Page images


induced me, on the 31st ultimo, to address a circular letter to each state society, in- . forming them of my intention not to be at the next meeting, and of my desire not to be rechosen president. The vice president is also informed of this, that the business of the society may not be impeded by my ab

Under these circumstances, it will readily be perceived that I could not appear at the same time and place on any other occasion, without giving offence to a very respectable and deserving part of the community—the late officers of the American army

The meeting of the convention was postponed to a day subsequent to that of the meeting of the Cincinnati. This removed one of the difficulties in the way of Washington's acceptance of a seat in the convention, and, joined with the importance of the call, and his own eager desire to advance the public interest, finally induced his compliance with the wishes of his friends.

The convention met in Philadelphia in May, and unanimously chose George Washington their president.' On the 17th of Sep tember 1787, they closed their labours, and 1787: preferred the result to congress, with their opinion, “ that it should be submitted to a




convention of delegates, chosen in each state by the people thereof, under the recommendation of its legislature, for their assent and ratification."

By this new form of government, ample powers were given to congress, without the intervention of the states, for every purpose that national dignity, interest, or happiness Tequired. i: The ablesť pens and most eloquent tongues were employed for and against its accept

In this animated contest Washington took no part. Having with his sword vindicated the right of his country to supreme authority over itself, and having with his advice aided in digesting an efficient form of ment, which he most thoroughly approved, it would seem as though he wished the people to decide for themselves whether to accept or reject it.

The constitution being accepted by eleven states, and preparatory measures being taken for bringing it into operation, all eyes were turned to Washington, as being the fittest man for the office of president of the United States. His correspondents began to press his acceptance of the high office, as essential to the well-being of his country.


To those who think that Washington was like other men, it will scarcely appear possible that supreme magistracy possessed 'no charms sufficient to tempt him from his beloved retirement, when he was healthy and strong, and only fifty-seven years old; but if an opinion can be formed of his real sentiments, from the tenor of his life and confidential communications to his most intimate friends, a conviction will be produced, that his acceptance of the presidency of the United States was the result of a victory obtained by a sense of duty over his inclinations, and was a real sacrifice of the latter to the former.

In a letter to colonel Henry Lee, Washiington observes, “ Notwithstanding my advanced season of life, my increasing fondness for agricultural amusements, and

my growing love of retirement, augment and confirm my decided predilection for the character of a private citizen; yet it will be no one of these motives, nor the hazard to which - my former reputation might be exposed, nor the terror of encountering new fatigues and troubles, that would deter me from an acceptance, but a belief that some other person, who had less pretence and less inclination to be excused, could execute all the duties full as satisfactorily as myself.

say more would be



U 2

my wishes.”

indiscreet, as a disclosure of a refusal beforehand might incur the application of the fable, in which the fox is represented as undervaluing the grapes he could not reach. You will perceive, my dear Sir, by what is here observed, (and which you will be pleased to consider in the light of a confidential communication) that

my inclinations will dispose and decide me to remain as I am, unless a clear and insurmountable conviction should be impressed on my mind, that some very disagreeable consequences must in all human probability result from the indulgence of And in another letter to colonel Hamilton,

“ If I am not grossly deceived in myself, I should unfcignedly rejoice, in case the electors, by giving their votes to some other person, would save me from the dreadful dilemma of being forced to accept or refuse. If that may not be, I am in the next place earnestly desirous of searching out the truth, and of knowing whether there does not exist a probability, that the government would just as happily and effectually be carried into execution without my aid as with it. I am truly solicitous to obtain all the previous information which the circumstances will afford, and to determine, when the determination can no longer be postponed, according to the principles of right reason, and the dictates of a clear conscience, without too great a reference to the unforeseen consequences which may affect

he says,

my person or reputation. Until that period, I may fairly hold myself open to conviction, though I allow your sentiments to have weight in them, and I shall not pass by your arguments without giving them as dispassionate a consideration as I can possibly bestow


them. “ In taking a survey of the subject, in whatever point of light I have been able to place it, I will not suppress the acknowledgment, my dear Sir, that I have always felt a kind of gloom upon my mind, as often as I liave been taught to expect I might, and perhaps must be called upon ere long to make the decision. You will, I am well assured, believe the assertion, though I have little expectation it would gain credit from those who are less acquainted with me, that if I should receive the appointment, and should be prevailed upon to accept it, the acceptance would be attended with more difficulty and reluctance than I ever experienced before. It would be, however, with a fixed and sole determination, of lending whatever assistance might be in my power to promote the public weal, in hopes that at a convenient and early V 3


« PreviousContinue »