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“ Your excellency having been pleased to transmit me a copy of the act appropriating to my benefit certain shares in the companies for opening the navigation of James and Potowmac rivers ; I take the liberty of returning to the general assembly, through your hands, the profound and grateful acknowledgments inspired by so signal a mark of their beneficent intentions toward me. I beg you, sir, to assure them that I am filled on this occasion with every sentiment which can flow from a heart warm with love to my country, sensible to every token of its approbation and affection, and solicitous to testify in every instance a respectful submission to its wishes.
" With these sentiments in my bosom, I need not dwell on the anxiety I feel, in being obliged, in this instance, to decline a favour which is rendered no less flattering by the manner in which it is conveyed, than it is affectionate in itself. In explaining this, I pass over a comparison of my en. deavours in the public service, with the many hon. ourable testimonies of approbation which have already so far over rated and overpaid them; reciting one consideration only, which superscdes the necessity of recurring to every other.
“When I was first called to the station with which I was honoured during the late conflict for our liberties, to the difidence which I had so many reasons to feel in accepting it, I thought it my duty to join a firm resolution to shut my hand against every pecuniary recompense.
To this resolution I have invariably adhered, and from it, if I had the inclination, I do rot consider myself at liberty now to depart.
“ Whilst I repeat, therefore, my fervent acknowledgments to the legislature for their very kind sentiments and intentions in my favour, and at the same time beg them to be persuaded, that a remembrance of this singular proof of their goodness toward me will never cease to cherish returns of the warmest affection and gratitude ; I must pray that their act, so far as it has for its object my personal emolument, may not have its effect; but if it should please the general assembly to permit me to turn the destination of the fund vested in nie, from my private emolument to objects of a public nature, it will be my study in selecting these, to prove the sincerity of my gratitude for the honour conferred upon me, by preferring such as may appear most subservient to the enlightened and patriotic views of the legislature."
The wishes suggested in this letter were sanctioned by the legisiature ; and, at a subsequent time, the trust was executed by conveying the shares to the rise of a seminary of learning in the vicinity of each river.
Near the close of the revolutionary war, the officers of the American army, with a view of perpetuating their friendships, formed themselves into à society, to be named after the famous Roman patriot, Cincinnatus. At the head of their society, Gen. Washington was placed. By the rules of their institution, the honours of the society were to be hereditary in their respective families, and distinguished individuals might be admitted as hon. orary members for life. These circumstances, together with the union of the officers of the army, gave an alarm to the community ; several individuals of which supposed that the hereditary part of the institution would be a germ of nobility. It was the usual policy of Washington to respect the opinions of the people, in matters indifferent, or of small magnitude, though he might think them mistaken. Having ascertained to his own satisfaction, that a degree of jealousy pervaded the mass of the people, respecting the probable tendency of this perpetual hereditary society, he successfully exerted his influence to new model its rules, by relinquishing the hereditary principle and the power of adopting honorary members.
The result proved the wisdom of the measure ; for all jealousies of the society henceforward were done away, and the members thereof were received as brethren, by the most suspicious of their fellowcitizens.
When Washington, at the close of the revolu. tionary war, became a private citizen, his country confidently anticipated every possible blessing from peace, independence, and self government. But experience soon proved the inefficacy of existing systems for promoting national happiness, or preserving national dignity. Congress had neither the power nor the means of doing justice to public creditors, nor of enforcing the respect of foreign · nations. Gold and silver vanished ; commerce languished ; property was depreciated ; and credit expired. The lovers of liberty and independence began to be less sanguine in their hopes from the American revolution, and to fear that they had built a visionary fabric of government on the fallacious ideas of public virtue For the first five or six years immediately following peace, the splendour which surrounded the infant states from their successful struggle in the cause of independence and self government, was daily darkening. This state of things could not be indifferent to Washington. He was among the first to discover the cause, and to point out the remedy. The inefficient support he received while commander in chief, proved the inefficacy of the articles of confederation, for raising and supporting a requisite military foree. The experience of the first years of peace, proved their total inadequacy for the purpose of national government. From want of vigour in the federal head, the United States were fast dwindling into separate sovereignties, unconnected by any bond of union, equal to public exigency. The private letters of Washington at this time, show his anxiety for his country's welfare, and his wisdom in pointing out a remedy for its degradation. In one of them he observes, “ The confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance, and Congress a nugatory body, their ordinances being little attended to. To me it is a solecism in politics ; indeed it is one of the most extraordinary things in nature, that we should confederate as a nation, and yet be afraid to give the rulers of that nation, who are the creatures of our own making, appointed for a limited and short duration, and who are amenable for every action, recallable at any moment, and subject to all, the evils which they may be instrumental in producing, sufficient powers to order and direct the affairs of the same. By such policy the wheels of government are
clogged, and our brightest prospects, and that high expectation which was entertained of us by the wondering world, are turned into astonishment; and from the high ground on which we stood, we are descending into the vale of confusion and darkness.
“ That we have it in our power to become one of the most respectable nations upon earth, admits, in my humble opinion, of no doubt, if we would but pursue a wise, just, and liberal policy toward one another, and would keep good faith with the rest of the world. That our resources are ample and increasing, none can deny; but while they are grudgingly applied, or not applied at all, we give a vital stab to public faith, and will sink in the eyes of Europe into contempt.”
In another, “ It is one of the evils of democratic governments, that the people, not always seeing, and frequently misled, must often feel before they are set right. But evils of this nature seldom fail to work their own cure. It is to be lamented, nevertheless, that the remedies are so slow, and that those who wish to apply them seasonably, are not attended to before they suffer in person, in interest, and in reputation. I am not without hopes that matters will soon take a favourable turn in the federal constitution. The discerning part of the community have long since seen the necessity of giving adequate powers to Congress for national purposes, and those of a different description must yield to it ere long.'
In a letter to Mr. Jay, Gen. Washington observed ; “ Your sentiments that our affirs are drawing rapidly to a crisis, accord with my own.