Page images



[ocr errors]

264 dangers, and, above all, such successes! What schemes of grandeur' and of power would not an ambitious man have built


the affections of the people and of the army! The gratitude of America was so lively, that any thing asked by her resigning chief would have been readily granted. He asked nothing for himself, his family, or relations, but indirectly solicited favours for the confidential officers who were attached to his person. These were young gentlemen without fortune, who had served hiñ in the capacity of aidesde-camp. To omit the opportunity which was offered, of recommending them to the notice of congress, would have argued a degree of insensibility in the breast of their friend. The only

. privilege, distinguishing him from other private citizens, which the retiring

Washington Washington did or would receive from his grateful country, was a right of sending and receiving letters free of postage.


were denounced by their sovereign, as in a state of reBellion. Washington, by accepting the command of their armjes, not only subjected one of the largest estates ih America to confiscation, but his life to execution. The diffidence he avowed on the occasion, was not the common cant of successful candidates for promotion, nor did it arise from apprehensions of personal danger, but was the offspring of excessive modesty'; though wil ling to risk every thing on the contest, he really distrusted his ability to contend in regular warfare with the experienced generals of Britain. The doubts and fears which for some time kept him'in suspense, at length



The American chief, having by his own voluntary act become one of the people, hastened with ineffable delight to his seat at Mount Vernon, on the banks of the Potowmac. There, in a short time, the most successful general in the world became the most diligent farmer in Virginia. To

pass suddenly from the toils of the first public commission in the United States, to the care of a farm; to exchange the instruments of war for the implements of husbandry, and to become at once the patron and example of ingenious and profitable agriculture; would to most men have been a difficult task; but to the elevated mind of the late commander in chief of the armies of


yielded to a conviction of duty, and the urgent intreaties of friends who appreciated his talents more correctly than he did himself. On the event of his declining the high comınission, as was for some time expected, it was privately resolved to confer it on general llard of Massachusetts, What would have been the issue of the military opposition of America, conducted by that much esteemed nfficer, no one can tell; but, without invidious comparison, it may be safely aflirmed that it could not have been more successful than under the auspices of Washington.

the United States, it was natural and delightful: and should these pages descend to posterity, and war continue ages hence to be the means of establishing national justice, let the commanders of armies learn, froin the example of general Washington, that the fame which is acquired by the sword, without guilt or ambition, may be preserved without power or splendor in private life.



[ocr errors]

General Washington, on retiring from public life, de

votes himself to agricultural pursuits.-- Favours inland navigation ; declines offered emoluments from it.Urges an alteration of the fundamental rules of the society of the Cincinnati.-Regrets the defects of the federal system, and recommends a revisal of it.--Is appointed a member of the continental convention for that purpose, which, after hesitation, he accepts.- Is; afterwards chosen president.- Is solicited to accept the presidency of the United States.-Writes letters, expressive of the conflict of his mind between duty

and înclinaţion.--Answers applicants for offices, The sensations of Washington on retiring from public business are thus expressed in his private letters ; " I feel as a wearied travelier must do, who, after treading many a painful step with a heavy burden on his shoulders, is eased of the latter, having reached the baven to which all the former were, dir rected, and from his house top is looking back, and tracing with an eager eye

the. meanders by wbich he escaped the quicksands. and mires which lay in his way, and into which none but the all-powerful guide and dispenser of human events could have prevented his falling."

“ I have become a private citizen 'on the banks of the Polowmac,


[ocr errors]

little con

and, under the shadow of my own vine and my own fig tree, free from the bustle of a camp and the busy scenes of public life, I am solacing myself with those tranquil enjoyments, of which the soldier, who is ever in pursuit of fame--the statesman, whose watchful days and sleepless nights are spent in devising schemes to promote the welfare of his own, perhaps, the ruin of other countries, as if this globe was insufficient for us all and the courtier, who is always watching the countenance of his prince, in the hope of catching a gracious smile--can have

very ception. I have not only retired from all public employments, but am retiring within myself, and shall be able to view the solitary walk, and tread the paths of private life with heartfelt satisfaction. Envious of none, I am determined to be pleased with all ; and.

my dear friend, being the order of my march, I will move gently down the stream, of life until 'I sleep with my fathers.”

· Agriculture, which had always been the favourite employment of Washington, was now résumę i with increasing delight. The enero gies of his' active mind were devoted to this, first and most useful art. No improvements in the construction of farming utensils, no valuable experiments in husbandry, escaped

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »