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NEW MISSION TO FRANCE.
very intelligent gentleman immediately from Philadelphia, I was informed that there had been no direct overture from the government of France to that of the United States for a negotiation ; on the contrary, that M. Talleyrand was playing the same loose and roundabout
game he had attempted the year before with our envoys; and which, as in that case, might mean any thing or nothing, as would subserve his purposes best.”
Before the Senate decided on the nomination of Mr. Murray, two other persons were associated with him in the mission, namely, Oliver Ellsworth and Patrick Henry. The three envoys being confirmed, Mr. Murray was instructed by letter to inform the French Minister of Foreign Affairs of the fact, but to apprise him that his associate envoys would not embark for Europe until the Directory had given assurance, through their Minister for Foreign Affairs, that those envoys would be received in proper form and treated with on terms of equality. Mr. Murray was directed at the same time to have no further informal communications with any French agent. .
Mr. Henry declined to accept his appointment on account of ill health, and Mr. William Richardson Davie was ultimately substituted for him.
Throughout succeeding months, Washington continued to superintend from a distance the concerns of the army, as his ample and minute correspondence manifests ; and he was at the same time earnestly endeavoring to bring the affairs of his rural domain into order. A sixteen years' absence from home, with short intervals, had, he said, deranged them considerably, so that it required all the time he could spare
from the usual avocations of life to bring them into tune again. It was a period of incessant activity and toil, therefore, both mental and bodily. He was for hours in his study occupied with his pen, and for hours on horseback, riding the rounds of his extensive estate, visiting the various farms and superintending and directing the works in operation. All this he did with unfailing vigor, though now in his sixty-seventh year.
Occasional reports of the sanguinary conflict that was going on in Europe would reach him in the quiet groves of Mount Vernon, and awaken his solicitude. “A more destructive sword,” said he, drawn, at least in modern times, than this war has produced. It is time to sheathe it and give peace to mankind.” *
Amid this strife and turmoil of the nations, he felt redoubled anxiety about the success of the mission to France. The great successes of the allies combined against that power; the changes in the Directory, and the rapidity with which every thing seemed verging towards a restoration of the monarchy, induced some members of the cabinet to advise a suspension of the mission; but Mr. Adams was not to be convinced or persuaded. Having furnished the commissioners with their instructions, he gave his final order for their departure, and they sailed in a frigate from Rhode Island on the 3d of November.
A private letter written by Washington shortly afterwards to the Secretary of War, bespeaks his apprehensions : "I have for some time past viewed the political concerns of the United States with an anxious
* Letter to William Vans Murray.
SOLICITUDE FOR THE ARMY.
and painful eye. They appear to me to be moving by hasty strides to a crisis ; but in what it will result, that Being, who sees, foresees, and directs all things, alone can tell. The vessel is afloat, or very nearly so, and considering myself as a passenger only, I shall trust to the mariners (whose duty it is to watch) to steer it into a safe port.
His latest concern about the army was to give instructions for hutting the troops according to an idea originally suggested by Hamilton, and adopted in the revolutionary war. Although I had determined to take no charge of any military operations," writes he, "unless the troops should be called into the field, yet, under the present circumstances, and considering that the advanced season of the year will admit of no delay in providing winter quarters for the troops, I have wil. lingly given my aid in that business, and shall never decline any assistance in my power, when necessary, to promote the good of the service.” *
* Washington's Writings, xi. 463.
CHAPTER X X XIV.
WASHINGTON DIGESTS A PLAN FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF HIS ESTATE
VIEWS IN REGARD TO A MILITARY ACADEMY
HAMILTON-HIS LAST HOURS-THE FUNERAL THE WILL-ITS PRO
VISIONS IN REGARD TO HIS SLAVES-PROCEEDINGS OF CONGRESS ON
WINTER had now set in, with occasional wind and rain and frost, yet Washington still kept up his active round of in-door and out-door avocations, as his diary records. He was in full health and vigor, dined out occasionally, and had frequent guests at Mount Vernon, and, as usual, was part of every day in the saddle, going the rounds of his estates, and, in his military phraseology, “visiting the outposts.”
He had recently walked with his favorite nephew about the grounds, showing the improvements he intended to make, and had especially pointed out the spot where he purposed building a new family vault; the old one being damaged by the roots of trees which had overgrown it and caused it to leak. “This change," said he, “ I shall make the first of all, for I may require it before the rest."
“When I parted from him," adds the nephew, "he stood on the steps of the front door, where he
PLANS FOR HIS ESTATES.
It was a
took leave of myself and another. * *** bright frosty morning; he had taken his usual ride, and the clear healthy flush on his cheek, and his sprightly manner, brought the remark from both of us that we had never seen the general look so well. I have sometimes thought him decidedly the handsomest man I ever saw; and when in a lively mood, so full of pleasantry, so agreeable to all with whom he associated, that I could hardly realize he was the same Washington whose dignity awed all who approached him."*
For some time past Washington had been occupied in digesting a complete system on which his estate was to be managed for several succeeding years ; specifying the cultivation of the several farms, with tables designating the rotations of the crops. It occupied thirty folio pages, and was executed with that clearness and method which characterized all his business papers. This was finished on the 10th of December, and was accompanied by a letter of that date to his manager or steward. It is a valuable document, showing the soundness and vigor of his intellect at this advanced stage of his existence, and the love of order that reigned throughout his affairs. “My greatest anxiety," said he on a previous occasion, “is to have all these concerns in such a clear and distinct form, that no reproach may attach itself to me when I have taken my departure for the land of spirits.”+
It was evident, however, that full of health and vigor, he looked forward to his long-cherished hope, the enjoyment of a serene old age in this home of his heart.
* Paulding's Life of Washington, Vol. ii., p. 196. + Letter to James McHenry. Writings, xi., 407.