Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

CHAPTER VII.

Evacuation of New-York-Washington enters the City His

Reception- Takes leave of his brother Officers, and proceeds Homeward-Contrast of his situation now and at the time he passed through New-Jersey retreating before the Enemy --Delivers his Accounts to the Auditor-general—Remarks on them-Affecting Ceremony of resigning his CommissionAddress of Washington, and Reply of the President of Con. gress-Reflections on the occasion.

On the twenty-fifth day of November, 1782, the British evacuated New-York, of which they had kept possession ever since the year 1776, and a detachment of American forces marched into the city. Washington soon after made his entry, attended by a great number of civil officers and citizens, where he was received with enthusiastic and grateful demonstrations of welcome. The war being ended and the revolution accomplished, he was now about to depart for that home from which he had so long been estranged. From the period of his taking the command of the American

army, it is believed he had never visited Mount Vernon; and without doubt, the toils, hardships, and anxieties he had endured through the whole course of that long absence had doubly endeared it to his recollection.

One ceremony remained to be performed before he finally sought the retirement he loved. It was to take leave of his old companions in arms, perhaps for ever. On the fourth of December, at twelve o'clock, they assembled, by his request, at the hotel in which he lodged, where in a few minutes they were met by their venerated chief. Few words passed, for their hearts were too full to speak. Washington filled a glass of wine, turned to his old fellow-soldiers, and, in a voice almost choked with his emotions, addressed them in these noble and affecting words : “With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. 1 most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honourable.” Having pledged himself to them all, he added-"I cannot come to each of you to take my leave, but shall be obliged if each of you would come and take me by the hand." The first that

VOL. II.-M

came was General Knox, who received the pressure of his hand in silence, and in silence returned it. He exchanged an embrace with his old friend and commander, and was followed, one by one, by each of the officers present, who returned the pressure of the hand and the cordial embrace without uttering a single word. I have heard some of the old remnants of the good days of honest patriotism, who partook of this affecting ceremony, attempt to describe it; but though more than thirty years had then passed away, they never spoke of it without melting into tears. They said it was like a good patriarch taking leave of his children, and going on a long journey from whence he might return no more.

When the last pressure of the hand, and the last embrace was given and received, Washington left the room, followed by a solemn procession of his officers. In dead silence he proceeded to Whitehall, where a barge was in waiting to take him across the river-entered it, and waving his hat, took a final leave. The farewell was received, and returned as it was given, in solemn silence: the general was rowed away; and the procession returned to the place whence it departed, as if coming from the funeral of a beloved parent.

From New-York Washington proceeded onward to Annapolis, in Maryland, where Congress was then assembled, for the purpose of resigning his command.

His progress was everywhere hailed by testimonials of the gratitude and veneration of the people, more affecting and sincere than ever accompanied a conqueror returning from the subjugation of nations. He was received and greeted, not as the destroyer, but the preserver; and there was mingled in these outpourings of national feeling, whatever could give value and dignity to such demonstrations. He was about to become a private citizen, his favour or his influence could no longer be of consequence to any individual; and the sentiment with which he was everywhere cheered, was not that of the hope of future benefits, but gratitude for past services. No selfish feeling mingled in the universal chorus; and it was now that he received, not only the fruition of past toils, but the foretaste of the immortality to come. His virtues, his services, and his sufferings in the cause of mankind, were here rewarded by the noblest of all diadems, the crown of a nation's gratitude.

How different his journey now, accompanied as he was by the applauses of a grateful people, and the consciousness of deserving them, from his painful situation when, only a few years before, he passed over this same ground, with the almost hopeless fortunes of a nation on his shoulders, a superior enemy tracking his path, and difficulties and disasters surrounding him on every side. Yet even in that extremity, he was sustained by those imperishable pillars that always support the edifice of piety and virtue—the consciousness of a just cause, an honest heart, and the blessing of Heaven. Under such auspices no man ought ever to despair.

When Washington accepted the appointment of commander-in-chief of the American armies, it was with a condition that his emoluments should be strictly limited to his actual expenses. He consequently served during the whole war without pay, and now, in passing through Philadelphia, rendered in his accounts, exhibiting a sum which may serve as a lasting example to his successors.

I have now before me a fac

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »