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As soon as the royal army was withdrawn, general Washington and governor Clinton, with their suites, made a public entry into New York: a general joy was mani. fested by the citizens on their return to their habitations, and in the evening there was a display of fire-works : they exceeded every thing of the kind which had been seen in America. General Washington soon after took leave of his officers, they having been previously assembled for that purpose. Calling for a glass of wine he thus addressed them, “with a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you, I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy, as your former ones have been glorious and honourable."
He afterwards took an affectionåte leave of each of them : when this affecting scene was over, Washington left the room, and passed through the corps of light infantry, to the place of embarkation ; as he entered the barge, to cross the North river, he turned to his companions in glory, and waved his hat, and took a silent adieu. The officers who had followed him in mute procession, answered his last signal with tears, and hung upon the barge which conveyed him from their sight, till they could no longer distinguish their beloved commander in chiet. The general proceeded to Annapolis, the seat of congress, to resign his commission. On his say thither, he delivered to the comptroller 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 made in a very exact manner. The whole sum which passed through his hands during the war amounted only to fourteen thousand four hundred and seventy-nine pounds eighteen shillings and nine pence, sterling; no sum charged or retained for personal services.
The day on which he resigned his commission, a great number of distinguished personages attended the interesting scene, on the twenty-third of December, 1783 : he. addressed the president, Thomas Miffin, as follows: “ Mr. President,
The great events on which my resignation dependedly 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 honds, the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgelce of retiring from the service of my country.
Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforcied the United States of becoming a respectable nation, I resign withi satisfaction the appointnient I accepted with dimidence; a diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, wlicin, however, was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the support of the supreine power of the Union, and the patronage of Heavel).
The successful terniination 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 wil o bave 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 commending the interest of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendance 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 tliis august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”
To which the president made a suitable reply. The mingled emotions that agitated the minds of the specta. tors during this interesting and solemn scene, were beyone description,
Immediately on resigning his commission, general Washington " hastened with ineffable delights” (to use his own words) to his seat at Mount Vernon, on the banks of the Potowmac, in Virginia.
The country now free from foreign force and domestic violence, and in the enjoyment of general tranquillity, a proposition was made by Virginia to all the other states, to meet in convention, for the purpose of digesting a form of government; which finally issued in the establishment of a new constitution. Congress, which formerly consisted of one body, was made to consist of two : one of which was to be chosen by the people, in proportion to their numbers, the other by the state legislatures. Warm and animating debates took place on the propriety of establishing or rejecting it. The ratification of it was celebrated in most of the states with elegant processions.
The first congress under the new constitution met at New York in April, 1789. Though there were a great diversity of opinions about the new constitution, all were of one mind who should be their chief executive officer. The people unanimously turned their eyes on the late commander in chief, as the most proper person to be their first president. Unambitious of any increase of honours, he had retired to his farm in Virginia, and hoped to be excused from all further public service. But his country called him by an unanimous vote to fill the highest station in
That pure and upright zeal for his country's welfare, which had uniformly influenced him to devote his time and talents to its service, again influenced him to relinquish the more pleasing scenes of retirement, and induced him once more to engage in the important concerns of public life. The intelligence of his election was communicated to him, while he was on his farm in Virginia ; he soon after set out for New York : on his way thither, every expression of respect, that a grateful people could bestow, was shewn him. Gentlemen of the first character and station, attended him from state to state. A day was fixed soon after his arrival at New York, for lis taking the oath of office. In the morning of the day appointed for this purpose, the clergy, of different denominations, assembled their congregations in their respective places of worship, and offered up prayers for the president and people of the United States. About noon, a procession, followed by a multitude of citizens, moved from the president's house to Federal Hall. When they came within a short distance of the hall, the troops formed a line on both sides of the way, through which the president and vice-president John Adams, passed into the senate chamber. Immediately after, accompanied by both houses, le went into the gallery fronting Broad street, and before them and an immense crowd of spectators, took the oath prescribed by the constitution : which was administered by R. R. Livingston, the chancellor of the state of New York.
During the performance of this ceremony, an awful silence prevailed. The chancellor then proclaimed him, President of the United States of America. This was announced by the discharge of thirteen guns, and by the joyful acclamations of near ten thousand citizens. He then retired to the senate-chamber, where he delivered a speech to both houses : near the conclusion of which he renounced all pecuniary compensation.
This memorable day completed the organization of the new constitution. The experience of former ages, as well as of later times, has given many melancholy and fatal proofs, that popular goverments have seldom answered in practice. The inhabitants of the United States are now making the experiment. That they may succeed in asserting the dignity of human nature, and a capacity for self government, is devoutly to be wished.
The appointment of general Washington to the presidency of the United States, was peculiarly fortunate ; he possessed such a commanding influence in the minds of the great bulk of the people, arising from a sure and well placed confidence in his patriotism
and integrity ; that they, with cheerfulness acquiesced in all his measures for the public welfare ; and notwithstanding, that during his administration, Great Britain and France, were involved in a ruinous war, and there were many partizans in America, in favour of the latter, and would gladly have made a common cause with her against Great Britain ; yet his firmness and sagacity, prevented the threatened evil, though they were encouraged by Genet, the ambassador from France, who openly, and in defiance of the government of the United States, attempted to commission American citizens to arm, and fit out vessels, to cruize against the British subjects. The president's proclamation enjoining a strict neutrality, was sanctioned by the great body of the people ; and the insolent ravings of Genet was taken no further notice of, than to furnish the different states with a fresh opportunity of expressing their continued approbation and confidence, in his political mea
When the term of his appointment as president had expired, he intimated to his friends, his intention to return once more to his loved retirement; he had even contemplated his farewell address, and was preparing to retire from the weight of public cares, when his countrymen, apprehensive - for the public safety, in so critical a moment, united to implore him to desist from a resolution $0 alarming to their fears. Their interposition prevailed, and he again entered upon the arduous task, to the manifest satisfaction of every honest American ; but what made the task set more easy upon him, was, the assistance of eminent men in the executive department. The names of Adams, Hamilton, Pickering, Wollcott and others, are names which will long be remembered with gratitude by posterity, when the envenomed tongue of detraction will be forgotten. In 1796, in the month of September, a new election was to take place, when the public was anxiously desirous, that general Washington would again accept the first office in their gift; but his unalterable resolution was taken, to recede froin the toils of state. His farewell address, contains such prudent and sound advice to his fellow citizens, as shews that his country's welfare was still dear to his heart.
« Friends and Fellow-Citizens,
The period for a new election of a citizen to adininis. ter the executive government of the United States, being not far distant, and the time actually arrived, when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person, who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more dis