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evening. He took whatever was offered him, did as he was desired by the physicians, and never uttered sigh or complaint.
THE LAST HOUR.
About ten o'clock," writes Mr. Lear, "he made several attempts to speak to me before he could effect it. At length he said, "I am just going. Have me decently buried, and do not let my body be put into the vault in less than three days after I am dead." I bowed assent, for I could not speak. He then looked at me again and said, "Do you understand me?" I replied, “Yes.” ""Tis well," said he.
"About ten minutes before he expired (which was between ten and eleven o'clock) his breathing became easier. He lay quietly; he withdrew his hand from mine and felt his own pulse. I saw his countenance change. I spoke to Dr. Craik, who sat by the fire. He came to the bedside. The general's hand fell from his wrist. I took it in mine and pressed it to my bosom. Dr. Craik put his hands over his eyes, and he expired without a struggle or a sigh."
While we were fixed in silent grief, Mrs. Washington, who was seated at the foot of the bed, asked with a firm and collected voice, "Is he gone?" I could not speak, but held up my hand as a signal that he was no more. ""Tis well," said she in the same voice. "All is now over; I shall soon follow him; I have no more trials to pass through."
We add from Mr. Lear's account a few particulars concerning the funeral. The old family vault on the estate had been opened, the rubbish cleared away, and a door made to close the entrance, which before had been closed with brick. The funeral took place on the 18th
of December. About eleven o'clock the people of the neighborhood began to assemble. The corporation of Alexandria, with the militia and Free Masons of the place, and eleven pieces of cannon, arrived at a later hour. A schooner was stationed off Mount Vernon to fire minute guns.
About three o'clock the procession began to move, passing out through the gate at the left wing of the house, proceeding round in front of the lawn and down to the vault, on the right wing of the house; minute guns being fired at the time. The troops, horse and foot, formed the escort; then came four of the clergy. Then the general's horse, with his saddle, holsters, and pistols, led by two grooms in black. The body was borne by the Free Masons and officers; several members of the family and old friends, among the number Dr. Craik, and some of the Fairfaxes, followed as chief mourners. The corporation of Alexandria and numerous private persons closed the procession. The Rev. Mr. Davis read the funeral service at the vault, and pronounced a short address; after which the Masons performed their ceremonies, and the body was deposited in the vault.
Such were the obsequies of Washington, simple and modest, according to his own wishes; all confined to the grounds of Mount Vernon, which, after forming the poetical dream of his life, had now become his final resting-place.
On opening the will which he had handed to Mrs. Washington shortly before his death, it was found to have been carefully drawn up by himself in the preceding July; and by an act in conformity with his whole
career, one of its first provisions directed the emancipation of his slaves on the decease of his wife. It had long been his earnest wish that the slaves held by him in his own right should receive their freedom during his life, but he had found that it would be attended with insuperable difficulties on account of their intermixture by marriage with the " dower negroes," whom it was not in his power to manumit under the tenure by which they were held.
With provident benignity he also made provision in his will for such as were to receive their freedom under this devise, but who, from age, bodily infirmities, or infancy, might be unable to support themselves, and he expressly forbade, under any pretence whatsoever, the sale or transportation out of Virginia, of any slave of whom he might die possessed. Though born and educated a slave-holder, this was all in consonance with feelings, sentiments and principles which he had long entertained.
PROVISIONS OF THE WILL.
In a letter to Mr. John F. Mercer, in September, 1786, he writes, "I never mean, unless some particular circumstances should compel me to it, to possess another slave by purchase, it being among my first wishes to see some plan adopted by which slavery in this country may be abolished by law." And eleven years afterwards, in August, 1797, he writes to his nephew, Lawrence Lewis, in a letter which we have had in our hands, "I wish from my soul that the legislature of this State could see the policy of a gradual abolition of slavery. It might prevent much future mischief."
A deep sorrow spread over the nation on hearing
that Washington was no more. Congress, which was in session, immediately adjourned for the day. The next morning it was resolved that the Speaker's chair be shrouded with black; that the members and officers of the House wear black during the session, and that a joint committee of both Houses be appointed to consider on the most suitable manner of doing honor to the memory of the man, "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his fellow-citizens."
Public testimonials of grief and reverence were displayed in every part of the Union. Nor were these sentiments confined to the United States. When the news of Washington's death reached England, Lord Bridport, who had command of a British fleet of nearly sixty sail of the line, lying at Torbay, lowered his flag half-mast, every ship following the example; and Bonaparte, First Consul of France, on announcing his death to the army, ordered that black crape should be suspended from all the standards and flags throughout the public service for ten days.
In the preceding volumes of our work, we have traced the career of Washington from early boyhood to his elevation to the presidential chair. It was an elevation he had neither sought nor wished; for when the independence of his country was achieved, the modest and cherished desire of his heart had been "to live and die a
private citizen on his own farm ;"* and he had shaped out for himself an ideal elysium in his beloved shades of Mount Vernon. But power sought him in his retirement. The weight and influence of his name and character were deemed all essential to complete his work; to set the new government in motion, and conduct it through its first perils and trials. With unfeigned reluctance he complied with the imperative claims of his country, and accepted the power thus urged upon him: advancing to its exercise with diffidence, and aiming to surround himself with men of the highest talent and information whom he might consult in emergency; but firm and strong in the resolve in all things to act as his conscience told him was "right as it respected his God, his country, and himself." For he knew no divided fidelity, no separate obligation; his most sacred duty to himself was his highest duty to his country and his God.
In treating of his civil administration in this closing volume, we have endeavored to show how truly he adhered to this resolve, and with what inflexible integrity and scrupulous regard to the public weal he discharged his functions. In executing our task we have not indulged in discussions of temporary questions of controverted policy which agitated the incipient establishment of our government, but have given his words and actions as connected with those questions, and as illustrative of his character. In this volume, as in those which treat of his military career, we have avoided rhetorical amplification and embellishments, and all gratuitous assumptions, and have sought, by simple and truthful details, to give his character an * Writings, ix., p. 412.