Slike strani
PDF
ePub

ment of the war down to the 13th of the actual month of December. These were all in his own handwriting, and kept in the cleanest and most accurate manner, each entry being accompanied by a statement of the occasion and object of the charge.

The gross amount was about fourteen thousand five hundred pounds sterling; in which were included moneys expended for secret intelligence and service, and in various incidental charges. All this, it must be noted, was an account of money actually expended in the progress of the war; not for arrearage of pay; for it will be recollected Washington accepted no pay. Indeed on the final adjustment of his accounts, he found himself a considerable loser, having frequently, in the hurry of business, neglected to credit himself with sums drawn from his private purse in moments of exigency.

The schedule of his public account furnishes not the least among the many noble and impressive lessons taught by his character and example. It stands a touchstone of honesty in office, and a lasting rebuke on that lavish expenditure of the public money, too often heedlessly, if not wilfully, indulged by military command

ers.

In passing through New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, the scenes of his anxious and precarious campaigns, Washington was every where hailed with enthusiasm by the people, and greeted with addresses by legislative assemblies, and learned and religious institutions. He accepted them all with that modesty inherent in his nature; little thinking that this present popularity was but the early outbreaking of a fame, that was to go on widening and deepening from gener

1783.] WASHINGTON RESIGNS HIS COMMISSION. 443

ation to generation, and extending over the whole civilized world.

Being arrived at Annapolis, he addressed a letter to the President of Congress, on the 20th of December, requesting to know in what manner it would be most proper to offer his resignation; whether in writing or at an audience. The latter mode was adopted, and the Hall of Congress appointed for the ceremonial.

A letter from Washington to the Baron Steuben, written on the 23d, concludes as follows: "This is the last letter I shall write while I continue in the service of my country. The hour of my resignation is fixed at twelve to-day, after which, I shall become a private citizen on the banks of the Potomac."

At twelve o'clock the gallery, and a great part of the floor of the Hall of Congress, were filled with ladies, with public functionaries of the state, and with general officers. The members of Congress were seated and covered, as representatives of the sovereignty of the Union. The gentlemen present as spectators were standing and uncovered.

Washington entered, conducted by the secretary of Congress, and took his seat in a chair appointed for him. After a brief pause, the president (General Mifflin) informed him, that "the United States in Congress assembled, were prepared to receive his communications."

Washington then rose, and in a dignified and impressive manner, delivered a short address.

"The great events," said he, "on which my resignation depended, having at length taken place, I now have the honor of offering my sincere congratulations

to Congress, and of presenting myself before them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my country."

After expressing his obligations to the army in general, and acknowledging the peculiar services, and distinguished merits of the confidential officers who had been attached to his person, and composed his family during the war, and whom he especially recommended to the favor of Congress, he continued

"I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my official life, by commending the interests of our dearest country to the protection of Almighty God; and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.

"Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of action; and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this august body, under whose orders I have long acted, I here offer my commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life."

"Few tragedies ever drew so many tears from so many beautiful eyes," says a writer who was present, “as the moving manner in which his Excellency took his final leave of Congress." *

Having delivered his commission into the hands of the president, the latter, in reply to his address, bore testimony to the patriotism with which he had answered to the call of his country, and defended its invaded rights before it had formed alliances, and while it was

* Editor of the Maryland Gazette.

1783.]

RETURN TO MOUNT VERNON.

445

without funds or a government to support him; to the wisdom and fortitude with which he had conducted the great military contest, invariably regarding the rights of the civil power, through all disasters and changes. "You retire," added he, "from the theatre of action with the blessings of your fellow-citizens; but the glory of your virtues will not terminate with your military command; it will continue to animate remotest ages.

The very next morning Washington left Annapolis, and hastened to his beloved Mount Vernon, where he arrived the same day, on Christmas-eve, in a frame of mind suited to enjoy the sacred and genial festival.

"The scene is at last closed," said he in a letter to Governor Clinton; "I feel myself eased of a load of public care. I hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the affections of good men, and in the practice of the domestic virtues."

CHAPTER XXXIV.

WASHINGTON AT MOUNT VERNON-A SOLDIER'S REPOSE-PLANS OF DOMESTIC LIFE-KIND OFFER OF THE COUNCIL OF PENNSYLVANIAHISTORICAL APPLICATIONS-NEWS OF JACOB VAN BRAAM-OPENING OF SPRING-AGRICULTURAL LIFE RESUMED-RECOLLECTIONS OF THE OF THE ORDER OF CINCINNATI-TOUR OF WASHINGTON AND DR. CRAIK TO THE WEST-IDEAS OF INTERNAL IMPROVEMENT-PARTING WITH LAFAYETTE.

FAIRFAXES-MEETING

FOR Some time after his return to Mount Vernon, Washington was in a manner locked up by the ice and snow of an uncommonly rigorous winter, so that social intercourse was interrupted, and he could not even pay a visit of duty and affection to his aged mother at Fredericksburg. But it was enough for him at present that he was at length at home at Mount Vernon. Yet the habitudes of the camp still haunted him; he could hardly realize that he was free from military duties; on waking in the morning he almost expected to hear the drum going its stirring rounds and beating the reveillé.

'Strange as it may seem," writes he to General Knox, "it is nevertheless true, that it was not until very lately I could get the better of my usual custom of ruminating as soon as I waked in the morning, on

« PrejšnjaNaprej »