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“ I presume you heard, sir, that I was first ap- . pointed, and have since been rechosen, president of the society of the Cincinnati ; and you may have understood also, that the triennial general meeting of this body is to be held in Philadelphia the first Monday in May next. Some particular reasons, combining with the peculiar situation of my private concerns, the necessity of paying attention to them, a wish for retirement, and relaxation from public cares, and rheuinatic pains, which I begin to feel very sensibly, indaced me, on the 31st. ultimo, to address a circular letter to each state society, informing them of my intention not to be at the next meeting, and of my desire not to be rechosen president. The vice president is also informed of this, that the business of the society may not be impeded by my absence. Under these circumstances it will readily be perceived, that I could not appear at the same time and place, on any other occasion, without giving offence to a very respectable and deserving part of the community ; the late officers of the American army.
The meeting of the convention was postponed to a day subsequent to that of the meeting of the Cincinnati. This removed one of the difficulties in the way of Washington's acceptance of a seat in the convention, and, joined with the importance of the call, and his own eager desire to advance the public interest, finally induced his compliance with the wishes of his friends.
The convention niet in Philadelphia, in May, and unanimously chose George Washington their president. On the 17th. of September, 1787, they
closed their labours, and submitted the result to Congress, with their opinion “ that it should be submitted to a convention of delegates chosen in each state by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification."
By this new form of government, ample powers were given to Congress without the intervention of the states, for every purpose that national dignity, interest, or happiness, required.
The ablest .pens and most eloquent tongues were employed for, and against, its acceptance. In this animated contest, Washington took no part. Having with his sword vindicated the right of his country to self government, and having with his advice aided in digesting an efficient form of government, which he most. thoroughly approved, it would seem as though he wished the people to decide for themselves, whether to accept or re
The constitution being accepted by eleven states, and preparatory measures being taken for bringing it into operation, all eyes were turned to Washington, as being the fittest man for the of. fice of president of the United States. His correspondents began to press his acceptance of the high office, as essential to the well being of his country
To those who think that Washington was like other men, it will scarcely appear possible, that supreme magistracy possessed no charms sufficient to tempt him from his beloved retirement, when he was healthy and strong, and only fifty seven
years old ; but if an opinion can be formed of his real sentiments, from the tenour of his life and confidential communications to his most intimate friends, a conviction will be produced, that his acceptance of the Presidency of the United States was the result of a victory obtained by a sense of duty over his inclinations, and was a real sacrifice of the latter to the former.
In a letter to Col. Henry Lee, Washington observes; “Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my increasing fondness for agricultural amusements, and my growing love of retirement, augment and confirm my decided predilection for the character of a private citizen ; yet it will be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to which my former reputation might be exposed, nor the terror of encountering new fatigues and troubles, that would deter me from an acceptance, but a belief that some other person who had less pretence and less inclination to be excused, could execute all the duties full as satisfactorily as myself. To say more would be indiscreet, as a disclosure of a refusal beforehand might incur the application of the fable, in which the fox is represented as undervaluing the grapes he could not reach. You will perceive, my dear sir, by what is here obseryed, and which you will be pleased to consider in the light of a confidential communication, that my inclinations will dispose and decide me to remain as I am, unless a clear and insurmountable conviction should be impressed on my mind, that some very disagreeable consequences must in all human probability result from the indulgence of
In a letter to Col. Hamilton, Washington observes ; “ If I am not grossly deceived in myself, I should unfeignedly rejoice, in case the electors, by giving their votes to some other person, would save me from the dreadful dilemma of being forced to accept or refuse. If that may not be, I am in the next place, earnestly desirous of searching out the truth, and of knowing whether there does not exist a probability that the government would just as happily and effectually be carried into execution, without my aid, as with it. I am truly solicitous to obtain all the previous information which the circumstances will afford, and to determine, when the determination can no longer be postponed, according to the principles of right reason, and the dictates of a clear conscience, without too great a reference to the unforeseen consequences
affect my person or reputation. Until that period, I may fairly hold myself open to conviction, 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 glooni 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, though I have little ex. pectation it would gain credit from those who are less acquainted with me, that if I should receive
the appointinent, 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 Gen. 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 decis. ion, 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 per. suaded ultimately to accept, 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 had made my services absolutely necessary, joined to a fear that my refusal might induce a belief that I pre