinguished men, however unexceptionable their conduct may be. Free
levees were said to savor of an affectation of royal state. In a letter
to his friend, Dr. Stewart, Washington thus puts to silence this
calumny, with his usual good sense and unanswerable argument:

"Before the custom was established which now accommodates foreign
characters, strangers, and others, who, from motives of curiosity,
respect to the chief magistrate, or any other cause, are induced to
call upon me, I was unable to attend to any business whatsoever. For
gentlemen, consulting their own convenience rather than mine, were
calling from the time I rose from breakfast--often before--until I sat
down to dinner. This, as I resolved not to neglect my public duties,
reduced me to the choice of one of these alternatives--either to refuse
them altogether or to appropriate a time for the reception of them. The
first would, I well knew, be disgusting to many; the latter I expected
would undergo animadversion from those who would find fault with or
without cause. To please everybody was impossible. I therefore adopted
that line of conduct which combined public advantage with private
convenience, and which, in my judgment, was unexceptionable in itself.

"These visits are optional. They are made without invitation. Between
the hours of 3 and 4 every Tuesday I am prepared to receive them.
Gentlemen, often in great numbers, come and go, chat with each other,
and act as they please. A porter shows them into the room, and they
retire from it when they choose, and without ceremony. At their first
entrance they salute me and I them, and as many as I can talk to I do.
What pomp there is in all this I am unable to discover. Perhaps it
consists in not sitting. To this two reasons are opposed: first, it is
unusual; secondly (which is a more substantial one); because I have no
room large enough to contain a third of the chairs which would be
sufficient to admit it. If it is supposed that ostentation or the
fashions of courts (which by the by, I believe originate oftener in
convenience, not to say necessity, than is generally imagined) gave
rise to this custom, I will boldly affirm that no supposition was ever
more erroneous, for were I to indulge my inclinations every moment that
I could withdraw from the fatigues of my station should be spent in
retirement. That they are not proceeds from the sense I entertain of
the propriety of giving to everyone as free access as consists with
that respect which is due to the chair of government; and that respect,
I conceive, is neither to be acquired or preserved but by maintaining a
just medium between too much state and too great familiarity.

"Similar to the above, but of a more familiar and sociable kind, are
the visits every Friday afternoon to Mrs. Washington, where I always
am. These public meetings, and a dinner once a week to as many as my
table will hold, with the references to and from the different
departments of state and other communications with all parts of the
Union, is as much if not more than I am able to undergo; for I have
already had within less than a year two severe attacks--the last worse
than the first; a third, it is more than probable, will put me to sleep
with my fathers--at what distance this may be I know not."

The inauguration of Washington deserves particular notice, inasmuch as
in its chief outlines it has served for the precedent to all succeeding
inaugurations. Congress had determined that the ceremony of taking the
oath of office should be performed in public and in the open air. It
took place on the 30th of April, 1789. In the morning religious
services were performed in all the churches of the city. At 12 o'clock
a procession was formed at the residence of the President, consisting
of a military escort and the committees of Congress and heads of
departments in carriages, followed by Washington alone in a carriage,
and his aid-de-camp, Colonel Humphreys, and secretary, Mr. Lear, in
another carriage, with the foreign ministers and citizens bringing up
the rear. The procession moved to the hall of Congress, where
Washington alighted with his attendants and entered the senate chamber.
Here he was received by the Senate and House of Representatives. The
Vice-President, John Adams, conducted Washington to his appointed seat,
and shortly after announced to him that all was prepared for his taking
the oath of office. Washington then proceeded to an open balcony in
front of the house, where was a table with an open Bible lying upon it.
On his appearance in the balcony, he was received with a most
enthusiastic burst of popular applause, which he acknowledged by bowing
to the people. Chancellor Livingston administered the oath, while
Adams, Hamilton, Knox, Steuben, and others stood near the President.
While the oath was being administered Washington laid his hand on the
Bible. At its conclusion he said, "I swear, so help me God." His
administration proves that the oath was sincere. He then stooped down
and kissed the Bible. When the ceremony was concluded, he returned to
the senate chamber and delivered his inaugural address to the two
branches of Congress. He then proceeded on foot, with the whole
assemblage, to St. Paul's Church, where prayers were read by the
bishop, and the public ceremonial of the day was completed.

The occasion was celebrated by the people as a grand festival, and in
the evening there was a display of fireworks as well as a general
illumination of the city.

This display of enthusiasm on the part of the people was far from
rendering Washington over-confident of success in his new position. He
was thoroughly aware of the difficulties which would have to be
encountered in putting the new government into action, so as to insure
its stability and success. The opening of his inaugural address to both
branches of Congress gives a clear indication of his views and feelings
on taking office. It is as follows:

"Among the vicissitudes incident to life, no event could have filled me
with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was
transmitted by your order and received on the 14th day of the present
month. On the one hand I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can
never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had
chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with
an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years; a retreat
which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me
by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions
in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other
hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of
my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most
experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his
qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one, who,
inheriting inferior endowments from nature, and unpracticed in the
duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his
own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions, all I dare aver is,
that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just
appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be effected. All I
dare hope is, that if, in accepting this task, I have been too much
swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances or by an
affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence
of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my
incapacity, as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares
before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which misled me,
and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the
partiality in which they originated.

"Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the
public summons, repaired to the present station, it will be peculiarly
improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications
to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe--who presides in the
councils of nations, and whose Providential aids can supply every human
defect--that his benediction may consecrate to the liberties and
happiness of the people of the United States, a government instituted
by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every
instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the
functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the great
Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it
expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my
fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to
acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of
men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they
have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have
been distinguished by some token of Providential agency, and in the
important Revolution just accomplished in the system of their united
government, the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many
distinct communities, from which the event has resulted, cannot be
compared with the means by which most governments have been
established, without some return of pious gratitude, along with an
humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to
presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have
forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will
join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the
influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can
more auspiciously commence."

It will be seen by these expressions that the same sense of solemn
responsibility and the same undoubting trust in Providence, so often
evinced by Washington during the conflicts and perils of the war,
marked his entrance upon the arduous duties of chief magistrate of the
nation. As in the previous instance of accepting office, he now
signified to Congress that he would receive no compensation for his
services, except such as should be necessary to defray the expenses
incident to the position in which he was placed.

This determination was announced in the concluding portion of the
inaugural address, which was as follows:

"By the article establishing the executive department, it is made the
duty of the President 'to recommend to your consideration such measures
as he shall judge necessary and expedient.' The circumstances under
which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject,
further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which
you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the
objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more
consistent with those circumstances and far more congenial with the
feelings which actuate me to substitute in place of a recommendation of
particular measures the tribute that is due to the talents, the
rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to
devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the
surest pledges that, as on one side no local prejudices or attachments,
no separate views nor party animosities will misdirect the
comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great
assemblage of communities and interests; so, on another, that the
foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and
immutable principles of private morality, and the pre-eminence of free
government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the
affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I
dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for
my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly
established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature,
an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness--between duty and
advantage--between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous
policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity, since
we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven
can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of
order and right which Heaven itself has ordained, and since the

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