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General Washington, on retiring from public life, devotes himself to
agricultural pursuits..... Favours inland navigation..... Declines offered emoluments from it..... Urges an alteration of the fundamental rules of the society of the Cincinnati. . .Regrets the defects of the Federal system, and recommends a revisal of it ....Is appointed a member of the continental convention for that purpose, which, after hesitation, he accepts... .Is chosen President thereof....Is solicited to accept the Presidency of the United States..... Writes sundry letters expressive of the conflict in bis mind, between duty and inclination..... Answers applicants for offices.... His reluctance to enter on pablic life.
The sensations of Washington on retiring from public business are thus expressed. “I feel as a wearied traveller must do, who, after treading many a painful step with a heavy burden on his shoul. ders, is eased of the latter, having reached the hayen to which all the former were directed, and from his house top is looking back and tracing with an eager eye, the meanders by which he escaped the quicksands and mires which lay in his way, and into which none but the All Powerful Guide and Dispenser of human events, could have prevented his falling. I
" I have become a private citizen on the banks of the Potowmac, and, under the shadow of my own vine and my own figtree, free from the bus. tle of a camp, and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments of which the soldier, who is ever in pursuit of fame; the statesman, whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all; and the courtier, who is always watching the countenance of his prince, in the hope of catching a gracious smile, can have very little con. ception. I have not only retired from all public employments, but am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all; and this, my dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move gently down the stream of life, inntil I sleep with my fathers.”
Agriculture, which had always been the favourite employment of Washington, was now resumed with increasing clelight. The energies of his active mind were devoted to this first and most use
No improvements in the construcrion of farming utensils, no valuable experiments in busbandry, escaped his attention. He saw with regret, the miserable system of cultivation which prevailed too generally in his native country, and wished to introduce a better. With this view, he engiged in a correspondence with some of the distinguished agriculturists in Great Britain, particularly the celebrated Arthur Young. He trac
light infantry, to the place of embarkation. The officers followed in a solemn mute procession, with dejected countenances. On his entering the barge •to cross the North River, he turned toward the companions of his glory, and by waving his hat, bid them a silent adieu. Some of them answered this last signal of respect and affection with tears ; and all of them hung upon the barge which conveyed him from their sight, till they could no longer distinguish in it the person of their beloved commander in chief.
The army being disbanded, Washington pro. ceeded to Annapolis, then the seat of Congress, to resign his commission. On his way thither, he, of his own accord, delivered to the comptroller of accounts in Philadelphia, an account of the expenditure of all the public money he had ever received. This was in his own hand writing, and every entry was made in a very particular manner. Vouchers were produced for every item except for secret intelligence and service, which amount. ed to no more than 1,9821 10s sterling. The whole which in the course of eight years of war, had passed through his hands, amounted only to 14,4791 18s 9d sterling. Nothing was charged or retained for personal services; and actual disbursements had been managed with such economy and fidelity, that they were all covered by the above moderate sum.
After accounting for all his expenditures of public money, secret service money for obvious reas. ons excepted, with all the exactness which established forms required from the inferior officers of his army, he hastened to resign into the hands of
the fathers of his country, the powers with which they had invested him. This was done in a public audience. Congress received him as the founder and guardian of the republic. While he appeared before them, they silently rețraced the scenes of danger and distress through which they had passed together. They recalled to mind the blessings of freedom and peace purchased by his arm. They gazed with wonder on their fellowcitizen who appeared more great and worthy of esteem in resigning his power, than he had done in gloriously using it. Every heart was big with emotion. Tears of admiration and gratitude burst from ev. ery eye. The general sympathy was felt by the resigning hero, and wet bis cheek with a manly tear. After a decent pause, he addressed Thomas Mifflin, the President of Congress, in the following words.
“ MR. PRESIDENT, “ The great events on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I have now the honour of offering my sincere congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country.
“ Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the
appointment I accepted with diffidence ; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was superseded by a confidencé
in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreme power of the union, and the patronage of heaven.
« The successful termination of the war has verified the most sanguine expectations ; and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous contest.
“ While I repeat my obligations to the army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings, not to acknowledge in this place, the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the persons who have been attached to my person during the war. It was impossible the choice of confidential officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me, Sir, to recommend in particular, those who have continued in the service to the present moment, as worthy of the favourable notice and patronage of Congress.
“ I consider it as an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commend. ing the interests of our dearest country to the pro. tection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them to his holy keeping.
Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action ; and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take nay leave of all the em. ployments of public life."*
* The commission now returned to Congress, had been received from them shortly after the commencement of hostilities. It was accompa