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WASHINGTON TAXED ANEW WITH THE CARES OF OFFICE-CORRESPONDENCE WITH LAFAYETTE-A MARRIAGE AT MOUNT VERNON-APPOINTMENT OF A MINISTER TO THE FRENCH REPUBLIC-WASHINGTON'S SURPRISE HIS ACTIVITY ON HIS ESTATE-POLITICAL ANXIETIES-CONCERN ABOUT THE ARMY.
EARLY in November (1798) Washington left his retirement and repaired to Philadelphia, at the earnest request of the Secretary of War, to meet that public functionary and Major-Generals Hamilton and Pinckney, and make arrangements respecting the forces about to be raised. The Secretary had prepared a series of questions for their consideration, and others were suggested by Washington, all bearing upon the organization of the provisional army. Upon these Washington and the two Major-Generals were closely engaged for nearly five weeks, at great inconvenience and in a most inclement season. The result of their deliberations was reduced to form, and communicated to the Secretary in two letters drafted by Hamilton, and signed by the Commander-in-chief. Not the least irksome of Washington's task, in his present position, was to wade through volumes of applications and recommendations for military appointments; a task which he performed with extreme assiduity, anxious to
avoid the influence of favor or prejudice, and sensitively alive to the evil of improper selections.
As it was a part of the plan on which he had accepted the command of the army to decline the occupations of the office until circumstances should require his presence in the field; and as the season and weather rendered him impatient to leave Philadelphia, he gave the Secretary of War his views and plans for the charge and direction of military affairs, and then set out once more for Mount Vernon. The cares and concerns of office, however, followed him to his retreat. "It is not the time nor the attention only," writes he, "which the public duties I am engaged in require, but their bringing upon me applicants, recommenders of applicants, and seekers of information, none of whom, perhaps, are my acquaintances, with their servants and horses to aid in the consumption of my forage, and what to me is more valuable, my time, that I most regard; for a man in the country, nine miles from any house of entertainment, is differently situated from one in a city, where none of these inconveniences are felt.'
HIS RETREAT INVADED.
In a letter, recently received from Lafayette, the latter spoke feelingly of the pleasure he experienced in conversing incessantly with his son George about Mount Vernon, its dear and venerated inhabitants, of the tender obligations, so profoundly felt, which he and his son had contracted towards him who had become a father to both.
In the conclusion of his letter, Lafayette writes that, from the information he had received, he was fully persuaded that the French Directory desired to be at peace with the United States. "The aristocratical party,"
adds he, "whose hatred of America dates from the commencement of the European revolution, and the English government, which, since the Declaration of Independence, have forgotten and forgiven nothing, will rejoice, I know, at the prospect of a rupture between two nations heretofore united in the cause of liberty, and will endeavor, by all the means in their power, to precipitate us into a war. But you are there, my dear General, independent of all parties, venerated by all, and if, as I hope, your information lead you to judge favorably of the disposition of the French government, your influence ought to prevent the breach from widening, and should insure a noble and durable reconciliation."
In his reply, Dec. 25th, Washington says: "You have expressed a wish worthy of the benevolence of your heart, that I would exert all my endeavors to avert the calamitous effects of a rupture between our countries. Believe me, my dear friend, that no man can deprecate an event of this sort more than I should. You add, in another place, that the Executive Directory are disposed to an accommodation of all differences. If they are sincere in this declaration, let them evidence it by actions; for words, unaccompanied therewith, will not be much regarded now. I would pledge myself that the government and people of the United States will meet them heart and hand at a fair negotiation; having no wish more ardent than to live in peace with all the world, provided they are suffered to remain undisturbed in their just rights."
"Of the politics of Europe," adds he, in another part of his letter, "I shall express no opinion, nor make
1799.] A MARRIAGE AT MOUNT VERNON.
any inquiry who is right or who is wrong. I wish well to all nations and to all men. My politics are plain and simple. I think every nation has a right to establish that form of government under which it conceives it may live most happy; provided it infringes no right, or is not dangerous to others; and that no govern ments ought to interfere with the internal concerns of another, except for the security of what is due to themselves."
Washington's national pride, however, had been deeply wounded by the indignities inflicted on his country by the French, and he doubted the propriety of entering into any fresh negotiations with them, unless overtures should be made on their part. As to any symptoms of an accommodation they might at present evince, he ascribed them to the military measures adopted by the United States, and thought those measures ought not to be relaxed.
We have spoken in a preceding chapter of a love affair growing up at Mount Vernon between Washington's nephew, Lawrence Lewis, and Miss Nelly Custis. The parties had since become engaged, to the General's great satisfaction, and their nuptials were celebrated at Mount Vernon on his birthday, the 22d of February (1799). Lawrence had recently received the commission of Major of cavalry in the new army which was forming; and Washington made arrangements for settling the newly married couple near him on a part of the Mount Vernon lands, which he had designated in his will to be bequeathed to Miss Nelly.
As the year opened, Washington continued to correspond with the Secretary of War and General Hamil
ton on the affairs of the provisional army. The recruiting business went on slowly, with interruptions, and there was delay in furnishing commissions to the officers who had been appointed. Washington, who was not in the secrets of the cabinet, was at a loss to account for this apparent torpor. "If the augmented force," writes he to Hamilton, "was not intended as an in terrorem measure, the delay in recruiting it is unaccountable, and baffles all conjecture on reasonable grounds."
The fact was, that the military measures taken in America had really produced an effect on French policy. Efforts had been made by M. Talleyrand, through unofficial persons, to induce an amicable overture on the part of the United States. At length that wily minister had written to the French Secretary of Legation at the Hague, M. Pichon, intimating that whatever plenipotentiary the United States might send to France to put an end to the existing differences between the two countries, would be undoubtedly received with the respect due to the representative of a free, independent, and powerful nation. M. Pichon communicated a copy of this letter to Mr. William Vans Murray, the American minister in Holland, who forthwith transmitted it to his government. Mr. Adams caught at the chance for an extrication from his belligerent difficulties, and laid this letter before the Senate on the 18th of February, at the same time nominating Mr. Murray to be minister plenipotentiary to the French Republic.
Washington expressed his extreme surprise when the news of this unexpected event reached him. "But far, very far indeed," writes he, "was that surprise short of what I experienced the next day, when, by a