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most suitable person to be at its head. Letters froin 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 occur. rence, 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 repeiling it. And if there be good cause to expect such an event, which certainly must be better known to the government than to private citizens, delay in preparing for it may be dangerous, improper, and nor to be jo ifid by prudence. The uncertainty, how. ever, of the latter, in my mind, creates my em
barrassment; for I cannot bring it to believe, re. gardless 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 this 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 wickedness.
“ 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 imperious circumstances induce me to exchange once more the smooth paths of retirement for the thorny ways of public life, at a period too when repose is more congenial to nature, that it would be productive of sensations which can be more 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 any sentiments, that to quit the tranquillity of retirement, and enter the boundless field of responsibility, would be productive of sensations which a better pen than I possess would find it difficult to describe. Nevertheless, the principle by which my conduct has been actuated through life, would not suffer me, in any great emergency, to withhold any services I could render when re. quired 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 too with the obvious intent to sow thick the seeds of disunion, for the purpose of subjugating our government, and destroying our independence and happiness.
is Under circumstances like these, accompanied by an actual invasion of our territory, it would be difficult for me at any time to remain an idle spectator, under the plea of age or retirement. With sorrow, it is true, I should quit the shades of my peaceful abode, and the ease and happiness I now enjoy, to encounter anew the turmoils of war, to which possibly my strength and powers might be found incompetent. These, however, should not be stumbling blocks in my own way.”
President Adams nominated Washington with the rank of Lieutenant General, to the chief command of all the armies raised and to be raised in the United States. His commission was sent to him by Mr. M.Henry, the Secretary of War, who was directed to repair to Mount Vernon, and to confer on the arrangements of the new army with its commander in chief. To the letter which president Adams sent with the commission by the
Secretary of War, Washington, in two days, replied as follows;
“ I had the honour, on the evening of the 11th. instant, to receive from the hand of the Secretary of War, your favour of the 7th. announcing that you had, with the advice and consent of the Sen. ate, appointed me 'Lieutenant General and Com. mander in Chief, of all the armies raised, or to be raised, for the service of the United States.'
“I cannot express how greatly affected I am at this new proof of public confidence, and the highly flattering manner in which you have been pleased to make the communication. At the same time I must not conceal from you my earnest wish, that the choice had fallen • upon a man less declined in years, and better qualified to encounter the usual vicissitudes, of war.
“You know, sir, what calculation I had made relative to the probable course of events, on my retiring from office, and the determination I had consoled myself with, of closing the remnant of my days in my present peaceful abode. You will therefore be at no loss to conceive and appreciate the sensations I must have experienced, to bring my mind to any conclusion that would pledge me, at so late a period of life, to leave scenes I sincerely love, to enter upon the boundless field of public action, incessant trouble, and high rę. sponsibility.
“ It was not possible for me to remain ignorant of, or indifferent to, recent transactions. The conduct of the Directory of France, toward our country ; their insidious hostility to its government; their various practices to withdraw the af
fections of the people from it; the evident tendency of their acts, and those of their agents, to countenance and invigorate opposition; their disregard of solemn treaties and the laws of nations; their war upon our defenceless commerce; their treatment of our ministers of peace ; and their de. mands, amounting to tribute, could not fail to excite in me corresponding sentiments with those my countrymen have so generally expressed in their affectionate addresses to you. Believe me, sir, no one can more cordially approve of the wise and prudent measures of your administration. They ought to inspire universal confidence, and will, no doubt, combined with the state of things, call from Congress such laws and means, as will enable you to meet the full force and extent of the crisis.
Satisfied, therefore, that you have sincerely wished and endeavoured to avert war, and exhausted, to the last drop, the cup of reconciliation, we can with pure hearts appeal to Heaven for the jus. tice of our cause ; and may confidently trust the final result to that kind Providence who has heretofore, and so often, signally favoured the people of these United States.
“ Thinking in this manner, and feeling how incumbent it is upon every person of every description, to contribute at all times to his country's welfare, and especially in a moment like the present, when every thing we hold dear and sacred is so seriously threatened ; I have finally determined to accept the commission of Commander in Chief of the armies of the United States ; with the reserve only, that I shall not be called into the field