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Washington rejoices at the prospect of retiring. Writes to
the Secretary of State, denying the authenticity of letters said to be from him to J. P. Čustis and Lund Washington, in 1776. Pays respect to his successor, Mr. John Adams. Review of Washington's administration. He retires to Mount Vernon. Resumes agricultural pursuits. Hears with regret the aggressions of the French republic. Corresponds on the subject of his taking the command of an army to oppose the French. Is appointed LieutenantGeneral. His commission is sent to him by the secretary of war. His letter to president Adams on its receipt. Directs the organization of the proposed army. Three envoys extraordinary are sent to France, who adjust all disputes with Buonaparte, after the overthrow of the Directory General Washington dies. Is honoured by Congress and by the citizens. His character.
The pleasing emotions which are excited in ordinary men, on their acquisition of power, were inferior to those which Washington felt on its resignation. To his tried friend, general Knox, on the day preceding the termination of his office, he observed in a letter :-"To the weary traveller, who sees a resting place, and is bending his body thereon, I now compare myself. Although the prospect of a retirement is most grateful to my soul, and I have not a wish to mix again in the great world, or to partake in its politics, yet I am not without regret at parting with, perhaps never more to meet, the few intimates whom I love. Among these, be assured, you are one."
The numerous calumnies, of which Washington was the subject, drew from him no public animadversions, except in
A volume of letters, said to be from General Washington to John Parke Custis and Lund Washington, were published by the British, in the year 1776, and were given to the public, as being found in a small portmanteau, left in the care of his servant, who, it was said by the editors, had been taken prisoner in Fort Lee. These letters were intended to produce in the public mind, impressions unfa
voarable to the integrity of Washington's motives, and to represent his inclinations at variance with his profession and duty.--When the first edition of these spurious letters was forgotten, they were republished during Washington's civil administration, by some of his fellow-citizens who differed from him in politics. On the morning of the last day of his presidency, he addressed a letter to the secretary of state, in which, after enumerating all the facts and dates connected with the forgery, and declaring that he had hitherto deemed it unnecessary to take any formal notice of the imposition, he concluded as follows:- But, as I cannot know how soon a more serious event may succeed to that which will this day take place, I have thought it a duty that I owed to myself, to my country, and to truth, now to detail the circumstances above recited, and to add my solemn declaration, that the letters herein described, are a base forgery; and that I never saw or heard of them, until they appeared in print. The present letter I commit to your care, and desire it may be deposited in the office of the department of state, as a testimony of the truth, to the present generation and to posterity.”
The moment now approached, which was to terminate the official character of Washington, and in which that of his successor, John Adams, was to commence. The old and the new president walked together to the house of representatives, where the oath of office was administered to the latter. On this occasion, Mr. Adams concluded an impressive speech, with a handsome compliment to his predecessor, by observing, that though he was about to retire, “his name may still be a rampart, and the knowledge that he lives, a bulwark against all open or secret enemies of his country.”
The immense concourse of citizens who were present, gazed with love and affection on the retiring Washington, while eheerfulness overspread his countenance, and joy filled his heart, on seeing another invested with the high authorities which he so long exercised, and the way opened for his returning to the long desired happiness of domestic private life. After paying his most respectful compliments to the new president, he set out for Mount Vernon, the scene of enjoyment which he preferred to all others. His wishes en travel privately were in vain; for, wherever he passed, the
gentlemen of the country took every occasion of testifying their respect for him. In his retirement, he continued to receive the most flattering addresses from legislative bodies, and various classes of his fellow-citizens.
During the eight years' administration of Washington, the United States enjoyed prosperity and happiness at home; and by the energy of the government, regained amongst foreigners that importance and reputation, which by its weakness they had lost. The debts contracted in the revolutionary war, which, from the imbecility of the old government, had depreciated to an insignificant sum, were funded; and revenues so ample provided for the payment of the interest, and the gradual extinction of the principal, that their real and nominal value were in a little time nearly the same. The government was so firmly established, as to be cheerfully and universally obeyed. The only exception was an insurrection in the western counties of Pennsylvania, which was quelled without bloodshed.-Agriculture and commerce were extended far beyond what had ever before been witnessed in Ameri
The Indians on the frontiers had been first compelled by force to respect the United States, and to continue in peace; and afterwards a humane system was commenced, for teaching them to exchange the tomahawk and hatchet, for the plough, the hoe, the shuttle, and the spinning-wheel. The free navigation of the Mississippi had been acquired with the consent of Spain, and all differences compromised with that power.—The military posts which had been long held by Britain within the United States, were peaceably surrendered. The Mediterranean was opened to American vessels, in consequence of treaties made with the Barbary powers. Indeed, differences with all powers, either contiguous to the United States, or connected with them, had been amicably adjusted, with the exception of France. To accomplish this very
desirable object, Washington had made repeated advances; but it could not be obtained, without surrendering the independence of the nation, and its right of self-government.
Washington, on returning to Mount Vernon, resumed agricultural pursuits. These, with the society of men and books, gave to every hour innocent and interesting employment, and promised a serene evening of his life. Though
he wished to withdraw, not only from public office, but from all anxiety respecting public affairs, yet he felt too much for his country, to be indifferent to its interests. He heard with regret the repeated insults offered by the French directory to the United States, in the persons of their ministers, and the injury done to their commerce by illegal captures of their vessels. These indignities and injuries, after a long endurance, and a rejection of all advances for an accommodation, at length roused the government, in the hands of Mr. Adams, to adopt vigorous measures. -To be in readiness to repel a threatened invasion, congress authorized the formation of a regular army. As soon as the adoption of this measure was probable, the eyes of all were once more turned on Washington, as the most suitable person to be at its head. · Letters from his friends poured in upon him, urging that he should accept the command. 'To one from president Adams, in which it was observed : “ We must have your name, if you will in any case permit us to use it; there will be more efficacy in it, than in many an army.” Washington replied as follows: “At the epoch of my retirement, an invasion of these states by any European power, or even the probability of such an event in my days, was so far from being contemplated by me, that I had no conception either that or any other occurrence, would arrive in so short a period, which could turn my eyes from the shades of Mount Vernon.-But this seems to be the age of wonders ; and it is reserved. for intoxicated and lawless France, for purposes far beyond the reach of human ken, to slaughter her own citizens, and to disturb the repose of all the world beside. From a view of the past; from the prospect of the present; and of that which seems to be expected ; it is not easy for me to decide satisfactorily on the part it might best become me to act. In case of actual invasion by a formidable force, I certainly should not intrench myself under the cover of age and retirement, if my services should be required by my country, to assist in repelling it.-And if there be good cause to expect such an event, which certainly must be better known to the govern ment, than to private citizens, delay in preparing for it may be dangereus, improper, and not to be justified by prudence. "The uncertainty, however, of the latter, in my mind, creates my embarrassment, for I cannot bring it to believe, regard
less as the French are of treaties, and of the laws of nations, and capable as I conceive them to be of any species of despotism and injustice, that they will attempt to invade tliis country, after such a uniform and unequivocal expression of the determination of the people, in all parts, to oppose them with their lives and fortunes.--'That they have been led to believe, by their agents and partisans among us, that we are a divided people ; that the latter are opposed to their own government; and that the show of a small force would occasion a revolt; I have no doubt: and how far these men, grown desperate, will further attempt to deceive, and may succeed in keeping up the deception, is problematical. Without that, the folly of the directory in such an attempt, would, I conceive, be more conspicuous, if possible, than their wiekedness.
“ Having with candour made this disclosure of the state of my mind, it remains only for me to add, that to those who know me best, it is best known, that should inperious circumstances induce me to exchange, once more, the sinooth paths of retirement for the thorny ways of public life, at a period too, when repose is more congenial io nature, that it woulil be productive of sensations which can be niore easily conceived than expressed."
To the secretary of war, writing on the same subject, Washington replied :—" It cannot be necessary for me to premise to you, or to others who know my sentiments, that to quit the tranquillity of retirement, and enter the boundless tield of responsibility, would be productive of sensations, which a better pen than I possess, would find it difficult 10 describe. Nevertheless, the principle by which my
conduct has been actuated through life, would not suffer me, in any great emergency, 10 withhold any services I could render, when required by my country; especially in a case where its dearest rights are assailed by lawless ambition and intoxicated power, in contempt of every principle of justice, and in violation of solemn compact, and of laws which govern all civilized nations; and this ion, with the obvious intent to Sow thick the seeds of disunion, for the purpose of subjugating our government, and destrying our independence and Lappiness.
Under circumstances like these, accompanied by an ac