Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

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 be called upon, ere long, to make the decision. You will, I am well assured, believe the assertion, that 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 difficulty and reluctance, than I ever experienced before.-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 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 tranquillity.”

In a letter to general Lincoln, Washington observes, "I may, however, with great sincerity, and I believe without offending against modesty and 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 accepţ, 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 has 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, for ever afterwards, from being looked upon as a candidate for any office. This hope, as a last anchor of worldly happiness in old age, I had carefully preserved, until the public papers and private letters from my correspondence in almost every quarter, taught me to apprehend that I might soon be obliged to an. swer the question, whether I would go again into public life or not."

In a letter to the marquis de la Fayette, Washington observes, 6. 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 towards the period, when, according to the common belief, it will be necessary for me to give a definite answer, in one way or other. Should circumstances render it in a mane ner 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 endeavours 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 ensure 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 co-operate in establishing those four great and essential pillars of public felicity."

Before the election of a president occurred, so universal was the expectation that Washington would be elected, that numerous applications were made to him, in anticipation, for offices in the government, which would be in his gift. To one of such applicants, he wrote as follows; “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.'

CHAPTER XI.

Washington elected president. On his way to the seat of

government, at New York, receives the most flattering marks of respect. Addresses Congress. The situation of the United States in their foreign and domestic rela

tions, at the inauguration of Washington. Fills up pub- lic offices solely with a view to the public good. Proposes

a treaty to the Creek Indians, which is at first rejected. Colonel Willett induces the heads of the nation to come to New York, to treat there. The North Western Indians refuse a treaty; but after defeating generals Harmar and St. Clair, they are defeated by general Wayne. They then submit and agree to treat. A new system is introduced for meliorating their condition.

It was intended that the new government should commence its operations on the 4th of March, 1789; but, from accidental causes, the election of General Washington to the

P

presidency was not officially announced to him at Mount Vernon, till the 14th of next April. This was done by Charles Thompson, secretary to the late congress, who presented to him the certificate signed by the president of the senate of the United States, stating that George Washington was unanimously elected president. This unexpected delay was regretted by the public, but not by the newly elected president.--In a letter to general Knox, he observed, “ As to myself, the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for, in confidence I tell you, what with the world 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.”

On the second day after receiving notice of his appointment, Washington set out for New York. On his way thither, the road was crowded with numbers, anxious to see the man of the people. Escorts of militia, and of gentlemen of the first character and station, attended him from state to state, and he was every where received with the highest honours that a grateful and admiring people could confer. Addresses of congratulation were presented to him by the inhabitants of almost every place of importance, through which he passed, to all of which he returned answers so modest and unassuming, as were in every respect suitable to his situation.--So great were the honours with which he was loaded, that they could scarcely have failed to produce haughti ness in the mind of any ordinary man; but nothing of the kind was ever discovered in this extraordinary personage. On all occasions, he behaved to all men with the affability of one citizen to another.

He was truly great in deserving the

plaudits of his country, but much greater in not being elated by them.

Of the numerous addresses which were presented on this occasion, one, subscribed by Dennis Ramsay, the mayor of Alexandria, in the name of the people of that city, who were the neighbours of Mr. Washington, was particularly and universally admired. It was in the following words: “ To George Washington, Esq. President of the United

States, &.c. Again, your country commands your care. Obedient to its wishes, unmindful of your ease, we see you again relinquishing the bliss of retirement, and this too, at a period of life when nature itself seems to authorize a preference of repose.

“ 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 honour which has been conferred upon you by the spontaneous and unanimous suffrage of three millions of freemen, in your election to the supreme magistracy, nor to admire the patriotism which directs your conduct, do your neighbours 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 ornaments; 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.

"Farewell. Go, and make a grateful people happy; a people who will be doubly grateful, when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for their interest.

"To that Being who maketh and unmaketh at his will, we commend you; and, after the accomplishment of the arduous business to which you are called, may he restore to us again the best of men, and the most beloved fellow-citizen."

To this, Mr. Washington returned the following answer:

“ GENTLEMEN,—Although I ought not to conceal, yet I cannot describe the painful emotions which I felt, in being called upon to determine whether I would accept or refuse

« AnteriorContinuar »