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the present letter might be “deposited in the office of the Department of State, as a testimony to the truth to the present generation and to posterity.”
On the same day he gave a kind of farewell dinner to the foreign ministers and their wives, Mr. and Mrs. Adams, Mr. Jefferson, and other conspicuous personages of both sexes. “During the dinner much hilarity prevailed,” says Bishop White, who was present. When the cloth was removed, Washington filled his glass :
Ladies and gentlemen,” said he, “this is the last time I shall drink your health as a public man; I do it with sincerity, wishing you all possible happiness.”
The gaiety of the company was checked in an instant; all felt the importance of this leave-taking; Mrs. Liston, the wife of the British minister, was so much affected that tears streamed down her cheeks.
On the 4th of March, an immense crowd had gathered about Congress Hall. At eleven o'clock, Mr. Jefferson took the oath as Vice President in the ence of the Senate; and proceeded with that body to the Chamber of the House of Representatives, which was densely crowded, many ladies occupying chairs ceded to them by members.
After a time, Washington entered amidst enthusiastic cheers and acclamations, and the waving of handkerchiefs. Mr. Adams soon followed and was likewise well received, but not with like enthusiasm. Having taken the oath of office, Mr. Adams, in his inaugural address, spoke of his predecessor as one “who, by a long course of great actions, regulated by prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude, had merited the gratitude of his fellow-citizens, commanded the highest
HIS PARTING BLESSING.
praises of foreign nations, and secured immortal glory with posterity.”
At the close of the ceremony, as Washington moved toward the door to retire, there was a rush from the gallery to the corridor that threatened the loss of life or limb, so eager were the throng to catch a last look of one who had so long been the object of public veneration. When Washington was in the street he waved his hat in return for the cheers of the multitude, his countenance radiant with benignity, his gray hairs streaming in the wind. The crowd followed him to his door; there, turning round, his countenance assumed a grave and almost melancholy expression, his eyes were bathed in tears, his emotions were too great for utterance, and only by gestures could he indicate his thanks and convey his farewell blessing.
In the evening a splendid banquet was given to him by the principal inhabitants of Philadelphia in the Amphitheatre, which was decorated with emblematical paintings. All the beads of departments, the foreign ministers, several officers of the late army, and various persons of note, were present. Among the paintings, one represented the home of his heart, the home to which he was about to hasten-Mount Vernon.
* From personal recollections of William A. Duer, late President of Columbia College.
CHAPTER X X XI.
WASHINGTON AT MOUNT VERNON-INFLUX OF STRANGE FACES-LAW
RENCE LEWIS-MISS NELLY CUSTIS-WASHINGTON'S COUNSEL IN LOVE
MATTERS-A ROMANTIC EPISODE-RETURN OF GEORGE WASHINGTON
His official career being terminated, Washington set off for Mount Vernon accompanied by Mrs. Washington, her grand-daughter Miss Nelly Custis, and George Washington Lafayette, with his preceptors
Of the enthusiastic devotion manifested towards him wherever he passed, he takes the following brief and characteristic notice: “The attentions we met with on our journey were very flattering, and to some, whose
leherently formed from mine, would have been highly relished; but I avoided, in every instance where I had any previous notice of the intention, and could, by earnest entreaties, prevail, all parade and escorts.'
He is at length at Mount Vernon, that haven of repose to which he had so often turned a wishful eye, throughout his agitated and anxious life, and where he trusted to pass quietly and serenely the remainder of his days. He finds himself, however, “ in the situation of a new beginner; almost every thing about him re
WASHINGTON AT MOUNT VERNON.
quired considerable repairs, and a house is immediately to be built for the reception and safe keeping of his military, civil, and private papers. • In a word, writes he, “I am already surrounded by joiners, masons, and painters, and such is my anxiety to be out of their hands, that I have scarcely a room to put a friend into, or to sit in myself, without the music of hammers and the odoriferous scent of paint."
Still he is at Mount Vernon, and as the spring opens the rural beauties of the country exert their sweetening influence. In a letter to his friend Oliver Wolcott, who, as Secretary of the Treasury, was still acting on “the great theatre,” he adverts but briefly to public affairs. “For myself,” adds he, exultingly, “having turned aside from the broad walks of political into the narrow paths of private life, I shall leave it with those whose duty it is to consider subjects of this sort, and, as every good citizen ought to do, conform to whatsoever the ruling powers shall decide. To make and sell a little flour annually, to repair houses going fast to ruin, to build one for the security of my papers of a public nature, and to amuse myself in agricultural and rural pursuits, will constitute employment for the few years I have to remain on this terrestrial globe. If, also, I could now and then meet the friends I esteem, it would fill the measure and add zest to my enjoyments; but, if ever this happens, it must be under my own vine and fig-tree, as I do not think it probable that I shall go
beyond twenty miles from them.”
And again, to another friend he indulges in pleasing anticipations : “Retired from noise myself and the responsibility attached to public employment, my
hours will glide smoothly on. My best wishes, however, for the prosperity of our country will always have the first place in my thoughts; while to repair buildings and to cultivate my farms, which require close attention, will occupy the few years, perhaps days, I may be a sojourner here, as I am now in the sixty-fifth year of my peregrination through life.” *
A letter to his friend James McHenry, Secretary of War, furnishes a picture of his every-day life. “I am indebted to you," writes he, “ for several unacknowledged letters ; but never mind that; go on as if you had answers.
You are at the source of information, and can find many things to relate, while I have nothing to say that could either inform or amuse a Secretary of War in Philadelphia. I might tell him that I begin my diurnal course with the sun; that, if my hirelings are not in their places at that time, I send them messages of sorrow for their indisposition ; that, having put these wheels in motion, I examine the state of things further; that the more they are probed the deeper I find the wounds which my buildings have sustained, by an absence and neglect of eight years.; that, by the time I have accomplished these matters, breakfast a little after seven o'clock, about the time I presume you are taking leave of Mrs. McHenry) is ready; that, this being over, I mount my horse and ride round my farms, which employs me until it is time to dress for dinner, at which I rarely miss seeing strange faces, come, as they say, out of respect to me. Pray, would not the word curiosity answer as well ? And how different this from having a few social friends
* Letter to Wm. Heath. Writings, xi. 199.