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Mr. Jay's testimony ought not to be omitted in this place, as he was likewise a party concerned.
“ Some time before the address appeared,” he says, “Colonel Hamilton informed me, that he had received a letter from President Washington, and with it the draft of a Farewell Address, which the President had prepared, and on which he requested our opinion. He then proposed that we should fix on a day for an interview at my house on the subject. A day was accordingly appointed, and on that day Colonel Hamilton attended. He observed to me in words to this effect; that, after having read and examined the draft, it appeared to him to be susceptible of improvement; that he thought the easiest and best way was to leave the draft untouched, and in its fair state, and to write the whole over with such amendments, alterations, and corrections as he thought were advisable; and that he had done so. He then proposed to read it and to make it the subject of our consideration. This being agreed to, he read it, and we proceeded deliberately to discuss and consider it, paragraph by paragraph, until the whole met with our mutual approbation. Some amendments were made during the interview, but none of much importance.
Although this business had not been hastily despatched, yet, aware of the consequence of such a paper, I suggested the giving it a further critical examination ; but he declined it, saying he was pressed for time, and was anxious to return the draft to the President without delay.
“ It afterwards occurred to me, that a certain proposition was expressed in terms too general and unqualified; and I hinted it in a letter to the President. As the business took the course above mentioned, a recurrence to the draft was unnecessary, and it was not read.
There was this advantage in the course pursued; the President's draft remained (as delicacy required) fair and not obscured by interlineations. By comparing it with the paper sent with it, he would immediately observe the particular emendations and corrections that were proposed, and would find them standing in their intended places. Ilence he was enabled to review, and to decide on the whole matter, with much greater clearness and facility, than if he had received them in separate and detached notes, and with detailed references to the pages and lines, where they were advised to be introduced.” *
Letter to Richard Peters, published in the Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylrania, Vol. I. p. 249.
It is here to be observed, that Mr. Jay does not profess to have seen Washington's first draft, and of course he could not know what alterations and amendments had been made by Hamilton in transcribing it. He evidently received the impression, however, that the transcript was, in its matter, essentially the same as the original.
The copy, from which the final draft was printed, is now in existence. It was given by Washington himself to Mr. Claypoole, the printer. This manuscript, by the permission of Mr. Claypoole, I have examined, and it is wholly in the handwriting of Washington. It bears all the marks of a most rigid and laborious revision. It is thus described by Mr. Claypoole.
« The manuscript copy consists of thirty-two pages of quarto letter-paper, sewed together as a book, and with many alterations; as in some places whole paragraphs are erased, and others substituted ; in others, many lines struck out; in others, sentences and words erased, and others interlined in their stead. The tenth, eleventh, and sixteenth pages are almost entirely expunged, saving only a few lines; and one half of the thirty-first page is also effaced.” *
The above statement I believe to include all that is known with certainty on this subject. It proves that an original draft was sent by Washington to Hamilton; that the latter bestowed great pains in correcting and improving it; that, during this process, several communications passed between them; and that the final draft was printed from a copy, containing numerous alterations in the matter and style, which were unquestionably made by Washington. The precise paragraphs, words, or thoughts, which originated with either, cannot now be known. If a draft could be found in the handwriting of Hamilton, nearly resembling the printed address, it would go but a short way in solving this question. Papers may or may not have been destroyed. It is impossible to prove either the one or the other; and, till this can be done, it is equally impossible to decide what part was contributed by each of the writers. In a case of so confidential a nature, and in which his honor was so much concerned, it may be supposed that Hamilton would not preserve every communication he received. It could only be, by a knowledge of the conversation between Washington and Hamilton before the first draft was sent to the latter, and by comparing all the papers that ever existed on the subject, that a positive conclusion could justly or safely be drawn.
* Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylranin, Vol. I. p. 257.
My opinion is, that the Address, in the shape it now bears, is much indebted for its language and style to the careful revision and skilful pen of Hamilton; that he suggested some of the topics and amplified others; and that he undertook this task not more as an act of friendship, than from a sincere desire that a paper of this kind should go before the public in a form, which would give it great and lasting utility. But I do not think that his aid, however valuable, was such as to detract from the substantial merit of Washington, or to divest him of a fair claim to the authorship of the address.
If we chose to pursue the inquiry, and accumulate probabilities, the result would not be more satisfactory. Every one, who shall peruse these volumes, will be satisfied that there is not an idea or sentiment in the FAREWELL Address, which may not be found, more or less extended, in different parts of Washington's writings; nor, after such a perusal, can any one doubt his ability to compose such a paper. As a mere literary performance, though excellent, it is neither extraordinary, nor in any degree superior to many others known to be written by each of the parties. It would add little to the great reputation of Washington, or of Hamilton, if the one or the other could be proved to be its sole and unaided author. It derives its value, and is destined to immortality, chiefly from the circumstance of its containing wise, pure, and noble sentiments, sanctioned by the name of Washington at the moment when he was retiring from a long public career, in which he had been devoted to the service of his country with a disinterestedness, self-sacrifice, perseverance, and success, commanding the admiration and applause of mankind. Take away this name and this circumstance, and its powerful charm would be broken; it would be called able and good, an honorable testimony of the ability and patriotism of the writer, without exciting eager curiosity as to its origin, or the precise manner in which it was produced.
It may not be amiss to state, that it was a habit of Washington, in almost every important act of his life, to consult with those, in whose judgment, good sense, and integrity he confided. Modest in estimating himself, aware that no one mind possesses all wisdom or all knowledge, and ever bent on effecting the best ends by the best means, he sought truth from the sources in which he believed it most likely to be found. But it may be asserted with equal assurance, that no man ever more implicitly followed his own judgment. It may be doubted, if in a single instance, YOL. XII.
great or small, he adopted a measure because it was recommended by another, unless it clearly approved itself to his own mind as the best. He might yield to the opinion of others in being diverted from a course, which he was at first inclined to pursue; but in decision and action he relied on himself alone. Hence the marvellous consistency that ran through his whole life, and the no less marvellous train of successes which attended it.
Whoever attempts to settle the authorship of a paper, intended for the public, from the handwriting in which the manuscript appears,
will often find himself deceived. I have before me a copy of the Address to the King, by the first Continental Congress, in the handwriting of Washington. Some future antiquarian may light upon this paper, and come out with the discovery, that Washington was its author, and thus claim for him the laurels, which the world has consented to place on the brow of John Dickinson. There is a copy of the first draft of the constitution, printed for the use of the members of the convention, in which are numerous interlineations, corrections, and marginal additions, embracing some of the most important features and articles of that instrument, all written by the pen of Washington. By the rule of inferring authorship from handwriting, it would follow, that he was the author of some of the most essential parts of the constitution, whereas the probability is, that he did no more than write them in his copy as they came up and were adopted by the convention. For its present style and arrangement, the constitution is indebted to the pen of Gouverneur Morris ; yet no one ever allowed him any other merit for this performance, than that of skill and talent in composition. In short, if authorship includes the substance as well as form, it is seldom that any individual can be called the sole author of a public paper. Frequently the subject is discussed beforehand in a public body; sometimes by a committee ; and the writer is supplied with the ideas of several minds, fully expressed and weighed, before he begins his task. And, even if these aids are not at command, it can rarely happen, that any man will have so little regard for his reputation, or the cause he aims to promote, as to bring a production of this nature before the world, without previously fortifying himself with the opinions and judgment of good counsellors. No. IV. p. 245.
RELIGIOUS OPINIONS AND HABITS OF WASHINGTON.
Such persons as have attentively read these volumes may think any remarks on this subject superfluous. In certain quarters, nevertheless, there have been discussions tending to throw doubts over the religious belief of Washington; whether from ignorance of his character and writings, or from causes less creditable, it is needless to inquire. A formal attempt to confute insinuations of this kind would be allowing them a weight, which they cannot claim, till supported by positive testimony, or till it is shown by at least a shadow of proof, that they have any foundation other than conjecture and inference.
This has never been done, and nothing is hazarded in saying that it never will be done. A few facts, and brief extracts from his papers,
will be enough to place the subject before the reader in its proper light.
A hundred years have elapsed since the childhood of Washington; and so little is known of his early life, from written materials, that we cannot speak with confidence respecting his first religious impressions. It has always been the prevalent tradition, however, in the neighbourhood of his birth-place, that he was educated under influences, that could not fail to fix in his mind the principles of the Christian religion, and a sacred regard for the precepts it inculcates. This is in part confirmed by his manuscripts, containing articles and extracts copied out by himself in his boyhood, which prove that his thoughts at that time had a religious tendency. One of these pieces, being a series of verses On Christmas Day, begins thus;
“ Assist me, Muse divine, to sing the morn,
On which the Saviour of mankind was born." A boy of thirteen would scarcely employ himself in transcribing pieces of this description, whose mind had not already received a decided bias from the instructions of pious parents or teachers.
It should be observed, also, that in his first military campaigns he was careful to have religious service regularly performed in camp.
Even in the midst of the active scenes at the Great Meadows this was the daily practice. During the French war, when the government of Virginia neglected to provide chaplains for the army, he remonstrated against such an impropriety, and