Page images
PDF
EPUB

not by the newly chosen president. In a letter to general Knox, he observed, “ As to myself, the delay may be compared to a reprieve; for in confidence I tell you (with the world it would obtain little credit) that my movements to the chair of government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution, so unwilling am I, in the evening of life, nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities, and inclination, which are necessary to manage the helm. I am sensible that I am embarking the voice of the people, and a good name of my own, on this voyage; but what returns will be made for them, heaven alone can foretell. Integrity and firmness are all I can promise ; these, be the voyage long or short, shall never forsake me, although I may be deserted by all men'; for of the consolations which are to be derived from these, under any circumstances, the world cannot deprive me."

On the second day after receiving notice of his appointment, Washington set out for New York. On his way thither, the road was crowded with numbers anxious to see the man of the people. Escorts of militia,

and

and of gentlemen of the first character and station, attended him from state to state; and he was every where received with the highest honours which a grateful and admiring people could confer. Addresses of congratulation were presented to him by the inhabitants of almost every place of consequence through which he passed; to all of which he returned such modest, unassuming answers, as were in every respect suitable to his situation. So great were the honours with which he was loaded, that they could scarcely have failed to produce haughtiness in the mind of any ordinary man; but nothing of the kind was ever discovered in this extraordinary personage. On all occasions, he behaved to all men with the affability of one citizen to another. He was truly great in deserving the plaudits of his country, but much greater in not being elated by them.

Of the numerous addresses which were presented on this occasion, one subscribed by Dennis Ramsay, the mayor of Alexandria, in the name of the people of that city, who were the neighbours of Mr. Washington, was particularly and universally admired. It was in the following words :

* To

care.

6.To George Washington, esquire, president

of the United States, &c. Again your country commands your

Obedient to its wishes, unmindful of your é 's', we see you again relinquishing the bliss of retirement, and this too at a period of life when nature itself seems to authorise a preference of repose.

“ Not to extol your glory as a soldier; not to pour forth our gratitude for past services ; not to acknowledge the justice of the unexampled honour which has been conferred upon you by the spontaneous and unanimous suffrage of three millions of freemen, in your election to the supreme magistracy; nor to admire the patriotism which directs your

your conduct-do your neighbours and friends now address you ; themes less splendid, but more endearing, impress our minds. The first and best of citizens must leave us; our aged must lose their ornament; our youth their model ; our agriculture its improver; our commerce its friend ; our infant academy its protector ; our poor their benefactor; and the interior navigation of the Potowmack (an event replete with the most extensive utility, already by your unremitted exertions brought into partial use) its institutor and promoter. 66 Farewell! Go, and make a grateful peo

ple

ple happy--a people who will be doubly grateful, when they contemplate this recent sacrifice for their interest.

“ To that Being who maketh and unmaketh at his will, we commend you ; and, after the accomplishment of the arduous business to which you are called, may he restore to us again the best of men, and the most beloved fellow citizen!”

To this Mr. Washington returned the following answer: “Gentlemen,

Although I ought not to concéal, yet I cannot describe the painful emotions which I felt in being called upon to determine, whether I would accept or refuse the presidency of the United States.' The unanimity in the choice, the opinion of my friends, communicated from different parts of Europe as well as from America, the apparent wish of those who were not entirely satisfied with the constitution in its present form, and an ardent desire on my own part to be instrumental in comecting the goodwill of my countrymen towards each other, have induced an acceptance. Those who know me best, (and you, my fellow citizens, are from your situation in that number), know better than any others, my love of retirement is so great, that no earthly consideration short of a conviction of duty could have prevailed upon me to depart from my resolution, 'never more to take any share in transactions of a public nature;' for at my age and in my circumstances, what prospects or advantages could I

that hath

propose to myself from embarking again on the tempestuous and uncertain ocean of public life?

“ I do not feel myself under the necessity of making public declarations, in order to convince you, gentlemen, of

my attachment to yourselves and regard for your interests. The whole tenor of

my

life has been open to your inspection, and my past actions, rather •than my present declarations, must be the pledge of my future conduct.

“ In the mean time, I thank you most sincerely for the expressions of kindness contained in your valedictory address. It is true, just after having bade adieu to my

domestic connexions, this tender proof of your

friend ship is but too well calculated still further to awaken my sensibility, and increase my regret at parting from the enjoyment of private life.

66 All that now remains for me is to commit myself and you to the protection of that beneficent Being, who on a former occasion

« PreviousContinue »