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lowns and villages through which he passed, public and private demonstrations of joy and gratitude met him on every side; and Congress resolved that the resignation of his commission should be in a public audi
A large concourse of distinguished persons were present; and, at the close of a brief address,* Washington stepped forward and handed his commission to the president (General Mimin), who made an affectionate and appropriate reply. He then “hastened with ineffable delight" (to use his own words) to his seat at Mount Vernon, resolved there to pass the remainder of his days amid the pure and quiet pleasures of his domestic circle, enhanced a thousand-fold by the consideration that his country was free and independent, and had taken a place among the nations of the earth.f
The conclusion of the revolutionary war permitted Washington to return to those domestic scenes in which he delighted, and from which no views of ambition seem to have had the power to draw his affections. One of the greatest proofs of his patriotism was his refusal to receive any pecu. niary compensation for his services as commander-in-chief during the eight years in which he had served his country in that capacity. When he accepted the appointment, he announced to Congress his determination to decline payment for his services. He simply asked the reimbursement of his expenses, an exact account of which he kept and presented to the government, drawn up by his own hand at the close of the war. I
In the month of September, 1784, Washington made a tour to the western country, for the purpose of inspecting the lands he possessed beyond the Allegany mountains, and also of ascertaining the practicability of opening a canal between the head-waters of the rivers running eastward into the Atlantic, and those that flow westward to the Ohio. The extent of this journey was six hundred and eighty miles, which he travelled on horseback. He crossed the mountains, and examined the waters of the Monongahela river, with the special view of deciding the question in his own mind, whether the Potomac and James rivers could be connected by internal navigation with the western waters. He conversed on the subject with such intelligent persons as he met, and kept a journal in which he recorded the results of his observations and inquiries. His thoughts had been turned 10 this enterprise before the Revolution ;
after returning from this western tour, in October, 1784, he communicated to
• Washington closed his address with the following words : " I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them into his holy keeping. Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action ; and bidding an affectionate farewell to this angust body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all employment of public life.”
| Lossing's War of Independence.
# A fac-simile of this account of Washington's public expenditures has been published in a handsome volume, by Mr. Franklin Knight, of Washington city.
the governor of Virginia the fruits of his investigations in a letter, one of the ablest, most sagacious, and most important productions of his pen. The governor laid this letter before the legislature. It was the first suggestion of the great system of internal improvements which has since been pursued in the United States.
The legislature of Virginia, after duly considering this letter of Washington to the governor, appointed a commission for surveys, and organized two companies called the Potomac company, and the James river company, for the purpose of carrying the plan into effect.
It may here be added, that Washington was a zealous advocate for schools and literary institutions of every kind, and sought to promote them by his public addresses and by private benefactions. In this spirit he accepted the chancellorship of William and Mary college, being earnestly solicited by the trustees.*
Washington was not long allowed to remain in retirement. To remedy the distress into which the country had been thrown by the war, and to organize a permanent plan of national government, a national convention of delegates from the several states was called, and met at Philadelphia in 1787. Having been chosen one of the delegates from Virginia, Washington was appointed to preside over the deliberations of the convention, and used his influence to cause the adoption of the constitution of the United States.
By the unanimous voice of his fellow-citizens and of the electoral colleges, he was called, in 1789, to act as president of the United States and cheerfully lent his aid in organizing the new government. Amid all ihe difficulties which occurred at that period from differences of opinion among the people, many of whom were opposed to the measures proposed and adopted, the national government would probably have perished in its infancy, if it had not been for the wisdom and firmness of Washington. During his first term the French revolution commenced, which convulsed the whole political world, and which tried most severely his moderation and prudence. His conduct was a model of firm and dignified moderation. Insults were offered to his authority by the minister of the French republic (Mr. Genet) and his adherents, in official papers, in anonymous libels, and by tumultuous meetings. The law of nations was trampled under foot. No vexation could disturb the tranquillity of his mind, or make him deviate from the policy which his situation prescribed. During the whole course of that arduous struggle, his personal character gave that strength to a new magistracy which in other countries arises from ancient habits of obedience and respect. The authority of his virtue was more efficacious for the preservation of America, than the legal powers of his office. During this turbulent period he was unanimously re-elected to the presidency, in 1793, for another term, although he had expressed a
wish to retire. The nation was then nearly equally divided into two great political parties, who united only on the name of Washington. Throughout the whole course of his second presidency the danger of the United States was great and imminent. The spirit of change, indeed, shook all nations. But in other countries it had to encounter ancient and strong established power; in America the government was new and weak; the people had scarcely time to recover from the effects of a recent civil war. Washington employed the horror excited by the atrocities of the French revolution for the best purposes ; to preserve the internal quiet of his country ; to assert the dignity and to maintain the rights of the common. wealth which he governed, against foreign enemies. He avoided war, without incurring the imputation of pusillanimity. He cherished the detestation of the best portion of his countrymen for anarchy, without weakening the spirit of liberty; and he maintained the authority of the government without infringing on the rights of the states, or abridging the privileges of the people. He raised no hopes that he did not gratify; he made no promises that he did not fulfil; he exacted proper respect due to the high office he held, and rendered to others every courtesy belong. ing to his high station.
Having determined to retire from the presidency at the expiration of his second term, in March, 1797, he issued in September, 1796, a farewell address to the people of the United States, which will be found in this volume, and which will remain as a permanent legacy to his countrymen through future generations, for its sentiments of patriotism, and sound maxims of political sagacity. He remained at the seat of government until the inauguration of his successor, Mr. Adams, which occasion he honored with his presence, and immediately retired to Mount Vernon to pass the remainder of his days in quiet retirement ; but when, in 1798, the United States armed by sea and land, in consequence of their difficulties with France, he consented to act as lieutenant-general of the army ; but was never afterward called upon to take the field, although he bore the commission until his death. On Thursday, the twelfth of December, 1799, he was seized with an inflammation in his throat, which became considerably worse the next day, and which terminated his life on Saturday, the fourteenth of the same month, in the sixty-eighth year of his age.
"No man,” says Colonel Knapp, in his biographical sketch, " was ever mourned so widely and sincerely as Washington. Throughout the United States, eulogies were pronounced upon his character, sermons were preached, or some mark of respect paid to his memory. It was not speaking extravagantly to say that a nation was in tears at his death. There have been popular men, who were great in their day and generation, but whose fame soon passed away. It is not so with the fame of Washing. ton, it grows brightor by years. The writings of Washington (a portion
only of which comprise eleven octavo volumes) show that he had a clear, lucid mind, and will be read with pleasure for ages to come.”
“ General Washington,” says Judge Marshall, “ was rather above the common size; his frame was robust, and his constitution vigorous — capable of enduring great fatigue, and requiring a considerable degree of exercise for the preservation of his health. His exterior created in the beholder the idea of strength united with manly gracefulness.
“His manners were rather reserved than free, though they partook nothing of that dryness, and sternness which accompany reserve when carried to an extreme; and on all proper occasions he could relax sufficiently to show how highly he was gratified by the charms of conversation, and the pleasures of society. His person and whole deportment exhibited an unaffected and indescribable dignity, unmingled with haughtiness, of which all who approached him were sensible ; and the attachment of those who possessed his friendship, and enjoyed his intimacy, was ardent, but always respectful.
“ His temper was humane, benevolent, and conciliatory; but there was a quickness in his sensibility to anything apparently offensive, which experience had taught him to watch and to correct.
“In the management of his private affairs he exhibited an exact yet fiberal economy. His funds were not prodigally wasted on capricious and ill-examined schemes, nor refused to beneficial though costly improvements. They remained, therefore, competent to that extensive establishment which his reputation, added to an hospitable temper, had in some measure imposed upon him, and to those donations which real distress has a right to claim from opulence.
" In his civil administration, as in his military career, were exhibited ample and repeated proofs of that practical good sense, of that sound judgment which is perhaps the most rare, and is certainly the most valuable quality of the human mind.
"In speculation he was a real republican, devoted to the constitution of his country, and to that system of equal political rights on which it is founded. But between a balanced republic and a democracy, the difference is like that between order and chaos. Real liberty, he thought, was to be preserved only by preserving the authority of the laws, and main. taining the energy of government."